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Graduate school releases theses online

Nov. 30, 2005

by CHRIS HALGREN, reporter

After seven years of planning, the Baylor Graduate School is unveiling a new way to publish a student's dissertation or thesis.

Before, theses were bound and kept in the library; now they will be stored online.

"We wanted to be a part of a progressive movement," said Dr. Kenneth Wilkins, associate dean of the graduate school who led the effort.

Other schools in the nation are making this change, Wilkins said. Baylor is not necessarily ahead of the times, but it is definitely not falling behind, either.

"Most of the Big 12 schools have either already changed over to electronic submission or have plans to do so in the near future," said Sandra Harman, assistant to the associate dean for graduate studies and research.

The electronic dissertations and theses, or EDTs, will be used at Baylor for the first time this semester. Belton graduate student Kory Douglas will be among the first to use the new technology.

"We'll see how the new system works, and we are excited about the possibilities of success," Douglas said.

One advantage of the EDTs will be the accessibility, Wilkins said.

Currently, when a graduate student finishes a thesis, about six final copies are made. One copy goes to the library to be stored and for other students to use in research.

When other students want to read it, they have to visit the library. If the thesis belongs to a library at another school, the student must have the book sent to Baylor.

With EDTs, if students want access to a thesis, all they have to do is go online and download it, Wilkins said.

"It will also make it easier for people to access it throughout the department," Douglas said.

Wilkins said the most exciting aspect of being online is the possible options that are available with the Internet.

For instance, a student who is getting a master's degree in music can have sound clips with the thesis or dissertation. Also, students are able to use video or different types of other charts and diagrams that would not be possible when bound by the confines of print, Wilkins said.

"This is going to let us depart from the old style of a book," Wilkins said. "This is going to open up more options of what a dissertation or thesis can be."

Students will be free from many the expenses of producing a standard, bound copy of their dissertation or thesis, which Wilkins said can cost well over $100.

Although Douglas is excited about having his work online, he said he still wants a hard copy for himself.

Graduate Student Association President and Huntsville, Ala., doctoral candidate Amy Myers notes the ease of the new method.

"It will make it much easier for us and the graduate school when we are doing final edits," Myers said. "It will be very easy as it will be an upload of your final saved copy of your dissertation or thesis onto the system and you are done."

A chief concern of many students who have their work published is security over their findings.

Students who publish their research may not want everyone to have immediate access to the document, Wilkins said.

The electronic submission, which is stored as a PDF file online, will provide an option to restrict the document to a specific audience for a specific amount of time.