May 28th, 2010

Dissertations, Access, & Copyright

Have you ever been frustrated in your quest to get a copy of a dissertation or thesis? You know it exists, but it just isn’t accessible.

That’s a common occurrence, since there is usually only one copy of a dissertation or thesis, and it is probably sitting in the basement of a library that it can never leave.

Accessing a thesis is usually just something that interests doctoral learners and librarians, until, of course, someone realizes that a famous person wrote one. Suddenly people want to post it everywhere, the thesis may mysteriously disappear, and a few people actually attempt to read the whole thing.

The theses of political candidates and nominees are particularly prone to this blossoming of interest. Most recently it has been Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan’s senior thesis, although everyone from Vladimir Putin to Hillary Clinton has also been scrutinized. I have to admit that every time I see this topic come up, I’m thankful that none of my up-all-night, caffeine-fueled research papers have made it into any library collections. They’re all safely mouldering away in my basement.

So, all you dissertation-writing learners out there, what does this mean for you? How much control do you have about how your dissertation is used or distributed? To shed a little light on this topic, the LawLibraryBlog takes up the specifics of Elena Kagan’s thesis and questions of copyright and contract law.

Also, since you do have the ability to make your own work more widely available through sites such as Open Thesis, are any of you planning to do so?

- Erin

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