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Theses and Dissertations

Theses and dissertations can be valuable resources to you during your research. A thesis (theses, plural) is the completed paper of a graduate student working towards their masters degree. A dissertation is the completed paper of a graduate student working towards their PhD. The term "paper" may be somewhat misleading, as theses and dissertations tend to be much longer than a traditional academic article or conference paper, upwards of 60 pages for theses and often over 100 pages for dissertations, depending on the requirements of that graduate student's program. You may be thinking: "Hey Crazy Librarian, why in the world would I want to read someone else's paper that they wrote for school?" but there are a lot of good reasons to look at theses and dissertations.

  • They are written by students who are soon to be "Masters" or "Doctors", (ie. new experts in the field) they are reviewed by professors at that student's school, which means that though they are NOT peer-reviewed resources, they are similar and have many of the same qualities. This means they typically hold more credibility than popular periodicals.
  • Because of the intense scrutiny graduate students must go through to earn their degrees, theses and dissertations require substantial research and references. You may be able to glean resources for your own work from their reference pages and literature reviews.
  • If you are a graduate student working on a thesis or dissertation, you might benefit from seeing what others in your field have done. Examples of past completed work from your own graduate program as well as from other programs known to be particularly stellar in  your field may give you ideas for completing your own work.

The Hiebert Librarians will absolutely try to request copies or loans of theses or dissertations for you, if there are any libraries willing to lend or copy. We are happy to use our magical skills to try to get something for you. Please read on below for more information on finding and getting access to theses and dissertations.

The Hiebert Library does have print copies of most theses and dissertations written by FPU students here in the library. They’re searchable via our Library catalog (they can be found through our Discovery Service). 

To start from the Discovery Service search box, type “Fresno Pacific University” (in the quotation marks) and the word “thesis” or "dissertation" (does NOT have to be in quotation marks) and whatever theses or dissertations we have will show up. They will either appear as print books in the library or as eBooks. Don't forget to add in some of your own keywords to tailor the search to your own specific topic. For increased control in searching, the librarians recommend you enter all these things in Discovery Service's Advanced Search and work from there.

Remember that after you've entered your search terms in the boxes and clicked to search, you should choose the "Catalog" limiter on the left side panel. This makes it certain that our discovery services filters out entries for outside dissertations and theses and only brings up those written by Fresno Pacific students. Remember that if you decide to use the Advanced Search first you can always click over to "Catalog" once you're done.

If the dissertation or thesis is available electronically, there will be a link in the full record to the full text. If it is only available in print you will need to come into the library with the call number to access it.

Unfortunately, although Encore will also pull up records for theses and dissertations that are indexed in its system that are written by students in other universities, we do not have full-text access to most of these records. This means you'll need to check for them online and, if not available there, request them through InterLibrary Loan. Continue on for some searching advice...

You will notice that in the Encore "Refine By" section, you can choose “dissertation” in the format to limit the search to that type (you may have to click on "more" under Format to get to that choice).

Most of our thesis and dissertation records come to us through ProQuest, which provides a 24-page preview, but not the full text. The Hiebert Library only actively collects theses of FPU graduate students, so you won't have access to most of these records. However, if you do find something that looks promising, the librarians suggest you follow these steps:

1. Read through the 24 page preview to see if it really may fit your research and be worth requesting. Pay special attention to the abstract for its summary of the thesis or dissertation, and table of contents to get a feeling for the trajectory of the work as a whole.

2. Next, look for the work via Google Scholar (link on the left here for your convenience) by copying and pasting the title, in quotation marks, into the search engine. Some universities will have digital copies on their websites somewhere, or sometimes graduate students upload them to open-access websites like ResearchGate or and you can get it that way.

Sometimes, if you can’t find it that way, there may be contact information for the thesis or dissertation’s author either on the dissertation itself (within the ProQuest preview) or in the catalog record you find through Encore. You can always try contacting the author and asking for a copy (keep in mind that this information may also be out-of-date by the time you see it). A lot of people are happy to know their work is interesting to someone.

3. If you still can't get a hold of it, you'll need to request it through InterLibrary Loan. Although the ILL librarian can try to get an electronic copy, there may be none available, or you may only be able to get it through a physical book loan. If the last is true, this can take a minimum of 2 weeks, often longer (it just depends on where it's coming from). So make sure you request and allow plenty of time for the work to reach you before you need it.

Don't get frustrated! Dissertations and theses (the plural of thesis) are arguably one of the most frustrating resources to try to obtain. There are several reasons for this. Many older dissertations still exist only in hard copy. Since there are not typically more than a couple copies of these made by universities, most libraries do not loan them out at all. Since dissertations and theses are quite long, most libraries also won't copy or scan the entire thing for you. In addition, copying or scanning that entire work could potentially be a violation of copyright law. Often, if libraries are willing to make copies of these materials, they charge a hefty fee. Often, libraries will direct you to Proquest, which has a database of theses and dissertations which are accessible...for a price. Their rarity can make it next to impossible to obtain them, but this doesn't meant that you shouldn't try. The librarians will try to help you obtain a thesis or dissertation, and, if they can't get it for you either, you can always ask them for more ideas for searching.

You can search through the Open Access Theses and Dissertations database to see if the title you are looking for is available.