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BYU develops electronic theses, dissertation project

Graphics, sound and animation can now electronically enhance theses and dissertations at Brigham Young University using standard computer software, a joint project between the Office of Graduate Studies and the Harold B. Lee Library, referred to as "Electronic Theses and Dissertations" or ETDs.

During the past several years, computers and other forms of technology have become widely available, leading to their increased use in the scholarship, research and creative works required for master and doctoral degrees.

Electronically, these new tools and technologies have expanded areas of scholarship, enhanced the means of conducting research and revolutionized certain fields.

Theses and dissertations are most frequently the required means for documenting the scholarship, research and artistic creations and accomplishments of students qualifying for a master or doctoral degree.

According to Selby Herrin, research analyst and special projects coordinator for the Office of Graduate Studies at BYU, "There were about 220 master's theses submitted, 81 Ph.D. dissertations and 42 selected projects from graduate students."

To date, 11 BYU graduate students have submitted their theses and dissertations electronically.

"There are at least two major advantages of electronic formats for theses and dissertations," said Bonnie Brinton, dean of Graduate Studies. "Electronic formats greatly increase worldwide access to our students' research and creative works, and electronic formats permit students to utilize more creative and flexible means for presenting their work."

Using standard computer software, it is now possible to produce documents that include such features as enhanced graphics.

"Students are able to express themselves with more creativity and flexibility in format. With electronic submissions, students will be able to include hypertext links to all kinds of multimedia components, such as audio clips of 'Music and the Spoken Word,' video clips, simulations and larger landscape pages," said Herrin.

"We have received an electronic thesis submitted from a student in the Theatre and Media Arts Department that has considerable HTML, Flash animations, music, voice clips and slide shows," said Herrin. However, the preferred format for ETD submissions is PDF, with hypertext links within the PDF file to multimedia components.

ETDs can be created originally in most any word-processing or document-preparation system. Regardless of the document preparation system used, a conversion to PDF must be made before submission.

"ETDs allow for a much greater variety of ways to communicate the main ideas to the reader," said Joyce Adams, president of the BYU Graduate Student Association. "They also allow more people worldwide to have access to their work. In turn, we will have access to the work of others who choose to use this method."

Making theses and dissertations available involves traditional means of access (cataloging by author, title and overall subject matter) as well as the use of metadata for subject-based access to full content. That is, the library will continue to catalog the bound volumes of the theses or dissertations submitted by graduate students.

However, if the thesis or dissertation is submitted electronically in addition to the print copy, the bibliographic record in the library's on-line catalog will contain a link that allows the patron access to the full text version and multimedia components of the ETD.

Users may view and search the ETDs from on campus or from remote locations by employing a variety of search capabilities. ETDs may be searched by keyword, author, title, subject or genre. The genre term is "Electronic Dissertation." ETDs may also be found via the library's Digital Collection.

Efforts are underway at BYU to implement a pilot project with a group of students from different academic areas who wish to submit an electronic version of a thesis or dissertation. This pilot project will be expanded to include more students during the remainder of the 2002-2003 academic year.

During the 2003 year the project will move into an optional ETD submission phase, during which time graduate students will be encouraged to prepare and submit an ETD in addition to the paper version.

Any future move to require the electronic submission of theses and dissertations will be initiated by individual departments and colleges. Some departments are already strongly encouraging their graduate students to submit their theses and dissertations electronically.

Complete information about the creation and submission of ETDs is available on the Office of Graduate Studies Web site *~**~*.

Writer: Elizabeth B. Jensen

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