Thesis Thursday: a guide to sources

Despite our best efforts, we’ve ended up without a guest for Thesis Thursday this month. Rather than try and let the January 2018 edition slide by unnoticed, I thought I should take the opportunity to write something a bit different on the subject.

The premise for Thesis Thursday is that there’s lots of exciting research going on around the world by early career researchers as part of doctoral programmes. One of the reasons we think Thesis Thursday is useful (as well as providing insight into the lives of health economics PhD students) is that it exposes readers to research that they might not otherwise get to see until after a long drawn-out publication process or, worse, that might never see the light of day at all.

In this blog post I’ll provide some insight into how we find candidates for Thesis Thursday and how you – between instalments – can get your thesis fix. Or, more likely, how you might be able to use PhD theses more in your research.

The big databases

There are some major repositories around the world for doctoral theses. If you’re looking for a thesis from a British university then your first stop should be EThOS, hosted by the British Library. The search function will be familiar to anyone who has used a bibliographic database. You can also limit your searches by award year and whether or not the thesis is available for immediate download (more on this in a moment).

A good resource for North American theses (and dissertations) is ProQuest, though it’s unfortunately only available to those with a subscription – institutional or otherwise. There is a health economics subject page with a weak collection of 72 theses (none more recent than 2012). But if you dig deeper using search terms you will find a wealth of PhD outputs from universities you’ve never even heard of. The quality is variable, but there are some excellent pieces of work buried in here. We’ll be trying to publicise them using Thesis Thursday.

There are plenty of other databases that bring together theses from multiple sources; these are simply the databases that I use. Honourable mentions also go to Open Access Theses and Dissertations and the NDLTD archive, which seem to have a better international reach than many others.

Institutional repositories

Most universities have their own internal thesis repositories. Most British universities use the standard EPrints system, so their use is familiar. While I’m reluctant to reinforce the Sheffield-York axis of power, the White Rose thesis repository is particularly useful for health economics theses. It’s a doddle to find the latest theses from ScHARR, CHE, and AUHE, though I’m not entirely convinced that they have complete coverage. Further afield in Europe, Erasmus has a good repository of health economics theses. Or, if you’ve been practising your Dutch, you can find a larger repository that includes the likes of Tilburg and Groningen.

Most theses in institutional repositories are embargoed. This means that it isn’t possible to download the thesis unless you make a special request and are granted permission. These theses aren’t likely to be chosen to be featured on the blog because they pose the additional challenge of trying to get sight of the work itself. I wish everybody would make their thesis freely accessible…

A call for candidates

Today’s Thesis Thursday didn’t happen because we weren’t able to find a guest who felt able to contribute. Recent graduates can be hard to track down. Email addresses stop working and subsequent affiliations (if any) are not always clear. If you would like to feature in an upcoming Thesis Thursday or you’d like to recommend someone, get in touch. We shan’t hold it against you if your thesis is not available online, but please be ready with your PDF!

Credit

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