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Scholars Commons @ Laurier opens up treasure trove of scholarship
Have you ever wanted to really dig into an esoteric topic – pilgrimages to Graceland, say, or the intricacies of Facebook privacy settings, or the social history of quilts?
The team behind the Scholars Commons @ Laurier has uploaded all available Laurier graduate theses and dissertations to its on-line database, opening up a treasure trove of scholarship on these and hundreds of other topics to the university community and general public.
A total of 1,588 theses are now available on the Scholars Commons, dating as far back as 1967 and drawn from all graduate departments at the university.
“Moving to this type of system for archiving theses and dissertations is an important step forward for us,” said Caitlin Bakker, digital projects coordinator. “It’s part of a broader ongoing shift to digital collections at Laurier and beyond.”
As of late July, the Scholars Commons thesis collection had logged 16,036 downloads. The most viewed document was “War and state collapse: The case of Sierra Leone,” with 263 downloads. Studies of novelist Toni Morrison and family wellness rounded out the top three, with 233 and 183 downloads respectively.
“It’s an amazingly wide assortment of materials,” said Bakker.
Prior to the Scholar’s Commons project, Laurier graduate theses and dissertations were only electronically available through a specialized database that was sometimes difficult to access, particularly for non-academics.
“We’ve had great feedback from members of the public so far,” says Bakker. “One gentleman who contacted us used the repository to find the only information he’d been able to locate on the World War Two regiment his father served in. It’s information he might not have otherwise been able to track down.”
The new system provides a showcase for Laurier graduate students, making their work easy to access and link to. It could also help to cut down on the need for printed or microfiche copies of the theses, potentially conserving funds and space. Library and Archives Canada will require electronic submission of all theses by 2014, and the digital copies produced for Scholars Commons @ Laurier will facilitate those submissions as well.
Each thesis in the collection receives a permanent URL that can be included on a CV, for example, or in a professor’s funding application, as an example of past students’ success. Individual theses can also be embargoed, or kept off-line, for a period of three months to three years, in cases where the thesis is being externally published.
Currently, most Laurier graduate students are required to create four official printed copies of their theses: one for the student, one for his or her supervisor, one for the department and one for the Laurier Library. However, in a pilot program, Biology and Chemistry students have also been submitting their completed theses to the university via Scholars Commons @ Laurier.
The electronic theses and dissertations project is directed by the Digital Online Theses Committee, which includes representation from the Library, the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and the Graduate Students’ Association. The Library’s Scholarly Communication Committee has also been involved in the planning and implementation of the project.
Scholars Commons @ Laurier is a digital repository of academic work and archival materials at the university. In addition to the graduate theses, Scholars Commons will also feature archival issues of The Cord dating back to 1926, as well as research from faculty members, issues of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies’ academic journal and other materials.
For an overview of the project, see the Oct. 17 campus update announcing its launch here.
For more information, contact Caitlin Bakker at email@example.com or visit the Scholars Commons.