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How to Get Access to a Doctoral Dissertation Database for Free


Reading dissertations by other people is a great way to prepare to write your own, but can any PhD theses be found on the web for free? Of course they can, and getting access is easier than it may seem. Follow the step-by-step guide below to discover lots of free doctoral dissertations.

  • Check your university database.

    Most universities have a database of all doctoral theses submitted to them available for free to their students. Use your student ID to get access.

  • Remember that it is not the final point of your search.

    Even if your university library has enough doctoral papers for you to use as examples, it is always a good idea to look at dissertations submitted to other institutions. You need it to develop a broader view of the previous research in your field.

  • Look for lists of free doctoral dissertation databases online.

    Copy the title of this article into a search engine line. You will see links to web pages that list dissertation databases. Most of these resource belong to universities, public libraries, or governmental institutions and hence can be trusted.

  • Choose a database that fits your purpose.

    Lists of thesis databases are often mixed up as the very definition of a “free” database is vague. They may include databases that provide free access to full dissertation texts and those that allow to view only the first 25 pages of each thesis, as well as databases of different countries and profiles (e. g. only musicology papers or only Australian theses). Read each database description carefully to decide whether you need it or not. Look for those that have the largest number of titles available full-text as free PDFs.

  • Double-check the database rules on their website.

    The information on lists may be inaccurate as academic database rules change over time. Once on the database website, read their terms of use. Make sure that you will be able to access full texts for free, not only abstracts and samples.

  • Register.

    Most dissertation databases require a free registration in order for you to be able to view or download free papers. The exact rules vary across resources. You may have to enter your name, the name of your university, or even your student ID. Do not worry about the security of your personal data. Academic databases, especially large and well-known ones, have privacy policies and strong security systems.

  • Enjoy the variety of dissertations.

    A particular dissertation that you are looking for may not be available for free in any database. However, you can always find similar ones that you can access for free.