Theological Research Exchange Network
Theological Research Exchange Network



By M. Patrick Graham

Copyright 1997

(Library Director/Pitts Theology Library/

Emory University/Atlanta, GA)


(Editor's Note: This article was compiled in the early 1990s and therefore does not necessarily reflect the current state of some of the publications listed below.)


Doctoral dissertations constitute one of the researcher's most valuable
tools: the older ones are invaluable for the reconstruction of the history
of research, while the more recent ones show the latest trends in
scholarship, reveal the status of the discipline, and provide excellent
bibliographies. Access to these works, however, is hindered by three

(1) since the doctoral thesis is by nature an unpublished
work, one cannot rely on publishers' catalogs or certain other
bibliographical tools to alert one to works of interest;

(2) the bibliographic services that attempt to cover such works are often from one to three years behind thesis completion dates; and

(3) restrictions are sometimes placed on the use of dissertations (e.g., prohibition of copying or lending).

Bibliographic Access

Each bibliographic tool that gives one access to current doctoral
dissertations has its own unique mixture of advantages and disadvantages. In
the discussion that follows, a number of these tools are evaluated.

American Doctoral Dissertations

ADD is an annual publication by
University Microfilms International (UMI)
that covers American and Canadian institutions, whether they belong to the
Dissertation Abstracts program or not. Consequently, while no abstracts are
included (only author, title, degree, and date are given), the coverage in
North America is greater than in Dissertation Abstracts. The entries are
arranged alphabetically by author within school within subject for

Comprehensive Dissertation Index

CDI attempts to index all U.S. and some foreign dissertations between 1861
and 1972. The works are grouped by general subject (e.g. Philosophy and
Religion in vv. 33-37) and then indexed by author and keyword. Each entry
includes basic bibliographical information but no abstract.

Dissertation Abstracts International

The most prominent instrument in America for bibliographic access to
doctoral theses is DAI, which is published by
UMI. Sections A (The
Humanities and Social Sciences) and B (The Sciences and Engineering) are
published monthly and include bibliographic information and abstracts for
dissertations completed in North America from 1861 to the present at
institutions that participate in the program. Section C (Worldwide) includes
the same information about dissertations completed outside North America and
is published quarterly. Abstracts of theses are arranged by topic within
each section (e.g., works on the book of Revelation would probably be found
under the "Theology" listing of "Philosophy, Religion and Theology,"
although the precise nature of the thesis could cause it to be set
elsewhere). Another UMI publication, Masters Abstracts, provides access to
masters theses. UMI offers all these theses for sale in microform or
softbound copy. DAI is indexed by author, title, and subject and may be
searched in its hardbound copies, on CD-ROM disks,or by on-line computer searching through BRS or DIALOG. Check with your local public, university, or seminary library for access to this very useful tool.

Elenchus of Biblica

Elenchus of Biblica is a bibliography of literature about the Bible and
related topics that covers doctoral dissertations, as well as periodical and
monographic literature (1920-). While it is the most extensive bibliography
for biblical studies, it is usually several years behind in its coverage of

Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses

Since 1923, ETL has published an annual bibliography entitled "Elenchus
bibliographicus," which includes citations of dissertations. Its coverage of
topics is broader than Elenchus of Biblica (e.g., the former includes canon
law, ethics, and theology), and its publication is more current. Entries are
arranged by subject, and there are numerous cross references.

Religious Studies Review

RSR regularly includes references to dissertations in its second ("Recent
Dissertations in Religion") and third ("Dissertations in Progress") numbers
(1975-). These are listed alphabetically by author under subject.

Research in Ministry

RIM is published by the
American Theological Library Association and lists
D.Min. theses from reporting
Association of Theological Schools members
(1981-). Theses are listed by title within subject, and there is an author
index with thesis abstracts. These works are accessible electronically as "Religion Indexes" on the ATLA CD-ROM. Some of these theses were completed at institutions that submit dissertations to UMI and so may be found in
Dissertation Abstracts, too.

Revue théologique de Louvain

RTL is a quarterly journal that has included a section entitled "Index
international des dissertations doctorales en théologie et en droit
canonique" each year since 1978. The dissertations are listed alphabetically
by author within broad subject category (e.g., "Nouveau Testament,
christianisme primitif" constitutes a single category). Citations include
author, title, educational institution, degree, date of completion, thesis
director, and reference to abstract if available.

  • Miscellaneous

    1. There are also listings of dissertations that have been completed
    (e.g., "Summaries of [Harvard] Dissertations" in Harvard Theological
    Review) or that are in progress (e.g., "Berichte über Dissertationen"
    in Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft) in various
    scholarly journals. (There is a listing of recent OT dissertations and
    a characterization of each in some issues of ZAW in the section
    entitled "Zeitschriftenschau," under the heading Dissertation

    2. Early theological dissertations are indexed in the following:

  • Corpus dissertationum theologicarum, 1847; repr. 1971.
  • Bibliotheca disputationum theologico-philologico-exegeticarum in
    V. & N. Testamentum, 1736; 3 v.
  • Catalogus dissertationum academicarum quibus nuper aucta est
    Bibliotheca Bodleiana, 1834; a listing of various dissertations in
    Bodleian Library in 1832.
  • Catalogue des dissertations et écrits académiques provenant des
    échanges avec les universités étrangères et reçus par la
    Bibliothèque Nationale, 1882-1924, 43 v.; Paris: Klincksieck,

3. There are also a number of countries that publish annual lists of
dissertations completed at educational institutions within their borders. 
Two of these are especially important, since most of their 
schools have not participated in the UMI program:

Jahresverzeichnis der Hochschulschriften (Germany) 

Inventaire des thèses de doctorat soutenues devant les universités françaises (France).

Theses are listed by educational institution and indexed by subject.
For South African academic theses, there is South African Theological 
Bibliography, which also indexes periodical literature.

Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, India, Netherlands, 
New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S.S.R. 
also produce national bibliographies of dissertations.

4. Dissertations may also be found by searching the RLIN (Research
Libraries Information Network) or OCLC (Online Computer Library Center)

5. The following bibliographies of dissertations in religion are limited
more narrowly by date or subject than the titles that have been listed
so far and do not represent on-going bibliographic projects:
  • American Theological Libraries Association. Committee on a Master
    List.... A Bibliography of Post-Graduate Masters' Theses in
    Religion. Chicago: ATLA, 1951.
  • Barrow, John Graves. A Bibliography of Bibliographies in Religion.
    Austin, Texas: 1955.
  • Berkowitz, Morris. Social Scientific Studies of Religion: A
    Bibliography. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1967.
  • Bibliography of Theses for the Master of Arts Degree, 1925-1970.
    Nashville: Scarritt College, 1971.
  • Buss, Martin J. Old Testament Dissertations, 1928-1958. Cedar
    Rapids: Xerox, 1958.
  • Gaustad, Edwin Scott. Religion in America: an Annotated
    Bibliography of Selected Dissertations. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1976.
  • Hartley, Kenneth B. A Bibliography of Theses and Dissertations in
    Sacred Music and Related Areas.
  • Holton, Thomas P. A Decade of Patristic Scholarship: 1970-1979.
    Pittsburgh: Classical Association of the Atlantic States,
  • Index International des Dissertations Doctorales en Theologie et
    en Droit Canonique Presentee en 1980. Louvain-la-Neuve: 1981.
  • Landis, Benson Y. Doctoral Dissertations Relevant to Ecumenics.
    New York: WCC, 1965.
  • LaNoue, George R. A Bibliography of Doctoral Dissertations
    Undertaken in American and Canadian Universities, 1940-1962, on
    Religion and Politics. New York: NCC, 1963.
  • Little, Lawrence C. A Bibliography of Doctoral Dissertations on
    Adults and Adult Education. Revised. Pittsburgh: University of
    Pittsburgh Press, 1963.
  • Little, Lawrence C. Researches in Personality, Character, and
    Religious Education: A Bibliography of American Doctoral
    Dissertations, 1885-1959. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh
    Press, 1962.
  • New York, Missions Research Library. Cumulative List of Doctoral
    Dissertations and Masters' Theses in Foreign Missions and Related
    Subjects, 1950 to 1960. New York: MRL, 1961.
  • Sluglett, Peter. Theses on Islam, the Middle East and North-West Africa, 1880-1978: Accepted by Universities In the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Search Strategies * For dissertations in progress, consult recent issues of RSR or other journals that list such works (e.g., ZAW). * For abstracts of dissertations, search DAI. * For bibliographic citations of dissertations alone (no abstracts) with broad international coverage, consult DAI first, then go through each volume of RTL. This should provide fairly good coverage for the 20th century. If more time is available and comprehensiveness is required, then the other tools should be used. * For a subject-specific bibliography, search EUCLID or the card file with the correct subject heading and then "bibliography" (e.g., greece, religion, bibliography). By M. Patrick Graham

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