BIBLIOGRAPHIC ACCESS TO DISSERTATIONS
By M. Patrick Graham
(Library Director/Pitts Theology
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
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
(3) restrictions are sometimes placed on the
use of dissertations (e.g., prohibition of copying or lending).
Each bibliographic tool that gives one access to current doctoral
dissertations has its own unique mixture of advantages and disadvantages.
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
included (only author, title, degree, and date are given), the coverage
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
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
although the precise nature of the thesis could cause it to be set
elsewhere). Another UMI publication, Masters Abstracts, provides access
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
monographic literature (1920-). While it is the most extensive bibliography
for biblical studies, it is usually several years behind in its coverage
Ephemerides theologicae lovanienses
Since 1923, ETL has published an annual bibliography entitled "Elenchus
bibliographicus," which includes citations of dissertations. Its coverage
topics is broader than Elenchus of Biblica (e.g., the former includes canon
law, ethics, and theology), and its publication is more current. Entries
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")
(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
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.
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:
* 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,
By M. Patrick Graham
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