On the last weekend of October, the British Library became the victim of a major cyber-attack. Essential digital services including the BL catalogue, website and online learning resources went dark, with research services like the EThOS collection of more than 600,000 doctoral theses suddenly unavailable. The BL state that they anticipate restoring more services in the next few weeks, but disruption to certain services is now expected to persist for several months. For the latest news on the attack and information on the restoration of services, please follow the BL blog here: Knowledge Matters blog and access the LibGuide page here: British Library Outage Update - Electronic Legal Deposit - LibGuides at University of Cambridge Subject Libraries
A full list of resources for searching theses online is provided by the Cambridge A-Z, available here.
The University's institutional repository, Apollo, holds full-text digital versions of over 11,000 Cambridge PhD theses and is a rapidly growing collection deposited by Cambridge Ph.D. graduates. Theses in Apollo can be browsed via this link. More information on how to access theses by University of Cambridge students can be found on the access to Cambridge theses webpage. The requirement for impending PhD graduates to deposit a digital version in order to graduate means the repository will be increasing at a rate of approximately 1,000 per year from this source. About 200 theses are added annually through requests to make theses Open Access or via requests to digitize a thesis in printed format.
Theses can be searched in iDiscover. Guidance on searching for theses in iDiscover can be found here. Requests for consultation of printed theses, not available online, should be made at the Manuscripts Reading Room (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: +44 (0)1223 333143). Further information on the University Library's theses, dissertations and prize essays collections can be consulted at this link.
Researchers can order a copy of an unpublished thesis which was deposited in print form either through the Library’s Digital Content Unit via the image request form, or, if the thesis has been digitised, it may be available in the Apollo repository. Copies of theses may be provided to researchers in accordance with the law and in a manner that is common across UK libraries. The law allows us to provide whole copies of unpublished theses to individuals as long as they sign a declaration saying that it is for non-commercial research or private study.
Are you a Cambridge alumni and wish to make your Ph.D. thesis available online? You can do this by depositing it in Apollo the University's institutional repository. Click here for further information on how to proceed. Current Ph.D students at the University of Cambridge can find further information about the requirements to deposit theses on the Office of Scholarly Communication theses webpages.
Electronic copies of Ph.D. theses submitted at over 100 UK universities are obtainable from EThOS, a service set up to provide access to all theses from participating institutions. It achieves this by harvesting e-theses from Institutional Repositories and by digitising print theses as they are ordered by researchers using the system. Over 250,000 theses are already available in this way. Please note that it does not supply theses submitted at the universities of Cambridge or Oxford although they are listed on EThOS.
Registration with EThOS is not required to search for a thesis but is necessary to download or order one unless it is stored in the university repository rather than the British Library (in which case a link to the repository will be displayed). Many theses are available without charge on an Open Access basis but in all other cases, if you are requesting a thesis that has not yet been digitised you will be asked to meet the cost. Once a thesis has been digitised it is available for free download thereafter.
When you order a thesis it will either be immediately available for download or writing to hard copy or it will need to be digitised. If you order a thesis for digitisation, the system will manage the process and you will be informed when the thesis is available for download/preparation to hard copy.
A green open padlock means the thesis is available for immediate download either direct from EThOS or by following a link to the institution’s own copy.
A picture of a scanner indicates the thesis can be ordered for digitisation from print. In this case, there may be a charge to cover the scan process and you will need to wait several weeks for the thesis to be copied.
This icon indicates that the thesis is under an embargo or access is restricted in another way. You will not be able to download the thesis immediately nor order a scan from the paper copy. Some universities allow you to visit the library to view the print copy. Others may offer a “Request a copy” option - a digital copy may be supplied to you once the thesis author has given permission. Many theses will not be available at all if restricted by the author. If an item is embargoed, make a note of the embargo date and check back once this date is reached.
See the Search results section of the help page for full information on interpreting search results in EThOS.
Electronic versions of non-UK theses may be available from the institution at which they were submitted, sometimes on an open access basis from the institutional repository. A good starting point for discovering freely available electronic theses and dissertations beyond the UK is the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) , which facilitates searching across institutions. Information can also usually be found on the library web pages of the relevant institution.
The DART Europe etheses portal lists several thousand full-text theses from a group of European universities.
The University Library subscribes to the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (PQDT) database which from August 31 2023 is accessed on the Web of Science platform. To search this index select it from the Web of Science "Search in" drop-down list of databases (available on the Documents tab on WoS home page)
PQDT includes 2.4 million dissertation and theses citations, representing 700 leading academic institutions worldwide from 1861 to the present day. The database offers full text for most of the dissertations added since 1997 and strong retrospective full text coverage for older graduate works. Each dissertation published since July 1980 includes a 350-word abstract written by the author. Master's theses published since 1988 include 150-word abstracts.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The University Library only subscribes to the abstracting & indexing version of the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database and NOT the full text version. A fee is payable for ordering a dissertation from this source. To obtain the full text of a dissertation as a downloadable PDF you can submit your request via the University Library Inter-Library Loans department (see contact details below). NB this service is only available to full and current members of the University of Cambridge.
Alternatively you can pay yourself for the dissertation PDF on the PQDT platform. Link from Web of Science record display of any thesis to PQDT by clicking on "View Details on ProQuest". On the "Preview" page you will see an option "Order a copy" top right. This will allow you to order your own copy from ProQuest directly.