For students pursuing advanced degrees, the completion of a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation marks the end of a long academic journey. From selecting a topic to writing a proposal, collecting the data, writing the results and defending the work, the graduate thesis or dissertation represents years of long hours of studying, researching and writing. One of the final steps before graduating and earning that hard-earned graduate degree is submitting the final approved paper to the University’s library.

For years Cal State San Marcos has printed and bound each final thesis or dissertation into distinguished blue hardcover books, placing one copy into circulation and another into the archive for posterity. And while the books are occasionally checked out locally, many remain untouched in the stacks and archives. Carmen Mitchell, institutional repository librarian, wants to make these works and the wealth of information they contain more visible and easily accessible to scholars locally and around the world.

In a pilot project that aims to digitize the University’s catalog of over a thousand theses and dissertations, the Kellogg Library is joining ranks with other major universities nationwide, including Virginia Tech and the University of Florida, to not only digitize their collections but require that all future manuscripts be submitted in an electronic-only format.

“The Electronic Theses and Dissertation Project is in part our effort to ensure scholarly material is widely available to the world in support of open access,” said Interim Dean of the Library Wayne Veres.  

Mitchell sees this as an important first step in the Library’s efforts to better build, preserve and share CSUSM’s archives. She explained that while alumni have the opportunity to opt out of the public access portion of the project, she has already had an enthusiastic and overwhelming response from former students. One alumna applauded the effort, noting that open access to information moves science forward.

“And she’s right; it’s has been proven that when you are open with your research and scholarship, your field of study is advanced at a quicker pace,” said Mitchell, citing a 2004 report that found open access increases research citations.

The digitization process is simple. The circulation copy of the dissertation or thesis is disbound, scanned and saved electronically to CSUSM’s ScholarWorks. Then the paper is tagged with key words, and once online it becomes searchable and easily located via Google and other search engines. Mitchell estimates that it may take as long as a year or more to digitize the entire collection of theses and dissertations.

“The second archive copy will remain in the University’s archives and can still be viewed by appointment,” she said. “And we would love for our alumni to come by to visit their thesis or dissertation, tour the library and see how the campus has grown since they graduated.”

“I get really excited about this project," added Mitchell. "It will not only elevate the library in the eyes of the community, but it’s promoting the dissemination of knowledge and promoting the visibility of our academic community here at CSUSM.”

Veres agrees, “Placing a student’s thesis online is another service distinguishing our CSUSM library among top academic libraries.”

Alumni who have questions about the project may contact Carmen Mitchell at 760-750-8358 or cmitchell@csusm.edu.

Mitchell sees the digitizing of theses as an important first step in the Library’s efforts to better build, preserve and share CSUSM’s archives.