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Questions & Answers about Electronic Dissertations at the University of Chicago February 13, 2009

The Submission Process

How will the submission process work?

Students will upload PDFs of their dissertations to ProQuest/UMI's web-based submission site. They also will be able to pay most fees and to complete most forms on the web. After the department chair has approved a dissertation, staff in the Dissertation Office will review the dissertation and accompanying material, informing both the departmental administrator and the student if changes are needed before final approval. After convocation, Dissertation Office staff will transmit student data to ProQuest/UMI and to the University of Chicago Library.

Will this process be more difficult?

Students should find this easier; the submission process will be straightforward with information provided online as needed. The initial implementation may be somewhat more difficult for staff in the Dissertation Office, but once the process has been streamlined it should be easier for them as well as for the departmental administrators and department chairs. The Dissertation Office will continue to offer information sessions each quarter for students and staff who have questions about the submission process.

How and where does PDF conversion occur?

ProQuest/UMI's web-based submission site provides a PDF conversion tool for RTF and Microsoft Word documents and offers links to additional resources for other file types. (See Creating PDFs:

What will this cost the student compared to now?

Savings will vary for each student, but there will be no need to pay for archival quality paper, printing, or shipping of multiple copies of lengthy dissertations for submission to the Dissertation Office. ProQuest/UMI's processing fee and optional fees for copyright, open access, and additional copies will remain in place.

Will students and departments be able to acquire bound copies of the dissertation?

Authors may order full color copies of the dissertation from ProQuest/UMI for a discount at the time of publication. Departments may request copies from the student or purchase copies directly from ProQuest/UMI.

When will this be implemented?

This will be implemented by July 1, 2009. All dissertations submitted for the August 2009 convocation will be submitted online.

Access to University of Chicago Digital Dissertations

How will I find University of Chicago dissertations?

Records for Chicago dissertations will continue to appear in the Library's online catalog. For future dissertations these will include the abstract provided by the author, offering additional points of keyword access. Each record will contain a URL connecting to the full-text version of the dissertation in the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. Chicago dissertations will also continue to be directly searchable in the ProQuest database.

What will be different from current access for University of Chicago researchers?

The Library will not own paper copies of future dissertations. Our readers will download the PDF of the dissertation from the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database to a computer in the Library or to their own computer where they may save it, read it online, or print it out in whole or in part. If they wish, they may purchase a personal paper or microform copy directly from ProQuest/UMI.

How will access change for non-University of Chicago researchers?

Researchers whose institutions subscribe to the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database will have the same access options described above. Researchers without subscription access may use the database when visiting the Library. All may purchase digital, paper, or microform copies directly from ProQuest/UMI. Because the Library has loaned post-1947 dissertations via Interlibrary Loan only to a small group of peer libraries, most of which subscribe to the ProQuest database, the absence of paper copies will only minimally affect Interlibrary Loan.

Aren't the paper copies of our dissertations more frequently consulted and circulated than the online versions?

Actually, the opposite is true. The database holds full text for only a subset of Chicago dissertations: most of those produced since 1997, plus earlier titles of which ProQuest has sold copies in the last five years or so. Yet in 2008 the downloads of PDFs (5,267) were more than double the combined total of circulation and reshelving after in-house use in Regenstein (2,566).


Will the dissertations be safe? What if something happens to the file?

ProQuest’s dissertation database is an official repository for the Library of Congress, and should ProQuest ever cease providing access to the collection it will turn over its files to the Library of Congress. UMI Dissertation Publishing archives dissertations on 2 copies of microform, stored in separate vaults, and stores the digital files on 2 physically separate disk arrays. Files are backed up daily, and copies of the tapes are stored offsite. (See ProQuest UMI Dissertation Publishing Preservation,

The University of Chicago Library will also keep a copy of the digital files in a dark archive under its control.

Why move from paper to digital dissertations?

Dissertations almost always begin life as digital documents. Accepting and reviewing them electronically is more efficient for students and for the institution and will result in ongoing cost savings every year. Students are spared the expense of printing multiple copies of lengthy documents; university units are relieved of the inefficiencies of interoffice routing, collating, and storage of multiple copies. Color images, graphs, etc., are captured exactly as the author intended, and the quality of the PDF is superior to that produced by scanning. PDFs created from the original document can be interpreted by screen readers, so these dissertations will be accessible to the vision-impaired. We concur in ProQuest/UMI’s assertion that "online submission is easier, faster, and results in the highest quality version of the published graduate work."