Raising the profile of master's theses

The Library provides a global platform for social science students’ research

Photo of Zhen Yuan
Zhen Yuan wrote his thesis on the impact of the CARES Act stimulus on consumption.

What do immigration policies in Paraguay, the impact of the CARES Act, and the security–rights paradox have in common? They are all topics of theses written by social science master’s students that are now available through the Library’s Knowledge@UChicago digital institutional repository.

Over the past year, librarians in the Center for Digital Scholarship have been partnering with the Division of the Social Sciences to provide a way to share and archive the intellectual output from the MA in Computational Social Sciences (MACSS), the MA Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS), and the MA from the Committee on International Relations (CIR).

Knowledge@UChicago is an open access repository service that preserves and shares the scholarly and creative assets of the University. In depositing their work, students learn about aspects of scholarly communications such as embargo, copyright, and creative commons licenses, while increasing the exposure and discoverability of their work. Starting with a pilot in the Spring of 2021, MA students from the three programs must deposit their theses in Knowledge@UChicago as a part of their academic requirements. Staff in the Social Sciences are able to use the system to check and approve each thesis. It then becomes publicly available unless the student has chosen to apply an embargo or limit access to the University of Chicago community.

A map with colored dots showing the location of treatment and control groups.
A map in Zhen Yuan’s thesis on the impact of the CARES Act stimulus shows the distribution of Zip codes in the treatment group and control group.

Zhen Yuan, who currently works as a Research Professional at Booth School of Business, deposited his thesis “Impact of Cares Act Stimulus on Consumption: Evidence from Zip Code Level Transactions” in August 2021. A year later it had already been downloaded 135 times.

In addition to making the students’ research available to a broad audience, deposit in Knowledge@UChicago makes the paper more easily citable by giving it a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). DOIs provide a unique and permanent way of referencing academic articles by creating a persistent link that can then be used by other researchers when citing the paper. This ensures that the MA students can be given credit for their work and that their theses can start to be a part of the scholarly dialogue.

Hana Okamoto, who received her MA from the Committee on International Relations, deposited her thesis, “Solving the Security–Rights Paradox: How to Re-Imagine Individual Politics Within the Confines of National Security” in August 2021. It has since been cited in an article in IEEE Access by scholars from the University College Dublin and Sultan Qaboos University. Facilitating this kind of global impact for our students has been a goal of this initiative from the start, and it is gratifying to see it starting to happen.

Photo of Hana Okamoto
Hana Okamoto wrote her thesis on solving the security–rights paradox.

The next phase of this collaboration is to provide these same opportunities to past students. The Division of Social Sciences has been collecting MA theses for years, but they were only available to other students in the MA programs. We plan to deposit them all in Knowledge@UChicago for archival purposes and will make theses downloadable if we get permission from the students who own the copyright in their work.

Staff in Social Sciences are initiating a communications campaign to let alumni know of the opportunity to make their thesis openly available. The project team is also developing a workshop and informational materials to help students learn the value of openly sharing their research, while also understanding how to navigate issues related to publishing plans and ethical concerns or risks related to certain types of data or research. This will accomplish another goal of the project—not only to give students this opportunity but also to teach them about copyright, open access, and other issues related to participating in the ecosystem of scholarly communication.

Staff from other programs and divisions in the University are encouraged to contact the Library to learn how their students’ theses can be added to Knowledge@UChicago.