[Humanist] 26.485 default online publication of dissertations?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Nov 15 09:42:16 CET 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 485.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2012 16:41:02 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: default online publication

This is to ask your opinion on a matter of online publication. Do you 
think that a doctoral dissertation in the humanities once submitted 
should as a matter of course be put online by the degree-granting 
institution unless the student applies for and is granted an embargo? 
What is the practice where you are?

Personally I am in favour of getting the text of dissertations (and 
everything else we write and otherwise make) out into circulation as 
quickly as possible. I find myself wanting to get my hands on doctoral 
(and sometimes MA) dissertations from time to time and am frustrated 
whenever I cannot. If asked I would argue that good books so seldom come 
from dissertations without a thorough-going revision that 
discouraging their unrevised publication is fully justified. A 
dissertation just isn't a proper monograph. I would also argue that 
you're better off getting known quickly for your preliminary work as a 
scholar than hiding it away while you work on publishing versions of it. 
I would also point out that in some cases (mine is one) getting the 
much-desired academic job came in part as a result of being known by 
having an online scholarly presence.

In the old days of typewriters and floppies, I was asked to decide on 
whether I wanted my dissertation to be freely available in the stacks of 
the library. I decided to have it kept locked up for some few years. As 
it happened I never did anything with the dissertation (I would prefer 
now that it remain out of reach), but that was a different time. It is 
very easy for me to be in favour of immediate online circulation of all 
dissertations, however, so I am cautious in thinking that scholars at the
beginning of their careers would agree.

What do you think? How should we treat finished work in the humanities 
that might be published in some form or other?


Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
(www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

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