Statement on Electronic Publication of Theses and Dissertations

AHA Professional Division

Graduate students and their advisers should be aware of specific policies at their institutions governing the dissemination of history M.A. and Ph.D. theses. In the past, theses were made available either through hard copies deposited in the home institution library (and made available for interlibrary loan) or through microfilm. Today, some universities require that theses be published online or on their library website. At the same time, there is evidence to suggest that some university press editors are reluctant to consider for publication those studies that have been posted online and made generally accessible to the public.

 Policies governing online publication of recent theses vary widely among institutions. Some universities allow students to embargo the publication of their thesis for a year, or for an indefinite amount of time. Other places do not allow any kind of embargo. In most cases where students have the embargo option, they must make such a request within a stipulated window of time—for example, no later than a month before the defense. Students and advisers should take note of these deadlines as part of their general preparation for the defense.

The American Historical Association urges universities that have no policies at all on this issue to consider developing one that strikes a balance between, on the one hand, protecting the recent graduate’s right to maintain control over his or her work product, and, on the other, promoting the interests of the historical profession to disseminate scholarship as widely as possible.