Publishing and Repositories

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Making your thesis research available to the scholarly community is an integral part of the research process.
The first step is to deposit your finished and approved thesis into an Open Access repository. Major research universities now provide an option to deposit your electronic thesis or dissertation (ETD) in a specialized thesis repository run by the university. At many institutions, it is a graduation requirement to deposit your ETD in the institutional repository. Contact your university library for specifics (or search its web site).

NDLTD provides a thesis repository for those individuals whose university does not provide an institutional repository. The NDLTD repository is part of Virginia Tech’s institutional repository VTechWorks, which consists of many communities. At VTechWorks, look for “ETDs: Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations” or immediately click through to After registering, you may deposit your thesis. This will ensure that it will be harvested by the NDLTD Union Catalog.

Beyond thesis repositories, it may be valuable to deposit your thesis in other appropriate Open Access repositories. Check out the following general-purpose repositories and social-networking sites for scholars:


There are also many disciplinary repositories run by independent organizations for the purpose of sharing research within one or more disciplines. The largest of these are:

  • for Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, and a growing number of other disciplines
  • for Economics
  • for the Social Sciences.

Some researchers may even choose to start their own personal repository to provide open access to all of their research. This is possible with open-source software on a minimal web server. If you pursue this option, however, you need to consider reliability and long-term preservation issues.

If you want to pursue a career as a scientist or scholar at universities, research labs, or think tanks, it is extremely important to publish your work. Making your thesis available in a repository does NOT count as a publication for the purpose of academic hiring. Publishing your thesis is a process that is entirely separate from depositing your thesis in a repository.

It is customary to condense a thesis into one paper or to split the thesis research into several papers. Each paper is then submitted to an appropriate refereed journal. At most journals, an editor will send submitted papers out to at least three anonymous referees for evaluation on appropriateness, technical merit, and originality. If accepted, the paper is professionally copy-edited, formatted, and published. Some universities allow students to reverse the process. In this case, students publish research papers much earlier in the process, and the thesis is a collation of their papers, usually tied together with an extensive introduction.

In some cases, graduating students are encouraged to pursue book deals for the whole thesis. This is increasingly rare. If successful, it is almost always necessary to rewrite the thesis to make it appropriate for publishing.

Some students and their advisors fear that depositing a thesis in an Open Access repository may limit future prospects for publication. This fear is mostly unfounded if you submit your thesis to your institution’s repository only and as part of a graduation requirement. (See references below for a thorough treatment.) Even in those few disciplines where such Open Access is an issue, it is still possible to deposit your ETD to an your institution’s repository subject to an embargo period. An embargo period of one to two years solves most major issues.

If the ETD contains patentable ideas, the student, his or her thesis advisor, and their patent attorney may also choose to submit the thesis to a repository subject to an embargo period.


“Do Open Access ETDs Effect Publishing Opportunities in the Sciences? Findings from the 2012 Survey of Academic Journal Editors.” Marisa Ramirez, Gail McMillan, Joan T. Dalton, Ann Hanlon, Heather S. Smith, and Chelsea Kern. College and Research Libraries. Accepted: September 15, 2013; Anticipated Publication Date: January 1, 2015.

“Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities?” Marisa L. Ramirez, Joan T. Dalton, Gail McMillan, Max Read, and Nan Seamans. College & Research Libraries, July 2013, 74:368-380.

“An Investigation of ETDs as Prior Publications: Findings from the 2011 NDLTD Publishers’ Survey” Gail McMillan, Marisa Ramirez, Joan Dalton, Max Read, and Nancy Seamans. Proceedings of the 14th International Symposium on Electronic Theses and Dissertations, Cape Town, South Africa, 2011.

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