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Locating Theses

Theses and Dissertations are the written documents produced by students for a higher degree or as part of their undergraduate studies. British theses are not usually published documents so the author holds the copyright.

There are 3 main groups of theses and dissertations:

Undergraduate Dissertations

Many undergraduate students write a dissertation but these are not normally held in university libraries. They may be held in the appropriate university department but most are not available for consultation or loan. The only way of acquiring a copy may be through direct contact with the student.

Taught Course Theses/Dissertations

Many taught postgraduate degrees (masters) with nomenclature of MA, MSc and MBA require the submission of a dissertation in support of their work. Some university libraries hold copies of these and others keep them in their departments. Recording is not systematic but some are listed in the Index to theses. Most are not available for Interlending but some may be consulted in the awarding university’s library or appropriate department. Enquires should be made to the awarding university.

Research Theses 

These are completed for doctoral and some masters degrees. The nomenclature is usually Ph.D., D.Phil., M.D., D.Ed. or M.Phil.. They make an original contribution to knowledge and are important sources of primary research. Increasingly, theses are being made available electronically, as many universities require their students to submit electronic versions of their doctoral theses.

Bibliographical records of these theses are available in the Index to Theses and this also contains a sub collection of theses from Ireland. A specific UK doctoral thesis can be searched for in the repository of the awarding university.

EThOS (British Library eThesis site)

The EThOS service offers researchers across the world a single point of access to UK doctoral theses. While targeted primarily at the UK, the site and its contents are available to anyone in the world.  See EThOS video

EThOS provides searching access to over 250,000 theses, with over 50,000 theses available for immediate download. (A personal registration is required the first time) Search EThOS

Users can also follow links to copies of theses held in the awarding institution's repository; view abstracts; order a digital copy of an original paper thesis or be directed to contact the awarding institution to view the item.

Not all UK theses are listed on the site but they can be requested via a speculative request (, provided sufficient details can be supplied.

Index to Theses

The Index to Theses is a subscription based resource that indexes theses across the UK and Ireland from the early 1700s to the modern day.  It also provides links into EThOS and local online repositories where electronic copies of theses are known to be available.  No registration is required to use this service, other than the subscription fee.

Theses lending policies

Policy on the lending of theses varies between universities (see below for FIL guide), and increasingly most will direct customers to EThOS rather than loan a physical copy.

Over 130 universities now have open access institutional repositories, and many of the theses produced in recent years are increasingly also available in these (see OpenDOAR for a list Some libraries may be prepared to loan paper theses if they are unable to supply them via the EThOS or local institutional repository sites. Some universities may have weeded their physical theses stock following digitisation, and may no longer have inter-library loan copies available, but are generally amenable to visiting scholars accessing the theses in person, upon formal application. Some theses may contain material that is commercially or politically sensitive so may not be available for loan. Enquiries should be made to the awarding university’s library.

Some universities require a user to sign a Copyright Declaration Form before consulting a thesis and these vary in accordance with the awarding university's regulations. Most theses may only be borrowed for reference use and there are limitations on how much can be copied or quoted. Many university libraries will make photocopies of their theses for the full cost but there are variations in policy as to whether the author's permission must be sought in advance.

International Theses

ADT is the Australasian Digital Thesis Program to establish a distributed database of digital versions of theses produced by the postgraduate research students of Australian universities.

The British Library collection of North American theses contains more than 475,000 doctoral theses acquired from UMI (now ProQuest) in microform and several hundred Canadian doctoral theses. Since September 2001 the British Library stopped acquiring these. Paper copies of many North American theses can be purchased on-line from ProQuest Dissertations Express with a credit card. Alternatively, applications for overseas theses not held at the British Library can be made direct to the awarding university, or through the British Library’s Worldwide Searches service.

DART project - the Europe E-thesis Portal. This service (which is currently under development) allows you to search for full text research theses from a growing number of European countries. Note: it does not include all national universities.

‘Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations’ (NDLTD). This provides a starting point for tracing the existence of online theses, with a searchable catalogue of e-theses and a directory of links to key websites.

The South African national E theses portal.

TEL: thèses-en-ligne is an intiative of Le CCSD (Centre pour la Communication Scientifique Directe). It aims to provide free access to online versions of doctoral PHD theses submitted at French universities and colleges. All subject areas of the sciences, social sciences and humanities are covered.

Other countries are also developing national services. See the LSE free listing

The IFLA Voucher Scheme of reusable plastic cards is widely acceptable for direct international loans and can be used instead of paying by invoice. More information is available at the IFLA website

FIL guide: UK Theses Lending Policies

Information on the lending and copying of paper theses by higher education institutions in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire. Compiled on behalf of FIL by Graham Titley, University of Plymouth. Version 8, November 2011

This document gives the access or lending policies for PhD and Masters theses for all UK and Irish Universities. It also indicates if the institution is participating in the British Library's EThOS service for PhD Theses.  This document is provided mainly as a support document to ILL & Document Delivery colleagues to assist in the advising of their users about the availability of UK theses for local use, but all are welcome to utilise the file (unedited). 


UK-Eire-Theses-Access Acrobat document  


Link to Conarls page: 'Locating theses'