Dissertation Makes History in University Libraries

Posted: November 12, 2013 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: November 13, 2013 at 6:50 am

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By Mark Schwartz, communications and marketing officer, University Libraries

Fenwick Library

Fenwick Library on the Fairfax Campus.Photo by Alexis Glenn

In August 2013, the George Mason University Libraries published Mason’s 1,000th “ETD” or electronic thesis or dissertation in the Mason Archival Repository Service (MARS) operated by University Libraries.

The history-making dissertation was “An Approximate Dynamic Programming Approach to Financial Execution for Weapon System Programs” by Erich Morman, MS Operations Engineering ’02 and PhD Systems Engineering and Operations Research ’13.

Erich Morman

Erich Morman

“The submission process was very straightforward,” says Morman. “I’m excited to have my dissertation in MARS where it’ll be easily accessible to my colleagues and future researchers.”

MARS exists to be a stable, well-managed, permanent archive for digital scholarly and research materials of enduring value produced by Mason faculty, staff and students. According to Wally Grotophorst, associate university librarian for Digital Programs and Systems, “MARS is also home to many of the University Libraries’ noteworthy digital collections — for example, Mason’s 40th Anniversary Exhibition or the Oliver Atkins Photography Collection.”

As graduation approaches, students submit their thesis or dissertation electronically. The process is streamlined and offers a number of benefits. Rather than a physical bound volume sitting on a shelf in the library, a student’s work is now an easily accessed electronic file, available to readers around the world.

“George Mason University is proud of our students’ work, and we want to make these materials available to as wide an audience as possible,” says Sally Evans, university dissertations and theses coordinator. “ETDs make doing so much easier, and make our students’ accomplishments more accessible to more people.”

“Moving to digital dissertations helps the author’s work get discovered and read,” says Grotophorst. “It also eliminates printing and binding the final product, which removes a stress point for the author and saves them money to boot.”

Posting Mason ETDs in MARS started in 2007. Mason dissertations (but not master’s theses) completed earlier, since the 1980s, are accessible online through the libraries’ subscription to the ProQuest database. Bound copies of both dissertations and theses were also available in Fenwick Library through late January 2013, when university policy changed to electronic submission only. After storing a dissertation in MARS, a student may request that the library restrict access to the document for a designated period of time.

“ETDs have now become a common practice across universities,” says John Zenelis, university librarian. “Mason has been in the forefront of this development, and this is yet another way to highlight scientific research and scholarship of our graduate students to the world in the MARS platform, which is indexed and accessible through both specialized and general search engines on the Internet.”

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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