Electronic Theses and Dissertations at the University of Virginia

Cristina W. Sharretts
Jackie Shieh
Alderman Library
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22903

James C. French
Department of Computer Science
University of Virginia
Thornton Hall
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Although technology has made life easier in many ways, one of the constant complaints has been the extra time it takes to learn it. What once required a few steps manually, may involve now just as many or more steps electronically. This is why simplicity was the main concern the University of Virginia Library (UVa) kept in mind when developing the Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) project.

This poster illustrates an elegant method of incorporating a fundamental component of the University's educational experience, namely the publishing of theses and dissertations in electronic format, but with much ease. Electronic Theses and Dissertations are by no means a new concept. The uniqueness of the University of Virginia Electronic Theses and Dissertations is that the whole process was assimilated through the performance of the technical skills and intellectual efforts from faculty and students. The ETD project features a system which creates no extra network load and runs fully automatically from the submission of data to the conversion of data into MARC and subsequent loading into the Library's online catalog, VIRGO.

The UVa Library began exploring ETDs in 1995 as an alternative means of scholarly publishing activity. An ad hoc committee recommended the use of SGML for archival purposes but this option proved to be more complex than the skills of the personnel available. A new library project team worked with Professor Jim French of the Department of Computer Science (CS), who had led an engineering departmental project in which six undergraduate students submitted their theses electronically. One thesis described the process and developed a prototype for both submission and retrieval of data. The programs, originally developed by Virginia Tech, utilizing Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) to archive the files, were modified to fit the requirements of the University and the Library. The project team then undertook a pilot project in cooperation with the School of Engineering to investigate and evaluate the pedagogical ramifications for new electronic media based on the experiences of the students, faculty, library and, to an extent, the entire university.

The system was designed to be self-explanatory and easy to use. Submission instructions guide the student-authors step by step. The submission form, a single form for both theses and dissertations, is available at the ETD web page, URL, <>, or through the Library web, URL, <www.lib.virginia.edu/> under Services. At this time only theses and dissertations which can be converted to PDF and HTML formats can be submitted.

Students begin by entering their name, e-mail address, and degree program and this information triggers the form applicable to the specific degree program. This segment adds title, abstract, year of publication, codes for advisors, committee chairman or committee members, year of publication, number of file(s) and location of file(s) to be submitted. Only 'text' file(s) can be submitted; images are treated separately. The author has a chance to preview the form as many times as necessary and make necessary changes before clicking the Send to Library button. Screen messages, such as error messages, are generated automatically whenever appropriate, while e-mail messages are posted to the respective parties, such as students, advisors, catalogers and school officials, regarding other aspects of the process, such as successful transmissions and availability in the catalog. Internally, the submitted file(s) is placed on temporary storage while the Library cataloging staff is informed of its existence by a separate e-mail. Staff approval or rejection generates an e-mail message to the address included in the submission form. An approval indicates a clean transmission with no missing file(s) or links; a rejection deletes the file(s) from temporary storage permanently. This last feature also helps in preserving the integrity of the database. The approval triggers the creation of a MARC record utilizing the data entered in the submission form. This record is loaded into VIRGO or disposed in the way its author has indicated in the submission form. At the same time the file(s) is automatically moved from temporary to permanent storage and a URL is created to be included in the VIRGO record, making the ETD accessible in full-text.

The summer of 1998 proved to be a very exciting and gratifying working experience among the committee members which included two students on loan by the Department of Computer Science. The strategies and methodologies will undoubtedly help in pushing forward the ETD project at the University. Planned enhancements are:

1 Corporation for National Research Initiatives