American Historical Assoc. encourages grad students to embargo online theses

Some say posting a thesis in digital form could hurt students’ chances of publishing a book later.

Roy Aker

The American Historical Association is asking graduate programs and university libraries to adopt a policy allowing history PhD graduates to embargo the digital form of their dissertation, preventing the work from appearing online for up to six years.

In a statement released July 22, the association said the policy is needed to enable recent PhD graduates to publish books based on their dissertations.

According to the statement, putting dissertations online can create a problem for PhD graduates because university presses may be reluctant to offer publishing contracts if the digital version is already available for free.

An increasing number of higher education institutions —including the University of Minnesota — encourage graduate students to submit electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) and are subsequently providing open access to these works online.

Henning Schroeder, the University’s vice provost and dean of graduate education, said the AHA statement encompasses a larger conversation about free online access to historical work.

He cited a study in the journal College and Research Libraries that found that more than 80 percent of journal editors and more than 50 percent of university press directors welcome manuscripts that are revised versions of openly accessible ETDs — or at least consider them on a case-by-case basis.

What’s more, Schroeder said, keeping dissertations from appearing online could actually be detrimental for graduate students. If their work is not accessible online, he said, presses may be unaware of it and so may not offer them a publishing deal.


For graduate students’ reactions, read Wednesday’s Minnesota Daily.