Theses: a guide for users

The Centre for Research Collections (CRC) holds most Edinburgh University higher degree theses. These are an important source for research in a variety of different fields. Not all theses are catalogued online, so you may need to check the sheaf-binder index in the CRC Research Suite to locate the thesis you are looking for.

There are gaps in the older part of the collection, particularly in terms of non-Ph.D theses. Undergraduate dissertations are not normally deposited in the Library. Any undergraduate dissertations will be treated as books. Depending on the date of accession, they will be listed in the pre-1985 Guardbook catalogue or the online catalogue.

Finding a thesis

Theses after 1984

Records for all post 1984 theses (but not prize essays) can be found in the online Library Catalogue. Searching can be by author, title or keyword. In the last instance, when using subject keywords, the word ‘thesis’ must be one of the words chosen. Most recent theses now have an online copy, which can be consulted anywhere.

Theses before 1984

These are all listed in the sheaf-binder indexes, which are held in the CRC Research Suite. CRC staff will be happy to check these indexes on your behalf if you are unable to visit in person.

Theses presented between c. 1835 and 1880

These are largely uncatalogued. Please contact CRC staff for further information.

Early printed theses

A good number of these can now be found in the online catalogue.

Locations and availability

Most theses accepted since 1950 are present in the Library in two copies, one archival copy and one which is available for consultation. For Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, the consultation copies are held in the Centre for Research Collections and can be viewed in the CRC Research Suite. For Science and Engineering, second copies are housed in the KB Library Store at King’s Buildings. Astronomy theses are held at the Royal Observatory Library, Divinity theses are at New College Library.

Consultation regulations

Theses with the location mark ‘Theses Section 1’ are held as archival copies and are not normally issued for consultation, unless there is only one copy available. In this case the thesis will have to be consulted in the CRC Reading Room.

Theses (hard copy or microfilm) with the location mark ‘Theses Section 2’ or with non-Main Library locations should be consulted in the relevant library. Requests for Section 2 theses in the Main Library should be made by filling in the CRC request form in the department, or by contacting us in advance. They can be consulted in the CRC Research Suite.

Where a thesis record shows ‘RESTRICTED’, consultation is prohibited unless the inquirer obtains written permission from the author, which must then be counter-signed by the author’s head of department. An author can restrict a thesis for a period not exceeding 5 years after graduation.

Edinburgh University staff members may borrow a single Section 2 thesis for up to 1 month.

Section 2 theses may also be borrowed through other libraries via Inter-Library Loan.

Copying regulations

All copying has to be done by Library staff. Some theses can be copied in full; some cannot be copied at all without the author’s permission and all copying must be done within the terms of current copyright legislation. A thesis scanning service is available.

Contact the Centre for Research Collections

Phone: +44 (0) 131 650 8379


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