Members of the Class of 2017 will be the first students to use Thesis Central, a newly created online system that allows seniors to upload their theses directly into the University’s digital archives. The site, which is the result of a collaborative effort between the University Archives, the Office of Information Technology, and the Office of the Dean of the College, was launched on Monday, March 27.
“Designed to assist students and administrators with the archival process, the site will ensure a more complete, accurate, and streamlined collection of senior theses from across campus,” Dean of the College Jill Dolan wrote in an email.
The new system aims to standardize the thesis submission process, a departure from previous years in which digital collection methods varied across departments.
“There’s now one place that students, department administrators, and others who are involved in the thesis process can get their theses to the University archives,” University Archivist and Curator of Public Policy Papers Daniel Linke said.
Linke described Thesis Central as the next step in increasing digitization of the University archives. The archives in Mudd Library, which serve as the central repository for senior theses, began collecting theses in digital form in 2013. The collection currently holds about 3,000 downloadable theses; last year there were 14,000 downloads from the system, which can only be accessed on campus.
“Before we built this system a few years ago, we would get about 1,000 theses looked at in the reading room at Mudd Library,” Linke said. “Each year that we add theses to it, there will be more uses, because there’s a deeper pool for students to look at. But it’s obvious that students are really using this for the pedagogical purpose that we hoped they would.”
One advantage of Thesis Central is a reduction of the steps needed to upload and archive senior theses for both students and department administrators.
“We are prepopulating the system with data so students have very little to actually do,” Linke said. “In fact, the typical student has only three things to do: Put in their title, load up the file, and then just affirm their honor code observance and submit. Because they log in through their netID, it prepopulates their department, adviser, and class year. There’s a lot of advantages in terms of getting very uniform data into the system and less chance for errors from keystrokes as things get passed from one person to another.”
“We tried to make it as simple as possible for students to do the upload, so it doesn’t add any stress and pressure at the thesis deadline,” Linke added. “We wanted to have a system that when students are done, the whole upload process takes literally a few minutes.”
The system allows department administrators to quickly check whether a student has submitted their thesis to the archives.
“Thesis Central has eliminated the need for me to create a Blackboard site for History seniors to deposit their thesis and for me to later transmit those to Mudd Library,” Undergraduate Program Administrator in History Etta Recke wrote in an email. “The former process also required me to essentially complete for each senior the online submission form that 2017 seniors did for themselves. It would take me at least two or three days with approximately 80 concentrators to input that information.”
Another advantage of the new system is its ability to use the same access restriction information that students use for other University systems, such as TigerHub.
“We wanted to capture information on access restriction requests and the thesis information such that we could connect them correctly together,” Academic Services and Digital Repository Architect Mark Ratliff said. “Department administrators from around campus who are responsible for managing the thesis submission process for their departments each have an account in that system where they login and see only the theses that they're responsible for.”
The new system accommodates for departmental variations in thesis requirements, such as those permitting theses written by multiple authors and in languages other than English, by allowing users to specify different department preferences.
It will also help increase accessibility to thesis submission and grant access at any time of day.
“The demand for having things in digital form is quite high. What we're doing here is just trying to bring this important resource into a form that students can look at at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Just being able to provide that 24/7 access to the entire campus is the real effect,” Linke said.
“We have almost 300 theses and we’ve had no problems or hiccups yet,” Linke added.
About 1,000 more theses are due to be uploaded to the system in the coming four weeks.