DISSERTATIONS AS PRIMARY SOURCES
Although usually secondary sources, dissertations can themselves be primary
sources or can be extremely helpful in identifying
and locating primary sources.
They can be edited versions of texts:
Kathleen Ann Myers, Becoming
a nun in seventeenth century Mexico: an edition of the spiritual autobiography
of Maria de San Joseph , (Ph.D., Brown University, 1986)
"... a critical edition and study of Madre Maria Joseph's
(1656-1719) autobiographical manuscript ... ."
James John Boyce, Cantica
Carmelitana: the chants of the Carmelite office (volumes I and II) (Ph.D.,
New York University, 1984)
"... [volume II] presents an edition of ten rhymed
offices ... ."
They can be used to analyze the influence of a professor on a generation of
graduate students and, by extension, on the teaching and writing in a discipline
over a period of time.
EXAMPLE: Analyze the content and methodology
of dissertations directed by Howard Lamar.
Because a dissertation is based on original research, its bibliography will
contain references to primary sources used by the author. Identifying dissertations
written on a topic close to the one of your interest, even though secondary
sources themselves, can often lead to manuscripts, diaries, newspapers and other
primary material of interest, so dissertations can be valuable resources in
the search for primary sources.
In some countries, or at some times in some countries, dissertations are or
have been routinely published and are identified through the mechanisms that
control books and monographs (see Bibliographic tools for research in history
). However, other bibliographies and indexes specific to dissertations are generally
the best way to identify this type of research material.
Indexes and bibliographies of dissertations
Obtaining copies of dissertations
This material is based on the Web site created to support a series of colloquia
in historical research offered by the Yale University Library. The initial site
was prepared in August 1996 by Suzanne Lorimer, Susanne Roberts, Margaret Powell,
George Miles, Fred Musto, Emily Horning, Cesar Rodriguez, Nancy Godleski, Richard
Williams, Elizabeth Pauk, and Martha Brogan.
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This file last modified 07/31/06
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