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E-Thesis Review 2020

2020 was an exceptionally busy year for e-thesis at Queen’s. . In the period 1 Jan – 31 Dec 2020, the e-thesis team validated 451 e-theses.

Infographic for E-thesis annual overview 1 Jan - 31 Dec 2020

This number is comprised of e-theses from summer and winter graduations of that year, as well as multiple retrospective records which were added in the same period. Of the 451 e-theses, 55% were immediately open access, while the remaining 45% were embargoed. Embargoes are primarily used to protect a work while the author seeks to get published.

This period also witnessed the significant enrichment of metadata for e-thesis records, with the addition of keywords, persistent identifiers, funder information, and linked to relevant connected research outputs, activities and datasets in Pure. I include an example of this enrichment:

The 451 e-theses can be categorised as mostly PhDs (402), some MPhils (42) and some other programs (6). There was also a total of 17 new datasets uploaded to Pure, linked to e-thesis records.

One significant factor in accounting for the high number of e-thesis records validated was the fact that in March 2020 the e-thesis team first began liaising closely with Student Services and Systems to put in place a new compliance system of the university’s open access mandate. As a result of this new system – all PGRs must upload into Pure in order to graduate – the compliance rate has been 100% from winter graduation onwards.

The advent of COVID and lockdown also meant that submitting one’s e-thesis was the sole means of submission and, therefore, graduating. During March-August, the campus was closed and print submissions were suspended temporarily.

Making one’s thesis available electronically has significant implications for copyright and visibility. Accordingly, there was a considered push for advocacy to inform students of this in this period. 13 training session were delivered on copyright and e-thesis. Students also availed of 46 one-to-one appointments to discuss their e-thesis, publication planning, funders’ mandates and selecting the appropriate embargo. The rise of creative theses – those comprising multiple elements, portfolios etc – commercialisation connected to theses and, occasionally, sensitive material has necessitated in-depth discussions and advice regarding the sharing of this content.

Another positive development throughout the year was the increase in download figures of our e-theses in Queen’s Research Portal. Figures rose steadily throughout the year, averaging a total of 7.1k downloads per month (85,310 downloads per year). There was an explosion in August 2020 with 14.3k downloads, mainly owing to the popularity of one thesis, Karst de Jong (2017), “The Irish in Jamaica during the long eighteenth century (1698-1836)”:

PGR students, generally, have been very pleased with the submission of their e-thesis using Pure. One PGR student noted: “It is a fantastic platform to put everything in place for a researcher. Many thanks!”

A lot of the year’s success has been owing to students’ readiness to embrace open access requirements. Thanks are also due to co-operation with Student Services and Systems for helping us with compliance. Within the library, thanks are due especially to our colleagues in Special Collections for depositing scanned images to us for our creation of retro records in Pure, as well as to colleagues in Bibliographic Services for cross-referencing and checking print metadata and embargoes against our e-versions. Many thanks to all involved!

If you have any queries about e-theses please contact Michael O’Connor at designated e-thesis email: