ETDs and Graduate
Education: Programs
and Prospects
Joan K. Lippincott, Associate Executive Director, CNI
Clifford A. Lynch, Executive Director, CNI
igher education groups like the Council of Graduate Schools
(CGS) have been examining US graduate education in an attempt
understand where improvements are needed. Many critics of
graduate education would echo the sentiments of Lee S. Shulman, President
Emeritus of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, who
recently wrote, “Doctoral preparation remains a striking example of faith-
based education… Our practices in doctoral education are a combination of
longstanding traditions, replications of how we ourselves were trained,
administrative convenience, and profound inertia.”1 One of the areas where
this is most striking is in the dissertation stage of doctoral education. There
is growing concern both about the length of time for candidates to complete
their dissertations, and completion rates, particularly in the humanities.
Often advisors and members of a student’s doctoral committee, who
completed their own doctoral work in a pre-Internet era, interact with
and guide their advisees in the same manner that they were treated when
they wrote their dissertations. Generally, graduate students are advised to
produce straightforward text dissertations that do not take advantage
of new technologies.
For years now, virtually every dissertation in the United States has been
created in electronic form, yet students may still be required to submit their
work in very precisely specified paper form and their institution may only
keep bound print copies as part of the institution’s permanent record. The
electronic thesis and dissertation initiative was launched in the early 1990s to
change this. As part of an electronic thesis and dissertation (ETD) program,
services are put in place for electronic submission of the thesis or dissertation
to the graduate school or other designated academic unit, and for subsequent
ingest into a repository managed by the institution’s library. Generally the
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