FAQ for EThOS and theses

Find answers to and guidance on our most frequently asked questions.

Theses held in EThOS

What theses does EThOS have?

EThOS aims to hold a record for all doctoral theses awarded by all UK universities (institutions). There are a few gaps which we’re gradually filling, but there is a record for at least 95% of all UK theses, some 500,000 records. EThOS also provides free, direct access to the full text of as many theses as possible.

Does it have Masters theses?

No, just doctoral level – mainly PhDs but also other types of doctoral thesis, e.g. D.Ed., Mus.D., D.Eng.

Does it hold MPhils or Masters by Research?

No. Guidance from the QAA considers these to be Masters-level, so they’re not generally included. The QAA Qualifications Framework can be found here https://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code/qualifications-and-credit-frameworks

Does EThOS hold professional Doctorates? What about PhD by publication or creative writing PhDs?

EThOS aims to hold a record for all UK doctoral theses, so yes, these are included. Here are some examples:
Creative Writing PhD - EThOS ID 571794; Professional doctorate – EThOS ID 570811; PhD by publication – EThOS ID 537334.

How can I get my thesis into EThOS? Can I upload it myself?

We always work with the UK universities rather than with PhD authors direct. That way we know the theses we hold are the final validated thesis awarded by the university – it offers reassurance to the universities, authors and users. So always start by asking your university to arrange for it to be added.

I am looking for a thesis which I know exists but isn’t in EThOS. What can I do?

As long as it is a UK, doctoral-level thesis, send us the details using the speculative request form, and we will search for it and add it if possible.

What if I do not want my thesis to be made available on EThOS?

EThOS operates a strict takedown policy facilitating the removal of any thesis. If you wish your thesis to be removed from EThOS, please contact us with the details of your work, your own contact details and the reason for removal. We will then liaise with the awarding university to confirm the removal.

What if I don’t want to deposit my thesis in any open resource?

EThOS works with the universities and each one has a different approach. You normally have to sign a deposit agreement as part of your degree arrangements, but you might be able to arrange an embargo if you have particular concerns – check with your university. There are lots of records in EThOS for which the full thesis isn’t available – perhaps the author has declined to allow it to be digitised, or maybe the PhD output is itself an original work which isn’t suitable to be made openly accessible.

I am a researcher and my own thesis is listed in EThOS. How can I get my own ORCID identifier added to your record?

ORCID identifiers are increasingly used by researchers, publishers and institutions to uniquely identify a researcher and link all their research articles, books, papers, theses and other outputs under a single profile. Where ORCID IDs are provided to EThOS by institutions, they are added to the relevant record with a link to the author’s ORCID profile. More often than not, we do not have access to an author’s ORCID and privacy laws do not allow us to add them in bulk direct from the ORCID website.
If you would like your ORCID ID to be added to your EThOS thesis record, please contact your university first and then email with the details.

I am a researcher and my own thesis is listed in EThOS. How can I get the DOI that is assigned to my thesis added to your record?

DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) are unique identifiers that are increasingly being assigned to all types of scholarly outputs like journal articles, papers, theses and datasets generated in the course of research. A bit like ISBNs, the aim is to provide a unique, persistent ID to make citation, reporting and access to the item easier and more sustainable. If your thesis had a DOI assigned when you deposited it in your university’s repository, contact metadata@bl.uk to let us know. We’ll check the details and add it to the EThOS record.

Using EThOS

Do I have to be an academic researcher to use EThOS, or based in the UK, or in a library?

Anyone can use EThOS for their research. You can access it from anywhere in the world, for free. It’s an openly accessible website.

Do I have to login to use EThOS?

There’s no need to login to search EThOS, view the records, read abstracts or follow links to other repositories. You only login to download full theses directly from EThOS or to order digitised copies.

Why do I need to register/login to download a thesis?

EThOS supports the open access commitment of UK Higher Education. In order to protect the thesis author's rights, EThOS requires users to register on the system and login so we can track when, where and by whom a thesis is downloaded. Please note the terms and conditions of supply which you have to agree to before you can access a thesis.

I have to be logged in to order a copy for digitisation or download from EThOS. Can I use my main British Library account details?

No, unfortunately you have to register specifically for EThOS the first time you want to download a thesis, or order one for digitisation.

How do I change my password?

If you forget your password when you try to login, just click the Reset Password button; a new temporary password will be sent to you, and you can change it again when you next login.

For records without full text, can a researcher be certain of getting hold of the full thesis somehow?

Some theses will probably never be available in digital form or downloadable via EThOS. Many paper theses are simply too fragile to scan or contain third party material where copyright permission has not been given to make a copy. E-theses may be unavailable because of embargoes or other restrictions applied by the institution or the PhD author.

If there’s no sign of an e-copy and you can’t order a scanned copy, contact the library of the awarding institution - they may let you visit to view the original or even supply it on interlibrary loan.

Seeing an abstract before deciding whether to order it for digitisation is really helpful. What can I do if there’s no abstract?

Abstracts aren’t always available because traditional library catalogues don’t include abstracts so they’ve never been systematically recorded over the years. You could try checking the university library catalogue for more details, or asking them direct if they can help.

Are the documents held in universities’ online repositories all free to access?

Yes, they are. These institutional repositories are the free, online stores where a university hosts its research outputs such as conference papers presented by its academic staff, often its PhD theses (not always), and some journal articles.

What if the PhD student plans to publish a book after completing their doctoral research?

There doesn’t seem to be any hard evidence that making a thesis openly available negatively impacts your ability to publish books or journal articles based on the same research. Talk to your university to see about requesting an embargo if you think that’s needed. And if you have firm examples of the impact of open access theses on future publication opportunities, do let us know.

How do I reference theses from EThOS? Are the theses citable using referencing software such as EndNote?

Each EThOS record has a suite of buttons to help with sharing and referencing. You can normally find advice online or from your university on how to cite a thesis.

Can I use extracts for teaching purposes? I teach English and use theses as a resource for current doctoral students to help develop them in writing their own theses.

Yes you can use them for teaching purposes, please cite the thesis and highlight the fact that it came from EThOS or the awarding institution.

Digitisation of theses

Why do I have to pay for some theses to be digitised but for others the cost is covered by the university?

Institutions all have different priorities in opening up access to their print theses. Some have funds allocated to support digitisation of their theses in response to orders. For others the only way they can make their older theses openly available is to pass the scanning costs onto the user.

So if I’m the first person to want a digitised copy of a thesis and I pay the scanning fee, all future users can access it for free?

That’s right. Once the scan has been done, it is added to the UK e-theses collection in EThOS and made available for download by others.

Can I see a list of the universities that have a fund to cover the scanning costs of their own theses?

The full list of participating institutions shows the digitisation arrangements for each.

What happens if I pay the fee but then the thesis cannot be digitised (e.g. copyright permission not given)?

Your card is authorised for the full amount and only charged if and when the thesis is digitised. Although you need to provide your payment details in advance, like most online shops the payment is only taken when the order is satisfied.

If someone else has already requested that a thesis be digitised, but it is still going through the process, will this be indicated in the EThOS record?

Not in the record itself, but when you go through the process of ordering it for digitisation you will see a Zero charge if there’s an order already in the system – you won’t be charged again, and you’ll still be notified when the item becomes available.

Why is UK VAT being charged on my digitisation order?

From 1 January 2021, VAT at the UK rate of 20% must be added to all digitisation orders placed through EThOS. Digitisation through EThOS has been assessed as not considered a “digital service” for VAT reasons because we are not transmitting a digital file directly to the customer. It is considered a “non-digital service” as described by UK Government guidance.

How long does it take for a digitisation order to be completed?

You can check the status of your order by going to the Order History screen where you can see which theses are available to download and which are still being processed. The British Library has a 20 working day turnaround for the digitisation process but this is after the paper thesis is received from the institution. It takes the institution several days to retrieve and check the thesis before sending it to us by normal post – and longer if they need to contact the thesis author for any reason. Please allow at least 30 working days to pass before chasing your order.

How will I know when the thesis is ready?

When the thesis is digitised, it is added to EThOS. This triggers an email to you to tell you it’s ready for download. Just follow the link in the email, login to EThOS and download your thesis.

Can I choose to have the copy emailed directly to me when it’s ready?

No. You need to download it yourself after logging in and agreeing to the re-use Terms & Conditions. Doing it this way ensures all copyright conditions are met.

I am a librarian and wish to pay for digitisation of a thesis for one of my users. How can I do this?

Unfortunately you cannot pay the digitisation fee for your users from your EThOS deposit account. If you would like to pay on behalf of your users, please login and order the thesis under your own name. When the thesis has been digitised and is available for download, you will be notified by email as usual. Unless you want a copy for your own purposes, do not download the thesis. Instead inform your user that the thesis is available on EThOS and ask them to download a copy for themselves. By following this procedure, you pay for digitisation of the thesis and your user agrees to the terms and conditions of supply of the thesis, so all legal requirements are met.

Can I make a thesis supplied by EThOS available from our university library?

No. In order to ensure author rights are protected, all users downloading theses from EThOS must agree to the terms and conditions displayed. If you download a thesis and supply it to someone else, you break the terms and conditions of supply you agreed to. There is no limit on the number of individual readers who can use the online copy.

Can I re-use the whole thesis for purposes other than my research?

No, not without the express permission of the author or awarding institution.

Can we re-use the EThOS metadata for our own resource discovery service?

Yes, the metadata is available for re-use for not for profit purposes. You can harvest using the OAI-PMH protocol system; the base URL is http://ethos.cs.uct.ac.za/oai. A CSV file of the entire metadata set is also available to download under a CC-BY licence from the British Library Research Repository.

Are there equivalent services in other countries?

Many other national services are listed here.