The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Jan 5, 2011

My kingdom for those dissertations . . .

One of the challanges of dissertation work is seeking out and acquiring previously defended dissertations that deal with your own topic. In reality, the "seeking out" part is fairly easy, with the advent of modern search engines and a little help from your school's librarian. The "acquring" part, however, is extremely difficult, especially when a key dissertation is unpublished, exists only in two schools in the entire world, both of those schools are on different continents from your own, and neither of those schools is willing to lend you a copy! This is exactly the situation I am finding myself in with one particular dissertation on 1 Peter.

In light of that, I'd like to direct the reader to two schools that make their dissertations free and available to any researcher (they are, of course, only for personal use, and copyright laws apply; they may not be reposted without permission). The first, the University of Edinburgh (http://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/) has an impressive array of dissertations in New Testament Studies, some of the more interesting include Holly Carey's dissertation "Jesus' Cry from the Cross: Towards a First-Century Understanding of the Intertextual Relationship Between Psalm 22 and the Narrative of Mark's Gospel"; Margaret Gavin Sim's dissertation "Towards a Relevance Theoretic Approach to the Particle 'ina" in Koine Greek"; and Hon Lee Kwok's dissertation "Use of Isaiah in the Pauline Letters with Special Reference to his Conception of being an Apostle to the Gentiles." I would encourage any students researching these areas to check out these dissertations.

The second school, Virginia Tech (http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/findetd.html), is not really as useful for Biblical Studies  per se, but may still be helpful for Christian students researching ethics, science, communication theory, etc.

This raises the question: why don't more schools make their students' dissertations avaiable for research? Granted, all doctoral candidates want to publish their work eventually, but for every thesis published, there remains quite a few more that are not published that nevertheless make a genuine contribution to scholarship (else they would never have been approved). Perhaps I am missing something here, but the University of Edinburgh's approach seems to makes sense for 3 reasons: first, it promotes the school. Due to my access to U of Edinburgh's dissertations, the school has risen to prominence in my mind. Granted, I'm no expert on British universities, and I'm hardly in a position to recommend a British school to any prospective students. Nonetheless, simply through my interactions with their website, U of E has still has suddenly become the only British University that I know anything about.

Secondly,  those who have successfully defended their dissertation would naturally want their research accessible to scholarship. A dissertation that exists in only two copies, sitting on a shelf in the library of a lesser-known school, can hardly be termed "accessible." It is quite possible that many decent dissertations lie neglected, collecting dust, while scholarship is deprived of of their work. An electronic database, such as that of U of Edinburgh, solves that problem.

Thirdly, there are those like me who cannot afford to fly to South Africa, Germany, and Paris (three countries outside of the US that contain dissertations I desperately would like to get my grubby hands on) any time soon and who fear that they may miss out on a valuable work of scholarship. For dissertations in the US, of course, one solution is ProQuest (http://www.proquest.com/en-US/products/dissertations/disexpress.shtml), provided you're willing to shell out 40 dollars or so. Still, it's most likely cheaper than taking a trip to the other side of the country to get ahold of a dissertation (I've purchased valuable dissertations through ProQuest and can attest that it is definitely a useful outlet).

One other thought. I would think that having these dissertations available electronically would actually deter plagerism, for it would seem that it would be easier to plagerize a source that only exists in or two libraries than a source that exists online (as a grader, I can speak with experience that it's fairly easy to catch plagerism in papers if the source is online, even in pdf format; simply enter a couple lines of text in "Google" and see if anything matches)

I encourage my readers to be on the lookout for any other schools that provide easy access to their dissertations or research. Drop me an e-mail, and that schools' website will be posted, along with other helpful resources, on my "Resources for Students" sidebar.


  1. South African Theological Seminary posts their stuff online (including their online journal). You can view their research here: http://www.satsonline.org/node/52

  2. Thanks! This will be a great resource; I've added it to my sidebar "Resources for Students"