Sources for Locating Dissertations and Theses

Theses and Dissertations are terms used to describe major research papers prepared by senior university students, as a degree requirement.

Theses are usually:

  • lengthy, formal papers usually written by candidates for a master's or doctoral degree at academic institutions (and sometimes by 4th year students);
  • papers containing original research on a specific topic;
  • also referred to as dissertations, particularly when written for a doctorate (PhD).

Theses and dissertations are extended scholarly essays that incorporate original research on a specific topic. When it is successfully completed, a copy is kept at the institution and a copy is sent to the National Library (in most countries).

Every University keeps a copy of theses successfully completed by its students. Sometimes these theses might also be available on loan (ILL), or online from the home institution or another service. Usually a copy of a thesis can be purchased.

Trent Theses

A thesis written by a Trent University graduate student before August 2019 should be available in the Trent University Archives. When a thesis is complete, a print copy is sent to the Archives for preservation. These theses are available for viewing only in the Archives Reading Room and cannot be signed out. All available Trent theses are listed in the library catalogue. There is a lag time between the completion of the thesis and its availability in the Archives.

Theses completed since 2013 are also available in the University's Digital Collections Graduate Thesis Collection.

Some Trent theses are available from the National Library's Theses Canada (1998-August 2013).

Trent theses are only loaned to other libraries (ILL) on microform, if available.

Sources for non-trent Theses

The following sources can be used to obtain a thesis. Some theses might be available in full text online, while others might only be available through a purchase or by borrowing, in print or on microform.

library catalogue

 Any thesis purchased by the Library is listed in the library catalogue.

Interlibrary Loans

Place an order for a thesis and we'll try to borrow a copy for you. Many institutions, like Trent, do not loan original copies of theses, but a microform version may be available. You can use microform in the readers at our library.

You must know the correct title and author to request the item. Use sources such as existing bibliographies or databases listed here to find this information, then place an order through RACER.

Theses Canada

This is your central access point for Canadian theses and information about the Theses Canada program. From here you will be able to:

  • Search AMICUS, Canada's national online catalogue, for bibliographic records of all theses in Library and Archives Canada's theses collection, which was established in 1965;
  • Access and search the full text electronic versions of numerous Canadian theses and dissertations (since 1998);
  • Find out everything you need to know about Theses Canada, including how to find a thesis, how our program works, information on copyright and much more.
    (from the website)

This is a free website, available to the public. You can search for a particular thesis by title or author, or you can search for theses on a topic.

Google Scholar

Many theses are available online free of charge. Use this search engine to find them. To view the Get It! Trent link go to Google Scholar Preferences, search library links, select Trent University and save preferences. (See our webpage on Using Google.)

Specific Canadian University Sites

Some universities make theses available to the public online. Search the website to find information. Here are some Canadian University theses sites:

EThOS (British Library)

Search engine for UK theses. Some are available online for free and others can be purchased directly from the site.

DART Europe E-theses Portal

DART-Europe is a partnership of research libraries and library consortia who are working together to improve global access to European research theses. The DART-Europe partners help to provide researchers with a single European Portal for the discovery of Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs), and they participate in advocacy to influence future European e-theses developments.


If the thesis you want is not available from another source, you may be able purchase a copy directly from University Microfilms International (UMI), an American institution. The Trent Library does not subsidize this purchase.

To order from UMI, go to the site to search for the dissertation/thesis you want and follow the instructions for ordering. The cost (about $40.00 US) is provided before you purchase. Usually there is a choice between paper or .pdf format. Delivery of a .pdf purchase made by credit card is typically 1 day. Cheques and print copies take longer. See the site for more details.


WorldCat is the world's largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.

WorldCat is useful for identifying the titles and authors of dissertations/theses. Select Thesis/Dissertation from the Subtype limits (Content) menu to narrow your WorldCat search results. Once identified, you can order a thesis through RACER.

Center for Research Libraries

Trent is a member of the Center for Research Libraries. This institution makes available more than 4.5 million publications, archives, and collections and one million digital resources to its member libraries to supplement their own humanities, science, and social science holdings. Included in their holdings are over 800,000 international dissertations. Use RACER to order items on loan.

Obtaining a Thesis

Some of the resources listed above provide the full text of the thesis. If the thesis you need is not available online, submit a request through RACER and we'll look for a copy available on loan. A thesis on loan is likely to arrive in microform format, which can only be used in the Library.