Locating theses from the UK
If you need to locate a specific thesis and you know which university awarded the degree for which the thesis was written, you should try searching the university library catalogue. For example, all theses completed for University of London research degrees are held by Senate House Library. If they have been completed since 1981 you can locate them using the Author/Title option in the Senate House Library Catalogue. Further information is available about consulting theses from the University of London.
If you want to conduct a more general search (or you do not know which university awarded the degree for which the thesis was written), a good place to start searching for theses completed in UK universities is the British Library website. The British Library has collected more than 170,000 doctoral theses from the 1970s to the present day. To locate a thesis you will need to conduct an advanced search of the British Library Integrated Catalogue.
Enter the search terms you have, such as an author or key words, then also add the search string "theses OR thesis OR dissertation", for example:
If you find details of a thesis that you wish to consult, almost all UK universities make their doctoral theses available through the British Library Document Supply Service. You should ask the advice of your library's inter-library loans service, they can tell you how the service works and what the costs are.
Another useful source of information on UK theses is the 'Index to Theses in Great Britain and Ireland'. This is a subscription database and so is only available if your institution has subscribed to this service; consult the library website or ask a member of library staff. This index lists over 450,000 theses accepted for higher degrees in UK and Ireland since 1716. You can search it by subject, keyword, author, title, degree and year. The entry for each thesis provides the author, title, university, and date completed. Abstracts are also available for many entries.
Try it yourself
Try searching for theses, for example search for 'history' in any field and the word 'urban' in the title, in a demonstration version of Index to Theses. This is available to search for free and currently contains one volume of the Index (volume 44, 1993/4)
Locating theses from the US and Canada
'Digital Dissertations' from Proquest contains details of over 2 million US and Canadian dissertations. This is a subscription database and is only available if your institution has subscribed to this service; consult the library website or ask a member of library staff. Also known as the 'Dissertation Abstracts Subscirption Service', you can search this service by keyword, author, title, subject, university and abstract. Records of PhD theses usually include an abstract.
Try it yourself
Try searching Harvard University for psychology theses in the current two years of Digital Dissertations. These are available free to search, many with previews of the first 25 pages of the dissertation, as well as the full text of the abstract.
A Guide to Theses Listings provides further information about tools available to locate theses written in other countries and by subject discipline.