General Abstracts


ProQuest Dissertations and Theses: Full Text. ProQuest. ProQuest, 2013. 23 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated monthly. (Title varies. The database is also available without full-text access.)

Dissertation Abstracts Online. Dialog-ProQuest. Updated monthly.

Available in print form as the following:

  • Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI). Ann Arbor: ProQuest, 1938– . Monthly. Former titles: Dissertation Abstracts (DA) (1952–69); Microfilm Abstracts (1938–51). Z5053.D57 011′.7.

    • Pt. A: The Humanities and Social Sciences. 1966– . Monthly.

    • Pt. B: The Sciences and Engineering. 1966– . Monthly.

    • Pt. C: Worldwide. 1976–2008. Quarterly.

  • Masters Abstracts International (MAI). 1962– . 6/yr. (Former title: Masters Abstracts (1962–85).

  • American Doctoral Dissertations [1933– ] (ADD). Ann Arbor: ProQuest, 1934– . Annual. Former titles: Index to American Doctoral Dissertations [1955–63] (1957–64); Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by American Universities [1933–55] (DDAU).

  • Comprehensive Dissertation Index, 1861–1972 (CDI). 37 vols. Ann Arbor: UMI-ProQuest, 1973. Annual supplements through 2012, with cumulations for 1973–82 and 1983–87. Z5053.X47 013′.379.

A database of doctoral dissertations and master’s theses accepted by North American and some foreign institutions since 1637. The database now cites dissertations from most United States and Canadian institutions (and, since 1988, many British ones), but coverage in the early years is considerably less thorough, and some universities still do not submit abstracts or dissertations for reproduction. Coverage of dissertations outside North America is superficial. A list of participating institutions is printed at the beginning of each issue of DAI (some lists cite the year an institution began submitting dissertations).

Because of the massive number of records and the inadequacies of the indexing and organization of the print versions, the electronic versions offer the best access; however, since these do not include abstracts before July 1980 for dissertations and before 1988 for theses or include records from DAI pt. C before vol. 49 (1988), researchers will frequently find themselves digging through stacks of the print versions. In addition, effective searching of the electronic versions requires a familiarity with the scope, organization, and editorial principles of DAI.

In DAI abstracts are now organized in classified subject divisions. Currently, the language and literature division is in two parts: (1) language, with sections for general studies, ancient languages, linguistics, modern languages, and rhetoric and composition; (2) literature, with sections for general, classical, comparative, medieval, modern, African, American, Asian, Canadian, Caribbean, English, Germanic, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Romance, and Slavic and East European literatures. Theater and cinema appear as sections in the communication and the arts division; folklore, in the social sciences division; and women’s studies, once in the social sciences division, is now a separate division. Since placement is determined by the dissertation author, subject classification is frequently inconsistent or imprecise. Within each section, abstracts are now listed alphabetically by author.

An entry consists of title, UMI order number, author, degree, institution, date of degree, number of pages, sometimes the dissertation adviser, and an abstract written by the author. Abstracts sometimes include untranslated HTML codes; copyediting is negligent; and in some volumes, many titles have keywords added parenthetically to facilitate electronic searches—e.g., “Working Fictions: Narratives of Women and Labor in Early Modern England (William Shakespeare, Mary, Lady Wroth, Thomas Heywood, Aemilia Lanyer)” (these parenthetical keywords are now stripped out of database records). Entries in pt. C add an English translation of a foreign language title and ISBN for a published dissertation or information on location or availability of a reference copy if the work is unavailable from UMI. In recent years, UMI’s rigorous enforcement of a 350-word limit results in some abstracts being cut off in mid-sentence or shortened by UMI.

Since vol. 30 (1969), each issue of DAI has keyword title and dissertation author indexes, with the latter cumulated at the end of a volume. Earlier issues and volumes have a dissertation author index, and vols. 22–29 (1961–69) are indexed by subject. Dissertation Abstracts International Retrospective Index, Volumes I–XXIX, 9 vols. (Ann Arbor: Xerox, 1970), is superseded by the electronic versions. The keyword access to abstracts is particularly welcome because of the sometimes imprecise subject classification of DAI and the recent trend toward uninformative, imprecise dissertation titles in the humanities.

Researchers without access to one of the electronic versions should consult Comprehensive Dissertation Index, a keyword index to dissertations in the Dissertation Abstracts Database. Entries are now organized by broad subject divisions, then alphabetically by keyword, and then alphabetically by author. An entry cites title, author, degree, date, institution, number of pages, source of entry, and UMI order number. Indexed by dissertation author in each cumulation and annual issue. Users must bear in mind the following:

  1. The subject organization has changed during the course of publication (e.g., in the 1861–1972 cumulation, theater is a subdivision of communications and the arts, and folklore a subdivision of social sciences; in the 1973–82 cumulation and subsequent issues, theater and folklore studies are incorporated into the language and literature division).

  2. Because of the sources, there are duplicate and misclassified entries as well as numerous errors.

  3. Cumulations and annual issues correct earlier entries and offer some retrospective coverage (e.g., Canadian Theses and its predecessors are first indexed in the 1973–82 cumulation).

  4. Because CDI is an index of keywords, users must check for variant spellings of names or terms, must keep in mind that many titles do not lend themselves to keyword indexing, and, if possible, should search for narrow rather than broad terms (e.g., in 1861–1972, “novel” and related terms occupy 37 columns). Foreign language titles are only indexed by their English-language translations.

ProQuest’s database is available as ProQuest Dissertations and Theses and the less-widely used Dissertation Abstracts Online. Both allow users to narrow a search by combining or excluding keywords and to limit it by such fields as degree date, adviser, language, or institution. ProQuest’s search interface (I519) has a customized search form for dissertations and theses; users should note that it automatically searches other databases along with ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Basic Search allows keyword searches of all record fields. Advanced Search allows users to limit searches of Boolean combinations of record fields in a pull-down menu by full text, date, degree-granting institution, manuscript type (doctoral dissertations or master’s theses), subject, adviser, index term, and language. Advanced Search includes three subscreens: Look Up Citation, Command Line, and Find Similar (i.e., search for related content). Browse allows searches of lists of subject and of location (countries and states [in the United States]). Results can be sorted by date (ascending or descending) or relevance (although there is no explanation about how the latter is established) and narrowed by nested menus. Searches can be saved as alerts (however, the monthly lists frequently duplicate records from earlier lists), used to create an RSS feed, or stored in a user’s My Research account. Searchers should avoid using the Literature & Language customized search form: it is designed for searching published documents. Inexperienced searchers should begin with ProQuest’s quick reference guide ( Users should note that ProQuest Dissertations and Theses: Full Text can be cross-searched with ProQuest Dissertations and Theses: UK and Ireland (H475).

A typical record consists of citation (title, author, degree, institution, date, number of pages, and publication number), along with fields for author’s name (the form of which sometimes does not match that in the citation), adviser, committee members, date of degree, date of publication, degree, institution, location of institution, index terms, DAI citation, type of document, subjects, publication number, document URL, ProQuest document number, ISBN, and abstract. (Users should note that titles of dissertations are frequently not in title case; that an italicized title-within-a-title is enclosed within double quotation marks; and that, as of the middle of 66.10 [2006], page numbers are rarely cited because the database is now updated before DAI or MAI page numbers are assigned.) For many dissertations after 1997, searchers can view a 24-page preview, order a copy, or—if their institutional subscription allows—read the entire document as a PDF file. Records can be marked for printing, e-mailing, saving to My Research, or exporting (in a variety of forms). Records printed or e-mailed can be formatted in several citation styles, including MLA and Chicago; however, citations formatted in MLA style require substantial editing. Although allowing for sophisticated searching of the database and offering extensive output options, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses offers no description of the scope of the database or editorial principles underlying the records.

Copies of many dissertations deposited with UMI can be purchased directly through ProQuest Dissertations and Theses or UMI’s Dissertation Express Web site ( Some dissertations are restricted, and others must be ordered from the degree-granting institution. For information on how to obtain British and Irish dissertations and theses, see Index to Theses (H475). D. H. Borchardt and J. D. Thawley, comps., Guide to the Availability of Theses (München: Saur, 1981; 443 pp.; IFLA Pubs. 17), and G. G. Allen and K. Deubert, comps., Guide to the Availability of Theses, II: Non-university Institutions, IFLA Publications 29 (1984; 124 pp.), outline policies governing the borrowing or copying of theses and dissertations accepted by 750 institutions in 85 countries.

Although frequently imprecise in subject classification and incomplete in coverage, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database offers an invaluable service in making available abstracts of so many dissertations. For the genesis and publishing history of DAI (along with a selective bibliography of studies and reviews), see Mary W. George, ““Controlling the Beasties: Dissertation Abstracts International ”,” Distinguished Classics of Reference Publishing, ed. James Rettig (Phoenix: Oryx, 1992) 66–76.

North American dissertations not abstracted in DAI are listed in American Doctoral Dissertations and A List of American Doctoral Dissertations Printed in [1912–38] (Washington: GPO, 1913–40). Entries from both are incorporated into ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.

Masters Abstracts International is similar in organization to DAI but abstracts a relatively small percentage of the annual output of master’s theses even in the United States. Each volume has cumulative author and subject indexes, and titles can be searched by keyword through ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.