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Online Dissertations And University And California

In the Fall of 2006 the USC Libraries began accepting electronic-only deposit of dissertations and theses. This on-line collection contains those electronic submissions. These have been deposited directly by the authors. Print copies have not been retained by the USC Libraries since the Fall of 2006. Note that some recent submissions may have restricted access for up to two years from the date of submission, after which, they will become available without restriction.

An early batch of 39 theses is also included in this collection. Dating between 1931 and 1966, this early batch contains theses on topics related to Los Angeles. These earlier documents were written by students in graduate programs in the Departments of Cinema, Finance, Geology, History, and Sociology, as well as the Graduate School, the School of Commerce, and the Graduate School of Social Work. Additionally, newly digitized older theses and dissertations continue to be added to this collection.

In the Spring of 2014, the USC Libraries began a project to retrospectively digitize every USC dissertation, thesis and graduate project in its print collection. These graduate works will gradually appear in the USC Digital Library over the course of about two years until the project is complete in early 2016.

Many or most uses of images, quotations, and other materials in a thesis or dissertation would be fair use (please see the tab on Fair Use Basics for more information), but you cannot assume that an academic purpose automatically guarantees fair use. The key questions are basically: How are you using it? and Are you using an appropriate amount?

At one end of the spectrum, imagine a short quotation, or an image reproduced at a viewing-friendly (but not reproduction-friendly) resolution, and a dissertation that discusses and critiques that image or quotation. The writer is using the material to make a particular point important to their scholarship, and adding to academic discourse on the subject. No one is going to use the dissertation as a substitute for the original work. Few or no copyright owners would object to this type of use as a fair use, requiring no permission, and it is hard to imagine a successful challenge if they did. The analysis generally changes little for dissertations on the internet; you may want to consider whether you have included, for example, so many things from the same creator or at such a high quality that people would download a copy of your dissertation rather than buying a copy of the work.

On the other end of the spectrum, imagine a writer who wants to discuss one paragraph of another writer's work, but quotes ten pages that are not discussed. Imagine a writer who includes several images from a particular artist, in a format that shows more detail than a user needs to understand the writer's text, or is suitable for poster printing. Even though the writer is creating scholarship and has a noncommercial purpose, the amount used is more than is appropriate.

Many uses will fall somewhere between these two extremes, but in our experience most students writing a dissertation will fall closer to the first case. The nature of a thesis is that most external content is included because the author is making a point about it. Various guidelines exist to help evaluate different kinds of uses in the context of theses and dissertations, such as these from Proquest/UMI. 

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