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FAIR Synthesis: Electronic Theses

To complement the work on ETDs* in the DAEDALUS (storage and access) and Theses Alive! (submission and technical management) projects, the Electronic Theses project has examined the practice and methods of ETD production, management, and use, including existing theses that have been digitised and those born digital.  Models and guidance have been developed for dissemination to the community based on work between the project partners. 

* ETDs, or electronic theses and dissertations, is the internationally used term for e-theses 

Further information is available via the JISC project page and the project website. The final report of the project is also available. 

Outputs from this project include the development of a  UK Metadata Core Set for ETDs, a model for working with ETDs, a range of guidance on the implementation of ETDs,  two national events, plus test software implementations and a range of publications and presentations. A number of collaborations have also resulted from the project as well as subsequent JISC ETD project activity. 


Dr Susan Copeland
Georgina Scott Sutherland Library
The Robert Gordon University
Garthdee Road
Aberdeen AB10 7QE

Tel: 01224 263453


UK Metadata Core Set for ETDs, developed in conjunction with the DAEDALUS and Theses Alive! projects as well as the British Library, has been developed and made available for comment by the community. A subsidiary list of additional terms is being created and it is intended to actively maintain the metadata set.  Discussions on the metadata set, and other ETD issues, are invited through the e-theses-uk JISCmail discussion list.


A proposed national model approach for ETDs, developed collaboratively in conjunction with all project partners. See an example of research thesis submission and examination process workflow has also been developed at the University of Cranfield, one of the project partners.


The development of guidance to support the use of ETDs is ongoing.  Available documents are as listed below, though please check the project website for the latest updates.


The project has held two national events to raise awareness of ETDs, both of which have been extremely popular.


GNU EPrints software version 2.0 and DSpace version 1.0 were both installed on the Solaris 9 platform to investigate and test them as the basis for an ETD archive.

ePrints was selected as an option because of the range of institutions already using this software for institutional repositories.  The project was keen to investigate how such repositories might be used for ETDs as well, to avoid additional and over-specialisation of repositories.  DSpace was selected as an option due to the increasing interest and use of this software for ETDs elsewhere (cf. the University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow) and as an institutional repository in general.  ETDs have been identified as an possible example of good use for a repository.

The ProfileSkim software produced by the SmartWeb Centre at Robert Gordon University is not a specific output of the project, but has clear applicability within it.  The software provides specialist functionality for detailed searching of long documents, of which ETDs are a good example. It should be noted that this software is not generally available yet, although options for its release are being investigated.

Links with related initiatives and projects

The Electronic Theses team have established a number of collaborations during the project, as follows:

  • E-Measures project team - Susan Copeland has worked with the team to ensure inclusion of ETDs in the e-measures pilot project. The SCONUL Advisory Committee on Performance Improvement has now adopted the findings of this work
  • EThOS project - this JISC-funded collaborative project will extend the findings from the FAIR ETD activities and projects, and investigate the practical applicability of a national ETD solution.  The Robert Gordon University is a partner in this project
  • Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) - The Project Manager, Susan Copeland, sits on the Board of Directors for this organisation to represent the UK and JISC. 
  • The EFAIR cluster of projects - these projects have provided very useful context for e-print repositories and how ETDs sit alongside or are incorporated into these.  The EFAIR cluster also provided feedback on the Metadata Core Set
  • The Robert Gordon University SmartWeb Centre - with particular respect to testing and use of the ProfileSkim software with e-theses
  • University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow – collaboration between the three FAIR ETD projects, including agreement on the UK Metadata Core Set for ETDs


Copeland, S., Penman, A. and Milne, R., Electronic theses: the turning point. Program, 2005 39(3): 185-197

Copeland, S., Milne, R. and Penman, A., Electronic Theses: a JISC FAIR project. Relay, 2005

Copeland, S. and Penman, A., The development and promotion of electronic theses and dissertations (ETDS) within the UK. New Review of Information Networking, 2004 10(1): 19-32

Copeland, S. and Penman, A., Electronic Theses. ASSIGNation, 2004 21(3): 30-32
Copeland, S. and Penman, A., E-theses: recent developments and the JISC ‘FAIR’ programme. SCONUL Newsletter 2003 28: 39-42


(NB. see also the event programmes above for details of talks given by project staff at these)

Susan Copeland also presented at a UKCGE meeting on ETDs on 22nd March 2005.  See for details
ETDs: Development in the UK, Susan Copeland, Institutional Repositories: the Next Step, SPARC Meeting, Washington DC, 18-19th November 2004, available at
Focus on access to resources, Simon Bevan, 'Traveling Librarian' reception, West Virginia University, WV, 14th October 2004

E-Thesis submission workflow issues, Simon Bevan, An electronic future for University of Wales theses, Aberystwyth, 9th September 2004
Electronic theses: a central repository, Susan Copeland, An electronic future for University of Wales theses, Aberystwyth, 9th September 2004
Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs). Are you Being Served? Susan Copeland, Interlend 2004. University of Sheffield, Sheffield, 12-14th July 2004.
ETDs in the UK: Incorporating Best Practice into a National Model, Susan Copeland, JISC CNI Meeting, Brighton, 8-9th July 2004
RGU Electronic Theses project - a poster, Susan Copeland and Andrew Penman.  JISC Joint Programmes Meeting, Brighton, 6-7th July 2004

Using international best practice to create a UK ETD national model, Susan Copeland, Anthony Troman, and Richard Milne, ETD 2004, University of Kentucky, Lexington, 3-5th June 2004, abstract available at
Developing DSpace for ETDs at The Robert Gordon University and The University of Edinburgh, Andrew Penman and Richard Jones, ETD 2004, University of Kentucky, Lexington, 3-5th June 2004, abstract available at
How can LIS professionals encourage academics to self-archive? Susan Copeland, ePrints UK Edinburgh workshop, Edinburgh, 14th May 2004, available at
RGU Electronic Theses Project – a poster, Susan Copeland and Andrew Penman, 4th OAForum Workshop, Bath, 4-5th September 2003
RGU Electronic Theses Project – a poster, Susan Copeland and Andrew Penman, 7th ECDL, Trondheim, 17-22nd August 2003, available at
E-theses developments in the UK, Susan Copeland, ETD 2003, Humboldt University, Berlin, 21-24th May 2003, available at
The ‘Electronic Theses’ project: a view from the consortium led by The Robert Gordon University, Andrew Penman, ETD 2003, Humboldt University, Berlin, 21-24th May 2003, available at

See also

ePrints UK 
Theses Alive!