Foraging for theses

Recent headlines have highlighted concerns over unscrupulous third parties attempting to make money off the back of researchers by attempting to sell (for pennies) copies of Masters and Doctoral theses online. These have been taken from universities around the UK, including Durham University, and resold without permission (and often in breach of copyright). But for many years, Durham and other universities around the world have endeavoured to provide free access to theses, moving from what was previously rows of shelves of hard bound theses in our libraries, to digital repositories sharing the knowledge and expertise of our community online.

We often get asked by students, staff and others outside of the university if we have a specific theses available, or how to access theses and dissertations more generally, so we thought we’d highlight some of the resources available to you and why we make our theses available.

Why open access theses?

Many of our doctoral theses have always been available to the public, submitted to the Library and available on our Library shelves for consultation by the public. But since 2009, most of our electronic theses have been made available online, removing the barrier of having to be physically in our library buildings in order to read and view these valuable research resources.

Providing free access increases the its visibility and reach of research by removing the barriers for people to access, read and share the knowledge therein. This can increase the chance of the work being cited as well as helping to promote research which may later be updated and adapted in a monograph or other publication.

Durham Theses and Dissertations

We provide access to many of our Doctoral and Masters by Research theses and dissertations through Durham etheses. Here you can search across our thesis collection (which includes some theses back over the previous 100 years), or browse by the awarding department or date of award.

Scrteenshot of thesis available from Durham etheses, to show thesis which can be downloaded immediately. Record shows thesis title, abstract, author, year, department and copyright statement.
Thesis from Durham etheses – our default re-use licence prohibits commercial re-use, but authors are free to request a range of re-use licences.

Embargoes: Be aware that authors of doctoral theses can request an embargo on access, for a variety of reasons. This may mean that whilst you can see a thesis was submitted at Durham, the full text of that thesis may not be available a period of time afterwards. We cannot provide access to anyone, even staff and students at Durham, without the author’s permission, so users may need to track down the author to request a copy if it is still under embargo in our repository.

Screenshot of theses from Durham etheses showing how a record is displayed if under embargo.

Open Access theses and dissertations from the UK and beyond…

In many cases, you may wish to peruse the dissertations and theses available from authors beyond Durham’s castle walls.

Many UK theses, including Durham’s, are discoverable via Google Scholar, and other services, but if you are specifically looking for theses authored in the UK, the British Library’s ethos service is your first port of call. You can search for free, or register for a free account which will allow you to download copies of theses directly from ethos (or link to where they may be available from other university repositories).

Screenshot showing same thesis as first image, available from the British Library's ethos service.

If you wish to explore theses beyond the borders of the UK, there are many global services available, from DART-Europe for European theses, to Proquest and Trove for US and Australian theses respectively.

You can find a range of services you can access at our Research Collections: Theses and Dissertations guide here.

Screenshot of Durham University Library Guide for Dissertations and Theses. Shows range of theses resources available.
Durham University Library Guide: Theses and Dissertations

Where to get help

As always, you can contact us through our AskDulib service:

You can find more information on accessing Doctoral Theses on our Research Collections guide at

Durham authors can find guidance on making their thesis open access on our Research Support Guide on ‘Your Thesis’ at

Message on Amazon resale of Durham theses

Recently we became aware that a third party had downloaded copies of theses from our repository and was attempting to sell these via Amazon. Other universities in the UK and overseas appear to have been targeted by the same or other individuals.

Whilst this action never removed the fact that anyone could access the same thesis for free from the University, this action did breach the terms under which many of those theses were made available – which prohibited commercial resale.

You can see the University’s full statement here.

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