Got Dissertations? - Tuesday's Tip

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) Have you considered using PhD dissertations and master's theses to aid your research? I will admit, I hadn't really thought about them either until recently. If you have an institution of higher learning in your area that offers PhD and/or master's degree programs check out their online library catalog for dissertation or thesis titles that might relate to your topic or add historical context to your research. Schools with degree programs in women's studies, geography, economics, sociology, and especially history all may have something to offer the family history researcher.

Students in master's and PhD programs often research and write about topics where original source material is close at hand. In my case I found two publications particularly useful. They provide context and historical background for my family history research previously undiscovered elsewhere. One thesis I found was "Polish Groups in Worcester County, Their Adjustments to American Life and Environment," by Agrippina A. Macewicz, completed in 1948. A dissertation, "A History of the Worcester War Price and Rationing Board," written by Edith Rose Kaufman in 1951 was also of interest. My mom worked for the Worcester Ration Board during World War II. Dissertations and theses usually contain fairly extensive bibliographies which you will also want to review for additional source material.

If you do decide to look for dissertations at your local university library, I strongly suggest you call or e-mail the library before your visit to enquire as to their specific policies on loaning or accessing materials to patrons outside of the university community. Theses and dissertations do not circulate at some institutions or may be part of a special collection. If they are part of a special collection, you will want to ask what hours the special collections area is open and accessible to the public.

Tuesday's Tip: Check for theses and dissertations at your local university library. Don't forget to review the publication's footnotes and bibliography for additional or related source material.


Kaufman, Edith Rose. "A History of the Worcester War Price and Rationing Board," 1951, Dissertation, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Macewitz, Agrippina A. "Polish Groups in Worcester County, Their Adjustments to American Life and Environment," 1948, Master's Thesis, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Michelle Goodrum said...

Excellent tip.

Amy Coffin, MLIS said...

Google Books and are both handy places to search for theses and dissertations.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Michelle and Amy - Thank you for your comments!

Amy - Google Books and Worldcat are both great resources for finding dissertations! Thanks for mentioning them!

Susan Petersen said...

This reminded me of a dissertation and education database I used to use a lot in the 1970s - the Eric Clearinghouse. Just checked and it's still available with an online database at Try some topics, geographical areas, even the word "genealogy" and you'll get some hits. Thanks for the reminders about these potential sources.