Electronic thesis project earns top honours

Western’s School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) has won the 2012-13 Ontario University Registrars’ Association (OURA) Innovation Award for its electronic thesis project.

A collaborative effort between SGPS and Western Libraries, the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) project provides a technologically advanced medium for expressing graduate student research at Western.

Prior to implementation, Western theses were created by students electronically using some type of software and then printed to paper. These paper copies were difficult to access from outside of Western, and so to meet the ever increasing demand for access to Western research, this project was initiated for the purpose of developing an efficient model to make these works free and available to all interested parties while improving the methods by which the theses are collected, examined and eventually published.

Graduate students were spending a total of $60,000 a year across campus on producing throwaway copies of their thesis. Students immediately embraced the concept of having their thesis uploaded for review in place of producing draft copies of the work and having them distributed across campus or via the mail to examiners around the world. Faculty also have the option of receiving and evaluating the thesis in a digital form, saving approximately 350,000 printed pieces of paper annually.

“Winning this award is a tremendous way to cap off all the efforts we’ve made to facilitate thesis evaluation and distribution improvements,” said Linda Miller, vice-provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies). “What most stands out to me is the increased accessibility to the ground-breaking research our graduate students are conducting. The average circulation of a thesis archived in the library in its first year was 0.3 times per copy. Now, a thesis is circulated on average 195 times.

“That’s pretty remarkable, and it increases Western’s research footprint tremendously.”

The OURA Innovation Award recognizes university achievements in improving the quality and reducing the cost of academic administration in activities related to registrarial services. A certificate and $5,000 award were presented to SGPS at the OURA annual conference on Feb. 25 in Niagara Falls. The funds will be used to develop future services and bursaries for theses and research distribution.

OURA is an affiliate of the Council of Ontario Universities with strong ties with the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre, the Ontario Universities’ Council on Admissions, and with sister associations in other provinces and the Association of Registrars of Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC) at a national level.