Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Project Status Report
November 24, 2003
Prepared by Carrie Sparks, Assistant to the Provost



 

A Brief History of the ETD Project at Pitt
The ETD Working Group, an ad hoc committee of the University Council on Graduate Study (UCGS), embarked on a voluntary pilot project with the approval of the Provost in December 2001 to assess the procedural feasibility and scholarly advantages of accepting theses and dissertations in electronic rather than paper-based format. Every graduate and professional school requiring master's theses and/or dissertations agreed to participate in the ETD Pilot.

In December 2002, after a review of the previous year’s experience and upon the recommendation of UCGS, the University entered a “transition period” working towards all theses and dissertations being submitted electronically. The transition period is scheduled to last at least until graduation of April 2004.

The ETD Working Group was dissolved as of August 2003.  In its place two new groups were created: the ETD Steering Committee and the ETD Process Group (see appendix 1).  The ETD Steering Committee is charged with dealing with policy and long-term issues. The Process Group is charged with identifying and dealing with any problems that arise in the ETD process.

At its November 18, 2003 meeting, upon recommendation of the ETD Steering Committee, UCGS unanimously voted to make electronic submission of theses and dissertations a requirement for graduate students, beginning with the December 2004 graduation, pending approval of the Provost.

The ETD Project is the result of an extensive and careful process.  Each step taken towards requiring ETDs continues to be undertaken with the appropriate level of evaluation, attention, and communication.  The ETD Steering Committee is confident that all the basic processes are in place to move towards ETDs being the standard for submission by the December 2004 graduation.
 

Other Universities With ETD Projects
A number of our peer institutions in the American Association of Universities (AAU) and other prominent universities (see appendix 3) have also begun accepting ETDs. Requiring electronic theses and dissertations, however, positions the University in a leadership role within those groups.  The ETD Steering Committee is confident that we are prepared to join the ranks of the leaders such as Virginia Tech, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Virginia, and the Ohio State University among others already requiring ETDs.

ETDs at Pitt
Over one-third of the theses and dissertations at Pitt are already being submitted as ETDs. Every graduate and professional school requiring theses or dissertations have submitted ETDs with the exception of Nursing, GSPIA, and Social Work (see appendix 2). In the School of Arts and Sciences a total of 65 ETDs have been submitted from all three areas: Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences (see appendix 2).  New initiatives over the past year, such as the creation of the LaTeX Template and the ETD Lottery, have contributed to the number of ETDs submitted.  The number of ETDs submitted each term also continues to increase in part due to a growing ETD culture on campus. According to the Survey of ETD Authors, more graduate student colleagues and faculty advisors are assisting students with the ETD process than was the case during the first year of the pilot.

The ETD Steering Committee views the ETD Project at Pitt a success as measured by the number of ETDs submitted in a wide range of graduate programs.  Schools and programs that have not produced ETDs will continue to be targeted in the coming year through educational presentations to faculty, students, and staff, the distribution of informative materials, and other initiatives to promote ETDs and increase the likelihood of participation.

Hot ETDs
Pitt’s ETD Authors are taking advantage of all the benefits ETDs have to offer.  Pitt has its first ETD that includes an audio recording of a composition created by an ETD Author in the Department of Music (see http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-04222003-105558/).  A number of ETDs have brilliant color photos and color graphs (see http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-08062003-112127/ and http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-12122002-184910/).  An ETD from the Department of Psychology has movie clips on facial expressions and recognition (see http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-08202002-162757/).  Some Pitt ETDs are so popular they have already been accessed over one thousand times.

The goal of the ETD Project to allow our graduate students the ability to expand and deepen the expression of ideas and the presentation of research is certainly being attained.

ETD Usage
The ETD Project at Pitt can also be measured a success by the amount of usage Pitt ETDs have received numbering nearly 23,000. An ETD use is defined as a retrieval of at least one file associated with a given ETD on a given day by a given computer (user).   Retrievals of multiple files associated with the same ETD on a given day by a given computer (user) are being counted as one. Simple visits to the index page (bibliographic information) are not counted.

The ETD usage by month for 2003 shows a dramatic increase in usage from 2002 (see appendix 4).  It is the ETD Steering Committee’s expectation that usage will continue to increase at a high rate over the next decade. The majority of usage is in the Schools of Engineering and Arts and Sciences (see appendix 5) due to the large number of ETDs each school has submitted. However ETDs in Public Health and Health and Rehabilitation Sciences are receiving an average of approximately 200 uses each compared to 119 for Engineering and 77 for Arts and Sciences.

Over 90 different countries have accessed Pitt ETDs demonstrating how ETDs make graduate student research truly globally accessible.  As one might expect, the countries accessing Pitt ETDs most frequently (see appendix 6) are predominately English speaking or use English as a second language such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, India, and Australia.

The goal to give broader exposure and accessibility to Pitt graduate students’ research has been achieved even beyond Committee Member’s original expectations.

ETD Author Survey Results
Nearly 150 of Pitt’s 220 ETD Authors responded to an ETD Survey that the Steering Committee uses in order to evaluate and improve the ETD process.  The greater part of the respondents found the ETD process to be relatively simple. The majority of respondents (63%) found the most difficult step in the process (creating the PDF files(s)) to be somewhere in the easy range of difficulty (see appendix 7). Additionally 95% of respondents found submitting their ETDs electronically to the ETD Online System to be in the easy range of difficulty (see appendix 7).  Of those ETD Authors who were asked if they were glad to have the opportunity to do an ETD 92% reported that they were.

ETD Committee Members have undertaken a number of initiatives to improve the ETD process since it began in 2001.  These improvements are evident in the survey responses of ETD Authors in 2002-2003 as compared to those in 2001-2002. The trend shows that ETD Authors had an easier time creating their PDFs this past year than they did in 2001-2002. In the first year 52% rated this process in the easy range while in 2002-2003 70% found it to be easy. The trend shows that ETD Authors are finding the process of creating PDF files less time consuming in 2002-2003 than in 2001-2002.  In the first year 56% found this process to be between moderately time consuming to not time consuming at all while this past year 70% found this process to be between moderately time consuming to not time consuming at all. The trend shows that ETD Authors are finding the process of submitting their ETDs to the ETD Online System to be easier in 2002-2003 than in 2001-2002.  In 2001-2002 91% of ETD Authors found the process of submitting their ETD to be in the easy range of difficulty while in 2002-2003 96% found this process to be in the easy range of difficulty.

The Pitt ETD Author Survey demonstrates our students’ comfort level in creating and submitting their ETDs.  Our students have found the process to be relatively simple and more students are finding it easier now than the first year of the pilot, an indication of improvement in the ETD process along with a growing ETD culture on campus.

Communication
Presentations and discussions with the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), the Arts and Sciences Graduate Student Organization (A&S-GSO), the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), the School of Nursing (NURS) and an upcoming presentation to the School of Education (EDU) have contributed to the awareness of ETDs and generally positive attitude towards ETDs on the Pitt campus. ETD Committee Members have participated in an on-going dialog with the GPSA and A&S-GSO that began prior to initiating the pilot and has continued throughout the entire evolution in the process.  Regular ETD updates continue to be sent to designated ETD Administrative Contacts and to our designated ETD Student Services Staff Members in each participating graduate and professional school.

Good communication and dialog with the graduate student organizations, presentations to schools, and direct written communication to designated contacts has contributed to the success of and enthusiasm for the ETD Project.

Improving the Process
During 2002-2003 ETD Committee Members have improved the ETD Process by creating an ETD LaTeX Template, holding ETD LaTeX Workshops, revising the ETD Format Guidelines Manual, improving the Word and Word Perfect Templates, creating a new user-friendly professional looking ETD Web site, and revising some administrative processes including those that involve University Library Systems, the Office of Technology Management, graduation staff in the Office of the University Registrar, UMI/Bell and Howell, and Compucom.

Training and Support
In 2002-2003 the responsibility of providing ETD support was shifted from Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD) to University Library System (ULS) as it was determined that ULS would be able to take more ownership of this end of the project. CSSD continues to run a minimum of two ETD Workshops a term (including summer) on using the Word and WordPerfect Templates and on preparing PDF files.  Jeff Wisniewski of ULS and a graduate student worker now handle ETD support through the etd-support@library.pitt.edu email and through individual appointments.  The ETD Steering Committee has recommended that additional support be available for the first two years ETDs will be required.

Respondents of the ETD Author survey indicate a high level of satisfaction with the current training that is available.  Of those respondents who attended an ETD Workshop or Training Session 83% found the sessions to be either extremely helpful or helpful.  Despite the success of the workshops, the majority of ETD Authors are going elsewhere for help with their ETDs such as the ETD Web site, ETD Student Services Staff, and friends.

The ETD Steering Committee is confident that the processes for good training and support are in place.  However, if ETDs become a University Requirement, the Committee recommends additional support for a minimum of two years, or until a strong ETD culture is in place, in order to assure a smooth transition and provide support to our less technologically savvy students.

Conclusion
The ETD Steering Committee views the ETD Project as a tremendous success due to the number of ETDs submitted in a range of programs, the amount of usage Pitt ETDs have received from visitors from over 90 different countries numbering nearly 23,000, and the survey of Pitt ETD Authors that demonstrates our students’ comfort level in creating and submitting their ETDs.  The goals for the project have been achieved including giving broader exposure and accessibility to graduate students’ research and increasing the ability to expand and deepen the expression of ideas and the presentation of research.  The processes for accepting ETDs are firmly in place given the truly collaborative efforts of ULS, CSSD, the Provost’s Office, ETD Student Services Staff in every participating school, and members of the ETD Steering Committee and Process Group representing directors, deans, faculty, graduate students, and staff and administrators across the University.

The ETD Steering Committee believes that unless ETDs become a University Requirement, ETDs are unlikely to progress to a further degree of utilization.  In the long-term it would be difficult and inefficient to attempt to run two systems (hard-copy and electronic) simultaneously. More importantly, the Committee views ETDs as a benefit to the University and to its graduate students.  Therefore the ETD Steering Committee strongly recommended to UCGS that ETDs become a University Requirement by the December 2004 graduation. At its November 18, 2003 meeting, UCGS unanimously voted to make electronic submission of theses and dissertations a requirement for graduate students, beginning with the December 2004 graduation, pending approval of the Provost.