It is now conventional for Ph.D. writers to use word processing facilities to write their texts. In addition, it is getting more common to produce an electronic version of the thesis. Apparently, more than 50,000 doctoral theses and 100,000 master's theses are produced annually in this way in the USA (Moxley, 2003). Some universities are progressing in this direction in the UK, although there is much debate over the necessary regulations. Currently, there is discussion about providing an electronic theses online service (EThOS) to replace (or add to) the present-day inter-library loan service (see www.ethos.ac.uk).
Most of the electronic theses that can be downloaded from the Web follow the conventional format of traditionally printed ones, but there are variations. Thus, some use colour, animation, sound and hypertext (which allows the readers to read them in any sequence they wish). Dorwick (2003) presents a case-history of the difficulties of creating a web-based hypertext as a Ph.D. thesis: his paper suggests that people have to be very determined to write a thesis in this manner.
There are clear benefits to writing an electronic thesis. Single copies of traditionally printed theses sit on the library shelves in single institutions and are rarely read. Electronic theses are more easily available, making the contents accessible to a wider range of readers.
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