Beyond the PDF: Planning for the Future of the Dissertation

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A one-day mini-conference offered by the University of Iowa Graduate College & Libraries, and sponsored by ProQuest

Wednesday, March 14th

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Welcome Reception

Hilton Garden Hotel – Rooftop Vue Room

Thursday, March 15th

8:00 a.m. – Registration and Breakfast

Iowa Memorial Union

North and South Rooms

 8:30 – 8:45 a.m.  – Welcome:  Perspectives on the Future of the Dissertation

Dean John Keller, University of Iowa Graduate College Dean

Austin McLean, ProQuest

Paul Soderdahl, University of Iowa Associate University Librarian

8:45 – 9:30 a.m. – Keynote: A NextGen PhD

Sarah Bond, Assistant Professor, University of Iowa, Classics Department

Session Abstract: The first American dissertation was submitted to Yale in 1861. James Morris Whitton wrote a six-page piece of research in Latin. Much has changed since that first handwritten dissertation over 150 years ago. As dissertations become more collaborative and cast off the single-author mold, new ways of doing research—and archiving it—have come to the fore. Students are introducing components of interactivity and audience participation in things like digital editions of texts. These digital components go well beyond the abilities of a PDF and no longer adhere to the model of the dissertation as a proto-manuscript which proliferated in the twentieth century.  In this talk, Professor Sarah E. Bond traces the rise of the dissertation from its ancient origins to the ascent of digital scholarly methods.  She explores possible futures for digital preservation of the dissertation by examining existing efforts and considering promising practices. 

BREAK (15 minutes)

9:45 – 10:30 a.m. – Morning Workshop:  Traversing the New Form Submission Landscape 

Heidi Arbisi-Kelm, Assistant Dean, Graduate College, University of Iowa

Katie Buehner, Librarian, School of Music, University of Iowa

Erin Kaufman, Thesis Examiner, Graduate College, University of Iowa

Wendy Robertson, Librarian, University of Iowa Libraries

Session Abstract: At Iowa, the Graduate College and Institutional Repository have fielded requests from across campus to collect new, innovative forms of scholarship.  During this session, presenters will share insights gained from two case studies and consider how the collection of new forms may require adjustments to the current workflow many of us follow, i.e., submission to the graduate school, publication to ProQuest, and transfer to the university libraries. Following a brief summary of lessons learned, presenters will engage participants in cross-functional and cross-institutional dialogue to 1) identify new submission types, 2) discuss collection and preservation successes and challenges, and, 3) discover best practices for adapting our processes to the next generation of scholarship creation.

BREAK (15 minutes)

10:45 – 11:45 a.m. – Session I:  Novel Form Theses – Student Case Studies  

Moderator:   Deborah Whaley, American Studies Professor and Senior Scholar for Digital Arts and Humanities Research for the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio (DSPS), University of Iowa


Mary Borgo, Indiana University Bloomington doctoral graduate student in English

Jacki Thompson Rand, Associate Professor, History, University of Iowa

Katie Walden, University of Iowa doctoral graduate student in American Studies

Mary Wise, University of Iowa doctoral graduate student in History

Session Abstract: Featuring three doctoral students pursuing born-digital dissertation projects, this panel explores the types of materials generated by digital dissertations and the related challenges or questions for long-term preservation, storage, and access. Additionally, this panel includes the perspectives of two University of Iowa faculty members who are either supervisors or committee members for digital dissertation projects. In addition to discussing the technical components of possible digital dissertation projects, this panel will also reflect on the institutional partnerships and collaborations that are necessary to ensure stable, preservable, and accessible digital dissertation projects.  The panel will allow time for audience Q&A.

Questions session will address include: 

  • How do the stages of the dissertation project, e.g., proposal, defense, deposit, publication, differ for digital projects?
  • Where did students find support for their work—both the scholarship and the technical expertise needed—on campus (e.g., faculty mentors, institutes, libraries, graduate colleges)? What else—more—would have been helpful?
  • What are students’ long-term preservation and access expectations for their digital work? Did they create a data management plan as part of their proposal?
  • How do any of the aforementioned issues vary across digital dissertation project types, e.g., written dissertation with digital supplements, hybrid written and digital project, entirely born-digital project?
  • Looking ahead, what are some ways graduate school administrators and academic librarians can better support graduate students pursuing digital work? How can institutional systems prepare to collect and archive these materials?

12:00 p.m. – Lunch

12:30 – 1:15 p.m. – Session II:  Data Curation and Public Access

Brian Westra, Data Service Manager, University of Iowa

Anna Williams, University of Iowa doctoral graduate student in English

Session Abstract: The digital age has redefined the limits of open access and data transparency.  Because of this reach, the implications of making student work—including research data—available to anyone in the world requires careful consideration and thoughtful planning.  Particularly at a time when novel thesis forms are blurring traditional boundaries, both students and institutions alike must reflect on how the paradigm into which students deposit their work has changed.   In this session, a data management professional and doctoral graduate student share a conversation about her digital dissertation project to illustrate the benefits, drawbacks, and options available for data curation and public availability.

BREAK (15 minutes)

1:30 p.m. – Afternoon Workshop:  Technical Considerations Moving Forward

Daniel Johnson, University of Iowa Digital Preservation Librarian

Matthew Butler, Senior Developer, Media Production and Design, University of Iowa

Marianne Reed, Digital Initiatives Coordinator, University of Kansas

Session Abstract: Featuring three professional librarians who regularly work with born-digital material, this panel explores the technical and theoretical implications of archiving, preserving, and making available non-traditional theses and dissertations, such as websites, multimedia installations, software code, mapping, collaborative research and projects which continue after graduation. The panelists consider the implications of data transfers, handling content that is not a PDF and the differences between repositories and preservation systems among others.

BREAK (15 minutes)

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. – Session III:  ProQuest ETD Administrator 2.0 – An Update and Q&A

Scott Bourns, Senior Product Manager, ProQuest

Session Abstract: The next generation of ETD Administrator features is under development.  During this session, the ProQuest Senior Product Manager leading the administrator upgrade will provide an update on ETD 2.0 highlights and timeline as well as answer your questions.

3:15 p.m. – Closing Plenary:  A Digital-Born Project – Summarizing Ideas to Go Forth

Deborah Whaley, American Studies Professor and Senior Scholar for Digital Arts and Humanities Research for the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio (DSPS), University of Iowa

4:00 p.m. – Snack-to-Go or to enjoy as you mingle