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Electronic Theses and Dissertations: Limited Shelf Life or Long Tail?

Author

Coates, Midge
Coates, Mildred

Publisher

United States Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Association

Abstract

When we make theses and dissertations available electronically, we do so because we believe that these documents have value for researchers. We do not know, however, if this value has a time limit or if it will be sustained. The answer to this question has an impact on workflow: Do we upload items as soon as they become available, or in batches every semester/quarter, or even in batches on an annual basis? It also has an impact on embargo policy: If ETDs have a limited window of interest, then shorter embargo times are preferable. There is a financial impact as well: Retrospective digitization of print theses and dissertations is an appropriate use of limited resources if, and only if, these older documents will be used by researchers. This study examines Google Analytics page views data for ETDs in the repository of a land-grant research university. Views of bibliographic pages for individual ETDs were tracked as an indicator of researcher interest in those titles. Bib page views for each ETD uploaded from August 2009 through July 2012 were recorded on a monthly basis, starting with the month in which it was uploaded and continuing through mid-August 2018. Data are presented for all ETDs in the study group, viewed as a whole, and for the sub-groups of unrestricted and embargoed ETDs. Data are also presented for ETDs from 5 AU Colleges: Engineering, Liberal Arts, Agriculture, Sciences & Mathematics, and Education.