Duke Graduate School on the Internets

The times, they are a changin’. When I started as a graduate student at Duke in the Fall of 2001 the physics Graduate Student Organization was lobbying for University-sanctioned dissertation style files (be they Latex or Word). At the time, the library/graduate school was balking because they placed great weight on the by-hand inspection of each and every one of the several hundred pages in each and every dissertation submitted by graduating Ph.D. students. They refused to accept or acknowledge the idea that a computer program could produce consistent results, since the multiple keepers of library purity hand measured the margins and enforced the rules with discretion. Students in the physics department had actually created a Latex (a math-oriented documentation preparation tool that “compiles” a finished document from markup language code) style file that conformed to every written specification. However, every time it was used, the library staff found a new change that was needed that was inconsistent with the last time it was used. The students just wanted a single style that was sanctioned, but the library refused to budge. When I left Duke in the summer of 2006 the physics Graduate Student Organization was still lobbying.

Finally, something seems to have happened. As Ann is preparing her dissertation, she has alerted me that not only is there Latex style file on the graduate school forms web page, but it’s former Behringer lab student Bob Hartley‘s. Additionally, there is a Word version for those who like to actually see what the document they are creating looks like as they create it. This is an amazing victory, given how long it has taken.

Of greater relevance is that the library now is accepting electronic versions of dissertations (PDF) rather than requiring that three expensive hard copies be made on expensive paper. (My dissertation was around 200 pages and color copies were around $1 a page. You better believe that I only copied the color figure pages in color, even if that means I might have shuffled a page or two.) The important thing about the library having electronic copies is that they will allow electronic access.

I wonder if it will be possible to get the library to enter the dissertations of alumni (such as myself) into their electronic repository. I figure a web version might get more hits than the current book in the basement/microfiche combo.


2 Responses to Duke Graduate School on the Internets

  1. bpt2 says:

    And to think, Duke wired the lampposts in K-ville for ethernet years ago.

    To compare: Dutch theses are actually printed, book size, with spiffy covers. (One of my colleagues seemed to spend as much time designing the cover as writing the text.) They’re freely available online, and they have ISBN numbers, just in case you want your own copy with the spiffy cover.

    E.g. https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/dspace/handle/1887/12083?mode=more

  2. bmarts says:

    There was a latex template available from the graduate school when I wrote mine last Spring, but it wasn’t Bob Hartley’s. It doesn’t surprise me that everything would be different less than a year later. After all, it was different when I wrote mine from when you guys wrote yours a year before me.

    My thesis is available electronically even though they required me to turn in a hard copy. I can only imagine they scanned the hard copy to get an electronic version. This seems almost worse than not having it available. I wonder if they’d be willing to accept original electronic copies from old theses — I doubt it.

    a math-oriented documentation preparation tool that “compiles” a finished document from markup language code

    I think I’d say “typesets” instead of compiles.

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