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Digital Dissertation:
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Digital Dissertation

A digital dissertation is also known as an electronic dissertation. It is a dissertation whose primary mode of storage is not paper-based but computer-based. The digital dissertation movement is a growing trend in the storage, distribution, and even formatting of dissertations.

Before the advent of computers, dissertations were typed on typewriters. With the arrival of personal computers and good quality printers, students began composing their dissertations on word processing software. At that point, dissertations were created digitally, and could be said to be digital dissertations. However, they were, and most still are, required to be submitted to dissertation committees printed out as "hard copy" paper documents. Most dissertations to this day go through the submission and defense process as paper documents. In many cases, they are still scanned to digital databases from the paper copies instead of from the digital dissertation copies.

The new digital dissertation movement intends to change this. One important reason is the excessive virtual storage space that scanned copies of dissertations take up compared with digital dissertations that are converted directly from .doc format to .pdf. This conversion results in a much smaller file size and conserves storage space. The digital dissertation movement is at the forefront of this space-saving movement.

Digital dissertations can be electronic versions of the traditional paper dissertation, with similar style and formatting, and the ability to be printed out like a regular dissertation. However, because of the many capabilities of digital technology, digital dissertations have the potential to contain features that cannot be used in paper documents. Digital dissertations can be web-enabled, for instance, with hyperlinks helping readers navigate their chapters, or with direct links to cited references that are available on the web. Digital dissertations can also make use of non-text-based media, such as embedded audio, video, and interactive technologies. Instead of being a static document, then, a digital dissertation can be animated and interactive, much like a website.

Fully interactive digital dissertations are not yet universally accepted. A student must consult with his or her committee before starting such a project. But fully digital dissertations are the wave of the future, and their influence is already being seen.