Definition of an ETD

A dissertation or thesis is a work submitted in support of candidature for a doctorate or master’s degree, respectively, which presents the author's research and findings. Electronic versions of theses and dissertations are called ETDs. Theses and dissertations must first meet the requirements of each author’s advisory committee and department, and then be submitted for final approval by the Graduate School.

ETDs replaced paper theses and dissertations at Virginia Tech officially on Jan. 1, 1997 when online submission became a requirement. ETDs can be similar to their paper predecessors in that they may have figures, tables, footnotes, and references. The title page has the author’s name, the ETD title, the official name of the university, the degree sought, the names of the committee members, date of the defense, keywords, and often a statement of copyright.

An ETD documents the author's years of academic commitment. It describes why the work was done, how the research relates to previous work as recorded in the literature, research methods used, the results, interpretation and discussion of the results, and a summary with conclusions.

The ETD is different, however. It provides a technologically advanced medium for expressing the author’s ideas. By providing access to theses and dissertations as electronic resources, everyone benefits.

  • More access to research:
    • Research is available on campus.
    • Research is accessible worldwide.
  • Less expense to authors and libraries:
    • No paper costs
    • No copying costs
    • No physical shelf space
    • Lower cataloging costs
  • Better presentation of research (not available in paper format):
    • Addition of multimedia files
    • More dynamic presentation of data
    • Hyperlinks
    • Programs and code

ETDs are prepared using almost any word processor or document preparation system. The electronic format allows graduate students to fully utilize current and future technology as tools to express their research and findings.

A goal at Virginia Tech is to have all graduate student research and findings openly available to the public through the Worldwide Web. But, authors, with the agreement of their advisors, may temporarily restrict access to their ETDs to just the VT community or they may temporarily have all access withheld, for example while they apply for a patent. With permission from the Dean of the Graduate School, an ETD may be comprised of multiple files, and those files may have different levels of access levels.

Graduate School Catalog

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