For Doctoral and Masters students, your thesis is the central impetus of your research.

For undergraduates, your dissertation is an extended research project which contributes significantly towards the final assessment for your degree, and is often a key indicator of your abilities as a student and researcher.

Before you begin such a significant piece of research at any level, it is vitally important to see what else has been written on your topic. If you are starting doctoral research it is important to establish that no one else has already carried out the specific research that you intend to do. You will therefore need to look at previous theses in your field of study.

Theses are also extremely valuable sources of information in your studies generally, as they consist of substantial primary research in specialised topics and provide very detailed data and analysis. They may be so specialised that they provide information unavailable elsewhere, and their bibliographies are usually a very useful source of wider reading on a topic.

There is detailed information on depositing your thesis in our repository in the E-theses section of the library webpages.

University of Exeter theses are searchable on the library catalogue, including online and print thesis collections.  The library holds copies of doctoral theses only. Masters or undergraduate dissertations may be held by the awarding department, so please direct your enquiry to the administrative staff within that department.

Search by Author, Title or Author/Title search on the catalogue. To browse theses on a particular subject, do a Keyword search for your subject, and include the words 'University' and 'Exeter' as keywords; please note however, that although this is likely to retrieve mainly theses, it will also find other University of Exeter publications on your subject. 

Online theses

All our online theses are held in our institutional repository.  You can search directly for our online theses and also browse them by author, title, date or subject.

Print copies of theses

Print copies of theses must be requested in advance using the online library catalgue.  You will receive an email when the thesis is ready for you to consult. We suggest that all theses are consulted at the Forum Library. Theses will be available for consultation during the following times:

  • 08:00 - 19:45 Mon - Fri
  • 10:00 - 17:45 Sat - Sun

We consider requests to consult theses at St Luke's Library on a case by case basis.  If agreed, theses will be available for consultation between 11:00 - 13:45 Mon - Fri only.

Remember that theses may not be photocopied and may not be removed from the Library


Theses from other universities

To search for UK theses, a very useful source is Index to Theses, available via the Electronic Library. It provides bibliographic information for all theses accepted for higher degrees by the universities of the UK and Ireland from 1716 onwards. Abstracts are also available for theses awarded since 1970. Many Index to Theses records include a Routes to full text link to one or more of the following sources: a university digital repository, EThOS (see below for more information) and/or a pointer page to the relevant university department. All Index to Theses records display the name of the awarding university; when the Routes to full text link is not available, click this name link to view a page about how to obtain theses from that institution.

EThOS is a service from the British Library, providing access to UK doctoral theses. It currently lists over 300,000 theses, of which approximately 17,500 are available for immediate download. Its aim is to provide access to all theses from participating institutions whether paper based or electronic. It achieves this by harvesting e-theses from institutional repositories and by digitising paper-based theses as they are ordered by researchers using the system.

You need to register on the system to order a thesis; this allows a record to be kept of who has consulted a thesis, and thus protect the thesis author's rights and minimise the risk of plagiarism. However, you can search the database without registering or logging in. 

When you order a thesis it will either be immediately available for download, or it will need to be digitised. If you request digitisation of a thesis, you will be informed when it becomes available for download. NOTE: where an institution offers its theses on Open Access (i.e. free at the point of use), there is no charge for digitisation; where an institution cannot offer Open Access, the first person to order the thesis will pay for the digitisation. Thereafter it will be free to download for all users. (In the list of participating institutions, those which offer Open Access are shown in bold). You can also purchase print or CD copies of theses.

Please note: EThOS has been extremely popular with researchers, and has received far more orders than anticipated when the service was launched. There is therefore a backlog of theses waiting to be digitised; if a thesis is not available for immediate download, it is currently taking approximately 30 days to fulfill an order.

Some UK universities are not participating in EThOS; see the list of participating institutions to find out which institutions are taking part.

There is also a help section.


Finding theses from overseas

Here are some useful sites to help you to locate overseas theses:

  • Australian theses are searchable via the Trove service of the National Library of Australia (a repository of Australian material). The Help on finding Australian theses section provides guidelines and examples.
  • Cybertesis is a portal developed jointly by the University of Chile, the Universites de Lyon, Montreal, and Alexandrie, and the University of Geneva for accessing full text electronic theses and dissertations from many countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Hong Kong, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and the US.
  • DART-Europe E-theses Portal provides access to around 404,180 open access research theses from 530 universitiesin 27 European countries, including France, Germany, Portugal and Sweden.
  • DiVA is a finding tool and an institutional repository for research publications and student theses written at 30 universities and colleges of higher education in Norway and Sweden.
  • NARCIS is a gateway to scholarly information in the Netherlands, including nearly 54,000 theses and over 27,500 datasets.
  • The National ETD Portal (South Africa) provides access to the bibliographic data for all theses and dissertations produced in South Africa. Many records link to the full text of theses.
  • Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) is a union catalogue of dissertations and theses from many countries, including Australia, Brazil, Mexico and the US.
  • OhioLINK ETD Center provides access to theses from a group of Mid Western and Ohio universities. Recent theses many have an embargo on them, but most are available to view as full text.
  • Österreichische Dissertationsdatenbank provides full text access to theses from Austrian universities.
  • Pakistan Research Repository provides access to MPhil and PhD digital theses from institutions in Pakistan.
  • PQDT Open provides free access to the full text of open access dissertations and theses, primarily from universities in the US.
  • SUDOC is a union catalogue of materials held in French university and research libraries. The advanced search option allows you to limit your search to theses, many of which are available online in full text.
  • Theses Canada Portal is a database of Masters and doctoral theses awarded at nearly 70 Canadian universities and colleges; there is free access to the full-text electronic versions of around 50,000 of the theses. You can search all theses on the catalogue, or limit your search to electronic theses, or you can search within the full text of electronic theses.
  • WorldCatDissertations is available via the Electronic Library. This database provides access to the records of masters and doctoral theses held in OCLC member libraries (the majority of which are North American). Many of the records link directly to the full-text theses.

Our Inter-Library Loans staff will be pleased to help you with any questions you may have about obtaining theses which you cannot access online.