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Dissertations and Theses: A Finding Guide: Cornell Theses

Where and how to look for Cornell and non-Cornell dissertations and theses. Click on the TABS below to see each section.

Search ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global [PQDTG]

Nearly all Ithaca-campus Cornell doctoral dissertations are available in print form or on microfilm in one of the Cornell University Libraries. Some dissertations are now available online as well. Copies of masters theses and undergraduate honors theses are more fugitive, but some are also available at Cornell.

Recommended approach: Search ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global [PQDTG].

Some Cornell dissertations may be available full text in PDF format for immediate free download. Do not search Dissertation Abstracts; all these records and more are now in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

The full text of some Cornell dissertations is available online in PQDTG beginning with June 1954; a few pre-1954 dissertations are also available online. Before 2009, only some Cornell dissertations were digitized. Since 2009, all Cornell dissertations--with the exception of embargoed titles--are also available full-text online in the eCommons Cornell Theses and Dissertations collection (see the embargo discussion below).

This ProQuest LibGuide provides searching tips and lists searchable fields in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Check Cornell's Catalog

Searching and Browsing:

  • The Catalog lists the dissertations available in the Cornell University Library. Note that some records do not have subject headings. These records are searchable by title and author words.
  • The Thesis Distribution List is a useful aid for browsing Cornell theses by general subject. It shows the Library of Congress call number assigned to Cornell theses for each degree program on campus and which library houses that department's theses.
  • Mann Library has an experimental web page, Cornell Theses and Dissertations by Academic Discipline, that automatically generates a search in our Catalog for Cornell theses in specific academic disciplines/departments. For example, the search takes the form ("thesis PR15") for theses in English Literature. The results lists can be quite lengthy.

Coverage Limitations:

Some dissertation information is missing from our Catalog:

  • the newest print dissertations that the library hasn't received yet or that are in the process of being bound and cataloged.
  • some pre-1918 dissertations that are not cataloged (see the microfilm guide below for access to these titles).

Strategies for browsing theses records that lack subject headings:

Many theses and dissertations are organized by degree program using a general Library of Congress Classification.

For example, theses in the field of mathematics will begin with the call number Thesis QA 10. Use the Thesis Distribution List for a list of degree programs with call number classifications. Knowing this classification, you can construct a call number browse in the online catalog to retrieve a list of theses by thesis call number. To browse a thesis call number classification, do a Call Number search in the Catalog. Enter the term Thesis and add the first two letters of the classification. Do not enter the number. For example, to find Thesis QA 10, enter Thesis QA.

Important note:

After entering the Thesis 2-letter classification, it is usually necessary to scroll down or move forward through a number of pages to see all the theses classified in in a given subject area. Further, theses starting with the same letters but different numbers (QA 10 and QA 70, for example), may sort out of numerical order in the call number browse.In general, theses with the same beginning call number are sorted in chronological order from oldest to newest; the next part of the call number after Thesis QA 10, for example, is the year of the thesis (i.e., Thesis QA 10 1997...).

We also have a set of thesis catalog cards organized by department in a cabinet located in the hallway of the 106 Olin staff area. The department serves as a rough subject guide for these dissertations. This card set covers approximately 1918 up to about 1987. Cards are filed in chronological order within each department.


The print thesis collection in Uris Library is currently shelved on Level 3B before the Q to QA regular-sized volumes. Check with the library staff for the thesis shelving locations in other libraries (Mann, ILR, Fine Arts, etc.).

Weill Medical School Dissertations:

For citations to dissertations at Weill, select Tri-Institutional (Tri-I) Library Catalog from the Weill Library advanced search page.

Citations and abstracts for Weill dissertations may also be found in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global (mentioned earlier) for 1957 to date.

Finding the Newest Dissertations/Theses

Beginning with 2017, the first place to check for newer Cornell dissertations is the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global (PQDTG). Graduating students submit digital copies of their Cornell dissertations to ProQuest using the ETD Administrator submission tool. ProQuest's turn time typically averages about 4 to 6 weeks from receipt to online publication. A pre-published copy of the full text along with the metadata is delivered to the university repository (Cornell Theses and Dissertations collection in eCommons) within several hours of a submission being released to ProQuest for publication in PQDTG.

Although the full text of many dissertations is available via ProQuest, coverage in ProQuest is not complete prior to 2017.

The Cornell Theses and Dissertations collection in eCommons holds digital versions of many Cornell dissertations completed since about 2004, as well as a few earlier ones. Since 2009, Cornell dissertations have been routinely added to eCommons.

Here is brief timeline of the eCommons deposit history:

  • Before 2004: Digital versions of dissertations and theses (ETDs) were not routinely deposited in eCommons.
  • 2004 to 2008: Students may choose to deposit their own work to eCommons directly.
  • 2009 to 2016: Students submitted their ETDs to The Graduate School who then passed them to the library.
  • 2017 to the present: Students submit their dissertations to ProQuest first and ProQuest then delivers the digital version to the library to be added to eCommons.


  • Authors may specify an embargo. Until 2017, this was five years, by default, renewable upon request. Starting in 2017, the maximum initial embargo is two years. Permission to view dissertations that are closed in eCommons may be requested by contacting the author, or a print copy may be requested through Cornell Interlibrary Lending.
  • Some ETDs are withheld entirely to allow time for patent applications to be completed.


Most embargoed dissertations still have a record describing the dissertation in eCommons, but it is not possible to view the full text of the dissertation until the access restriction or embargo has expired. If access to a thesis is restricted in this way, users will see "Access to Document Restricted" under the document thumbnail image. Below this will be a field labeled "No Access Until," which indicates the date when the full text of the thesis will be accessible. If the "No Access Until" field does not appear, the full text of the dissertation is available immediately. If there is a problem accessing a Cornell dissertation in eCommons after the embargo date has passed, contact Michael Engle at Olin Library Reference for assistance.

Exception for dissertations embargoed or withheld for patent reasons:

For Cornell dissertations that are being withheld or embargoed for patent reasons (dissertations that are unavailable in any format, print or online), verification that the dissertation exists can be obtained from the Center for Technology Licensing [CTL]. CTL has an in-house database that is not publicly available where this information resides.
These dissertations have no records in either ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global or in our Library catalog, although citations to them may appear elsewhere online.

Recent dissertations not yet available online, but available in print format:

If a patron needs to read a dissertation and the full text is not yet available in Cornell Theses and Dissertations collection in eCommons, check the Library Catalog for a record with the location of the print copies.

If the print copy is so new that it is not yet been processed and there is no record in the catalog, the reference staff will contact Library Technical Services (LTS) to make it available. These unbound dissertations are moved by LTS from storage to the Rare and Manuscript Collections Reading Room for use.

To help in tracking the newest dissertations, here is how the library processes new print dissertations:
For many years the library has received two print copies of each dissertation--archival and circulating. We received copies of these unbound dissertations about six weeks after the conferral of degrees. The circulating copy was sent for microfilming by ProQuest. After microfilming, the archival copy that remained here and the returned circulating copy are paired and sent to our bindery, seventy-five titles every two weeks. Turnaround time was about two weeks. We then cataloged them in the order that they are bound, usually in alphabetical order. The archival copy goes to the Rare and Manuscript Collections section of the Library Annex. The circulating copy goes to the stacks.

As of 2017, with the submission of dissertations in digital form directly to ProQuest, this workflow has changed.

Advanced Degrees Conferred [ADC]

Advanced Degrees Conferred is a list of all the graduate degrees granted at Cornell since 1932ADC lists dissertations when required for the degree; there have been degrees that do not require a dissertation or thesis. This list is published by The Graduate School three times per year -- for the January, May, and August degree-granting events. The printed version, covering 1932 through 2010 is organized by the degree granted: Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Engineering; the order has varied over time. If you are trying to verify information for an individual dissertation title or author in a given year, you may need to look at all three lists in the print version.

Use Advanced Degrees Conferred to verify dissertation authors, titles, years, degree awarded, and departments. Additional information may be available (i.e., thesis advisors).

Print version (1932 - 2010). Call number: Olin Reference Z 5055 .U5 C81 + [called Candidates for Advanced Degrees from 1932 - 1943].
Online version (January 2011 - present). Individual issues are PDFs linked from The Graduate School's GR Degree Reports page. Go to the links under "Advanced Degrees Conferred PDF." Cornell users only.

Finding the Oldest Dissertations/Theses

The Oldest (pre-1932) Cornell Dissertations: Identifying and Locating:

  • 1871-1911: A 359-reel microfilm set contains theses submitted from 1872 to 1911 (according to Microfilm of Old Cornell Theses, 1871-1911, no 1871 theses were available for filming) are in the Library Annex. The reels are organized in chronological order from 1872 through 1910. Each thesis is identified by a year and a thesis number. For example the call number "Thesis Film 1880 35" refers to thesis number 35 for the year 1880. Nearly all of these theses that were filmed have individual records for the microfilm copy in the Cornell Library Catalog. Two microfilm copies exist--one negative copy that normally does not circulate and one positive copy.
    • A two-volume printed list of the known theses from 1871 through 1911 is shelved behind the Olin Reference desk in ready reference: The call number is Olin Ref Z 5055 .U5 C809+.
  • 1911-1923: Film 8229 is shelved at the Library Annex. (It was previously shelved in the microfilm section of the Microform Area on the Olin B level). Film 8229 is the call number of the Cornell University Dissertations Microfilm Project which consists of 59 reels containing 410 dissertations submitted from 1911 to 1923. Each thesis is identified by a reel number and a thesis number. For example the call number "Film 8229 reel 1 no.10" is the tenth thesis on reel 1 of this microfilm set. These 410 theses have individual records in the Cornell Library Catalog and are searchable by author and title. An archival print version of nearly all these dissertations is also kept at the Library Annex; these versions can be paged from the Annex by Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections staff.

Another resource for identifying older Cornell dissertations and theses (including undergraduate theses which were not distinguished from advanced degree theses in the early days) is the Cornell University Library Theses Records, 1872-1940, Collection # 13/4/896 in the University Archives in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections on the 2B level of Kroch Library. The catalog record gives this description: "Manuscript volumes listing authors and titles of their work; lists of candidates; shelf list; and related records of theses work at the University."

The full text of some Cornell dissertations, especially those dating from the 1890s through 1922, are available in the Hathi Trust Digital Library. Online access to the full text may be limited to individually authenticated Cornell users. Use the Log In button to sign in.

Finding Masters Theses and Undergraduate Honors Theses

Professional Degree in Mechanical Engineering Project Papers

The full text of Papers written for the Professional Degree in Mechanical Engineering is available in eCommons@Cornell.

ILR Masters Theses and Doctoral Dissertations, 1946-2007

On the Digital Commons@ILR, Catherwood Library hosts ILR School Masters Theses, an online bibliography of masters theses that is searchable and browsable. All of these theses have records in the Cornell Library Catalog.

ILR School Masters Theses is a subset of ILR School Theses and Dissertations. This page links to a separate bibliography, ILR School Ph.D. Dissertations, covering for 1946-2006, and to individual subject lists for all ILR theses and dissertations collectively entitled ILR School Theses and Dissertations Categorized by Subject. Another bibliography linked from ILR School Theses and Dissertations updates masters theses and doctoral dissertations entries to 2007.

Masters of Professional Studies Theses

Theses for MPS (Masters of Professional Studies) programs that are shelved in Mann Library and the Library Annex (for older titles) have M.P.S. in the notes field along with the phrase "project report". To browse a list of these MPS theses, go to the Catalog and enter this All Fields search: "m.p.s." and "project report". Over 1,000 MPS theses are listed, primarily from 1978 to date.

The Africana Library maintains a searchable database of all the theses for the Masters of Professional Studies Program at the Africana Studies and Research Center since 1973. Each thesis has an entry that gives bibliographical info as well as committee chairperson, degree date, call number, and an abstract.

Locating Cornell Undergraduate Theses

eCommons@Cornell has the full text of some undergraduate honors theses. Coverage begins in 2006. At present (2018) the following colleges and schools have separately searchable sections in eCommons:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Human Ecology
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations
  • Science of Earth Systems (SES)

Some undergraduate honors theses are listed in our Catalog.

Olin and Uris own relatively few of these; other libraries have more. Using the All Fields search, enter "honors thesis" and Cornell.

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections holds copies of some undergraduate theses in special collections:

The Fine Arts Library has two categories of undergraduate theses in print form: Bachelor of Architecture theses (NA 38) and senior honors City and Regional Planning theses (NA 9002). These do not circulate because there are no additional copies at the University. To find catalog records for the B.Architecture theses, search B.Arch in All Fields and then limit to Theses in the results.

Catherwood Library. The Digital Commons@ILR lists "student works" published in Cornell HR Review. The full text is available for download from each entry. Coverage begins in 2000, but is extensive beginning in 2013. 

Requests by Cornell Alumni for their Own Dissertations or Masters Theses

Cornell graduates who want to request an electronic copy of their own dissertation can contact Author School Relations to receive author pricing, by phoning 1-800-521-0600 ext. 77020 or emailing (Outside the U.S. and Canada? Contact ProQuest directly for assistance.)

Alumni wishing to purchase a reproduction of a Cornell masters thesis can request a scanned copy by e-mailing More information is on RMC's Reproductions & Permissions page.

Requests for Cornell Dissertations or Theses by non-Cornellians

The Borrowing Option for non-Cornellians:

Patrons from outside Cornell wishing to borrow a copy of a Cornell PhD thesis should check our interlibrary loan service page. Individuals wishing to borrow a thesis must work through the ILL service at their local library.

The Purchase Option for non-Cornellians:

Cornell dissertations from June 1954 to present are available for purchase from ProQuest only. Patrons wishing to purchase a reproduction of a Cornell PhD dissertation that is too old to be handled by UMI Dissertation Express (pre-June 1954) or any Cornell masters thesis can request a scanned copy by e-mailing More information is on RMC's Reproductions & Permissions page.

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