The Bodleian Libraries’ thesis collection holds every DPhil thesis deposited at the University of Oxford since the degree began in its present form in 1917. Our oldest theses date from the early 1920s. We also have substantial holdings of MLitt theses, for which deposit became compulsory in 1953, and MPhil theses.
It is mandatory for students completing a research degree at the University of Oxford (registered to a programme of study on or after 1st October 2007) to deposit an electronic copy of their theses with the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA) in order to meet the requirements of their award.
ORA provides full-text PDF copies of most recent DPhil theses, and some earlier BLitt/MLitt theses. Find out more about Oxford Digital Theses, and depositing with ORA.
The following theses are catalogued on SOLO (the University’s online library catalogue):
- all DPhil and BLitt/MLitt theses
- all BPhil and MPhil theses (1993 – present)
- all Law theses
- all science theses
As part of an ongoing conversion project, a growing number of pre-1993 BPhil and MPhil theses can now be found on SOLO.
SOLO collates search results from several sources.
To search for theses in the Oxford collections on SOLO:
- navigate to the SOLO homepage
- click on the 'Advanced Search' button
- click the 'Resource Type' menu and choose the 'Theses' option
- type in the title or author of the thesis you are looking for and click the 'Search' button.
Oxford theses have the word 'thesis' in the author field. They can be found using an author keyword search in SOLO. Example: smith thesis.
For theses completed post-2000, the item record will also give additional details, usually in the notes field: most importantly, the type of degree and supervisor’s name. These details can therefore be used in keyword searching. Example: d.phil smith. These can be combined with normal author, title or subject keywords as required in an anywhere in the record keyword search. For example: thesis smith Constantinople d.phil
The name of the Oxford faculty can also be used, as can the division, faculty/sub-faculty/department, or college (for post-2000 theses).
Oxford University Research Archive (ORA)
Digital copies of Oxford theses have been collected in ORA since 2007. For current research degrees completed at the University, it is mandatory for degree confirmation to submit an electronic copy of the examined thesis to the repository.
Many of the theses submitted are immediately available for download in PDF format from the repository. Others are access-restricted for an embargo period applied by the author, typically 1 to 3 years from leave to supplicate being granted.
The Oxford digital theses collection is primarily a modern collection that continues to grow each year. However, the collection does hold theses going back as far as 1933.
Theses held in ORA are indexed with SOLO, as well as external services such as EThOS and Google Scholar. For more information visit the Oxford digital theses guide, and see below for guidance on searching in ORA.
A general search on title or terms within ORA (such as keywords or names) can be performed from the main search box of the repository website.
A more ‘closed’ search can be performed by placing the text being searched for between double quotations (“search text here”).
Search results can be further refined by using the left hand side search facets, including by:
- item type (thesis, journal article, book section, etc.)
- thesis type (DPhil, MSc, MLitt, etc.)
- subject area (History, Economics, Biochemistry, etc.)
- item date (as a range)
- file availability (whether a full text is available to download or not)
Search results can be expanded in number shown per page and sorted by relevance, date and file availability.
They can also be exported to csv, or emailed as a saved search.
From within an individual item record, further searching can be done by selecting hyperlinked text within the record details, such as “More by this author” which performs a loose search on the author name, or by selecting a hyperlinked keyword or subject.
The Rare Books department of the Weston Library keeps an author card index of Oxford theses. This includes all older, non-scientific theses not yet catalogued in SOLO. Please ask Weston Library staff for assistance, or contact the Theses Desk.
ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
You can use ProQuest Dissertations & Theses: UK & Ireland to find bibliographic details of Oxford theses not on SOLO. To find the shelfmarks of such theses, apply to the staff of the Weston Library's Charles Wendell David Reading Room who will ask the Rare Books department to check the card catalogue of non-scientific theses that are not in SOLO.
You can read a 24 page PDF file preview of all theses published since 1997. You also have the option to purchase a copy of the thesis.
The default Basic search page allows for general keyword searches across all indexes using "and", "and not", "and or" to link the keywords as appropriate. Click on the More Search Options tab for specific title, author, subject and institution (school) searches, and to browse indexes of authors, institutions and subjects. These indexes allow you to add the word or phrase recognised by the database to your search (ie University of Oxford (United Kingdom), not Oxford University).
The Advanced search tab (at the top of the page) enables keyword searching in specific indexes, including author, title, institution, department, adviser and language. If you are unsure of the exact details of thesis, you can use the search boxes on this page to find it by combining the key information you do have.
In both the Basic and Advanced search pages you can also limit the search by date by using the boxes at the bottom. Use the Search Tools advice in both the Basic and Advanced pages to undertake more complex and specific searches. Within the list of results, once you have found the record that you are interested in, you can click on the link to obtain a full citation and abstract. You can use the back button on your browser to return to your list of citations.
The Browse search tab allows you to search by subject or by location (ie institution). These are given in an alphabetical list. You can click on a top-level subject to show subdivisions of the subject. You can click on a country location to show lists of institutions in that country. At each level, you can click on View Documents to show lists of individual theses for that subject division or from that location.
In Browse search, locations and subject divisions are automatically added to a basic search at the bottom of the page. You can search within a subject or location by title, author, institution, subject, date etc, by clicking on Refine Search at the top of the page or More Search Options at the bottom of the page.
Where are physical theses held?
The Bodleian Library holds all non-scientific doctoral theses and most non-scientific postgraduate (non-doctoral) theses for which a deposit requirement is stipulated by the University:
- DPhil (doctoral) theses
- Bachelor of Divinity (BD) theses
- BLitt/MLitt theses (Michaelmas Term 1953 – present)
- BPhil and MPhil theses (Michaelmas Term 1977 – present)
Some theses administered by the Bodleian Library are dispatched to other locations.
Oxford Theses (Humanities) administers theses held at the Bodleian Library, the Bodleian Law Library and the Vere Harmsworth Library.
Theses submitted to the Faculty of Law are held at the Bodleian Law Library.
Vere Harmsworth Library
Theses on the United States are held by the Vere Harmsworth Library.
Social Science Library
The Social Science Library holds dissertations produced by students on selected social science (usually MPhil and MSc) courses. Theses for courses currently taught in Oxford are catalogued on SOLO. In some subjects, the library holds only dissertations which received particularly high marks.
The library holds dissertations from the following departments: Criminology, Economics, Geography, International Development, Politics & International Relations (MPhil Politics & International Relations theses are held in the Bodleian Library) and Socio-Legal Studies and Social Policy & Intervention.
Theses are held on open-shelf and can be browsed by department, course and year. Work is in progress to catalogue older theses, particularly the archive received from the Department of Social Policy and Social Work.
Locations for Anthropology and Archaeology theses
The Tylor Library holds theses for the MPhil in Social Anthropology. The Balfour Library holds theses for the MPhil in Material and Visual Anthropology and some older theses in Prehistoric Archaeology.
The Sackler Library holds theses for MPhil in Classical Archaeology and MPhil in European Archaeology.
Radcliffe Science Library
The Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) holds all postgraduate theses in the sciences for which the University requires deposit. Science theses are catalogued on SOLO. They are administered by Oxford Theses (Scientific).
Ordering Oxford theses
If you are placing an order through SOLO, non-scientific theses held in the Bodleian Library must be ordered to the Charles Wendell David Reading Room in the Weston Library. Music theses may also be ordered to the Sir Charles Mackerras Reading Room. These are the only locations available.
You can request theses that do not yet appear in SOLO using the green order slips in Weston Library reading rooms.
Theses are now stored offsite at our Swindon storage faculty (BSF), so please allow at least one weekday for delivery.
You can request digital copies of theses held by the libraries. Many Oxford theses held in digital form by the libraries are available for download via ORA. Where ORA holds a digital copy of a thesis but it is not yet available for download – due to a temporary embargo period or other restriction – a record for the thesis will exist in ORA, and you can request access via the ORA contact form.
Find out more about requesting a digitised copy, copyright restrictions and copying from Oxford theses.