How (and Why) to Keep Your Dissertation Off Proquest

For many PhD candidates finished with defending their dissertation, filing it is the easy part.  But L.D. Burnett found out that it wasn’t as simple as that.  At the University of Texas at Dallas, candidates must submit their dissertation through ProQuest. According to this article, dissertations filed with ProQuest since 2008 have been added to the Turnitin.com database since 2008.

Burnett objected to this, and took to Twitter to find around depositing her work with the company that began publishing dissertations in 1938 as University Microfilms. She also spoke to ProQuest representatives, who told her that she could request that her dissertation be removed from Turnitin’s database after it was posted there, an option which she did not find satisfactory.

She writes, “I will say that I did object — and I do object — to being compelled by my university to hand over my intellectual property to private, for-profit companies as a condition of graduation — not just Turnitin, but also ProQuest.  I guess making PhD graduates add their dissertations to the ProQuest database counts for “disseminating scholarship” or whatever — the university can check that box — but it’s really just compelling us to use particular third-party “services” that make bank by monetizing our intellectual labor and data-mining our intellectual property.  (Indeed, if you want to make your work “open access,” you have to pay something like $95.)”

ProQuest’s solution was to suggest Burnett “embargo my dissertation from the beginning.  With no `end date’ on my embargo, it will not be submitted to Turnitin.”

After much back an forth, Burnett’s university gave her two options to avoid having her dissertation available on Turnitin.com. as she wrote, “I could get all my committee members to agree to meet together and sign off on something verifying that my work isn’t plagiarized, and to do so before my defense.”Or, she could “Have the Graduate Dean’s office submit my dissertation to Turnitin.com but specifically exclude it from the Turnitin repository (both the `global’ repository and the repository of papers pertaining to my particular university).  That’s an option that we grad students are allowed, it seems — BUT ONLY IF WE ASK.” 

Burnett took the latter option.

For those of you in our reading audience who have already submitted your dissertation and want to remove it from Turnitin.com, here’s the address you need to email to request removal:  disspub@proquest.com. On this writer’s quest to find out if The New School is guilty of this as well, student advisors in various programs directed me to this website, which appears to be part of ProQuest.  At time of publication, we had not reached all of the programs, but it seems that at least one doctoral program at The New School is indeed using ProQuest.

Burnett wonders, “If enough people objected up front, ProQuest might see fit to add a `do not send to Turnitin’ option to the dissertation submission process, irrespective of the length of the embargo.”

In the meantime, the controversy continues.

To read more about L.D. Burnett, visit her blog.