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I worked very hard on my PhD thesis, and I think it would be cool to have a nicely bound physical copy of it. I’m simply wondering if obtaining one is a common thing to do.

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    Congratulations, Dr. trb123! – Nate Eldredge Jul 22 at 22:12
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    If you want your thesis, why should it matter if someone on the internet finds this weird? – user111388 Jul 23 at 5:23
  • Comments are not for anecdotes or answers; this conversation has been moved to chat. – cag51 Jul 24 at 21:21

11 Answers 11

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Absolutely! I had 5 copies bound - Me, my supervisor, my parents and two for the library (these last two were a requirement).

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    Very similar here - and it's often a bit cheaper to have them done at the same time as the library/supervisor copies, and while still a registered student. I did consider binding my own copy myself (properly, with leather), but saw sense. – Chris H Jul 23 at 8:00
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    I have a copy of my undergraduate thesis on the shelf in my office. – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Jul 23 at 16:17
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    Have you read back through it at any point? I'm often surprised, in a great way, at my writing abilities back in my prime (while writing daily). Almost reads like someone else wrote it! – SnakeDoc Jul 23 at 16:58
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    @SnakeDoc then again, my undergrad thesis makes me laugh everytime I stick my nose in and feel lucky that the grade actually was quite good^^ (likely more due to content than writing^^... I hope^^) – Frank Hopkins Jul 23 at 19:28
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I had three personal copies made, although at my own expense, but it was offered as a normal option during the thesis submission paperwork with the graduate division.

In fact, at least one colleague from another university was required to have multiple copies made and submitted to the university library.

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    Apparently at some Swedish universities, one is required to have over 100 copies printed! jmg.gu.se/english/education/Doctoral+programme/… – Nate Eldredge Jul 22 at 22:07
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    Wow! Reading further down: they require 20 copies for the department, 25 at the defense (I guess for anyone who wants one), and 20 copies for the student. The department will pay up to 25,000 kroner (over $2500) for printing up to 300 copies, though they recommend printing no more than 150 (!!), since they "very often end up with surplus copies, which will remain lying around in boxes." – cag51 Jul 23 at 3:28
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    Some departments apparently print 250 copies of theses, according to this answer. – Arnaud D. Jul 23 at 9:44
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    In Germany it used to be around 40+ copies, to be handed in and then sent to libraries around the country as the thesis should be available to anyone, but most places wisely now allow publishing a digital version and handing in a single digit number of copies instead. There are also companies preying on students with the offer to "publish" their thesis as a book instead, usually without telling the student that the company makes its money by then selling the 40+ copies back to them at inflated prices or inventing all sorts of other fees. – mlk Jul 23 at 10:30
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    "very often end up with surplus copies, which will remain lying around in boxes" Indeed. In some parts of the world, it's not normal to have a personal copy of the thesis. I have 15 copies lying around in a box. One day I'll go to the railway station and try to hand them out to unsuspecting people. – JiK Jul 25 at 14:42
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It's common enough that my program offered everyone 3 copies that they pay for: one each for you, your advisor, and the program itself. You could also have additional ones printed at the same time; I had one made for my parents and grandparents.

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In my old supervisor's office he had a bookshelf with bound physical copies of all of his PhD students theses, so I am assuming the students themselves probably kept physical copies as well.

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    I don't see what you're basing that assumption on. Lots of reasons for only the professor to keep the physical copies: Unlike the PhDs, professor will almost certainly stay with similar topic to those theses. Unlike the PhDs, may need frequently read up on some detail (“so you want to improve experiment X? I know Y did this in her thesis, but I wasn't there myself, let's check what solvent she used”). The professor is likely to be more attached to actual paper instead of digital reading than the younger student. And, a bookshelf full of graduations is just a bit of a status symbol, isn't it? – leftaroundabout Jul 23 at 16:05
  • OK yes you're right, he was probably just trying to show off, he was that type of person. – Tom Jul 23 at 16:32
  • @leftaroundabout Please keep in mind that you describe the ideal state that one aspires to. An unfortunate reality is that of the PhD student working on a topic without real interest from the research group and the knowledge being lost when they leave... - A few years later some fool (...might also be me...) comes along and finds a topic interesting and thus has an old thesis handed to them as literature and sets out to gain an understanding of the topic which - once again leaves for the wide world when they graduate... Senseless? Yes. But unfortunately the sad reality today.... – DetlevCM Jul 23 at 20:50
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I also had several copies bound. I found a local bookbinder who did a lovely job. It's been over 25 years and I'm still proud of it and glad I had it done.

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Once all three readers approved my Ph.D. thesis, my university required me to submit 3 loose-leaf hardcopies printed on heavy-weight archival-grade (e.g., acid-free) paper. I voluntarily had four additional bound hardcopies made of the thesis: One each for myself, my parents, my parents-in-law, and my main advisor. If I remember correctly, the bound copies were typeset on regular-weight regular-quality paper.

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In the Netherlands, the custom is to publish the thesis as a small book and provide copies to the thesis committee, friends and family. I eventually ended up throwing away a box of copies of mine after ordering too many.

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    Why throwing away the box with the leftover copies? The box is still in my attic. Once I'll be dead my grandchildren can have a look and throw them away. – usr1234567 Jul 25 at 11:32
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    @usr1234567 I moved across an ocean and didn’t want to ship the box. – Eric Jul 25 at 12:07
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Absolutely you should get your own personal copy printed and bound! After all that work, you should be able to feel proud every time you look at it for years to come.

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It's a pretty common thing to do, go for it.

It's also a pretty common thing to then never look at it, and throw it away when you're downsizing your house 15 years later.

It's also not unusual to not be able to find it that one time you could actually use it, and therefore have to refer to your electronic version.

Source: my and spouse's personal experience.

Facetiousness aside, you should do whatever you feel like, and enjoy the pride that comes from the accomplishment. And if you do print it out for yourself or others, it's far from being strange!

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    Downsizing 15 years later, already? – Bernhard Döbler Jul 25 at 0:19
  • @BernhardDöbler, changing institutions -- to one in a higher cost-of-living location, does that to you! – Houska Sep 4 at 18:49
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The requirements depend on the University. In my case, I was only required to submit a single hardcopy as well as a version in pdf.

Any additional copies were a personal choice. At the time I was getting frustrated and only the library copy was bound according to the university's specification. However I had additional copies bound for less (I think about 10£ cheaper a copy) at my former undergraduate university which were given to my supervisors and family. Did I have a copy for myself? I don't even remember anymore... Though I know it would be meaningless given that I have the pdf and can also always get a copy of my own pdf from the "White Rose Grid" where the electronic copy is publicly accessible.

It can be noted, that the custom of publishing a thesis with a proper ISBN as would be done in Germany does NOT exist in the UK. So this is country specific.

It is (or maybe was, definitely still in 2006) also possible in the UK to have a thesis that is not accessible to the public as it is labelled "commercially sensitive". As a result the library will not give you a copy, however the former supervisor may if they have a copy. (And whether it is truly commercially sensitive is a different discussion.)

So to sum it up: To get the degree you need only fulfil the requirements of the university. (For me this was pass the viva, have corrections approved is necessary, 1 hard copy submitted according to university specifications plus the pdf.0

For yourself you can do whatever you want. Print them personally, have them bound as the university copy - differently. Have gilder pages, have no copy - whatever you like. It is your choice. In addition, easily accessible computer storage was not standard just a few decades ago. Some people would have a copy of their thesis because that was the only way they could easily retain a good copy of it. Today, the digital version is possibly of greater use to the majority of people, so whether you retain a hard copy for yourself is truly your own choice today. (In my case I also believe I have better books to put on a bookshelf... But hey, nobody can tear a thesis apart better than the original author and life has, unfortunately, carried me out of the academic sphere into industry. Still, I am at present happy with my job so I shouldn't complain and who knows what the future holds. Anyway, I'm rambling now and should better stop ;))

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By the time I got around to defending, my university and program only required electronic submission (this had changed in the final year or two of my program). I was a lazy and cheap grad student who was already working a full-time job, and so I never got around to having hardbound copies produced. I was rude, so nobody got a hardbound version. Everybody got a review copy on paper that I bound myself using that plastic comb binding system, which I could do because my job had one of the machines and the supplies and was happy to supply them if it meant I graduated sooner. I still feel a bit guilty about not doing it whenever the subject comes up. Not even my advisor got a properly bound one.

UMI/ProQuest should have a copy of my dissertation online if somebody wants it, and I can still build it from LaTeX and image sources if someone asks me directly. I'd be happy to just give someone a copy if they asked since I think the build procedure Just Works™. It's also, supposedly, in the Library of Congress, because UMI put a copy on file there as part of the copyright registration. I don't know if you can get a copy from the LoC.

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  • Downvoters care to comment? – Bill Barth Jul 24 at 17:04

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