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I've been trying to find the dissertation of someone who advertises that they hold a "doctorate of management" from the "University of Phoenix". The degree requires a dissertation, but the school does not require the dissertation to be published, apparently, because neither is the work listed on ProQuest, nor does the University's own library hold it. My liaison indicated that the author may have deliberately chosen not to distribute the work. I have not yet been able to obtain a copy.

Is this obscurantist practice rare at good universities & common at for-profit universities?

Any other factors at play in the unavailability of a graduate dissertation in the United States?

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    Do I understand right that you are saying someone got a doctorate from the University of Phoenix, the degree requires a dissertation, but the University of Phoenix does not possess a copy of it? [I'm checking that "university's own library" is the University of Phoenix, not your university.] That sounds terrible. – Anonymous Mathematician Apr 15 '14 at 5:53
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    Yes, this makes sound like it's bordering on being a diploma mill… – Geremia Apr 15 '14 at 5:54
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    You specifically asked about the US, hence only as a comment, but in Austria dissertations can be "locked" for public access for a defined period of time (up to 5 years). Note that this does not mean that the uni does not have a dissertation, but it is not given out before the lock time is over. This is allowed if the applicant has stated financial interests (e.g., if he wants to submit a patent application or make the dissertation into a product). Whether one agrees with this practice is a question of its own, but it is not "shady" or "obscurantist" in that sense. – xLeitix Apr 15 '14 at 6:16
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    Interesting! This would strike me as very unethical approach. For example, here in Serbia, defense of doctoral dissertation must be announced in newspapers of note quite a bit in advance and the dissertation needs to be available at the university library both before and after defense. – AndrejaKo Apr 15 '14 at 10:09
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    a "doctorate of management" isn't going to be locked to protect patent ideas. I'd ask the candidate directly for a copy of his/her dissertation. If the candidate doesn't have a copy of his or her own dissertation, then you'll know that they just money to get a diploma. – shane Apr 15 '14 at 11:48
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I don't know about for-profit universities, but the practice at "good" US universities is generally as follows. Before being eligible to graduate, the student must submit a copy of the dissertation to the library and to ProQuest. By default, after being processed, it is then immediately available to the public from both sources. (In some cases it might not necessarily be available online, or might require a fee, a visit to the university's library, or an inter-library loan request.)

The student may be able to request an "embargo", in which case access to the dissertation's text is restricted for a period of time. For example, this could be used if the student intended to commercially publish the dissertation or related material. At my PhD institution, this period can be up to 2 years; any longer embargo requires the special approval of the graduate dean. Even in such cases, I would expect that the library and ProQuest would still show the dissertation in their catalogs; they just wouldn't allow access to the text.

In your case, "embargo" sounds like the only possibly legitimate explanation. But if the student graduated several years ago, or if the university library and/or granting department cannot confirm the dissertation's existence, I would declare shenanigans. (Maybe NSFW).

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    In my department, we are only required to submit a copy of the dissertation to the department library (not ProQuest, not the university library, not the school library). It won't appear in the university's library catalog. (My university is highly ranked, I don't know about "good"...) – ff524 Apr 25 '14 at 19:52
  • @ff524: But the university library would surely tell someone inquiring for a dissertation to contact the department instead, right? – Ben Voigt Aug 12 '14 at 17:02
  • @BenVoigt it probably depends on who answers the phone at the library! And in any case, only if you talk to a human; if you only look through the university library catalog, you'd never know. It's not clear how the OP determined that "nor does the University's own library hold it" – ff524 Aug 12 '14 at 17:57
  • @ff524 FWIW, i found a "Social Media Community Manager" from the school on Facebook who offered to look into it for me. he then wrote, "I heard back from the library – they weren’t able to find [the] dissertation either." – Aaron Brick Jan 3 '15 at 4:33
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Have any of you considered that the person simply did not graduate? I am attending the University of Phoenix in the Doctor of Health Administration program at the dissertation proposal phase. The requirements are some of the most difficult I have ever seen and include publication in the ProQuest Dissertation Abstracts. One of my committee members is a graduate of NYU and when we tried to view her award winning dissertation in the abstracts it was no longer there because she graduated over 10 years ago. Why doesn't the person you are referencing have a copy of her signed dissertation, I certainly will? Did Phoenix have any evidence that she graduated from there? If not, I would take a look at the candidate not the school. Consider this example, One of my committee members' dissertation was not available online even though she is referenced in nearly every scientific article written since her graduation, was lauded in newspapers for her work, and now sits as a department chair for an Ivy League university? She was surprised that there was no record about her dissertation based on her status as a highly prized employment candidate. SHe ultimately had to send to the education clearing house to get her transcripts. She didn't even realize that NYU should have given her copies of her transcripts and didn't seem to know that she had transcripts at the doctoral level.

Maybe you guys are just looking at the entire process wrong and should simply ask the University of Phoenix Office of the Registra rather than friends. Good luck

  • the subject got a job based on holding the degree. i highly doubt the registrar would respond to a public request for student information. if you are able to look around within the institution then i would appreciate your help! – Aaron Brick Mar 22 '15 at 4:24

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