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What are the possible benefits or consequences of submitting my dissertation to ProQuest?

My university recommends submitting dissertations to ProQuest. I am wondering about the practices and academic reputation of this company, and whether or not it is in my best interests to follow the recommendation of my institution.

Does ProQuest support academic work? Do they charge exorbitant fees to access their content?

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    Heavily opinionated question. Define 'reputable'. Wikipedia is not a publisher. – Cape Code Sep 18 '14 at 18:04
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    Neither "make excessively large revenue and profits" nor "make content difficult and expensive to access" are defining characteristics of a disreputable publisher. – ff524 Sep 18 '14 at 18:05
  • Some words about this company, that seems to be more in the business of aggregating content than actual publishing: scholarlyoa.com/2014/04/15/introduction-to-super-closed-access-journals/#more-3406 – Cape Code Sep 18 '14 at 18:08
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    I have removed the disreputable-publishers tag from this question because the tag is about publishers that engage in unethical/dishonest practices, which doesn't seem to be what this question is about. (Unless you edit your question to clarify what you think is unethical or dishonest about ProQuest's practices) – ff524 Sep 18 '14 at 18:14
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I don't think Proquest is really a publisher so much as just a repository. They don't make any editorial choices about the material they host.

I don't have any information about their financials, but accessing dissertations through them is moderately difficult and expensive. (I think getting a copy of a thesis from them is on the order of US$50.) I think of them as the dissertation archive of last resort - I would only order from them after exhausting all other options (author's website, university's library, etc).

My feeling is that you might as well submit your thesis to them, since it is good to know that future researchers looking for your thesis would always have Proquest as a fallback option. However, you should make an effort to make your thesis available through more convenient (and free) means as well. Post it on your professional web page. If your field uses arXiv or a similar open access repository, upload it there as well. (Since you will presumably be publishing papers and/or books based on your thesis, check first that the relevant publishers are okay with having your thesis available for free online. Probably the major journals/publishers in your field will have similar policies.)

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The role of ProQuest for dissertations is not a "publisher". Even if you "publish" your dissertation with them, it is still considered "unpublished" work in many fields. And you can go on to publish exactly the same content in other forms, e.g. as a book or divided into papers. In this sense, they are like a preprint server.

For dissertations, ProQuest is a repository. The main service they provide is giving access to dissertations that would otherwise be very difficult to locate. Traditionally, they did this by keeping huge archives of microfilm; now I suspect it is more digital.

In my experience, there are only two long-term archive systems commonly used for unpublished theses in the U.S.:

1) The institution itself usually keeps a copy in the library, perhaps on microfilm. More recently, institutions have begun moving to an electronic model, often called "ETD".

2) ProQuest, which has gone through many name changes but was founded in 1938.

Personal webpages are great, but they are not really a long-term solution: who can guarantee an academic's work will be available on a personal web page after they retire? A few fields have sites such as arxiv.org which have a potential to be long-term repositories. But otherwise the options above are about it.

So, why send your thesis to ProQuest? It's a personal choice. But doing so does help ensure that the thesis will be available if someone wants to read it in 50 years' time, when you plan to be retired on a tropical island without email.

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Proquest is not a traditional publisher. I would compare them more to a vanity press than a predatory journal, but since they do not do any binding or even ISBN registering, it is not even fair to call them a vanity press.

While it is likely they make large profits, although I don't know, I would say they are fully reputable. Their copyright transfer is very permissive

Authors enter into a non-exclusive publishing agreement with ProQuest, where the author keeps the copyright in their graduate work. Authors are paid a 10% royalty for sales in all formats.

  • Interesting, I don't remember seeing anything about royalties when I submitted my thesis to them in 2009. I wonder if I have any coming to me? I'm sure Proquest doesn't have my current contact info, and I don't see any way on their website to update it. – Nate Eldredge Sep 18 '14 at 19:30
  • @NateEldredge I couldn't find anything either. It seems like a reasonable question for the main site. – StrongBad Sep 18 '14 at 21:10
  • Well, I sent them an email. If I hear back anything useful maybe I will make a self answered question. – Nate Eldredge Sep 18 '14 at 22:58
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    Oh, guess I missed this the first time around. Yes, I did. They confirmed that I'm entitled to 10% of all sales, said that so far no copies of my thesis have been sold :-) and that if and when I accumulate $25 in royalties they will send a check. Apparently I gave them the address of a family member, which is still good. – Nate Eldredge Jul 29 '15 at 0:26
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    I submitted my dissertation to ProQuest in 2009 and today, to my great surprise, I received a letter in the mail from ProQuest notifying me that I have a royalty check coming to me. I called and it looks like I'm going to be $32 richer. Woohoo! – mweiss Oct 23 '15 at 16:21

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