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I need to download the following PhD Thesis:

"LH Jensen - Large deviations of the asymmetric simple exclusion process in one dimension"

However this website forces me to pay for it. I think it is possible to download the thesis from the Columbia Library (link), but as I am a PhD student based in the UK, I don't have access to it.

So how can I access an American PhD thesis?

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    It's available if your institution has a ProQuest subscription. There's no general way for an individual to download an American PhD thesis if your institution doesn't have a subscription and the author hasn't made it freely available online, but you should ask your institution's librarians for help. – ff524 Jan 26 '15 at 10:38
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    That proquest link is not to the thesis itself, but only a preview version of the first few pages. Email the author or their adviser. – Matthew Towers Jan 26 '15 at 10:39
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    @mt_ The full text (94 pages) was available to me through my institution's ProQuest subscription. – ff524 Jan 26 '15 at 10:42
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    my institution allows me to download only a 19 pages preview :-( – edwineveningfall Jan 26 '15 at 10:43
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    @ff524 weird. My institution has a proquest subscription, but the page linked to says "PREVIEW" and I only get 19 pages. I guess there must be different kinds of subscription – Matthew Towers Jan 26 '15 at 10:55
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In general, one could also just write a polite e-mail to the author of the thesis requesting the file (and making it clear that you need it for your research). Unfortunately, in this particular case I was not able to find the author's e-mail by googling.

As a truly very last resort one could try to contact the thesis advisor (which in this particular case can be found through this link) and very politely ask whether he could either pass your request to his/her former student or even provide you with the file of the thesis.

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    I've had a lot of luck contacting the writer and getting a free copy. I'm sure most are more than happy to do so as it's generally in their interest to make their research visible. – JNS Jan 26 '15 at 12:21
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You could use ProQuest for free at the British Library.

Obtaining theses in the Reading Rooms: North American theses

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses is available online on the electronic resources terminals in Humanities - Floors 1 and 2.

http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/theses/hrrtheses/theses.html

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    You deserve 1,000,000 rep for this. Everyone forgets about the public library. – Mr. Mascaro Jan 26 '15 at 23:16
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There are a number of ways of accessing American PhD theses. Many, possibly most, US PhD theses are are archived at ProQuest (cf. this question for more about them). In some cases there may be an embargo period before which the thesis will not be available. Some universities have subscriptions to ProQuest allowing you to download the theses from them for free. If your university does not have a subscription, you can purchase the thesis directly from them.

Most US universities have archival copies of all recent theses in their libraries. If you search the library catalogue (as you did in the question), you may find a link that allows you to download the thesis for free (or a fee). If not, it should provide enough information to allow you to make an inter-library loan (ILL) request.

If for some reason you are unable to buy the thesis from a place like ProQuest and you library cannot arrange for an ILL, you can also ask someone at a university with a less inept/cheap library to download, or make an ILL request, for the thesis. Note, however, that this may not be legally allowed by the licensing agreements. Finally, note that the main site of AC.SE is not the place to make such a request, but you could try in the chatroom.

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The same way you can access almost any other publication that does not seem to be available online: ask your local university library.

Interlibrary loan works very well, also internationally. Most likely you can get fairly quickly photocopies or scans of the thesis. You do not need to locate a copy of the thesis yourself; you do not need to browse any library catalogs or anything of that sort. Just tell your own library what you want, and they will do everything for you.

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I agree entirely with Jukka. Your institution pays librarians to do this for you, go give them something to do ;-)

(Plus, theses are interesting and librarians like a challenge. I much prefer getting a request for a thesis, or something like a pre-revolutionary Russian publication, than for an article in a recent journal...)

So as to add something useful to this comment rather than just "+1, me too", here's a worked example of how the librarian will try and find your thesis, assuming they don't have ProQuest:

  1. Google it. You'd be amazed. I've had people shyly ask for something deeply obscure which they assumed was near-impossible, and then discover in two minutes that the author put it online years ago.

  2. Nail down the author, date, and institution - and correct the title if needed, as a surprisingly high proportion of thesis requests have the title garbled. (Why this is more common than for journals is an interesting question). Then double-check our own catalogue in case we have a print copy. You never know. [For a British work, I'd now try the EThOS service, but that's UK only]

  3. The original institution's repository. New York University has a repository (archive.nyu.edu) - these are always worth checking, as they're not always indexed well enough to be picked up by step 1. 2000 is a little early to make it into the repository, but you never know. Sadly, we draw a blank in this case - it's not quite clear if the repository covers theses at all.

  4. Nearby libraries. Occasionally, copies of theses get acquired by other institutions, and these can usually be borrowed without too much trouble. In this case, COPAC reports no copies in the major UK libraries, and a separate check confirms there isn't one at the BL.

  5. The original institution's library. Checking the catalogue, they have both microfilm and print copies, as well as a link to Proquest (very helpful). Digging around on their website, they do accept ILL requests from overseas, and (praise be!) they will loan bound dissertations (see http://library.nyu.edu/services/lending.html). They also hint they'll do copies but don't go into detail. Some institutions are exceptionally generous and will scan entire theses on request without charging; others will charge a standard fee but we have an ILL budget for just this reason.

Copy found, and if we're lucky it could be in the post by the end of the day...

[Steps 6 onwards would be various forms of "look for the author", but not needed here]

  • No offence to professional librarians, but tracking down things that are this relatively easy to find seems like a waste of money. – StrongBad Jan 27 '15 at 13:19
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    It's certainly an easy one when you know where to look, but the fact that someone asked suggests it's not easy for everyone ;-) – Andrew Jan 27 '15 at 16:05
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Just to ad there is also "Search NDLTD" http://search.ndltd.org/index.php which is the nearest thing to a global PhDthesis/dissertations index. Sadly not comprehensive and this one, again, draws a blank. Tip: encourage your own library to get their theses indexed in Google and/or added to Search NDLTD.

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