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Scan quality and turnaround times

Turnaround times

When a user orders an item to be digitised, an automated email is sent to the supplying institution to request the paper thesis.

The institution library is asked to retrieve the requested thesis and post it to EThOS by the start of the next working day to help keep turnaround times to a minimum.

Once the thesis has been received by the British Library, it is digitised and loaded to EThOS within 30 working days. The researcher is then notified by email that it is available for download. The researcher can track the progress of their order in their account’s Order History.

If the user has ordered a printed/hard copy as an added value service, then the thesis is downloaded and processed by the EThOS team and posted to the researcher in the requested format.

Scan quality

The EThOS digitisation-on-demand service is managed by the British Library’s Digitisation Unit.

EThOS digitisation costs are closely monitored to ensure that prices remain set at cost-recovery levels to support UK institutions in the transition from print to electronic doctoral theses. The service includes the following:

Redaction - All requirements to redact images, diagrams or sections of a thesis are adhered to carefully and in detail. For example, the digitisation team will leave a diagram title in place whilst redacting the diagram itself if that is required. A list of redaction requirements should simply be included with the thesis when it is sent for scanning.

Institutions may wish to send a more formal printed list of redactions, branded with the institution's logo or similar, to be scanned along with the thesis and inserted it into the digital copy after the title page, to act as a formal record of redacted parts.

OCR - The creation of OCR (optical character recognition) text allows the user to search the full text of the thesis to find sections of particular interest, or to move quickly to a specific part of the thesis. With the average thesis size at around 330 pages, OCR is a huge benefit.

Post-processing - Sometimes the quality of the scanning is not important so long as the thesis is readable. However, post-processing removes dark borders from around the text which may occur in older or poor quality paper, removes shadowing created by the hinged binding, straightens mis-aligned pages, and sharpens the copied text to improve legibility.

Multi-volume items -Theses that consist of more than one volume are treated as a single item when pricing the digitisation. For example, digitisation of a 3-volume thesis would be charged at the same rate as a single-volume thesis.

Colour scans - Theses are scanned in greyscale or colour to represent the item as accurately as possible.

Digitisation projects

Institutions may of course arrange digitisation of their print theses outside of the EThOS digitisation-on-demand facility. Many institutions are now undertaking retrospective mass digitisation projects in this way, and such theses would normally be added to EThOS in due course where appropriate.

The British Library is one service provider offering a digitisation service outside of EThOS, but there are of course many others. Institutions interested in the British Library’s “digitisation project” service should contact the Digitisation Unit for an estimate of cost and delivery schedules.

A leaflet describing the British Library Digitisation service is currently in production.

Other thesis digitisation

  • In 2008/9, an initial 10,000 theses were digitised under a JISC project(external link) to ensure that the EThOS service contained a critical mass of the ‘most popular’ theses
  • In 2009/10, the JISC Digitisation Programme funded the Digital Islam project(external link) which digitised a further 950 theses in the area of Islamic Studies. These are searchable by typing “Digital Islam” into the basic search box in EThOS
  • A microfiche collection of thousands of theses from the earlier British Thesis Service is currently held in storage at the British Library. The Library has recently acquired a microfiche scanner that has the potential to be used to scan this collection. It is currently considering ways in which to take advantage of the scanner on behalf of EThOS institutions.