Skip to Main Content

MIT Libraries logo

MIT logo Search Account

MIT Thesis FAQ: Access and Availability Questions

Access and availability FAQ

A thesis is generally considered “published” when it has been cataloged and shelved in a publicly accessible library, but other factors could impact the publication date for patent purposes. For example, a thesis submitted electronically might be considered published on the date the electronic version is first made available to the public online, if this occurred prior to the thesis being cataloged. It might also be considered “published” if the student posted a copy on a personal website before submitting the thesis.

For further questions, contact the Office of the General Counsel.

As of the 2022-2023 academic year, theses will not be available prior to being published by the MIT Libraries. Previously, a thesis could be made available upon request as soon it was received by the Libraries.

The catalog dates can be found in the MIT Libraries catalog record. Use "Search our collections" to find the record in the Libraries catalog, and click “View record metadata - MARC format.”

In the MARC record, the field 008 will contain the publication date. The field looks like this:

008    060309s2004  xx a bm 000 0 eng d

The first two digits 06 = year (2006), the next two digits 03=month (March), and the last two digits 09= day (9th). The publication date for the above record is March 9, 2006.

Note that the stamped date on the title page is not the thesis publication date. It is the date the thesis was received by the MIT Libraries. A thesis may or may not be available between receipt by the Libraries and the cataloging date, but generally is available to the public after cataloging.

As of the 2022-2023 academic year (February 2023 degree date), the Libraries may be begin publishing theses in DSpace@MIT one month and one week from the last day of classes for that degree term, in accordance with the Specifications for Thesis Preparation. Theses placed on hold are not cataloged and published until the hold has been released.

Users interested in a thesis not yet cataloged by the MIT Libraries may contact the Distinctive Collections staff to determine whether the thesis has been deposited in the archives. If it has been deposited, and if it is not on hold, the user may view the thesis in the Distinctive Collections reading room.

MIT theses that have been scanned and deposited into DSpace@MIT are openly accessible to anyone. Each thesis record in DSpace@MIT has a ‘Full printable version’ PDF that can be read, downloaded, or printed from any computer.

MIT theses that have been scanned and deposited into DSpace@MIT are openly accessible to anyone. You can print a copy for yourself.

If your thesis isn't in DSpace@MIT, please contact us at Distinctive Collections prior to submitting your request.

Scanned theses in DSpace@MIT

All theses for advanced degrees are collected by the libraries, as well as selected bachelor’s theses. To see the thesis holdings, visit Search Our Collections, the MIT Libraries catalog.

In 2020, digital theses became required, and as such, theses submitted for degree periods after 2020 are all made available on DSpace in their original digital formats. Hardcopy theses from the 2004 academic year through 2020 were automatically scanned and added to DSpace. Theses completed prior to 2004 are scanned on demand, and are only scanned if an individual or an institution has requested an electronic copy of a particular thesis. Paper copies of theses are preserved by Distinctive Collections and will continue to be the official MIT copies of record.

DSpace@MIT does not contain all MIT theses, only a selected group. All digital theses since the 2020 academic year are made available on DSpace after processing. Hardcopy theses from the 2004 academic year through the 2020 academic year were automatically scanned and added to DSpace@MIT. Theses completed prior to 2004 are scanned on demand, and are only scanned if an individual or an institution has requested a copy of a particular thesis. All of the scanning of paper theses is done on a cost recovery basis, and the first person/institution to request a particular thesis is the one who pays the scanning cost.

It is our goal to scan all of the theses completed at MIT for DSpace@MIT; however, more than 125,000 theses have been completed at MIT. The 53,000 theses in DSpace@MIT only represent a fraction of MIT's print thesis holdings. Anyone interested in accessing a printable PDF file of a thesis not already in DSpace@MIT should make a request through the Distinctive Collections Request System, or contact Ask Distinctive Collections at Ask Distinctive Collections.

Thesis authors receive discounted MIT-only pricing when requesting that their own thesis be scanned. More info is available on the Imaging Services page.

MIT remains committed to making theses publically available to the world. Regardless of whether copyright is held by the student or the Institute, the MIT Libraries publish theses electronically, allowing open access viewing. While there are fees charged for scanning, these fees are used to scan more theses and make them available for open viewing. Without these fees, only a very small subset of theses (those submitted electronically) would be available online.

All theses scanned since 2008 retain any color or grayscale content. Theses scanned prior to 2008 may be in black & white even though there was color content in the original. At the time they were digitized, color scanning was not economically feasible.

Original paper versions of MIT theses are available for viewing in person in the Distinctive Collections Reading Room, with 24-48 hours advance notice.