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September 1999, Week 2


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Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 13 Sep 1999 10:24:06 -0500
text/plain (102 lines)
Leo makes some very important points about the refereeing of academic work.
 My original post addressed some commercial, textbook-related issues, but
the question of evaluating/legitimizing online work is no less critical for
film/TV studies.

On Sun, 12 Sep 1999 15:36:41 -0700, Leo Enticknap <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>One immediate possibility which could be implemented with very little
>infrastructural investment is to set up a means of distributing PhD theses
>electronically.  At the moment it is possible to order photocopied or
>microfilmed copies of any successfully examined thesis through University
>Microforms International (US) or the British Library (UK).  Supplying the
>text on CD-ROM would cut costs and enable theses to be distributed more

It's been awhile since I submitted my own dissertation to UMI (okay, it's
been 17 years) and I'm pretty out of touch with their system.  So, this
morning I did some investigation.  My first surprise was that they've been
acquired by Bell & Howell and changed their name to Bell & Howell
Information and Learning.

My second surprise was that they ARE now distributing dissertations

Such distribution is currently only available for diss. submitted in
1998-99.  These diss. are available in the Adobe PDF (Portable Document

For instance, if you were interested in my colleague Rob Potter's diss.,
FOR RADIO MESSAGES, you could find the full citation and abstract at:

You could even preview the PDF file's first dozen pages:

If you decided you wanted to own it, you could order it online and
immediately download the 5.54Mb PDF file for US$19.95.  This PDF file could
be read on your computer, or it could be printed on your computer printer.

This is the cheapest method of ordering diss. from UMI:

$29.50 Unbound Paper Copy (priority mail)
$36.00 Softcover Paper Copy
$43.50 Hardcover Paper Copy
$32.50 35mm Roll Microfilm
$32.50 Microfiche (for titles published from 1976 forward)

>If we could get to a situation whereby PhD theses are regarded as having
>been 'published' as soon as they have passed the examination, this would go
>a long way to redressing that balance.  But this can only happen if there
>are changes in the way UMI, the British Library &c. distribute and
>publicise the material they handle.  Substantial review sections in
>established journals covering recent theses would be a welcome development,

It's highly unlikely there will ever be substantial diss. review sections
in film/TV journals such as CINEMA JOURNAL, JOURNAL OF FILM AND VIDEO and
SCREEN.  As you've probably noticed, these publications can hardly sustain
an ongoing (published) book review section.  Aside from the annual review
of film books in FILM QUARTERLY, our field(s) is remarkably, and
shamefully, bereft of a review system for published work.  And thus, it
seems hard to imagine a system could ever evolve to handle UNpublished

One major reason for this gap is that reviews count so little toward the
reviewer's own promotion/tenure/merit-pay-raise record.  A thoughtful
review can take almost as much time to write as a conventional journal
article and yet it counts almost nothing in this regard.

To get around the problem of lack of academic compensation for reviewing,
book publishers PAY reviewers of manuscripts for their evaluation--usually

(The Society for Cinema Studies does sponsor an annual dissertation award
where three brave souls plow through dozens of 300+ page manuscripts to
determine a winner.  You should consider submitting to this, Leo.)

>as would adverts from the likes of UMI detailing their recent acquisitions,
>and possibly an easily available (as in, no subscriptions or passwords
>needed) source of abstracts via the Web.

Yeah, it's frustrating that UMI doesn't provide this free of charge on the
Web.  I guess they're too comitted to selling the database to libraries.

It'd sure be a handy resource to have online.

Thanks for your thoughts, Leo!

Jeremy Butler
[log in to unmask]
Telecommunication & Film/University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa

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