Electronic Theses: Where Pakistan stands

Preserving research for future scholars

Electronic Theses in Pakistan have picked up immense pace over the last two decades, but the year 2006 is regarded as a milestone in the history of electronic theses. When Dr Ata Ur Rahman took the responsibility as Chairman of the Higher Education Commission, he for the first time introduced the Pakistan Research Repository. Pakistan, which has become a symbol of quality research in the last few several years. New universities have been set up. According to the HEC website, there are 218 universities in Pakistan; 134 are Public Sector Universities; however, 84 are private degree-awarding universities. Each university offers a degree in the bachelor’s, master’s, MPhil, and even PhD programmes. These universities’ mission is to transmit knowledge through instructions, scholarship and research. Universities are meant to apply knowledge through public services.

Each university offers library services in the disciplines they deal with. Universities are conducting research on variety of topics and produce theses in binding formats. Now the question arises where do these theses go? The answer is: to a supervisor, to the HEC, and to libraries. Libraries are preserving such theses in the locked shelves and granting no access to the young scholars.

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Theses are pre-requisites for obtaining MPhil and PhD degrees. Previous theses provide background knowledge for the scholars to discover new facts from the old knowledge yet to be researched. Students in Pakistan and abroad rely more on opening Google.

The American Library Associations conducted a general survey and found that 92 percent of scholars worldwide are researching the open access material available on Google and simillar search engines. People are shuffling only eight percent of the material for research. Ninety-two percent of material exists in the printed format available in libraries (physically) or has been locked and placed out of access for researchers (available in Paid Databases like JSTOR, Taylor& Francis, Springer link, Project-muse, and alike Databases.

Physicists first started the E-Theses initiative in 1991. When they introduced the Arxiv in 1991, it was an Open Repository system. The purpose of this initiative was to showcase the scholarly works of Physicists on a broader level. Since that time, numerous projects have been made available in different countries. A few praiseworthy examples for electronic theses are: DART-Europe E-These portal offers more than 106,000 doctoral electronic theses. EthOS is a digital library project which provides online theses for free. PQDT Open is a project of Proquest which covers research from Canada and the USA. MIT Digital library offers a collection of theses at the Master’s and doctoral levels. Worldwide ETD Indexes offers a collection of online theses and dissertations and helps researchers find material in their respective fields.

Quality research is a dream job for a common Pakistani, and that could only be achieved through the monitoring system of HEC. Preserving Electronic researches on HEC website can bring these dreams into reality.

The Pakistan Research Repository was a splendid project for the researchers in Pakistan and abroad. The project is still available online and can be accessed via the Internet. It only covers PhD and MPhil theses. Universities in Pakistan do not fully cooperate to offer retrospective and current research as generated in electronic formats. They sent a copy to the HEC Repository in printed form only and are not bothered to send the electronic version of the same copy.

Today’s age is the age of technology and people do not visit the library physically. They need electronic copies of books, articles and even theses. Public sector universities in Pakistan are producing quality research, but there is still a dire need for electronic theses. Theses in electronic formats have become the need of the day.

HEC may either update the old software being utilized for MPhil and PhD theses or produce indigenous software to preserve electronic theses. A login password ought to be granted to universities in Pakistan and the HEC should direct them to put their theses on the HEC portal. Open research appeals to researchers more than that paid contents. The HEC is requested to extend the Pakistan Research Repository project to the provincial level to make all electronic theses available for the present and forthcoming generation. Teamwork could make it more expeditious.

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Quality research is a dream job for a common Pakistani, and that could only be achieved through the monitoring system of HEC. Preserving Electronic researches on HEC website can bring these dreams into reality.

Abid Hussain
The writer is a library officer at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

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