Fielding Dissertations: how to find more with less

Scenario: Imagine you are delving into your research and your advisor (or colleague, fellow student, faculty member, or someone otherwise wishing to assist you) says something to the effect of, “A few years ago a student in the ELC program wrote their dissertation about a related field–you should really take a look”.

Confused looking at puzzle pieces

Photo by David Goehring. CC license here.

We can probably all agree that this scenario is sort of like being given a few pieces to a possibly valuable puzzle.  We know this was a Fielding student dissertation, that the student was in ELC, and that the work was probably published in the last few years.

So how do we put this puzzle together without some of the key pieces such as, oh I don’t know, the author, dissertation title, or publication year?

First, we do not give up.  Second, we recall that the Fielding Library provides us access to a database (predictably) titled: Dissertations & Theses @ Fielding Graduate University (linked from the main library website or from the ‘databases’ link).

But, what do we do when we get there?  Let’s take a look at some search features which you may not have been aware of, but which can be immensely helpful in your research.

Search by Department/Program

Here at the library it is not uncommon for us to receive questions regarding how to filter dissertation results by program for varying reason.  Some students are piecing together a puzzle similar to that mentioned above while others are simply trying to see the types of topics covered by a certain program over the last 2, 5, or 10 years.

Whatever your reason, the easiest way to accomplish this is to use the drop-down menu on the advanced search screen to change the search field to ‘Department’:

screenshot of searchable fields


Here’s the part that gets a little trickier: there can be some slight variations in the way a department is listed.  For example, some dissertations may list their department as “educational leadership for change” whereas others may list “educational leadership and change”.  To avoid these pitfalls, simply search for the main words in a department or program’s name  (i.e. educational leadership change; human organizational development; etc.).  For example, here is what the search would look like within the database:

sample search by department


Easy peasy!  Of course…if we do nothing else then this search may retrieve quite a few results.  We may want to narrow in on a certain period of time before searching.

Search by Date Range

To make specifications related to publication date, we will just need to scroll down a little ways to the portion of the screen labeled ‘Search Options’.  Here we will find a handy ‘publication date’ drop-down menu:

publication date drop-down menu


It’s as simple as selecting one of the pre-set ranges, or choosing ‘specific date range’ and inputting a range of our choosing.  If we follow the scenario at the beginning of the post, I would likely either choose ‘Last 5 years’ or enter a custom range for the last three years.

In the case of our scenario, at this point we would likely scroll back up to the top of the screen and add in a keyword or two to narrow in a little further on the topic.  However, we could also simply run the search after choosing the program and date range then scroll through the available options to see what’s there.

Search by Advisor

There have also been times when a student or faculty member knew who served as the advisor for a dissertation, but could not recall its title or author.  Lucky for us, we can search by advisor!

To do so, just scroll back to the ‘Search Options’ section.  You can either input an advisor name in the search box, or, if you are perhaps unsure of spelling or name variations, you can use the ‘Look up advisors’ link to search through the options:

advisor look up section


While those tips cover the most frequently asked questions related to Fielding dissertations, they certainly do not cover all the ways you can search in this database.  Be sure to explore the other search fields and search options to see what else is available.  You can always contact the library or consult the database’s ‘help’ function to learn more.

Happy Searching!

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