Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shelf Fodder

Some of my colleagues like to have bound copies of graduate student theses on their shelves; others hate those ugly bound things and just want a pdf.

Note: In the US, theses are ugly hardbound things with the student name and project title. I prefer the style at some European universities of producing a paperback book with a nice cover, but this has not yet caught on here.

Despite their lack of aesthetic appeal and the unfortunate formatting requirements that make the bound thesis much bigger than it needs to be, I like to have at least some bound copies lined up on my shelf. It is a nice, tangible reminder that some students do in fact survive working with me and have accomplished something.

Some students (typically MS students) don't want to order bound copies, so for them I only have a pdf and that's fine. I certainly am not going to force every student to order bound copies just because I like to have an array of theses on my shelf.

So it's time for a poll:

Do you have (or want to have) bound theses on your shelf?
Yes - I want the bound copies on my shelf
No - I only want e-versions of theses
Either is OK (as long as some are bound copies)
pollcode.com free polls

31 comments:

Alex said...

If my first M.S. student doesn't want to buy bound copies, I'll buy them for him. That's how eager I am.

Although I also like the European style. Maybe I'll persuade him to do that.

Either way, I'm going to have theses on my shelf.

female Science Professor said...

I should have said that I sometimes pay for thesis binding if the student doesn't want to or can't, but in some cases the student doesn't want a bound thesis. So for some I just have a pdf.

John V said...

I have maybe 10 on the shelf, but they are just a few of my old grad school cohort, plus my sister, mom and dad's theses, plus a couple wacky ones ordered for fun, and a few local unpublished works.

Pictures and mementos are taking the place of books on my shelves. My students publish everything useful, and we forget the rest.

Susan B. Anthony said...

Sometimes I'm a little disappointed when I look at how thin my bound PhD thesis is. Seems like a lot of work and heartache for not very many pages. But as I normally produce very little of tangible solidity in my work, there's definitely something cool about being able to hold my thesis in my hands. So I agree with you that some bound copies of my students' theses would be nice (when I get that far!).

Kris said...

I would say that even if I have a bound thesis (which I like), I find the pdf copy invaluable.

Kevin said...

I wish I did have PDF files for some of my earlier students' theses. That way I could look up their research and share it with newer students without having to use the one copy in the library.

biochem belle said...

My graduate advisor has 2 shelves of bound theses. Mine was added to the collection a few months ago. Plus I shelled out the extra dough so I could have my own copy and give one to my dad (even though he has no science background whatsoever). Maybe it's a teensy bit of an ego thing, seeing my name and my work in print :)

Of course I recently realized that the cost of printing and binding at my grad univ. was ridiculously cheap (though it didn't seem that way when I was writing the check). For a grad student in my postdoc lab, the cost of just binding a single copy was comparable to printing AND binding 2 copies for me.

Greg said...

Well, you are missing a category from your poll - Either is ok as long as I have an electronic copy. Frankly I prefer to store a PDF and print a smaller tree saving copy for the shelf (or the lab).

Average Professor said...

Thesis binding at my university is somehow <$10 for the hardcover, so not only do I pay for my own copy, but I pay for the student's, and one time I even paid for one for the student's mother.

For my own PhD thesis, it was like $75 and I had to pay for not only my own copy but also one for the university and one for the department. Thumbs down.

plam said...

My enthusiasm level for thesis binding is currently high since the only thesis I have on my shelf is my own. I can see it dropping once I have a bit more of a collection.

Speaking of own-thesis-on-shelf, I thought they were kind of useless, but my advisor did pull out his 12-year-old thesis to show me something in it when I was writing my thesis.

Tinkering Theorist said...

Kinkos will put holes in the side and bind it notebook style for just a few bucks. Of course, that doesn't solve your ugly thesis problem . . .

Anonymous said...

Since hardbound copies of a thesis are pretty expensive at my university (usually around $75-100 each copy), my advisor would pay for them out of discretionary funds. It seems like a bit of a forced gift otherwise if the students pay (granted, you can opt not to give it and just take the PDF route, but there's a good bit of pressure if everyone else has done it).

Anonymous said...

I had to pay for library copy, departmental copy, my advisor's, and my own (lots of $$$). In addition, my PhD advisor said I "had to" ask all members of my dissertation committee (4 other professors) if they wanted a copy too. According to him/her, if they wanted a copy I would have to order and pay for it. This sounded a bit strange to me and I would not have been able to afford it with all the other graduation expenses, so I decided to forgo this. My advisor was not pleased at all. Just curious, is it really expected that students will pay for dissertation/thesis copies for all committee members?

I think pdf versions win all around -- less expense, easy to move. If I end up wanting my student's copies, I will make sure to pay for it myself.

Anonymous said...

the european-style is so superior... *sigh* why can't some XSP's make some noise so we can get these?

JSinger said...

I like to have at least some bound copies lined up on my shelf. It is a nice, tangible reminder that some students do in fact survive working with me and have accomplished something.

As a grad student, I always found the row of bound copies in my PI's office to be reassuring and motivating. The advisor should always pay, though, at least for his/her copy and the student's own.

Anonymous said...

My advisor keeps empty champagne bottles signed by former students in lieu of printed theses.
Those bottles are from post-defence celebration.
At least they take somewhat less space in the office. And PDFs are way easier to search anyway.

Anonymous said...

Where I come from (a Scandinavian major research university), a PhD-to-be is required to hand down about 100 exemplars of the dissertation to the university administration. As the exemplars are usually hardbound and in my field often commercially published, the exemplars can cost up to 8000 dollars, 3000 dollars of which is paid by the University.

Most of the 100 copies are delivered automatically to the libraries and faculty professors, most of which will not even glance the book. Some 30 copies are freely obtainable from the faculty office on a first come, first served -principle.

Anonymous said...

The best from the advisor perspective are the Dutch ones -- fancy covers, good size, etc ... BUT, most students in my discipline have to pay for all of them (~200!!!) out of pocket.

They look nice and all but all my Dutch colleagues have boxes of their thesis left years after graduating. I am much happier with a PDF thesis and a signed bottle of good Scotch. The bottles get taken down more than a thesis and look better on the shelf. Plus, about half my students made programs for their defenses. These are way more meaningful than the thesis.

Anonymous said...

I think paper copies are very useful for up and coming students to look at also. I find them really useful to show current students- this is what a high quality masters thesis looks like - this is an example of good formatting and layout etc etc so they can see what is required. Doing this by pdf just isn't the same.

female Science Professor said...

I don't have a copy of my own PhD thesis with library binding -- I had 1-2 copies made at a copy shop, one for me. This was pre-pdf days. Today, even if students want to do the hardcover binding thing, I also have the thesis in pdf form.

Anonymous said...

Dutch theses, definitely! They look beautiful and there's always acces to other people's work after they've left the lab. In the US I have to search everywhere and there is not a single copy of some of the old students' theses in the lab, be it on paper or electronic. I do wonder how students would react though if they would find out that the costs of printing a thesis in the Netherlands can easily run into $2000-$2500: out of your own pocket unless you find some extra funding!

Anonymous said...

That is true. I love the European style theses in their cute little book format. It does come at a fair price though. The PhD students in my old lab would have to shell out approx. $1200 for their theses.

Ursula said...

I am one of those Europeans with a thesis in paperback. I actually was required to deliver 60 copies of my thesis to the University library. So I printed 100 and gave away copies to a bunch of people, as it was customary. The costs were significant.

I know a professor who accepts pdf files from his students, and then prints it and has it bound on his own budget.

mixlamalice said...

Well, in France we also have these paperback copies. You're supposed to have at least around 10 of them for the University records and your committee and advisors, plus one for the library of the lab. I think I made 25, took a couple for me and my parents, and gave the extra 10ish to my advisors so that they could gave them to whoever they thought it could be helpful (new student or visiting Professor).
It was free for me, on the lab budget, and as far as I know, no student ever pays for these theses himself in my country (actually it was even the institute librarian that made them for me).
I guess "socialism" is not always that bad...

We also have some kind of governmental website where every PhD can put his own thesis in a pdf version, open to everyone who might want to consult it.

Anonymous said...

Definitely prefer the hard copies - they make such a satisfying THUMP when they hit the desk!

Hey, considering all the blood, sweat, tears and tantrums that go into these things, I think a shelf-display is in order.

Anonymous said...

Having been on many PhD committees, I prefer to not be given hardcopies of every student's thesis. Keep one bound hardcopy for yourself as a symbolic reminder of your grad school career, by all means, but please spare your committee members the burden of printed copies. PDFs are more than sufficient for practical purposes.

In reality, the only people who will actually read your thesis are those who will be doing similar research in the future. But since you can't know how many such people there will be or who they are, it doesn't make sense to print out multiple hardcopies ahead of time. They can be printed out on an as-needed basis by those who are actually interested in reading it in its entirety. It will save much money, space, and trees.

A little night musing said...

I just wanted to say: I'm with Alex (first commenter). And I'm with Alex even before I've been willing to read the rest of the comments.

Acid_Storm said...

My bachelor thesis was on pdf and that was just fine for me just because I was fulltime student.

Now I have to bind the MS thesis and I think I would like to do it since this project was made entirely by me (I even submitted it for a poster sesion in order to hang it on my wall).

Acid_Storm said...

By the way, I like your blog FSP, it's just pretty.

Chris said...

Our university has gone to the paperback format ordered from a thesis publishing house. Our research group usually has new students look through some of the work that came before, so the printed versions come in very handy.

Candid Engineer said...

As a postdoc, I don't have the pleasure of having mentees' completed dissertations on my shelf. But I am doing my postdoc in the lab in which my Ph.D. advisor did his Ph.D., and shortly after I got here, one of my labmates found my advisor's bound thesis on a shelf in the labmate's office... and now my advisor's thesis is on the shelf above my desk. For some reason, I think this is really neat.