Today's post is from John Lavas
, concerning two webpage projects involving theses that he has completed.
“Do you have a list of Marine Biology theses for your University?”
This seemingly innocuous question has been asked of me - as Biological/Marne Sciences Librarian
- more than once, and has generally resulted in several hours of work pouring over Voyager
records from a range of searches, only to find what one suspects is just a portion of the total records available in the library catalogue. The reasons why it may be difficult to access all records of thesis research on a particular subject over a long period are numerous, and in the case of marine biology, they include the following: historical variations in cataloguing and LC (Library of Congress) subject headings
which are now more taxonomically detailed than previously, changes in departmental/school names, and the fact that theses on marine biology can be written by students from different departments/schools (they may come from the School of Biological Sciences or any one of the former departments of Botany, Cell Biology, Zoology, or Biochemistry; they can also come from the Department of Chemistry
, the former School of Geography and Environmental Science, the former Geology Department, the current School of Geography, Geology, and Environmental Science
, the Law School, and so on).
Recently, as a result of another project (the BUGS entomological database), it was decided to assemble a chronological list of University of Auckland theses in another biological subject area, namely entomology. Working from Voyager records as well as comprehensive BUGS records, it was possible to identify all BSc Hons, MSc and PhDs entomology theses submitted to the University of Auckland since 1962. The tabular format is in chronological order of cataloguing rather than completion (so as to preserve a progressive numerical sequence) and the taxonomic colour code is by major order. Each thesis is hyperlinked to the appropriate Voyager record. The two page files
are linked from the Resources by Subject: Biological Sciences
Marine Biology theses
Once the Entomology list was completed, a similar but more extensive project was undertaken for the marine biology theses. This involved some historical detective work on behalf of Library Assistant Bevan Shortridge and myself, because there was greater variation in cataloguing and author affiliation compared to the Entomology list, and a greater time period covered (1949 onwards). A stock-take of all theses held at the Leigh Marine Laboratory
proved necessary because some thesis titles are only held there whilst a few others are only held at General Library (although many are duplicated between both places). The format used for the final listing is the same as that used for the Entomology theses, but with a less comprehensive taxonomic key because of the wider subject content involved (the ‘Other’ key category includes all marine algal studies as well as lesser faunal taxonomic groups not included in the Pisces, Crustacea, and Mollusca categories).
We have found that the marine pages in particular have proven very popular. Even if patrons do not know the exact details of a particular thesis, it is easy to find the required record by scanning the approximate year of submission. Another advantage is that students have been able to quickly find other theses on the same topic by simply scanning the colour key, which partly eliminates the problem of cataloguing variation over time. A by-product of the list is that it becomes evident which particular research topics have been popular at different periods, which partly reflects research interests of supervising staff and partly commercial influences (in the case of fisheries research).
Shortly after these pages were loaded, an exasperated student who I had observed in the library searching the catalogue for long periods, finally came and asked “Is there any way of getting a list of all marine biology theses that you have at Auckland?” “Well” I answered, “funny that you should ask that…..”
In less than a minute, he had found the thesis for which he had been searching (he hadn’t known the author’s exact name or the title of the thesis but knew approximately when it had been presented) as well as identified several other theses of interest from the same period, as well as others submitted some years later. He was amazed at how quick it was to locate the required information from what is essentially a very basic list.
Biological Sciences and Marine Science Subject Librarian