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Discovering the "State of the Art": Conference Papers & Dissertations

How to conduct a comprehensive literature search for scientific or technical research

Conference Papers

The early stages of research findings are often presented in the form of papers presented at one of the many regional, national, or international conferences, congresses, symposia, workshops, etc. These conferences are places where researchers present their on-going research in order to get other researcher's views on their work. Conference papers can, therefore be a good way of finding out about current research. The individual papers from a conference are typically collected together and published as Conference Proceedings. Material presented at a conference is often republished later, after amendments, as a journal article. Conferences often focus on specific research fields or trends within a given subject, providing an indication of what is currently considered to be of importance.
Some sources available at your library for finding conference papers are:

Theses and Dissertations

Dissertations and theses provide a record of research work done by university graduate students. Generally, "dissertation" refers to doctoral-level research while "thesis" refers to Master's level work. Although theses and dissertations are printed, bound, and shelved at university libraries, they are not considered to have been published. They are, however, protected by copyright.

Completion of a dissertation is required for earning a doctoral degree. Dissertations are required to demonstrate a new and creative contribution in the doctoral candidate's field of study. Dissertations also undergo a rigorous defense to a thesis committee comprised of expert faculty members. For these reasons, dissertations provide an excellent source for high-quality cutting-edge research. Dissertations are typically published commercially as journal articles or books.

The Master's thesis is intended to demonstrate the student's mastery of a subject area. Unlike the doctoral dissertation, it is not intended to demonstrate the student's ability to expand knowledge in the field through unique original contributions. But, like the doctoral dissertation, a Master's Thesis must be defended to a thesis committee. In many cases, Master's theses are published as part of conference proceedings or in journals

Some good sources for finding dissertations and theses are: