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When Ben Miller, a researcher at the Graduate Center, City University New York (CUNY), began his research looking into subject terms and keywords people used to describe their dissertations topics, there was only really one company he could turn to: ProQuest.
“My dissertation research is on dissertations, so in many ways I couldn’t do this without ProQuest’s help! Or at least I could have still done it, but it would be on a much smaller scale.”
Ben is using ProQuest’s dissertations data to analyze nearly 3,000 dissertations published between 2001 and 2010 in his field of composition and rhetoric. The work includes doing a metadata analysis of the subject terms and keywords that have been chosen during the upload process, as well as reviewing the dissertation abstracts and methodology used in writing the dissertations.
“It’s been a really interesting project,” said Ben, “though not as fruitful as you would expect. There is a lot of spread in the terms used, but reading the abstracts and understanding the methodology used in a dissertation project has helped and I’m able to visualize it and find patterns and trends.”
Ben’s first challenge when starting the research was actually getting the data. “My initial option was to go through the ProQuest Dissertations Abstracts database and pull out the terms for each of the dissertations I was interested in one by one, but that was not really feasible. So I was trying to find some method online to extract information from the database results—but I found in the terms of
use of the database that I’m not supposed to do that, so I had to try something else.”
The answer came when a friend of his sat on the same panel at the MLA conference as Austin McLean, Director, Publishing, ProQuest Dissertation Publishing. “My friend was discussing my predicament and asked if there was anything ProQuest could do to help. Austin McLean got in touch with me directly and we were able to work out a solution, which involved ProQuest providing all the data I needed in a large spreadsheet which made it much easier to analyze.”
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