When you are doing research, why are dissertations so important? Especially in history, dissertations are supposed to make unique and original contributions to the field, exploring topics never investigated before. And with enhanced technological innovations in information retrieval and data analysis, much that could not have been researched before can now be examined. These types of work will have exhaustively consulted both primary and secondary sources, blazing the trail for succeeding scholars. So you have a ready-made reference list of many authors, writings, plans, manuscripts, etc.
For those interested in British naval history, N A M Rodger stands as one of the very best researchers in the field. His works are meticulous in their research, and their bibliographies (with his comments) are goldmines of information. Being as he was a professor at the University of Exeter where a PhD in Maritime History is offered, I wondered what doctoral theses were produced there on the Royal Navy. Would you believe fifty, all of them available online for free?
Another of my favorite non-fiction authors in Andrew Lambert, a professor at King’s College, London. Going to their institutional repository will also yield dissertations on naval topics, again freely available for perusal.
Another repository for dissertations is sponsored by the British Library – EThos. Here are listed over 400,000 dissertations with 160,000 freely available online. A simple search of “Royal Navy” pulls up about 100 accessible dissertations.
700,000 online dissertations from 600 European institutions can be searched through Dart-Europe
Tens of thousands of online dissertations from United States and Canadian universities are available courtesy of PQDT Open.