How many copies of my thesis/dissertation should I order?

You're finished!  You've spent hours writing and rewriting your thesis or dissertation (such semantics!), braved your defense, and spent even more time addressing your committee revisions (to say nothing of the years of hard work that got you here).  Congratulations.  Time to submit and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer for eight days straight, right?


This sums up my feelings on graduation nicely

A couple of issues I hadn’t thought about came up before I clicked submit, however.  One of these was how many copies of my dissertation I should order.  I had no clue, and I was pretty braindead by this point.  So I thought I’d list some people who might want a copy for future generations of sleep-deprived and deadline flaunting scholars.  If you forget somebody, that’s OK- I was able to re-order a single copy for ~$80.


Your parents, and perhaps grandparents, are a given.  After 4+ years of not being able to explain your work to anyone, having a 5 pound coffee table book to gesture at is going to make their day.  Don’t forget to include them in the acknowledgments!


I didn’t order a copy for any friends, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to.  Finish before a friend who started the same year?  Nothing rubs it in their face quite like a printed copy of your dissertation.  It sure is an expensive snub, though.

Your advisor

Do not forget a copy for your advisor.  Again, write something nice in the acknowledgements or pay the price.  I learned the hard way that “To my favorite advisor” isn’t acceptable.

Your committee

Did you receive a lot of guidance from your committee, or shed a lot of tears in their office?  This can be a nice gesture of thanks.


I keep my dissertation on my person at all times (if only to stop bullets)

Your lab

This is the one place where someone might open your dissertation for very practical purposes.  Over the course of my time at Cornell I’ve consulted the dissertations of others surprisingly often, be it for a unique perspective on the literature or to see the nuances of methodology not written out in peer-reviewed publications.

The library

Your campus library probably prints a copy of your dissertation for its own purposes, but its worth checking that this isn’t expected of you.  How else could you perform the infamous $20 experiment, hiding a crisp bill in the meat of your dissertation and returning year after year to see if its disturbed?  Also, some departments keep separate dissertation collections- see if you are expected to contribute!


This probably goes without saying.  You may feel like you never want to see this cursed book again, but you probably will.  Even if its only to drag it out as a war story, or to prove to your date that you really can run a southern blot.