Published on October 10, 2022 by Ed Craig, Reference Librarian  
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Legal researchers must, on occasion, look beyond the traditional sources of the legal publishing realm to find needed background information involving expertise of other disciplines. One option for in-depth research of a specific issue is to find Ph.D. dissertations and Master’s theses on point. Litigation research often requires research of dissertations and theses for purposes of investigating potential expert witnesses and impeaching their testimony:

...As with any expert witness, counsel should first establish the expert’s qualifications and background.  While the curriculum vitae can be a starting point, counsel should explore the educational and academic record of the expert to discover any areas in which the expert focused during his or her education.  This would include, for example, the subject matter of the expert’s thesis or dissertation, and any research conducted while in school.[1]

New York criminal defense attorney Thomas F. Liotti describes the payoff of such research:

Although they can be difficult to secure, I have obtained, through my investigator, copies of an expert's unpublished master's thesis and Ph.D dissertation and used them for evidentiary voir dire. A witness' writings can be like hitting the mother load. They must be carefully reviewed for "junk science" and inconsistencies.[2]

Depending upon the circumstances, you may be looking for all research done on a particular topic or only research completed by a particular individual.  In either case, you must first pinpoint the bibliographic information of research work desired and then obtain the full-text version of it.  For purposes of identifying a dissertation or thesis, many Doctoral and Master’s candidates’ works are indexed in various online database sources available to Cumberland and Samford students.[3] 

By far, the best resource on campus for finding bibliographic information of theses and dissertations is WorldCat Dissertations and Theses. Go to:  and then click on the database title to go directly to the homepage.  Once there, “WorldCat Dissertations & Theses” database should show up in the list.  After clicking on it, you should be sent to a Basic Search screen where you can enter author, title or keyword data (or any combination thereof) to find needed dissertations or theses.  You will also be given a clickable option to see the locations where that item is at “Libraries Worldwide.”  At the bottom of the record, you will see a field labeled “accession no. OCLC”; that number in the field is particularly important if you wish to order the document through your local library (either public or academic). At other times, it will be necessary to purchase a copy through UMI (  

There are also numerous databases available through Samford University’s Davis Library website found at which include citations to theses and dissertations, but also articles found in scholarly journals; among them are AMERICA: HISTORY AND LIFEBUSINESS SOURCE COMPLETE, ACADEMIC SEARCH PREMIER,, EDUCATOR’S REFERENCE COMPLETE, , HISTORICAL ABSTRACTS, SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH NETWORK and SocINDEX.  Please bear in mind that many of these databases are only accessible by computer on the Samford campus.  Librarians at the Law Library or Samford’s Davis Library are available for helping you devise an effective search strategy with any of these services.

[1]John Michael Klamann & Bert Stephen Braud, Third-Party Accountant Liability–Prospective Financial Statements Used in Securities Offerings, 45 AM. JUR. TRIALS 113, §111 at 269-270 (1992).

[2]Thomas F. Liotti, Feature: Evidentiary Voir Dire, THE CHAMPION, May 2002, at 26, 28.

[3]Also, many local public libraries may have access to many of the same or other databases that index dissertations and theses.