With thousands of students each year preparing ETDs, the creativity of the newest generation of scholars is being continuously expressed as they work to present their research results using the most appropriate form, structure, and content. While conforming as needed to the requirements of their institution, department, and discipline, students should develop and apply skills that will best prepare them for their future careers and lead to the most expressive rendering possible of their discoveries and ideas. Thus, ETDs are a new genre of documents, continuously re-defined as technology and student knowledge evolve.
The first benefit is that new, better types of TDs may emerge as ETDs develop as a genre. Rather than being bound by the limits of old-style typewriters, students may be freed to include color diagrams and images, dynamic constructs like spreadsheets, interactive forms such as animations, and multimedia resources including audio and video. To ensure preservation of the raw data underlying their work, promote learning from their experience, and facilitate confirmation of their findings, they may enhance their ETDs by including the key datasets that they have assembled.
As the new genre of ETDs emerges from this growing community of scholars, it is likely to build upon earlier forms. Simplest are documents that can be thought of as “electronic paper” where the underlying authoring goal is to produce a paper form, perhaps with color used in diagrams and images. Slightly richer are documents that have links, as in hypertext, at least from tables of contents, tables of figures, tables of tables, and indexes – all pointing to target locations in the body of the document. To facilitate preservation, some documents may be organized in onion-fashion, with a core mostly containing text (that thus may be printable), appendices including multimedia content following international standards, and supplemental files including data and interactive or dynamic forms that may be harder to migrate as the years pass by. Programs, applets, simulations, virtual environments, and other constructs yet to be discovered may be shared by students who aim to communicate their findings using the most suitable objects and representations
Next Section: Why ETDs?