×    Preview our new website. The new site will go live the first week of August.

Library : Services for Thesis Writers

Contact Us

Phone: 540-362-7465

Email: askref@hollins.edu (response within 24 hours on weekdays).

IM: available during reference hours. Our IM name on AIM, Yahoo, Google Talk or MSN is askwyndham; or, just use the box on our home page.


Maryke Barber
(540) 362-6592

Beth Harris
(Archives and Special Collections)
(540) 362-6237

James Miller
(Science & Math)
(540) 362-6653

Rebecca Seipp
(Humanities, History)
(540) 362-6328

Luke Vilelle
(Social Sciences)
(540) 362-6232

Services for Thesis Writers

Our librarians are subject specialists, who will sit down with you to find the best sources, research methods and techniques for your thesis. Ask us a question, or make an appointment for an in-depth consultation: we’re here to help!

Tips for refining your research

1. Keep track of your sources by using a research log.

2. Focus your research question to determine how much research you need to do, and how to start. Example: "What changes have been made in the past three decades to the menus in Virginia’s elementary school cafeterias, and have those changes had an effect on student health and academic performance?"

  • How much research? Break it up into parts:
    • Menus in Virginia Elementary School cafeterias
    • Changes to those menus since 1980
    • Student health and academic performance: statistics and indicators since 1980
    • Can we prove a connection?
  • How to start? Consider who might have published the information you seek, and what format it is in. For example:
    • Menus in Virginia Elementary School cafeterias:
      Government reports, document & newsletters.
    • Student health and academic performance: statistics and indicators since 1980
      Government reports and documents, AND/OR articles in newspapers and journals.
    • Can we prove a connection?
      Academic / medical literature: articles, studies.

3. Try different search techniques.

Start with a simple keyword search, for example elementary school nutrition. Browse the results for an appropriate title, then click on that title to see what subjects or descriptors have been assigned to it. By clicking on the subject links, you will make your search more specific, and find other possibilities.

Subjects or Descriptors? Most databases will let you see their list of subjects or descriptors used by clicking on a link titled browse subjects, browse index or thesaurus. Use these lists to find appropriate terms to add to your search.

No results: if you have tried a simple keyword search, and you have searched for subjects or descriptors to match your topic, and you still have no results, do some brainstorming:

  • Is there a broader term? For example: a search on "manus in Virginia elementary school cafeterias" might not yield anything, but what about a broader version: "students and nutrition."
  • Is there a synonym, or a related term? If "school children" does not give you results, try "students." If "diet" does not yield anything, try "nutrition."
  • TIP: don't forget that to find materials by a person, you search them as author. To find articles about a person, search their name as subject.

Too many results: look for these options under limit or advanced search:

  • Peer-reviewed or scholarly journals only.
  • Dates of publication (very useful for specifying that you want historical materials only)
  • Material type (letters, guides, book reviews, book chapters, biographical articles, blogs, images.)

No full text? To get the entire article, follow these steps:

  • Check for a "full text" link on your screen.
  • Check Journalfinder
    This searches all titles available full-text from Hollins, in all databases and in print.
  • Order via Interlibrary Loan if it isn't in Journalfinder.

Taking it Further: sources beyond the book

Every topic is different. There are many places to look for information; here are some of our favorite “buried treasures” where you might find information not found on the shelves of the library.


Bibliographies are the single greatest way to find information on a topic. Try these searches:

  • In Google, search for your topic and add one of the following words:
    Reading list, bibliography, webliography
  • In the library catalog, do an advanced search for the subject: bibliography plus the word: [your topic]

Subject databases.

Don’t fall in love just with JSTOR! Many of our databases contain texts not found in JSTOR, or anywhere else. Examples are Historical Abstracts, Religion & Philosophy Collection, Psychinfo....ask a librarian to help you explore the possibilities.

Scholarly or Non-Profit Associations, Museums or Archives

Educational and non-profit organizations can be great sources for reports, statistics and other in-depth information on many topics; museums and archives have a wealth of historical information. There are two ways to search for them:

  • Limit your online search to .org or .edu domains (example)
  • Add to your search:
    • AND (association OR organization)
    • AND (museum OR archive)

      Example: autism AND (association OR organization)


Theses and dissertations can be a wonderful source of information, including long lists of sources! Use our Dissertations & Theses Online database to search for theses.


Try a search in Worldcat to see what books are available from libraries worldwide. TIP: Worldcat uses the same subject headings as our library catalog.

You can renew your books online : see our borrowing policies page for the number of renewals allowed for books, films, etc.

Extended borrowing privileges - thesis students may request:

  • semester-long checkout privileges for books on your thesis topic
  • more books, beyond the 50 book limit.
  • Contact: Karen Ryan, (540) 362-6090 or ryankj@hollins.edu.
  • Note: extended privileges do not apply to items from Roanoke College, which can only be renewed once and may not be recalled.

Interlibrary loan books: many libraries will not renew ILL materials, but we will try to request a renewal as long as you contact us before the due date. Call (540) 362-6239, or email ill@hollins.edu

Interlibrary Loan (ILL): we will work with you to try to obtain the research materials you need. Contact us at (540) 362-6239, ill@hollins.edu with your questions. Click here for ILL Request Forms.

A note about ILL and theses and dissertations:

Theses and dissertations can be a wonderful source of information, including long lists of sources! Use our Dissertations & Theses Online database to search for theses.

Note that:

  • Borrowing a thesis may take more time than borrowing a book, because the lending library must scan the entire document.
  • Libraries sometimes refuse to loan a thesis
  • There may be a charge involved with lending a thesis. We will try to get a copy for free; if we cannot get a copy for free, charges for one thesis will be covered by the library. Charges for additional theses will be the responsibility of the student.

Borrowing books from UVA, Tech and other nearby universities: The VIVA Cooperative borrowing program lets current Hollins students borrow materials on-site from participating Virginia college and university libraries. Items may be returned at the lending library, or at Hollins; for more information, see our Borrowing Policies page (scroll down to "VIVA.")

The University Archives collects one copy of all Master's and Honors theses. They are available for viewing in Special Collections (Room 303). Hours for Special Collections vary; please call or email to make sure we are available to assist you: (540) 362-6237, bharris@hollins.edu

While originals cannot be checked out, a copy can be made upon request, unless the thesis writer has specifically requested that no copies be made. [click here if you wish to withdraw permission for your thesis to be copied by the library].

To see a listing of theses, use the subject search in our online catalog:

  • Master’s theses
  • Undergraduate Theses. NOTE: to narrow the search within your department, click on Limit/sort, select words in the subject and type in the department (i.e. history, gender and women’s studies, etc.)

Note that not all departments send undergraduate theses to the library, and not all theses have been cataloged; earlier years will be added as time allows.


Thesis (singular)
Theses (plural)

  • Undergraduate theses
    Please check with your thesis advisor to determine if you should use guidelines that are specific to your department or discipline. If none are required, please use the attached guidelines for your thesis.

  • Master’s theses

Six lockers are available for semester-long use in the library's Coffee Commons. They will be assigned first come, first served; to reserve a locker, please fill out the online application form.

If you would like to have someone look over your work or give you specific answers regarding structure, grammar or citation, the Writing Center can help:

A. Submitting a copy in print

B. Submit a digital copy to the Hollins Digital Commons

last updated 06/17/2016