The format of each entry is as follows:
author's surname with initials;
title of thesis;
degree awarded; awarding institution; and date.
In addition, for almost all entries since 1950, an ASLIB reference number is listed.
No further comment on this straightforward format would be required if all entries had been abstracted from a single source. However, as we indicated above, recourse has been made to a variety of source materials. While each provides the same kinds of information (the ASLIB number apart), sometimes the data on a particular thesis varies considerably. Indeed, the only element which can be guaranteed to be identical in all cases is the degree awarded. All other components may vary from source to source. Author's names can differ in terms of the inclusion of some or all initials. In the case of non-Western names, some confusion can arise over the surname. The greatest potential problem occurs when female post-graduates change their marital status, with the effect that the unmarried name may appear on the actual thesis, but the degree is awarded under the new name. The awarding institution may return the latter, even though the thesis may bear the previous name.
Titles of theses can vary in terms of full or abbreviated title. Titles comprising two or more phrases, and using a colon or semi-colon, may become truncated, with only the opening phrase appearing in some listings.
Information on degree-awarding institutions varies only in terms of detail. Where an institution comprises constituent colleges, some sources list both college and institution, while the principal indices record only the degree-awarding body. This presents no serious problem, for it is the degree-awarding institution which will be the holder of the thesis. However, for a short period in the 1960s,higher degrees awarded by polytechnics under the auspices of the Council for National Academic Awards were listed simply as CNAA, with no reference to individual institutions.
The dates of theses give rise to the greatest discrepancies. Irrespective of the considerable scope for confusion over academic and calendar years, problems can arise from a difference between the actual date on the typescript and the date the degree was awarded.