May 27, 2022

Research Article: “Reference Rot in the Repository: A Case Study of Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) in an Academic Library”

The following article was recently published in Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL) published by LITA.


Reference Rot in the Repository: A Case Study of Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) in an Academic Library


Mia Massicotte
Concordia University

Kathleen Botter
Concordia University


Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL)
Vol. 36, No. 1 (2017)
doi: 10.6017/ital.v36i1.9598


This study examines ETDs deposited during the period 2011-2015 in an institutional repository, to determine the degree to which the documents suffer from reference rot, that is, linkrot plus content drift. The authors converted and examined 664 doctoral dissertations in total, extracting 11,437 links, finding overall that 77% of links were active, and 23% exhibited linkrot.  A stratified random sample of 49 ETDs was performed which produced 990 active links, which were then checked for content drift based on mementos found in the Wayback Machine.  Mementos were found for 77% of links, and approximately half of these, 492 of 990, exhibited content drift. The results serve to emphasize not only the necessity of broader awareness of this problem, but also to stimulate action on the preservation front.

Direct to Full Text Article
18 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.