Some graduate theses are clearly meant to be both a research excercise and produce a demonstrably useful document. I’m not saying these are any better than any other kind of thesis, but they do have an aura of public service and virtue about them. The best example of these which I have seen recently is Tamela Smart’s 2009 Carpals and tarsals of mule deer, black bear and human: an osteology guide for the archaeologist. If you click here it will start an automatic download of the 3.7 meg PDF from Western Washington University (unfortunately, no way to link to a download page). (edit: try this link instead)
The premise of this research is that despite obvious differences on the outside, there are surprising similarities between the hand/wrist and ankle/foot bones (carpals and tarsals) of bears, deer, and humans.