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What Happens to Your Thesis or Dissertation (ETD)

Information about Access When You Submit an ETD at Washington University in St. Louis

Reasons You May Want to Restrict Access to Your ETD

  • Original creative work (creative writing theses or dissertations). If you have written a thesis for an MFA, you may need an embargo as creative writing publishers tend to be more likely to see an ETD as "previously published" work than other disciplines. There is a permanent option in Open Scholarship (this displays as 100 years); however, you may also select a period less permanent but longer than two years by selecting "Other" and requesting a specific amount of time.
  • Future academic publishing options. If you plan on turning your thesis or dissertation into a book, you may want to place an embargo on your work while still early in your career. This depends on discipline and other factors.
  • Copyrighted, patented, or sensitive material. One of the primary reasons to consider an embargo is the inclusion of material in the dissertation to which the author is not the (or sole) rights-holder. This might mean photographs taken by a third party for which publication rights have not been obtained. Similarly, if the work is based on collaborative work (i.e. in the sciences) the degree candidate must have permission from project P.I.s, faculty advisors or anyone with a claim to that intellectual property, to submit the work for publication. The ProQuest form requires the degree candidate to warrant that all material in the work is the intellectual property of the author, or if not, permissions for that material have been obtained. Some copyright notes for ETD authors

Points to Consider

1. There are no clear answers – your selections may depend on the your field, the subject of your work, and your future career plans (e.g., academy vs. industry).

2. Do some research:

  • Check your field’s journals to see if they have a stated policy on whether ETDs "count" as a previous publication
  • Ask your advisor, other faculty, or your subject librarian
  • Talk to your peers about what they've selected and why
  • Look at your discipline’s recommendations. For example, the American Historical Association recommended an embargo up to 6 years (July 2013). 

3. Contact Scholarly Publishing (formerly Digital Library Services) in the Libraries with questions about access OR if you want to access a Washington University ETD that is under embargo. Email digital AT wumail DOT

4. You can change (add, remove, extend) an embargo after graduation, but the more you think about your options now, the less you need to worry about it later.

5. You are the author, and this is your work. Decide when and how you want it to be accessed.