Here are some common student concerns and questions about what it means to make a copy of a dissertation/thesis available via ProQuest Dissertations & Theses and in the open access Tufts Digital Library:

Q: Will making my dissertation/thesis openly available in the institutional repository hurt my chances for publication?

Q: Can I delay the release of my dissertation/thesis? What’s an embargo?

Q: I published a chapter of my dissertation/thesis as an article last year.  I’m getting ready to submit my dissertation/thesis to ProQuest and it asks if I am the copyright holder of all the material I’m submitting.  I think I transferred my copyright to the publisher in order to get the article published.  What should I do?

Q: What options do I have if my research contains information about a patent and/or contains sensitive information provided to me by a third party?

Q: Do I have to publish my dissertation/thesis?  It is not as complete or as polished as I would like it to be.

Q: Could someone steal my ideas and publish them before I can if I make I my dissertation/thesis openly available?

Q: I want to use graphs, charts, and images created by others in my dissertation/thesis.  Do I need to seek permission to use them?  What about fair use?

Q: What are the benefits of registering my copyright?  Should I have ProQuest do this on my behalf?

Q: Do I need to pay ProQuest to make my thesis/dissertation available open access? What is open access?

ProQuest maintains a list of FAQs about the dissertation/thesis submission process and copyright that is also helpful.

Q: Will making my dissertation/thesis openly available in the institutional repository hurt my chances for publication?

A: Talk to your advisor, others on your committee or in your department, basically anyone you know, to get a sense of the publishing landscape in your field.  It may be that publishers in your sub-field are not really that concerned about the existence of an earlier, not blind peer-reviewed copy in your institutional repository.  Remember a dissertation is not a book. It’s a different animal altogether.

You could also think about seeking an embargo to give yourself a little more time.  Embargoes delay the release of the full-text.  They are available for 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years.

 

Q: Can I delay the release of my dissertation/thesis? What’s an embargo?

A: Embargoes delay the availability of the full-text of your work to a specified duration of time. Once submitted, a record of the dissertation/thesis is still visible, which provides metadata, such as the title, author, year, abstract, school, and subject matter, just not the full-text of your work. Embargoes are available for 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years.

Should you need to extend the embargo period because you are in the midst of patent negotiations, your advisor may request a one-time extension of the embargo from ProQuest and Tufts Digital Collections & Archives.

For information about embargoing a thesis or dissertation, consult your program’s thesis/dissertation guide.  If you are in the School of Arts & Sciences, contact Graduate Student Services at gradserve@tufts.edu, and if in the School of Engineering, contact enggradstudies@tufts.edu.

 

Q: I published a chapter of my dissertation/thesis as an article last year.  I’m getting ready to submit my dissertation/thesis to ProQuest and it asks if I am the copyright holder of all the material I’m submitting.  I think I transferred my copyright to the publisher in order to get the article published.  What should I do?

A: Try to hunt down a copy of the author’s agreement that you signed with the journal publisher.  Some agreements include statements on re-using the published article in your dissertation/thesis.  Depending on what the agreement indicates, you may need to seek an embargo of your dissertation/thesis, which delays the release of the full-text (6 months, 1 year, or 2 years), or you may need to get in touch with the journal editor to discuss adding an addendum to your signed agreement that allows you to re-use the article.

If you can’t find the author’s agreement you signed, you might want to look up your journal in SHERPA/RoMEO, to see the typical author’s agreement for that journal, before contacting your editor to explain the situation.

Of course, if you retained copyright, for example, if you were publishing with an open access journal using a Creative Commons license, you do not need to ask permission to re-use your article.

 

Q: What options do I have if my research contains information about a patent and/or contains sensitive information provided to me by a third party?

A:  You have a couple of options – embargo or redaction. Consult with IRB and your advisor for more information about either of these options.

An embargo would delay the release of the full-text. Embargoes are available for 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years.

Talk with your advisor, you may seek to redact the specific sensitive information and submit the redacted dissertation/thesis without an embargo if:

  • You acknowledge that dissertation/thesis is reacted and you describe what kind of information was redacted; and
  • The redaction does not compromise your argument.

Should you need to extend the embargo period because you are in the midst of patent negotiations, your advisor may request a one-time extension of the embargo from ProQuest and Tufts Digital Collections & Archives.

 

Q: Do I have to publish my dissertation/thesis?  It is not as complete or as polished as I would like it to be.

A: This is an understandable concern, but remember, this is a required step in getting your degree. If you are concerned about future publication possibilities, speak to your advisor about placing an embargo on your work, which would delay the release of the full-text for 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years.

 

Q: Could someone steal my ideas and publish them before I can if I make I my dissertation/thesis openly available?

A:  This is a valid concern, and we have ways to deal with it.

You can place an embargo on your work, which means no one can access the full-text of your dissertation/thesis for 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years.

You could pay to have your work formally registered with the US Copyright Office.  You can do this process on your own at any time once your work is in a “fixed” format, or you can ask ProQuest to register your copyright on your behalf during the submission process.  Formal registration establishes a claim on your particular “expression” of your ideas.  Registration is a necessary step should you want to sue for copyright infringement.

 

Q: I want to use graphs, charts, and images created by others in my dissertation/thesis.  Do I need to seek permission to use them?  What about fair use?

A: In some cases, fair use may be appropriate.  Depending on the amount and type of material being used, it may be more appropriate to seek permission.  If the material you want to use in your dissertation/thesis is in the public domain, you don’t need permission or to do a fair use assessment, just don’t forget to cite it!

 

Q: What are the benefits of registering my copyright?  Should I have ProQuest do this on my behalf?

A: Your thesis/dissertation is automatically copyrighted as soon as you write it, therefore it is not necessary to take any other steps to initiate your copyright  Nevertheless, there are reasons you might seek to formally register your copyright with the U.S. Office of Copyright. Registering provides a date-stamp, which can be useful in establishing primacy of your work.  If your work is very creative or you think it has potential to be re-used or mis-used by others, you might want to register.  Plus, they put a copy of your work in the Library of Congress; you’ve arrived!

You can register your copyright at any time; it does not need to occur at the moment of submission to ProQuest.  However, the earlier you register your copyright, the more money in statutory damages and attorney fees you are eligible for should you end up suing someone for violating your copyright.  You need to register before you can sue someone, and if it was not registered earlier, you are limited to seeking only actual damages and no attorney fees.

ProQuest can register the copyright for you for a $55 fee.  Or you can register the copyright yourself (fees are $35 or $55 depending on the type of application).

Remember, this is not a required step – and it has nothing to do with your being the copyright holder. You are the copyright holder the moment you create the work.

 

Q: Do I need to pay ProQuest to make my thesis/dissertation available open access? What is open access?

A: Open access publications can be freely accessed online and means that anyone with access to the internet can read your thesis/dissertation.  It does not affect your copyright.  The copy of your thesis in the Tufts Digital Library is available open access and you do not need to pay ProQuest to provide an open access copy.

With the traditional publishing option (non-open access) in ProQuest, ProQuest has the ability to sell copies of your thesis/dissertation and you, as the author, receives modest royalties from those sales.