All students who are registered on PhD programmes at the University are required to deposit an electronic version of their final corrected thesis.
Electronic versions will be uploaded to the University's institutional repository (CentAUR) and will be available to be indexed and searched via the internet.
The following guidance is to instruct supervisors on their role in the process of theses deposition and includes:
- the role of the supervisor
- benefits of electronic thesis deposition
- reasons to restrict access
- information on copyright.
There is also guidance for students available.
The role of the supervisor
When the student is ready to submit, supervisors must:
- sign their thesis deposit form; a scanned copy of the form must be deposited along with the electronic copy of the final thesis
- check that the electronic copy of the thesis is in one PDF file
- check that the thesis deposit form is complete with signatures and all sections that need to be completed have been completed. As noted above, a scanned copy of the thesis deposit form must be deposited along with the electronic copy of the final thesis*.
*If the thesis is to be restricted for a period of time, the director of postgraduate studies must counter-sign the form as well.
Benefits of electronic thesis deposition
There are multiple benefits associated with electronic deposition of (and the resulting access to) theses, which include:
- greater visibility and availability of research may result in more citations
- more efficient and effective research-sharing process, leading to quicker developments in the field
- improved preservation of theses as they are stored in a secure online location
- greater ease in monitoring and recording access and downloads of theses, leading to useful statistics for Schools and subject areas
- increasing the contribution of the University to the overall visibility and accessibility of UK PhD research.
Reasons to restrict access
Any restrictions on access selected by the student in Sections C and/or D of the thesis deposit form means that the Director of Postgraduate Studies needs to sign the Form as well as you. The following list is not exhaustive but lists the main reasons why a thesis may need to be restricted.
The student intends to publish from the thesis with a publisher who views archival deposit as "prior publication". Please identify the policies of any prospective publishers and the conventional practice in your field.
Publishers' policies on prior publication vary. While the public availability of a thesis within an institutional repository is technically an act of publication in copyright terms, many publishers do not regard the online availability of a thesis as equivalent to publication elsewhere, or "prior publication". However, some publishers may still decline to publish a submitted manuscript on this basis and therefore the option of a two-year embargo on electronic access to theses from which it is intended to publish is available.
If you have an idea of the types of journals your students might publish in, it is worth checking the publishers' policies to see what their stance is on the online thesis as prior publication. Encourage your students to contact the publisher directly and ask. If the student is unsure which publisher to go with but is certain that they will publish, tell them not to worry and advise them to select the two-year embargo. This may be renewed if necessary by contacting the Library.
The thesis contains information relating to a pending patent.
New discoveries and inventions should be always discussed in confidence. Refer to guidance from the University's Research and Enterprise team. Patents must remain secret until they are published and this can take up to 18 months after the paperwork is submitted. If a student files for a patent in the final year of their thesis, you should advise them to restrict access to their thesis for a minimum of two years while their patent filing goes through.
The thesis contains material that, if disclosed, would constitute an actionable breach of confidence.
If a thesis contains a lot of information which has been obtained in confidence, or which is strictly confidential to the organisation(s) they are working with, then the thesis must be restricted in order to honour confidentiality.
Confidential information would most likely include information such as medical records.
The thesis contains information which is likely to prejudice the commercial interests of a person or organisation (trade secrets or similar).
A thesis may need to be restricted if it contains information which would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of an organisation or person if it is disclosed.
According to the Information Commissioner's Office, a commercial interest "relates to a person's ability to participate competitively in a commercial activity, i.e. the purchase and sale of goods or services." It is very difficult to define what may constitute information relating to a commercial interest, but one example is if a thesis includes financial records or information relating to a trade secret.
Questions relating to commercial interests can be directed to Academic Legal Services or the Information Management and Policy Services team (email@example.com).
Third party personal information
The thesis contains sensitive personal data of third party identifiable individuals.
If a thesis features data relating to living individuals other than oneself, it will contain third party personal information. Personal data used for research purposes must be used in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016, UK GDPR and Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018.
The main considerations regarding personal data are:
- the data must relate to an identifiable living individual (personal data does not apply to those who are deceased)
- whether the data focuses on the individual as its central theme (for example, information about their spouse, children, work, career, and so on)
- whether the data impacts on them in any way whether in a personal, family, business or professional capacity (i.e. if made available to the public may affect their privacy).
If a student's research features living individuals, it is likely that their thesis will contain personal information relating to third parties. The University has an obligation to ensure that individuals are not deceived or misled about the purposes for which their personal information will be used.
Students should ensure that they obtain consent from interviewees or participants in case studies, ensuring that all data subjects are fully aware how their information is going to be used. It is likely that results will be anonymised, but students must obtain consent and must let participants know that their thesis (rather than raw data) will be made available online.
It is NOT necessary to restrict all theses which contain third party personal information. For example, an objective piece of research on a living artist or author and commenting on personal information which is common or public knowledge would not need restricting.
In these instances, there may be exemptions under the data protection laws, where the information is published for journalistic, academic, artistic and literary purposes.
In these instances, consent would not likely be required, however, you must be able to evidence that any publication is in the public interest and necessary to support the freedom of expression and information, and that to not publish would be prejudicial to those academic purposes. If in doubt, please seem advice from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The thesis contains highly sensitive information, which if released could endanger the health and safety of an individual or individuals.
Special category or sensitive personal data is personal data consisting of information as to:
- racial or ethnic origin
- political opinions
- religious or similar beliefs
- trade union membership
- physical or mental health
- sexual life or orientation
- genetic or biometric data
- commission or alleged commission of offences (these could be criminal, e.g. theft, or civil, e.g. fraud)
- proceedings for any offence, disposal of or sentence of the court in such proceedings.
Explicit consent from the individuals involved is likely to be required before using this type of information and students should take extra care when handling this type of data. If disclosure would contravene the data protection principles, the thesis must be restricted indefinitely.
In exceptional cases, a thesis may include information which, if made available to the public, could put the student's life or another's physical or mental wellbeing in danger. The Information Commissioner's Office states that this type of information may include:
- information about sites of controversial scientific research which may be targets for sabotage
- information relating to the dead where disclosure of this information may endanger the mental health of surviving relatives
- information where the revelation to the public might have an adverse effect on public health.
Students should restrict access to a thesis containing highly sensitive information indefinitely.
This type of embargo means that the thesis essentially remains invisible, as the title and abstract will not be found in the Library catalogue or University repository.
Information on copyright
What do I need to know?
Making a thesis available online is equivalent to publishing a journal article/monograph: the publisher usually asks the author to secure copyright permissions for material used within the publication that was not created by the author.
What training is available to students?
A combination of classroom training sessions and a Blackboard module for students on creating their electronic thesis cover copyright issues in depth.
Students are made aware of the fair dealing defence for criticism, review, or quotation. These exceptions enable reasonable reuse of published source material within their work for the purposes of commentary or critique without having to obtain explicit permission.
When do students have to obtain copyright permission to use source material?
Students are encouraged to seek permission to use material which falls outside of the scope of applicable copyright exceptions. This might include whole images (particularly photographs reproduced at a high resolution or larger size than necessary, or used for purposes other than genuine, germane criticism or review), reproduction of quotations from unpublished works, and lengthy excerpts from literary works (such as whole poems).
Some literary estates are known to be obstructive to research and you should advise based on the knowledge and experience you have. If students use archives, libraries, museums and galleries to obtain their sources, they must ask for permission to reproduce material in the online version of their thesis.
What if permission isn't granted, or a fee needs to be paid?
Students are under no obligation to pay any money to a copyright holder. If the copyright holder asks for a sum of money or expressly denies permission to reproduce their work, a student may include the work in the assessed version of the thesis but must indicate in Section D of the Thesis Deposit Form that the thesis should not be made available online.
How long does copyright last?
Copyright protects all types of creative work (including databases and software) and, as a general rule, lasts for 70 years from the death of the creator. This means that some material from the late nineteenth century is still protected by copyright in the UK.
There are some anomalies to the general rule, and currently all unpublished literary, dramatic and musical works of known authorship will be protected until at least the end of 2039.
Research students dealing with material from the late nineteenth century onwards will need to be especially familiar with copyright restrictions.
What about images and other works which are on the internet?
Copyright protection is automatic, and most online content is likely to be protected. It is prudent to assume that copyright subsists unless the work is accompanied by a statement expressly indicating that the work is in the public domain (meaning copyright has expired).
Some copyright holders make work available for free reuse; students may use works which are licensed under any of the Creative Commons licences provided that they abide by the licence terms.
Why is it important to respect copyright?
Publishers expect authors to have obtained permission to use third party material in articles or papers that are written for them, and author-publisher agreements often require the author to warrant that no intellectual property rights have been infringed.
Seeking permission, where necessary, to reuse works in an online thesis is standard academic practice that students should be strongly encouraged to adopt. Copyright infringement is not without consequences and the University could suffer reputational and possibly financial damage if other people's copyright is not respected.
Research funding bodies often expect the research they fund to be made publicly available and it is important that researchers engender a culture of respect not only for one another but also for those who create the source material they use.