Electronic Deposition of Theses: Guidance for Supervisors
All PhD students who registered on programmes on or after 1 October 2012 are required to deposit an electronic version of their final corrected thesis alongside two hard bound copies. 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 ethesis deposition
- Reasons to restrict access
- Information on copyright
The guidance for students is provided elsewhere on a separate page on this website
When the student is ready to submit, supervisors must:
- Sign their Thesis Deposit Form as this form must accompany the thesis when it is handed in*
- Check that the electronic version is the same as the final version and is in one PDF document saved on to CD or DVD (guidance on this process is available here: Submitting a thesis as a PDF)
- Check that the Thesis Deposit Form is complete with signatures and all sections that need to be completed have been completed (form and guidelines are available from the )
*If the thesis is to be restricted for a period of time, the Director of Postgraduate Studies must counter-sign the form as well
There are multiple benefits associated with electronic deposition of (and the resulting access to) theses, which include:
- Greater 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.
(section 2 of the Thesis Deposit Form)
Any restrictions on access selected by the student in Section 2 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 an exhaustive one but lists the main reasons why a thesis may need to be restricted:
Prior Publication: The student intends to publish from the thesis
Patent pending: The thesis contains information relating to a pending patent
Confidential information: The thesis contains confidential information
Commercial interests: The thesis contains information which would be prejudice to the commercial interests of a person or organisation (for example, a thesis where the candidate is privy to trade secrets or similar)
Third Party Personal Information: The thesis contains a lot of third party personal information
Sensitive Personal Data: The thesis contains sensitive personal data
Sensitive information: The thesis contains highly sensitive information which if released could endanger the health and safety of an individual or individuals
Publishers' policies on prior publication vary. There are a number of publishers that consider the availability of a thesis online as a form of publication and that may not agree to publish a student's work as a result. 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 restrict access to their thesis for a minimum of two years; they can always renew the restriction if necessary by contacting the Library. It is recognised that in some subject disciplines it may take a student several years to publish from their thesis. In such cases you may advise the student to restrict access to their thesis for longer than two years. If the thesis is requested under Freedom of Information legislation, however, the University has a legal obligation to disclose it.
Material which is the subject of 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.
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.
Information which could be prejudicial to commercial interests
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
Third party personal information is information which relates to living individuals other than oneself. A subset of this personal information is known as personal data. The main elements of personal data are that: • the data must relate to a living individual (personal data does not apply to those who are deceased); • the data must have some biographical significance for the individual (for example, information about their spouse, children, work, career, and so on); • the data focuses on the individual as its central theme; • 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. Obtaining consent from data subjects is the best defence to claims of a breach of data protection. Students should ensure that they collect consent from interviewees or participants in case studies, ensuring that all data subjects are fully aware how their information is going to be used. Information is usually anonymised and it will only be the thesis rather than the raw data that 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 for containing third party personal information.
Sensitive Personal Data
Sensitive personal data is defined by the Data Protection Act as 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
- 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 required before using this type of information and students should take extra care when handling this type of data.
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 well-being 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 for as long as necessary. The embargo period may have to be indefinite if the risks are high.
You will need to advise the student when completing Sections B and C of the Thesis Deposit Form to include an explanation as to why the thesis needs to be embargoed for longer than 5 years. These types of embargoes mean that the thesis essentially remains invisible, as the title will not be found in the Library catalogue or University repository.
(Section 3 of the Thesis Deposit Form)
What do I need to know?
Making a thesis available online is equivalent to writing a journal article/monograph: the publisher usually asks the author to secure copyright permissions for material used within the publication which was not created/authored by the writer.
What training is available to students?
A combination of face-to-face training sessions and a Blackboard module for students on creating an e-thesis cover copyright issues in depth. Students are made aware of the fair dealing defence for criticism or review. This defence allows students to use a reasonable proportion of published source material within their work for the purposes of critique or review without having to obtain explicit permission to use it.
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 the fair dealing defence. This may include use of whole images (particularly photographs or diagrams), reproduction of excerpts of unpublished works, and lengthy inclusions of 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 include the reproductions of their sources 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 hard copy version of the thesis but must indicate in Section 3 of the Thesis Deposit Form that the thesis should not be made available online.
How long does copyright last?
Copyright applies to all types of creative work (including databases and software) and lasts for 70 years from the death of the creator. This means that most if not all material from the 20th century will probably still be in copyright, as well as some material from the late 19th century. Research students dealing with material from the late 19th century onwards will need to be especially familiar with copyright restrictions.
What about images and other works which are on the Internet?
Content on the Internet is still subject to copyright unless there is a statement expressly stating that the work is in the public domain (meaning copyright has expired). Students may use works which are licensed by 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 usually include a disclaimer to state that no intellectual property rights have been infringed. Seeking permission for use of works in an online version of a thesis is good academic practice that students should be encouraged to undertake. 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. 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.