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Copyright in Theses

Understand your rights as an author and when reusing the content of others

Newcastle University theses

At Newcastle University, the copyright in all material submitted for a higher degree remains with the candidate. As a PhD student you retain the copyright over your thesis. This means that you are in control over which rights you retain and which rights you assign to others (for example, in repurposing a chapter to be published in a research journal).

You own the copyright over the original work in your thesis, but you may have included copyrighted materials from elsewhere (e.g. maps, tables, graphs, diagrams, photographs, images). You do not own the copyright over these materials, and thus do not have the right to copy, digitise or distribute them without securing the permissions of the copyright holder(s). These materials are protected by third party copyright. This is important to know if you wish to make your thesis available online or submit any part of it for publication. Library staff can provide further information or templates to request permissions, but the onus is on you to secure any necessary permissions.

An end-user licence is incorporated into Newcastle University’s e-theses service, setting out the rights and obligations of anyone accessing the e-theses.

Please note: Newcastle University retains the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), including copyright, over any work you do for the University in the course of your research studentship (for example, in research project teams or collaboration with your supervisor). See the relevant University policies for further clarification.

Will making my thesis available online affect my aim of publishing from it at a later date?

PhD candidates looking to publish the research presented in their thesis as journal articles or as a monograph may feel that making their thesis available online will affect a publisher’s decision. To address any potential concerns, your thesis (print and electronic versions) will not be made available to other readers for six months after submission to the library. This is intended to give you time to rewrite material for publication in different formats. Access to the electronic version in the University eTheses repository can be restricted for a further period if more time is required.

However, many of the major publishers are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (CoPE). Their guidance on best practice for issues around theses publishing states "Where a thesis (or a thesis chapter) contains otherwise unpublished work, such as the first description of an experiment or an original synthesis of an area of academic study it should NOT be considered prior publication. That is, it is acceptable for the work, or parts of the work, contained within the thesis to be submitted as a manuscript to a journal for publication or as a monograph to a publisher for publication."

Some publishers also have specific guidance on on this, for example ElsevierWiley and Sage. As the policies of publishers and journals vary, we recommend you check with your publisher beforehand. The Library can help with this by providing template letters and contact details for publishers.

Using your own publications in your thesis

When publishing, copyright is often transferred to the publisher via a copyright transfer agreement or assigned via an exclusive licence to publish. Therefore if you intend to include work that you have already published (e.g. journal articles) in your thesis you will need to ensure that you have the rights to do so.

Most publishers do permit this. For example, Elsevier state that "Authors can include their articles in full or in part in a thesis or dissertation for non-commercial purposes." However, we recommend that authors discuss this with their publisher directly when their publication is accepted.