Restricting Access to the Final Version of Your Thesis

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Word Embargo Request Form

In a very small number of cases it may be necessary following examination to restrict access to a thesis. Where needed, this can be done by placing the thesis under an embargo.

Embargos - The Basics

Following examination and the completion of any amendments required by your examiners, you must deposit the final version of your thesis. A hard-bound print version of the thesis is made available for public reference in the University Library (or another library to which it has been issued under an inter-library loan) while the electronic version of the thesis is made freely available online through the University's Leicester Research Archive and the UK's national Electronic Theses Online Service.

An embargo if approved will normally apply to the electronic version of the thesis only. Where there are very good reasons for doing so, approval may be given for an embargo applying to both the print version and the electronic version. The embargo period is normally quite short and in most cases where an embargo is needed an embargo period of no more than twelve months is sufficient. In some cases it may be appropriate to approve a longer embargo period. The maximum embargo period is thirty-six months (three years) from the date that your research degree was awarded.

Reasons for Requesting an Embargo

The most common reason for needing to place a thesis under embargo is because making it publically available would prejudice the commercial or intellectual property rights of an individual or organisation. For example, where the thesis describes research which might give rise to a patent or other commercial application or the work contained in the thesis could mark the initial stages in a new line of research for your group/department or sponsor. An embargo for these reasons is normally needed in lab-based disciplines only.

In other disciplines an embargo may sometimes be needed to protect the safety or well-being of an individual identified in the thesis or because the thesis contains material which had been obtained under a promise of confidentiality. However, these are situations that should be avoided wherever possible. Where the research will involve identifiable human participants, this should be considered early on in the degree as part of the research ethics approval process. If it can be done without compromising the value of the research, normally steps should be taken to mask the identity of any research participants.  

The other main reason for needing an embargo is because the thesis contains material which is due for publication or which you are actively seeking to publish and where making the thesis available publically may prejudice your ability to do so. This is a concern that can raise strong feelings - but it is important to know the facts:

  • institutional deposit does not prejudice your rights as author - you retain all rights in the thesis and are free to publish your thesis as it stands or as derivative works
  • institutional deposit does not alter your status as copyright holder for your thesis, giving you protection against anyone who might wish to misappropriate your work 
  • only a very small number of publishers class institutional deposit as "publication" and therefore refuse to consider works available in an institutional repository
  • where institutional deposit is classed as publication this is normally only if you are seeking to publish the thesis as it stands and without changes (something that few reputable publishers would consider doing anyway) or it is only a publically available electronic version that is classed as published and there are no difficulties with respect to making the print version available
  • surveys in both the UK and the US consistently show the benefits of institutional deposit for those looking to publish their work - in particular, publishers look at how frequently the electronic version of the thesis is viewed as evidence of the work's likely commercial appeal

Requesting an Embargo

If you believe that you may need to restrict access to your thesis following examination, you should discuss this with your supervisors as early as possible - and at least three months before you submit your thesis for examination.  If your supervisors feel that it is appropriate, they will support you in making a request for a thesis embargo.

Sponsored research students must comply with any conditions on the public availability of the thesis that are associated with the terms of their sponsorship. Holders of University of Leicester or Research Council funded studentships should be aware that it is a condition of that funding that the thesis is made available publically as soon as possible following the award of your research degree.

To request an embargo you must complete the Word Embargo Request Form and return this to the Graduate School Office.

The Embargo Request Form should normally be submitted at the same time as you submit your thesis for examination; at the very latest, it should be submitted at the same time as you deposit the final version of your thesis following examination. Late submission of your request may result in your thesis being made available publically.

Please allow at least twenty-eight days for your request to be considered. The Graduate School Office will advise you of the outcome of your request by email to your University email account.

Approval of Embargo Requests

The decision on whether or not to approve a thesis embargo request rests with the Graduate Dean. Embargos will be approved only where there is a good reason for doing so. For that reason, the Embargo Request Form must be countersigned by your first supervisor to indicate that the request has their support. You should also provide documentary evidence in support of your request; acceptable forms of evidence might include:

  • a letter from your research sponsor confirming that your thesis contains research of commercial sensitivity
  • a copy of a confidentiality agreement showing that research participants had taken part under the condition that access to the thesis would be restricted
  • a letter from a prospective publisher showing that they would consider publishing works deriving from the thesis only if access to the thesis is restricted 

Supporting evidence must be provided if you are requesting an embargo of more than twelve months or if you are requesting an embargo of up to twelve months but which would apply to both the print and the electronic versions of the thesis.

If you need to provide supporting evidence but are unable to do so at the point at which you are making your embargo request, the Graduate Dean may approve an embargo applying to the electronic version of the thesis for a period of up to twelve months. You must then provide your supporting evidence before the end of that period. If you do not do so, your thesis will be made available publically in the normal way following the end of that period.

Over the Embargo Period

If your embargo request has been approved, you must still deposit the final version of your thesis as soon as possible following examination and the completion of any amendments required by your examiners; you should deposit the final version of your thesis within twenty-eight days of the date on which your research degree was awarded.

Over the embargo period access to your thesis will be restricted according to the terms approved by the University:

  • if the embargo applies to both the electronic and print versions of the thesis, there will be no public access to your thesis over the embargo period and no online catalogue record ("metadata") relating to your thesis; your thesis may if needed be consulted by your supervisors and/or Head of Department
  • if the embargo applies to the electronic version of your thesis only, the thesis will not be made available through the Leicester Research Archive or the Electronic Theses Online Service but it will be available for public reference in the University Library and there will be an online catalogue record

Please note that as a public authority the University is subject to the UK Freedom of Information Act. Regardless of any embargo, your thesis may still be requested under that Act. The University may refuse such requests only where the information sought falls under one of the exemptions specified by the Act.

Following the end of the approved embargo period, your thesis will automatically be made available publically in the normal way.

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