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Finding Dissertations & Theses: Embargoes

This guide will help you obtain the full text of a doctoral dissertation or master's thesis.

Why is the dissertation or thesis I'm looking for not available in a full-text version?

Temporary Embargo

Dissertation and Theses authors can put a temporary embargo on their work when they submit it to an institutional repository (IR) or ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses database. An embargo is the temporary inaccessibility of a scholarly work to any potential reader or simply to those without a subscription to the journal and/or database that houses it. While a record containing basic bibliographic information about a given work will turn up in a search of the IR and various scholarly databases, the material itself will be inaccessible. Embargoes typically last for specified amount of time (e.g., 12 months, 18 months, 5 years, etc.). Permanent embargoes are rare.

To Embargo or Not to Embargo?

When should you consider placing an embargo on your thesis or dissertation? In general, we recommend opting for the more open option and not embargoing your work. However, each situation is different. Here are few points to consider…

Reasons Not to Embargo

  • Increase readership of your work. In making your thesis or dissertation more findable and accessible, you increase the likelihood of others reading your work and citing you in their publications and presentations. This increased visibility might even lead to publishing opportunities (Truschke, 2015).
  • Promote the sharing of knowledge within and across disciplines. Transparency encourages good research practice, promotes collegiality, and helps further the conversations and debates taking place within various scholarly communities.
  • Fight plagiarism. Once you’ve made your work openly available, it will be easier to document and contest instances of plagiarism (Indiana University Libraries, 2015).
  • Encourage future scholars. Students new to research often turn to previously published theses and dissertations to get a better sense of disciplinary standards and conventions (Indiana University Libraries, 2015).

Reasons to Embargo

  • Impact on commercial interests. You plan to file a patent related to your research and worry about getting scooped.
  • Impact on future publication opportunities. In certain circumstances, making your thesis or dissertation widely available could hinder your chances of publishing your work, or later iterations of your work, in other venues. A creative writing graduate student, for instance, may want to sell the short stories he or she wrote for the program to a literary magazine. If those stories are already available through another publishing channel, this might not be possible.
  • Your research contains sensitive data. And the data cannot be de-identified or anonymized.
  • Funder requirements. The terms of the grant you received stipulate that you must delay sharing your findings until your sponsor has reviewed your work.

References / Further Reading

Indiana University Libraries. (2015, March 3). Workshop recap: Should I embargo my dissertation? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blogs.libraries.indiana.edu/scholcomm/2015/03/03/workshop-recap-should-i-embargo-my-dissertation/

Truschke, A. (2015, April 20). To embargo your dissertation, or not? Retrieved from http://dissertationreviews.org/archives/11995