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Copyright and Your Thesis or Dissertation

This guide answers common copyright questions related to theses and dissertations, including reusing your own and others' content.

Preparing for Publication

Norms around publishing thesis or dissertation material vary from one field to another. For instance, in some science and engineering fields, it is common to publish individual chapters from the thesis or dissertation before it is submitted. In the humanities, it is common to develop a monograph from the dissertation after completing a doctoral degree.

Whether you publish before or after submitting your thesis or dissertation, it is important to plan ahead when signing publishing contracts or submitting your dissertation. Will the publishing contract you sign allow you to use the article in your thesis or dissertation later? How does depositing in the ETD repository impact this? Can you use material that you've coauthored in your dissertation or thesis? For questions about the norms in your field, talk with your advisors. With Graduate School policy questions, consult the Graduate School's Thesis and Dissertation Guide. With copyright questions, contact the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.

From Dissertation to Book

Thinking about transforming your dissertation into your first book? Hardly any dissertations are published as books without significant work on the author's part to refocus the manuscript for an audience beyond the dissertation committee.

Here are a few resources to help you understand the process of reworking a dissertation for publication as a monograph:

In reading some of the resources listed above, you might encounter discussions of how having your dissertation available online (for example, in Penn State's ETD repository) could negatively impact a publisher's willingness to look at your manuscript. Some authors assert that you should not put your dissertation online if you hope to sign a publishing contract. However, please note there is very little evidence to support this view. In fact, research has shown that publishers will indeed consider manuscripts that are revised versions of openly-accessible dissertations:

Attribution

This guide is based in part on Copyright for Dissertations, a guide from the University of Michigan Library Copyright Office, which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.