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Research Guides

Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs): Using Previously Published Work in ETDs

Using Published Articles in Your Thesis or Dissertation

Graduate students often write and publish articles, which they later include in their doctoral dissertations. This is an overview of issues to consider and general trends in publisher policies. For information about your situation, please read the policies of the journals in which your articles were published. You can often find them on the publisher's website in sections labelled "authors rights" or "copyright." Also, feel free to contact the UW Libraries Electronic Thesis and Dissertation team at uwlib-etd@uw.edu.

Do you still own the copyright?

Your publication agreement affects your dissertation and its dissemination

Your publication agreements have implications when you submit your dissertation.

• You may not own the copyright to your article. By the time your article is published, you may have transferred your copyright to your publisher. Nevertheless, publishers often allow authors to include their articles within their dissertations under certain conditions.

• If you do not own the copyright to your article, you may need permission to distribute your dissertation in the ways required by UW's Graduate School. When you deposit your UW dissertation electronically into UW's thesis and dissertation administrator platform it will go into these two different databases where people can find it. Here's an infographic with more information about the process.

  1.  ResearchWorks is UW's non-profit repository. Many publishers allow articles to be included within your dissertation in ResearchWorks. They might require an embargo on public access for 12-24 months. This page explains how to embargo your dissertation. More information about embargoes is below and in the access section of this guide.
  2.  ProQuest Theses and Dissertations Global is a well-known database maintained by the ProQuest company. Publishers' default policies may not permit this use because Theses and Dissertations Global is a commercial product. So you may need to seek permission from your publisher to include the article in this database. If you have not yet signed your publishing contract, you might negotiate with your publisher to allow this use.

Embargoes as a compromise

Embargoes are temporary limits on access to your thesis or dissertation

Your publisher may want to be the first to share your peer-reviewed article, so they often require authors to wait for a period of time before sharing their accepted manuscripts publicly. This is known as an embargo.

Embargoes can be placed either on the ProQuest system, the UW Libraries' ResearchWorks, or both. The default selection in both is for no delay or embargo, with delays of 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years available on the ProQuest system, and 1, 2 and 5 years on ResearchWorks. It is also possible to restrict access so that only ProQuest database subscribers, or UW users, or both can see your dissertation during the embargo period. Here is an explanation of your embargo options when you deposit your dissertation. See access decisions for more information.

Getting permissions

What do your publisher's policies allow?

As a reminder, publishers grow more controlling of manuscripts as they near publication. To research how your publisher allows authors to to use different article versions try these sites:

  • The SherpaRomeo database provides quick information about many journal policies. Remember, though, that publisher policies can change.
  • We recommend confirming what you learn in SherpaRomeo by checking your publisher's website. Pages on "authors rights," "copyright," "sharing," or "archiving" are a good place to start.

How to get permission

If your publisher's default policy does not allow its articles to be distributed a commercial platform, don't worry. You can:

1. Speak to your editor and explain that your complete dissertation, which includes your published article, must be deposited into the ProQuest Theses and Dissertations database to comply with UW's graduation requirements. Ask your editor for permission to include (the author's accepted manuscript version of) your article in the ProQuest database.

2. If your editor cannot provide you the permission you need, ask whom to contact.

3. Once you locate the person or entity who handles permissions for your publisher, request permission to include the article you wrote in the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database, as required by UW's Graduate School. It's good to get permission in writing. You can find a sample permission letter on page three of this guide to copyright and your dissertation. Be aware that you might be referred to an online system instead of to a person.

3. Be cautious if you are asked to pay any fees. Make certain that the publisher understands the type of limited permission you are seeking. Contact the UW Libraries Scholarly Communications and Publishing Department at uwlib-scp@uw.edu if you need assistance. 

4. Keep records of all of your correspondence.

Article versions in the publishing process

Publishers think of articles in three stages, and assert more control over articles as they near publication. Your publisher's policies on sharing articles will probably vary for the following article versions, so pay close attention to what they say about each.

Text-x-generic.svg1. The version of the article an author submits to a journal is called the "pre-print," "submitted manuscript," or "author's original manuscript." Traditional journal publishers are less likely to be concerned about submitted manuscripts. Often, authors may continue to use and share them for a variety of purposes.

Edit-metadata.svg2.  Once the peer review process is complete, an article is accepted for publication. This version is called the "accepted manuscript" or the "post print." This version most closely represents what you will include in your thesis or dissertation, so pay special attention to how your publisher treats it. Publishers' policies for accepted manuscripts will likely be more strict than for the submitted manuscripts.

Text-x-generic-apply.svg3. After final editing and formatting, the article is published in the journal. This version of the article might be called the "final published version" or "version of record". Traditional publishing agreements give publishers exclusive rights to the published versions of articles while allowing authors to use them in limited ways.