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Theses: Embargoes and making your thesis open

This guide is intended to provide advice to PGR students on their eThesis

Applying an embargo to your thesis

What is an embargo?

Mechanism whereby access to, or visibility of, the full text is hidden or delayed for a set period.  

So, it delays the point at which someone can see the full text of your thesis.  

It is usually for a very defined period of time (i.e. 1-5 years).  

The period of time will be determined by a range of circumstances e.g. publication plans, funder requirements etc. 

Embargo is therefore all about withholding or hiding the full text for a set time. It is nothing more complicated than that.

There will be certain circumstances in which applying an embargo to the thesis may be advisable. Please view video entitled "When to consider an embargo of your thesis."

The list of eligible reasons for reasons for an embargo is contained on the Thesis Deposit Form.

There could be certain circumstances in which a bespoke embargo could be required. You will need to speak with Dr. Michael O'Connor, the Open Research Librarian for Theses to discuss the particulars of your case.

Speak to your supervisor about your publication plans. Speak also to me. This will help clarify if you require an embargo or not.

It will benefit you enormously if you think about embargo plans or options in advance of you submitting the thesis to Pure.

When you DO need to consider an embargo on your thesis

Circumstances when you DO NOT need an embargo on your thesis

Reasons for an embargo to the thesis

If the purpose of conducting research is to share it and make it available as soon as possible, why would anyone choose an embargo? 

One of the primary reasons why people decide to opt for an embargo is because they are preparing the work for publication. And they do not want their work to appear until it has been presented in a formal publication or publications. This could be in the form of a research article or articles, or indeed am entire book (sometimes called a monograph). So, people often choose to embargo the thesis while they are preparing the material for publication.

Find listed below some of the reasons why people embargo their thesis:

  • Publication - the thesis is embargoed while you attempt to get your work published. 
  • Commercial reasons – the thesis has potential to be commercial and that is why you are embargoing. 
  • Confidential – the thesis contains confidential information – secrets of a business, process or maybe some legal and the embargo is needed because of the confidentiality of the content. 
  • Copyright – maybe your thesis contains excessive amounts of third party copyright  and this is why an embargo is required.

How to apply for an embargo?

If you want to embargo your e-thesis you must indicate this on the Thesis Deposit Form.

Please upload the Thesis Deposit Form to Pure with your e-thesis record. Both are required as part of your submission process.

You can also apply the embargo length and reason when you are adding your e-thesis to Pure in the relevant drop-down menu. 

The E-thesis Team will cross check the embargo in Pure with the embargo information provided in the Thesis Deposit Form

If you wish to discuss publication planning and embargo options, please contact the Open Research Librarian for e-theses, Dr. Michael O'Connor, who can advise on all aspects of embargoes.

If you have any questions about embargoes, please direct to the email address listed below:


The Open Research Librarian for E-theses can help

Common questions about embargoed thesis content

So, as a result of making your thesis open access, it will eventually be visible on Queen’s Research Portal and other platforms. I include an example of a thesis from 2019 that is open access here on Queen’s Research Portal. There is no embargo. 

On the right-hand side is the EThOs thesis record. EThOS is the UK’s national thesis service which aims to maximise the visibility and availability of the UK’s doctoral research theses.  

EThOS, which is run by the British Library, harvest our content and EThOS is the place to go to look for PGR theses. 

So, by uploading to Pure, it is visible on Queen’s Research Portal - on the left-hand side, as well as be discovered via EThOS and various search engines, including Google. This is the best news for you raising your visibility 

In the past when you submitted a print thesis, someone had to come into the library to access it or order on interlibrary loan, but now through your e-thesis and with the right combination of keywords, you are discoverable online. This is wonderful new for being more recognised for your research. That’s the advantage. The disadvantage is that by making your thesis available online, you are more easily discoverable now. So you need to protect your work and consider the implications of visibility particularly after you submit. This is why embargoes are so important.

This is how an embargoed thesis will look on Queen's Research Portal - this is where we PGR thesis content is publicly made available. One the left hand-side there is an image of an open thesis. There is a paperclip symbol visible, which means it is open access – it is similar to the green padlock symbol which means open access now– so it is NOT embargoed.

On the right-hand side, the same thesis is embargoed. The embargo may be identifiable by the fact that there is no full-text content attached to the thesis. There is no paperclip symbol, which indicates the presence of full text now. No full text has been attached to the e-thesis record or is visible publicly. This indicates that there is an embargo on the thesis.