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Avoiding Plagiarism: Dissertation / Thesis FAQ re: Copyright

Copyright FAQ re Theses and Dissertations

What is INDIGO?  

  • INDIGO is UIC's institutional repository for research & scholarship produced at UIC.  
  • The electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) produced by UIC's Master and PhD students are uploaded into INDIGO each semester, once final approval has been received for all submissions.
  • ETD Publication options for INDIGO include:
    • Open Access: thesis is available immediately after date of degree conferral 
    • Restricted Access: thesis is closed to the UIC community only, for a period of 2 years after which it becomes publicly available
    • Closed Access: closed to all for a period of two years, after which it becomes publicly available. 

Can I use the copyrighted materials of others in my thesis or dissertation?

  • The fair use section of copyright law allows for the limited use of copyright materials without the owner's permission.   If your use would not fall within fair use, then you need to seek permission from the copyright owner to use the material.   


How can I demonstrate I have permission to reuse already published materials in my thesis/dissertation?

  • You must include one of the following in your appendix: 


  1. A reproduction of the publisher’s or journal’s webpage giving global permission and outlining requirements for reuse (which you must follow) 
  2. A formal request to the journal or publisher with a written affirmative response indicating their agreement for you to reuse the previously published material for which they hold the copyright. (For more information see seek permission from the copyright owner.)

      Note: Videos or recordings included in your thesis/dissertation may require you to obtain permission from performers.

Can I include materials that I have already published in my thesis/dissertation?

  • It may be possible to include previously published material such as a figure, image, chart, table or even a whole manuscript in your thesis/ dissertation.  To do so you must:
    1. Check your departmental policies and thesis/ dissertation format and make sure your thesis/dissertation committee agrees. 
    2. Next, you must determine whether the journal/publisher allows reuse of these items in your thesis/dissertation.  If so, provide proof that this is acceptable in an appendix to your thesis/dissertation.
  • Each Journal and Publisher differ on whether they will give permission to reuse your previously published materials in your Thesis / Dissertation
    • EXAMPLE: American Chemical Society Journals  (from the American Chemical Society Policy on Theses and Dissertations)
      “Copyright permission for published and submitted material from theses and dissertations ACS extends blanket permission to students to include in their theses and dissertations their own articles, or portions thereof, that have been published in ACS journals or submitted to ACS journals for publication, provided that the ACS copyright credit line is noted on the appropriate page(s).”

What if I cannot obtain permission to include materials that I have already published in my thesis/dissertation?

  • Copyright law does not protect ideas but rather the expression of ideas (the word by word expression).   You can paraphrase the materials and express the content in a different way in order to avoid copyright infringement.
  • Many departments and programs do not allow reproduction of entire manuscripts or published works in the thesis/dissertation, and consequently students will have to write an original chapter describing the published work.


Can I later publish materials that I have included in my thesis/dissertation?  I that eventually my thesis/ dissertation will be available online. 

  • Students in the humanities frequently rework their theses/dissertations into books that they publish early in their independent academic careers.
  • Students in the sciences many times have figures/charts/images that have been included in their theses/dissertations that are later published in journal articles. 
  • Many publishers do not see openly available ETDs as a problem.  However, you should check to be sure that a publisher will not have a problem.   For the few that do, you might want to embargo your thesis/dissertation so that it won't be available for the first 2 years after you graduate.   If you need longer, you will need to contact the graduate college to request permission to extend your embargo.
    • EXAMPLE: American Chemical Society Journals  (from the American Chemical Society Policy on Theses and Dissertations)
      • “Publishing implications of electronic publication of theses and dissertation material:  Students and their mentors should be aware that posting of theses and dissertation material on the Web prior to submission of material from that thesis or dissertation to an ACS journal may affect publication in that journal. Whether Web posting is considered prior publication may be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the journal’s editor. If an ACS journal editor considers Web posting to be “prior publication”, the paper will not be accepted for publication in that journal. If you intend to submit your unpublished paper to ACS for publication, check with the appropriate editor prior to posting your manuscript electronically.”

Some of the FAQ based on content from UIC Graduate College Guide on Copyright.

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