Theses and dissertations produced by students as part of the completion of their degree requirements often represent unique and interesting scholarship. Universities are increasingly making this work available online, and UC is no exception. Find information related to open access theses and dissertations below.

UC has an open access policy for theses and dissertations, but procedures and specifics vary by campus

Several UC campuses have established policies requiring open access to the electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) written by their graduate students. As of March 25, 2020, there is now a systemwide Policy on Open Access for Theses and Dissertations, indicating that UC “requires theses or dissertations prepared at the University to be (1) deposited into an open access repository, and (2) freely and openly available to the public, subject to a requested delay of access (’embargo’) obtained by the student.”

In accordance with these policies, campuses must ensure that student ETDs are available open access via eScholarship (UC’s open access repository and publishing platform), at no cost to students. By contrast, ProQuest, the world’s largest commercial publisher of ETDs, charges a $95 fee to make an ETD open access. Institutions worldwide have moved toward open access ETD publication because it dramatically increases the visibility and reach of their graduate research.

Policies and procedures for ETD filing, including how to delay public release of an ETD and how long such a delay can last, vary by campus. Learn more about the requirements and procedures for ETDs at each UC campus:

Open access can be delayed in certain circumstances

Some campuses allow students to elect an embargo period before the public release of their thesis/dissertation; others require approval from graduate advisors or administrators. Visit your local graduate division’s website (linked above) for more information.

In 2013, the American Historical Association released a statement calling for graduate programs to adopt policies for up to a six year embargo for history dissertations. Many scholars found this extreme, and a variety of commentators weighed in (see, e.g., discussions in The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed).  In addition, a memo from Rosemary Joyce, the Associate Dean of the Graduate Division of UC Berkeley, listed several advantages of releasing a dissertation immediately and added that “the potential disadvantages… remain anecdotal.” In the years since the flurry of writing responding to the AHA statement, the discussion of dissertation embargoes has continued, but the issues have remained largely the same. Thus, this memo from the UC Berkeley graduate dean (2013) remains an excellent summary.

Common copyright concerns of students writing theses and dissertations

Students writing theses/dissertations most commonly have questions about their own copyright ownership or the use of other people’s copyrighted materials in their own work.

You automatically own the copyright in your thesis/dissertation as soon as you create it, regardless of whether you register it or include a copyright page or copyright notice (see this FAQ from the U.S. Copyright Office for more information). Most students choose not to register their copyrights, though some choose to do so because they value having their copyright ownership officially and publicly recorded. Getting a copyright registered is required before you can sue someone for infringement.

If you decide to register your copyright, you can do so

  • directly, through the Copyright Office website, for $35
  • by having ProQuest/UMI contact the Copyright Office on your behalf, for $65.

It is common to incorporate 1) writing you have done for journal articles as part of your dissertation, and 2) parts of your dissertation into articles or books. See, for example, these articles from Wiley and Taylor & Francis giving authors tips on how to successfully turn dissertations into articles, or these pages at Sage, Springer, and Elsevier listing reuse in a thesis or dissertation as a common right of authors. Because this is a well-known practice, and often explicitly allowed in publishers’ contracts with authors, it rarely raises copyright concerns. eScholarship, which hosts over 55,000 UC ETDs, has never received a takedown notice from a publisher based on a complaint that the author’s ETD was too similar to the author’s published work.

Incorporating the works of others in your thesis/dissertation – such as quotations or illustrative images – is often allowed by copyright law. This is the case when the original work isn’t protected by copyright, or if the way you’re using the work would be considered fair use. In some circumstances, however, you will need permission from the copyright holder.  For more information, please consult the Berkeley Library’s guide to Copyright and Publishing Your Dissertation.

For more in depth information about copyright generally, visit the UC Copyright site.

How to find UC Dissertations and Theses online

All ten UC campuses make their electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) openly accessible to readers around the world. You can view over 55,000 UC ETDs in eScholarship, UC’s open access repository. View ETDs from each campus: