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Theses: Restricting Access

Information about theses at Southampton: thesis templates, guidance on e-theses, how to find theses
During the Covid-19 pandemic, special arrangements are in place for the deposit of the final version of your thesis.
Please see our practical tips for deposit during Covid-19 for more information

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Why Restrict Access?

According to the University's Code of Practice for Research Candidature and Supervision, para 105, “The results of research should be freely available.  ... theses may be subject to restriction only in exceptional circumstances when the relevant School Board/ERDC, on behalf of Senate, approves an embargo for a period not normally exceeding three years from the date of examination."

If it is possible to remove sensitive or uncleared copyright material to an appendix without detriment to the thesis, this is preferable to restricting access to the thesis. The appendix can be embargoed separately from the main body of the research which can be made publicly available.

Depending on the reason for the embargo, just the e-thesis or both the print and e- versions will be embargoed.

See also: "Theses and embargoes" video

Embargo & abstracts
Please note if a thesis is embargoed, the associated metadata (name, title etc) and the abstract will still be publicly available. If the examined abstract contains sensitive material which should be embargoed, please provide an edited abstract for public release.

Once a thesis has been publicly released, it is not possible to apply an embargo.

Reasons for Restriction

Theses are public documents and copies can be requested under Freedom of Information Act. thererfore the reason for embargoing a thesis should be valid and afall into one of the following categories which correlate to the various exemptions under the Act.

Accordingly, an embargo on a thesis must be requested (and complied with) for the following reasons:

a. Commercial Contract
The contract with a sponsor states that the research must remain confidential for a given number of years.

b. Patent Pending
The University or a sponsor has lodged or intends to imminently lodge a patent application relating to an invention described in a thesis. The thesis should be embargoed until after publication of the patent by the relevant patent office.

c. Third-party Copyright
Theses containing un-cleared third party copyright material should be embargoed until the material is no longer under copyright, unless this can otherwise be removed from the thesis to a separate embargoed appendix.

An embargo may be requested for the following reasons:

d. Publication Pending
Some publishers consider publicly available theses as prior publications. If you have not finished publishing from the thesis, you may request that the thesis is embargoed.

e. Ethical Considerations/data protection
This will usually have been considered when the research proposal was being considered by the ethics committee.

f. Other
This needs to be a substantial reason and will depend on the type of research undertaken. In other words this reason must be justifiable to demonstrate that an embargo outweighs the public interest in access to the research.

How to Request an Embargo

The candidate and supervisor must fill in the Permission to Deposit Thesis form, noting the length and reason for the embargo.

How long can embargos last?

University Regulations state that a thesis embargo normally lasts for no more than three years from the date of examination.

In practice an embargo can be longer than three years if there is a valid reason. Embargoes are agreed by the student and the supervisor who both must sign the Permission to Deposit Thesis form to this effect. The Head of Graduate School must also sign the form.

The thesis will be made publicly available at the end of the restricted period. The candidate is responsible for contacting the University if there are any extenuating circumstances which warrant an extension to the original restriction.

Embargoes & Loans

Embargoed e-theses will be unavailable for inter-library loan to other scholars during the period of restriction.


If I embargo my thesis, does that include the paper copy as well as the e-thesis?

No. For the purposes of embargo the print and electronic versions of a thesis are treated separately. Depending on the reason for your embargo, you may embargo both the print thesis and the e-thesis, or just the e-thesis.

Can I embargo the e-thesis but allow people access to the unpublished paper copy?

Yes. If you embargo on the grounds of third-party copyright or publication pending, only the e-thesis will be embargoed. Therefore people could consult your thesis in person at the Hartley Library where the University’s paper copy is stored. However if any version of a theses is embargoed then the thesis is unavailable for inter-library loan.

If I move material to an appendix, how do I make sure the appendix is embargoed?

If you are able to move material to a separate appendix, save the appendix as a separate file and note on your Permission to Desposit form that the appendix only is to be embargoed.

Does the embargo include the abstract?

No, the embargo does not include the abstract. Abstracts are made publically available immediately on deposit. If the original abstract contains sensitive material, please provide an edited, 'safe' version to be use in ePrints.