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Theses: Restricting Access

Information about theses at Southampton: thesis templates, guidance on e-theses, how to find theses

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Why Restrict Access?

Your thesis should be made openly available as soon as possible after the award of your doctorate. In some exceptional circumstances if may be necessary to restrict access to the thesis for a period of time. See below for the permitted reasons for an embargo and how to request an embargo and an extension to an embargo.

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

According to the University's Code of Practice for Research Degree Candidature and Supervision, para 103, “The results of research should be freely available. Theses are accessible in the University Library or electronically through the University of Southampton Research Repository. Research theses may be subject to restriction only in exceptional circumstances but where this is necessary, the Faculty Director of the Graduate School, in their capacity as Chair of Faculty Graduate School Committee may, on behalf of Senate, approve an initial embargo for a period not exceeding three years from the date of examination. Any subsequent request to extend an embargo will require the approval of the Director of the Doctoral College and such a period of extension may not exceed one year in duration."

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

You should provide an explanation in support of any embargo requested. For example, patent pending should provide details of who is leading on the application, stage of the process and the expected timeframe. Supporting evidence should be attached where you have a legal requirement
to restrict access such as a commercial contract. It is especially important to provide clear information when you select the ‘other’ option to ensure that the Director of the Graduate School have sufficient information to approve the embargo.

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.

See also: "Theses and embargoes" video

Reasons for Restriction

a. Commercial Contract
The contract with a sponsor states that the research must remain confidential for a given number of years. Please state the name of the sponsor and the number of years in Part B, section 3. Provide evidence. Both the print and electronic version would be embargoed.

b. Patent Pending
The University or a sponsor has lodged, or imminently intends to 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. Please provide a contact for this application in Part B, section 3 and expected timeframe. Both the print and electronic version would be embargoed.


c. Ethical Considerations/data protection/Confidentiality
Ethical considerations and data protection matters will usually have been considered when the ethics committee was reviewing the research proposal. Please provide the ERGO or other ethics approval number in Part B, section 3.

Where circumstances have changed, such as a change in a political regime, and it may cause harm to make the thesis available immediately, an embargo can be applied.

It is not expected that a thesis should contain identifiable special category data. Where it may be pertinent to do so, and it is possible, this material should be moved into a separate appendix that can be embargoed permanently.

It is not usual for ethical considerations or data protection matters to apply on the electronic version only, but there may be circumstances where it would be prudent to do so. For example, this may relate to situations where the author or participants (named or not) may be opened up to harm should the thesis be widely available on the internet.


d. Third-Party Copyright
The electronic copy of the theses containing un-cleared third party copyright material, not covered by fair dealing exceptions, should be embargoed until the material is no longer under copyright.

If it is possible to remove uncleared copyright material without detriment to the thesis, then students should provide both a complete and a redacted copy of the thesis. The redacted copy willbe openly available while the complete copy would be embargoed for the appropriate period. You will need to clearly mark which is the complete and which the redacted version, e.g. ANSmith-2022-thesis-COMPLETE.pdf and ANSmith-2022-thesis-REDACTED.pdf.

e. Publication Pending
Some publishers may consider publicly available electronic theses as prior publications, but not all. Most journal publishers do not view a thesis as prior publication, for example, Elsevier, Institute of Physics, Nature, Springer and Wiley do not. If you have not finished publishing from the thesis, you may request that the electronic thesis be embargoed.

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

This option cannot be used to embargo the print under ‘publication pending’. Publishers do not view access to the print thesis as prior publication therefore only the e-theses needs to be embargoed where this is a valid reason.

This can be applied to both print and electronic, or electronic only. There is no situation where an embargo should be placed for print only.

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. The Director of the Faculty Graduate School can approve or reject the requested embargo.

Extending an embargo

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.

  • An extension is not guaranteed.
  • An extension will not normally be for more than a year.
  • The Director of the Doctoral College has to approve the extension.

You should apply for an extension at least 20 working days before the current embargo end date. Email requests to eprints@soton.ac.uk