Duke University Dissertations

After you have submitted your electronic thesis or dissertation and The Graduate School has approved it, it will be available as follows:

  • The full text will be openly available in DukeSpace, Duke University Libraries’ digital repository, at a unique, permanent URL.
  • A description will appear in the library catalog, with a link to the text in DukeSpace.
  • Your thesis or dissertation will be indexed and available through search engines such as Google.

Open access to your thesis or dissertation as described above does not affect your copyright or ownership of the content of your thesis or dissertation.

Restricting Access to an ETD (Embargo)

While open access is the default, you will be offered several options for restricting access (referred to as an embargo) when submitting your thesis or dissertation through ProQuest. These same embargoes will be applied to the copy made available through DukeSpace. Embargo options should be discussed with your adviser, and both the adviser and the thesis or dissertation author must sign the availability options section of the Nonexclusive Distribution License and Thesis/Dissertation Availability Agreement (PDF).

When to Consider an Embargo

Some scenarios when you might want to restrict access to your thesis or dissertation:

  • If your work is based on data generated through research that will support other publications from people on the research team (such as your adviser), it may be necessary to refrain from releasing that data, as it underlies your dissertation, while other publications are prepared. The embargo options in these situations should be discussed with your committee and research team.
  • If you plan to apply for a patent based on research that is discussed in your dissertation, you should be aware of the rules governing prior publication of material for which a patent is sought. Generally, once patent applicants publish their ideas or invention, they have a one-year window. After one year, the applicant’s own publication may be considered “prior art” that could prevent the issuance of a patent. Since electronic distribution of your dissertation through either ProQuest or DukeSpace is publication for this purpose, an embargo will delay the beginning of this one-year time clock against a potential patent application. By selecting a two-year embargo, therefore, you will have a total of three years (two-year embargo plus one-year window after publication) to submit a patent application.
  • If your thesis or dissertation contains data or material that was generated pursuant to a grant or contract and the thesis or dissertation is subject to review by the sponsor or grantor prior to publication, you should select at least a six-month embargo. If you are unsure whether your research falls into this area, contact Export Controls at the Office of Research Support (919-668-2711).

If you are planning to publish all or part of your thesis/dissertation and know that publishers in your field consider open access electronic thesis/dissertations to be a prior publication, you may want to consider an embargo or check on their open access policy before submitting your thesis or dissertation. For more information, see the Publishing Concerns page.

Embargo Lengths

Duke offers three embargo options: six months, one year, and two years. These options are available when you are uploading your PDF to ProQuest. The embargo period begins from the date The Graduate School approves your thesis or dissertation and lasts for the selected time period. If you select an embargo, your thesis or dissertation will not be available through DukeSpace or ProQuest until the end of the embargo period. The title, abstract, attribution information, and subject classification will be available during and after the embargo in DukeSpace and the Library catalog.

Extending an embargo on DukeSpace

If you choose to embargo your thesis or dissertation when you submit it, and if at any time during the embargo period you subsequently decide that you wish to extend the embargo on electronic access to your thesis or dissertation on DukeSpace, write a brief e-mail requesting an extension to The Graduate School's Office of Academic Affairs (gradacademics@duke.edu) and Matthew Farrell (matthew.j.farrell@duke.edu) at Duke University Libraries. Provide your full name, the title of your thesis or dissertation, your graduation date, and your e-mail address.

If you exercise an extension, open electronic access to your thesis or dissertation through DukeSpace will not be available until five years after your defense. Be aware that this does not affect your embargo selection with ProQuest (six months, one year, two years), which is a separate distribution contract between the author (you) and ProQuest.

Paper copies

While the electronic copy is the official university copy kept by Duke University Libraries and University Archives, you still have several options if you, your family members, or your adviser would like a paper copy.

  • Order a bound copy (paper or hardback) through ProQuest
  • Take a paper copy to the University Bookstore, where it can be bound with a library-style binding
  • Have a local copy center bind it for you

What are ETDs?

An ETD is an openly-accessible electronic version of your thesis or dissertation that will be kept by Duke University Libraries instead of a bound paper copy. The transition to ETDs is a cooperative effort between The Graduate School and the library. All the information presented here comes from these two sources and represents the official policies of Duke University.

How do I submit my thesis or dissertation?

The process is done online. Step-by-step instructions are provided at the submission site, and formatting guidelines are provided by The Graduate School’s Guide for Electronic Submission of Thesis and Dissertation (PDF). The Graduate School also has Word and LaTex templates.

What are the benefits of open access for my thesis or dissertation?

  • Greater visibility helps improve your reputation in your field. Many scholars today do their initial searching on a topic online. Scholars seeking to build their reputation need to make their work accessible in forms actually used by potential colleagues and employers.
  • Scholarly communication happens very quickly today. Internet availability is much more beneficial than the long delays and added costs that accompanied library processing and lending of print theses and dissertations.
  • Your thesis or dissertation will become part of a growing international collection of ETDs through the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations.
  • Because your work, and the fact that it is your work, will be easy to find, it will be much harder for anyone to appropriate your research without giving you credit.
  • Research shows that scholarship available on the internet through open access is cited more often, and is cited sooner, than work that is available only through a subscription or the loan of a print copy.
  • Multimedia objects, including color images, hyperlinks, audio, video, spreadsheets and databases, even virtual reality worlds can be easily incorporated into your dissertation and can readily be made available to all of your readers.
  • You can include a stable URL for your work in a CV or e-mail it to colleagues and hiring committees. Because our database is OAI compliant, your work also will be found by major search tools.
  • Open access more fully embodies the goal of the thesis or dissertation to be a public contribution to scholarship. On the internet your work can reach an audience whose interest in it may have been unforeseeable. New possibilities for interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary research, and the formation of unexpected research collaborations, are created by open access to scholarship.


Initial submission to the Duke Graduate School
Natavan Khan
Staff Assistant

ETD copyright or publishing
Dave Hansen
Director of Copyright & Scholarly Communications
Duke University Libraries

Matthew Farrell
Digital Records Archivist
Duke University Archives

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