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Students are given complete control over the accessibility of their work. Upon final approval, the dissertation is distributed based on the permissions and publishing options students select during the ProQuest ETD submission process.
PhD dissertations are published or otherwise made available for distribution as proof of the candidate’s achievement, echoing a traditional European idea that the candidate for a doctorate must make a contribution to knowledge and cannot have a degree for making a discovery that is kept secret. Because of this, restricting access to dissertations or delaying the release of the work (i.e. “embargoed”) only occurs in very exceptional cases.
Embargoes (Delaying Release)
If necessary, students may request to embargo or delay the release of their work for six months, one year, two years, or more. Embargoes require the approval of the University Librarian and the chair of the student’s academic program; embargo periods over two years require additional support from the student’s director of graduate studies. An embargo period can be selected in the "PQ Publishing Options" section of ProQuest ETD. If students would like to request a delayed release of their dissertation of longer than 2 years, they will be prompted to upload a signed document to the “Administrative Documents” section showing the director of graduate study's approval of this request. If students do not have a document when submitting their dissertation they will be asked to have the DGS email the Registrar's Office, acknowledging approval of the delayed-release request.
If approved, the full text of the dissertation is not openly accessible, however, the metadata associated with the work (general information about the dissertation recorded at the time of online submission) and the abstract remain publicly available. Please note:
- Students are responsible for informing their program that their dissertation is embargoed in the event that submission of an additional, departmental print copy of their dissertation is required.
- It is not necessary to embargo a dissertation for patenting purposes once a patent application has been filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. At that point, any invention may be disclosed publicly without a loss of patent rights. (See the Patents page for more information).
When submitting work through ProQuest ETD, students are asked to agree to the Harvard Author Agreement, which grants the University a non-exclusive license to preserve, reproduce, and display the work. This license, which is the same the FAS faculty agree to under the Open Access Policy, does not constrain your rights to subsequently publish your work.
Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard
Through ProQuest ETD, dissertations are made available online through the Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH) portal, a central, open-access repository of research by members of the Harvard community. In the Publishing Information section of ProQuest ETD, students must review and accept the Harvard License Agreement to acknowledge distribution of their dissertation through DASH, pursuant to any embargo placed on the work in the submission tool.
Deposit to the Harvard Library
Dissertations are added to the Harvard Library catalog, which makes student work discoverable. Some programs also require a bound copy.
Students are also required to consent to the ProQuest license agreement, and dissertations are automatically added to ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. As part of the license agreement, ProQuest may sell student dissertations; if authors do not want any sales of their dissertation, they may permanently embargo it with ProQuest. The agreement further allows ProQuest to distribute copies of the dissertation in microfilm, paper, and digital forms by way of thesis subscription, sales, and indexing services pursuant to any embargo. Finally, the ProQuest publishing agreement is non-exclusive and in no way prohibits the author from making any disposition of other manuscript copies, nor does it prohibit the author from publishing the dissertation at any time. (Please see ProQuest license and copyright considerations.)