Copyright Guidance

Copyright and the ownership of Intellectual Property is a key aspect of academia that affects anyone wishing to create and publish a piece of work. As a postgraduate research student, there are several considerations related to copyright that you will need to take into account during your studies.

It’s important to note that students retain the copyright to their work, even once it’s been uploaded to the Research Repository. This also means that if there are any copyright infringement on third party content within the thesis, the students are subsequently liable, not the University.

When you are ready to submit your thesis for examination, you will be asked whether you would like to restrict access to your completed work at the end of your studies. This is because it will be made available to the public on the University of Essex Research Repository.

Use of Copyright Material (Third Party)

As a researcher, it may be the case that you are required to include material in your thesis that is owned by someone else; this is known as ‘third party material’. Examples of potential third party material include extracts from books or journals, illustrations, audio / visual content, tables, figures, computer programs etc.

In the UK, the governing legislation on the use of material owned by a third party is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This is what gives all creators the right to control the way in which their material may be used.


If you intend to include third party material in your thesis, you need to seek permission from the rights holder. To do this, you’ll need to check if the material is published or unpublished. This is because copyright is traditionally transferred from an author to a publisher as part of an agreement.

As requests can potentially be a lengthy process, it is recommended that you start seeking permission as early as possible during your studies.

If you intend to include some of your own material that has been previously published, you will also need to check your publishing agreement to see if you have the correct permission to do so.

When formally requesting permission, ensure to include:

  • Your contact information
  • Material details (e.g. full citations if including extracts from a book or journal)
  • An explanation of how and where the material will be used
  • Any figure titles, page numbers or figures
  • Where it will be uploaded to (University of Essex Research Repository)

Permission not granted?

If your request for permission to include third party material has not been granted by the time you submit your thesis, this will not negatively affect your examination outcome. If you have still not obtained permission at the point of upload to the Repository, it will be your responsibility to ensure that any material for which you lack permission to include is redacted from the uploaded thesis. This may be the case if the cost to gain permission is unfeasible or if you simply do not receive a response from the rights holder.

Uploading to the Research Repository with ‘Open Access’

Uploading your thesis without restriction to the University of Essex Research Repository carries several benefits, including making your work visible to a wider audience, as well as providing a platform from which you can easily share your work with the research community and therefore build your reputation within your field.

In addition, institutional upload is very rarely considered the same as full publishing; you will retain ownership of your work and will remain the rights holder as the author. Therefore, if you are thinking of requesting an embargo as you think you may publish your work in the future, please note that uploading as ‘Open Access’ is very unlikely to interfere with doing so. We do recommend that you inform the journal in which your publishing that your thesis has been uploaded to the Repository during the submission process, as this will ensure any additional checks can be completed as required.

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Postgraduate Research Education Team