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Dissertation Manual


Writing and submitting your dissertation are among the final steps leading to the award of the PhD degree. At the University of Pennsylvania, a student presents and defends the dissertation publicly, and then, with the approval of the dissertation committee and graduate group chair, submits the final manuscript for publication.  Finally, the PhD degree is awarded to the candidate upon the recommendation of the Graduate Council of the Faculties. 

A bound copy of the dissertation is shelved in the University Library, where it is available through Interlibrary Loan. A digital copy is included in the ProQuest/UMI database, accessible online to subscribers and libraries.

Beginning December 2015, Penn will require open access publication of dissertations. Open access publication provides a much wider audience for you, can help to market your ideas to potential employers, and can help make plagiarism or theft much easier to detect.  The open access dissertation, published in the University's institutional repository, ScholarlyCommons, will be available via the internet, including full text searching through search engines like Google. The same legal and copyright protections pertain to open access publication as to traditional hardcopy publication.  The University permits delay of traditional and open access publication as necessary. See Delay of Publication, below.

Dissertations must be submitted in digital format through ProQuest’s ETD Administrator module.  Follow the instructions in Submitting Your Dissertation, and should further questions arise, consult the Graduation Coordinators at the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences, Suite 322A, 3401 Walnut Street/6228; phone 215-898-7444, email: The Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences serves as the administrative clearinghouse for final deposit of all Penn PhD dissertations.

Delay of Publication

In cases where papers are in press, patents are pending, or where there are other intellectual property concerns, it may be beneficial for you to delay publication (commonly referred to as an "embargo"). Students should discuss with their advisor whether a delay in publication is necessary or advisable. 

Beginning with the December 2015 degree cycle, students may apply for a delay in publication by Proquest and in Scholarly Commons as follows: 

  • Enter embargo preferences, if any, when submitting the dissertation using ETD Administrator.  Note that different embargo options are available for traditional publishing (in ProQuest: 6 months, 1 year, 2 years) and open access (in ScholarlyCommons: 3 years initially).
  • A request for a three-year delay in open access publication through Penn's ScholarlyCommons will be granted automatically, and no forms or permissions are required. Simply indictate that choice in ProQuest ETD Administrator.
  • A request for an additional three year delay in ScholarlyCommons requires approval by the Graduate Group Chair. 
  • In the event that a further delay is needed, a graduate may petition their school’s Graduate Dean or Associate Dean for Graduate Studies for an extension. 

Documentation of approvals for extension of an embargo must be submitted one month in advance to the Graduate Division, which forwards the information to ScholarlyCommons.

Complete and submit the form below to request an extension of embargo. To release a work early from embargo, send email to

To avoid release of the work in Scholarly Commons, approvals must be received one month in advance by the Graduate Division.

Authors should contact ProQuest directly for embargo extensions in ProQuest @

Use of Copyrighted, Previously Published, or Coauthored Material

Previously published articles may be submitted as part of the dissertation, with written permission of the copyright holder (such as the journal or publisher) and approval of the dissertation committee and Graduate Group Chairperson.

If you use copyrighted material (images, quotations, datasets), you are responsible for ensuring permission for re-use of that material. In most cases, you are able to use copyrighted material under the “fair use” provisions of copyright law. 

If you still have questions regarding copyright and “fair use" send email

University of Pennsylvania policy permits dissertations based on joint work with other researchers, provided that, in such cases, a unique and separate dissertation is presented by each degree candidate. The candidate must include a concise account of his or her contribution to the whole work. Authorship of a dissertation by more than one degree candidate is not allowed.

Patent and Intellectual Property

Any inventions that you make as part of your research for your degree and disclosed as part of your dissertation, and any patent or other intellectual property rights arising there from, are governed by the policies of the University of Pennsylvania, including the Patent and Tangible Research Property Policies and Procedures and Policy Relating to Copyrights and Commitment of Effort for Faculty.

For more information, please contact the University’s Center for Technology Transfer at or by calling the CTT Help Desk at 215-898-9591.

Please note that independent of embargoes in ProQuest and/or ScholarlyCommons, once the dissertation has been deposited, a print copy will be bound and shelved immediately in the University Library.  This constitutes publication and makes the dissertation publicly available in the Library and through Interlibrary Loan.  This may impact the timing and deadlines to file patent applications and/or your ability to obtain a patent.

There are strict deadlines under U.S. and international law regarding the timing for filing patent applications and the public availability of your dissertation. Contact the Penn Center for Innovation to discuss whether there might be a patentable invention disclosed in your dissertation prior to deposit of your dissertation.

Information on Patents for Researchers

Where to Get Help

The Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences


Computing Resource Center

  • The Computing Resource Center (CRC) provides computing support services to graduate and professional students.
  • The CRC is a walk-in support service facility located in Suite 202 Sansom West (Grad Tower B), 3650 Chestnut Street.
  • Telephone: 215-573-4778