Skip to Main Content

Dissertation Manual

This page contains frequently asked questions regarding the dissertation submission process at the University of Pennsylvania. *The information contained in these FAQs should NOT be taken as legal advice. Please consult with a lawyer if you have legal questions.*

What happens once I submit my dissertation?

Once your dissertation has been submitted, it will appear in ProQuest (see below for more information), subject to any embargos that you selected during the submission process through ProQuest’s ETD Administrator. The Graduate Division handles coordination between ProQuest and Penn. 

Your dissertation will then be made available through two Penn Libraries resources: physically on the library shelves/Franklin catalog and electronically through ScholarlyCommons. The physical copy available through Penn Libraries will be stored on the library shelves for institutional and semi-public access via interlibrary loan (within the US). The Libraries will also process electronic dissertations for inclusion in ScholarlyCommons, Penn’s open access institutional repository (see below for more information). Beginning in December 2015, Penn requires open access publication of dissertations in ScholarlyCommons. The ScholarlyCommons team uploads batches of dissertations 1-2 times per year.

How can people access my dissertation?

Your dissertation is available through three primary venues: ProQuest, ScholarlyCommons, and the Penn Libraries stacks. 

  • ProQuest is a third-party, commercial resource that provides full-text access to electronic dissertations to Penn faculty, students, staff, and anyone else with a ProQuest institutional subscription. Some dissertations may be embargoed or not available. Members of the public may view the first 24 pages of a dissertation before being prompted to purchase a copy of the dissertation. 

  • ScholarlyCommons, Penn’s institutional repository, provides full-text access to electronic dissertations to all members of the public, although some dissertations will be subject to an embargo period (see below for more information about embargos). Since December 2015, Penn requires all dissertations to be made available through ScholarlyCommons.

  • Penn Libraries provides physical access to dissertations on its shelves or through off-site storage and delivery on demand. Any member of the public may come to the Penn Libraries and access the physical dissertation. Members of the Penn community and members of other US-based libraries participating in interlibrary loan may additionally request and check out dissertations. 

  • Other libraries may also purchase copies of a dissertation to circulate amongst their user (through third-party vendors). 

For questions about the first three distribution venues, please see below for contact options.

What is ScholarlyCommons?

ScholarlyCommons (http://repository.upenn.edu/) is the University of Pennsylvania's open access institutional repository for gathering, indexing, storing, and making widely available the scholarly output of the Penn community. Beginning in December 2015, Penn requires open access publication of dissertations in ScholarlyCommons. For more information about ScholarlyCommons, visit http://guides.library.upenn.edu/scholarlycommons/.

What is ProQuest?

ProQuest is a commercial information-content and technology company that provides electronic dissertation storage and dissemination solutions to libraries, in addition to other library-related services. The University of Pennsylvania contracts with ProQuest to administer upload, processing, and distribution of its electronic dissertations and also provides access to ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses database. 

What is ETD Administrator and how does it relate to ScholarlyCommons and ProQuest?

ProQuest ETD Administrator is the vehicle for submitting your dissertation.  Your dissertation and all of the information you enter about it go into ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses database. ProQuest then sends that information to the Penn Libraries for upload into ScholarlyCommons. 

My dissertation isn’t in ScholarlyCommons - how can I request to have it added?

Dissertations prior to 2015 are only added to ScholarlyCommons at the author’s request. If you would like to make your dissertation publicly available through ScholarlyCommons, please contact the ScholarlyCommons repository manager

Why does my dissertation have two records in ScholarlyCommons?

ScholarlyCommons has two primary collections for its electronic dissertations: 

  • Publicly Available Penn Dissertations: this collection contains publicly accessible full-text electronic dissertations (embargos may apply). The University of Pennsylvania required open access publication of PhD dissertations in ScholarlyCommons beginning in 2015. Prior to that date, dissertations were made openly available at the author's request.

  • Dissertations Available From ProQuest: this collection contains abstracts that link out to a third-party database, ProQuest; full-text is available in ProQuest to Penn faculty, students, staff, and anyone else with an institutional subscription. 

Most dissertations will have a record in both of these collections. 

Do I have copyright over my dissertation? 

Yes. According to US Copyright law, you have copyright immediately and automatically over any of your new works created in a “fixed, tangible form” (i.e., written down, recorded, etc.). You do not need to include a copyright symbol © or any other formal marks to have copyright. See the Copyright Guide for more information or schedule a consultation.

Should I formally register for copyright? 

It depends on what you want to do with your dissertation. There are some benefits to registering, but note that you do already have copyright over your dissertation. To learn more about formally registering for copyright, schedule a consultation.  

Should I pay ProQuest to register my copyright?

Note that you already have copyright over your dissertation, but if you would like to formally register your copyright, you can pay ProQuest to do it for you (you will have the option in ETD administrator), or, for less cost, you can register it yourself on the copyright.gov web page.

What is a Creative Commons license?

You immediately and automatically own copyright over your work, which means that “all rights are reserved” to you. So, technically, if anyone wants to do anything with your dissertation (download it, email it to their mom, share it online, translate it, etc.), they would need to ask your permission first since all rights to redistribute, reproduce, publicly perform/display, or create derivative works are reserved solely to you as the creator. 
Creative Commons licenses allow you to tell others ways that they can reuse/share your work under your terms. Instead of “all rights reserved," you have "some rights reserved." There are many different options you can choose from with varying degrees of openness. The image below illustrates the spectrum of Creative Commons licenses; see this page for more information on individual licenses.

Chart depicting the Creative Commons license spectrum of options

Do I still own copyright if I choose a CC license?

Yes, you still own copyright over your work if you decide to use a Creative Commons license. The only difference is that instead of “all rights reserved” to you (where people have to ask for your permission first to do anything with your dissertation), you have “some rights reserved” to you (where people only have to ask for your permission to do certain things with your dissertation, depending on the license you choose). 

Which Creative Commons license should I choose?

There are a number of different licenses designed for various applications and content creators. Please consult the image above and the Creative Commons website for more information on choosing a license.

Is Creative Commons related to ScholarlyCommons in any way?

No. ScholarlyCommons is the name of Penn’s institutional repository. Creative Commons refers to a “global nonprofit organization that enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools” that has no affiliation to Penn.

I am hoping to get a patent based on my dissertation work. What should I do?

From the dissertation manual

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 therefrom, 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 CTTinfo@ctt.upenn.edu 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.

For more information on patents for researchers, visit this guide.

I use copyrighted materials in my dissertation. Is that okay?

It depends. If the materials you wish to reuse are under copyright, you will need to do a fair use analysis for each item you use to determine if you can use the material without getting permission first. If you do not feel that you can make a good fair use case, you will need to request permission from the copyright holder. Just because you are using the work for educational purposes does not automatically mean that you have permission to use the work.

Want to know more about fair use and other copyright considerations? Request a consultation.

How do I embargo my dissertation in ScholarlyCommons?

When you submit your dissertation via ProQuest ETD Administrator, you will have the option to embargo your dissertation in ScholarlyCommons in the “Publishing Options” tab. The section “Institutional Repository (IR) Publishing Options” refers to ScholarlyCommons. Choosing “no” to the first question, “I want my work immediately available in my school’s IR,” means that your dissertation will be embargoed in ScholarlyCommons.

Image depicting institutional repository publishing options for dissertation authors

How do I embargo my dissertation in ProQuest?

When you submit your dissertation via ProQuest ETD Administrator, you will have the option to embargo your dissertation in ProQuest in the “Publishing Options” tab.  Choosing “no” to the first question under “Access Options”, “I want my work to be available in ProQuest as soon as it is published,” means that your dissertation will be embargoed in ProQuest for 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years, depending on what you select in the following question.

Image depicting various ProQuest options for dissertation authors

What is the difference between a ScholarlyCommons embargo and a ProQuest embargo?

Dissertations available in ScholarlyCommons can be seen by anyone in the world, whereas ProQuest dissertations are only available to those with an institutional subscription (although anyone can preview dissertations). 

Penn policy dictates that dissertations must be made electronically available through ScholarlyCommons, but there are no policies related to ProQuest. 

ProQuest is also a commercial company whereas ScholarlyCommons is a Penn site.

My dissertation has already been embargoed once in ScholarlyCommons. How do I re-embargo it?

With approval from the Graduate Group Chair, you may request an additional 3 year embargo. See the Dissertation Manual for more information.

I already received an embargo extension in ScholarlyCommons. How can I get another one?

If you have already received a 3 year embargo extension, you may petition your school’s Graduate Dean or Associate Dean for Graduate Studies for an additional extension. See the Dissertation Manual for more information.

When can I submit a request for re-embargo in ScholarlyCommons?

Requests for additional embargoes will not be accepted until 3 months before the embargo is supposed to end. Embargo requests must be received 1 month before the embargo is supposed to end. See the Dissertation Manual for more information.

How can I re-embargo my dissertation in ProQuest?

Contact ProQuest directly online or via phone at 800-521-0600 ext. 77020. Penn has no policies related to ProQuest availability. All requests must go through ProQuest and must be made by the author.

I originally chose not to embargo my dissertation on ScholarlyCommons or ProQuest. I would like to embargo now. Can I do that?

  • ScholarlyCommons: You may retroactively ask to have your dissertation embargoed in ScholarlyCommons, but it may only be embargoed until the date it would have originally ended. So, for example, if you graduated in May 2016, your dissertation could only be embargoed until May 2019, regardless of when you request the embargo to be added. Further embargo would follow the normal procedures outlined above. See the Dissertation Manual for more information.
  • ProQuest: Contact ProQuest directly online or via phone at 800-521-0600 ext. 77020. Penn has no policies related to ProQuest availability. All requests must go through ProQuest and must be made by the author.

Note that choosing to embargo your dissertation after it has already been made openly available cannot ensure that your dissertation is not circulated or read; it just ensures that others are no longer able to access your dissertation through ScholarlyCommons site.

I originally chose to embargo my dissertation on ScholarlyCommons, but I want it to be made available before the embargo ends. Can I remove my embargo?

Absolutely. Just contact the ScholarlyCommons repository manager and ask that your embargo be removed.

I also need my abstract embargoed. How can I do that?

You will need to make two separate requests: One through ScholarlyCommons and the other through ProQuest (online or via phone at 800-521-0600 ext. 77020).

We generally advise not having sensitive information in your abstract that would require you to embargo it.

How can I remove my dissertation from ScholarlyCommons?

Penn policy dictates that dissertations must be made electronically available through ScholarlyCommons, Penn’s institutional repository. Dissertations generally cannot be removed from ScholarlyCommons except under rare circumstances, although we may be able to work with you to re-embargo or restrict access, depending on your circumstances. Please contact the Graduate Division of Arts & Sciences if you feel that your dissertation must be removed and provide a detailed explanation of your situation. They will determine appropriate next steps and work with ScholarlyCommons staff accordingly.

How can I remove my dissertation from ProQuest?

Penn has no requirements about whether or not your dissertation is available in ProQuest: That is up to you as the author. If you would like your dissertation removed from ProQuest, please contact them online or via phone at 800-521-0600 ext. 77020. 

Note that all requests must go through ProQuest and must be made by the author.

How can I remove my dissertation from the Penn Libraries’ shelves?

Like with ScholarlyCommons, having your dissertation available through the Penn Libraries is a requirement. Dissertations generally cannot be removed from the Penn Libraries’ shelves except under rare circumstances, but we may be able to work with you to restrict access, depending on your circumstances. Please contact the Graduate Division of Arts & Sciences if you feel that your dissertation must be removed and provide a detailed explanation of your situation.

How do I revise information about my dissertation?

To revise information about a dissertation that has been posted to ScholarlyCommons, contact ScholarlyCommons staff with a link to the dissertation and a short description of the issue/revision, and we will take care of it for you.

To revise a dissertation on ProQuest, please contact them online or via phone at 800-521-0600 ext. 77020. Note that all requests regarding materials on ProQuest must go through ProQuest and must be made by the author.

To information about dissertation record in Franklin, Penn’s library catalog, please contact library staff

I would like to know more about publishing, copyright, open access, and other/related issues. How can I find out more?

The Penn Libraries offers a range of workshops and presentations on these topics (and other digital skills related topics) throughout the year. Groups can request a number of these workshops for classes or other group settings. For private consultations on issues related to copyright, fair use, Creative Commons, and other related topics, please contact the Digital Scholarship group. For more general information about these and related topics, review library guides produced by Penn Libraries staff.

Who should I contact?

Submitting to ETD Administrator

Contact the Degree Coordinator at grad-degree@provost.upenn.edu

ScholarlyCommons embargo extensions and questions about embargo policies

Contact the Degree Coordinator at grad-degree@provost.upenn.edu

ProQuest embargo extensions, removal, and questions

ProQuest: online or 1-800-521-0600 ext. 77020

Typos or other edits on ScholarlyCommons

ScholarlyCommons staff: libraryrepository@pobox.upenn.edu 

Typos or other edits on ProQuest

ProQuest: online or 1-800-521-0600 ext. 77020

Typos or other edits on Franklin, Penn’s library catalog

Penn Libraries: https://faq.library.upenn.edu/friendly.php?slug=ask 

General questions about ScholarlyCommons

ScholarlyCommons staff: libraryrepository@pobox.upenn.edu 

Copyright, fair use, or Creative Commons licensing questions

ScholarlyCommons staff: copyright@upenn.libanswers.com or contact your subject librarian

Where to Get Help

Office of the Provost

ScholarlyCommons

Tech Center

  • The Tech Center provides computing support services to graduate and professional students.
  • The CRC is a walk-in support service facility located in the lower level of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.
  • Telephone: 215-898-9720