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Scholarly Communication: Dissertations and Open Access at UC Berkeley: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ETD?

ETD is an acronym for Electronic Thesis and Dissertation.

All UC Berkeley graduate students submit their dissertation or thesis electronically. For complete filing instructions go to the Graduate Division website (Procedure for filing your dissertation). 

As stated by the Grad Division:

"Filing your doctoral dissertation ... is one of the final steps leading to the award of your graduate degree. Your manuscript is a scholarly presentation of the results of the research you conducted. UC Berkeley upholds the tradition that you have an obligation to make your research available to other scholars."

When will researchers and the public be able to read my dissertation?

As part of the filing process, you will fill out a Dissertation Release Form  which gives you two options:

  • Immediate Release (open access)
  • Embargo of 2 Years

Why opt for Immediate Release?

Immediate Release: When you choose "immediate release," you select the open access (OA) option. Open access dissertations are free, online and available to anyone. As with any scholarly work, open access research must be properly acknowledged and cited. OA allows for greater dissemination of your work and has the advantage of allowing you to immediately establish yourself as a scholar in your discipline. This can protect against plagiarism by ensuring that others will discover your research prior to its publication as a book. Rosemary Joyce, Associate Dean of the Graduate Division, argues in the letter below that "Knowledge of the work of younger scholars may be increased by promoting discovery beyond limited professional networks. Citing the dissertation by others can be offered as evidence of research significance."

Why opt for an Embargo?

Embargo: In some cases an embargo during which others cannot access your dissertation may be appropriate. This option is for scholars seeking patents or who need to protect sensitive data or information. Please discuss with your dissertation chair before deciding whether or not to place an embargo period on your dissertation.

More questions about embargoes

  • I meant to embargo my dissertation, what do I do now that it is out there?
  • I had embargoed my dissertation, but now it is in eScholarship, what do I do?
  • I opted for immediate release but have changed my mind, what do I do?

All embargoes have a limited time date (up to two years from the filing date) so if you embargoed your dissertation but discover that it is now openly available on the online catalog or eScholarship, your dissertation may have been released. If you have other questions about a dissertation embargo, contact the Graduate Division. Grad Division will notify the Library, if appropriate, about removing public access to embargoed dissertations.

So, what should I do?

Ultimately, the decision to embargo a dissertation is a personal one that scholars must make for themselves in consultation with their advisors.

Will releasing my dissertation immediately hurt my chances of getting it published? What if I hope to publish my dissertation as a book?

A 2013 study on ETDs indicates that more than 90% of university presses will consider an open access ETD for publication. (Numbers vary significantly by discipline: dissertations in the fields of romance literature, psychology and mathematical methods in the social sciences, according to the survey, would not be considered for publication if they had been previously released as an openly available ETD.)

The American Historical Association (AHA), in a July 2013 statement on PhD dissertations, argues that "university presses are reluctant to offer a publishing contract to newly minted PhDs whose dissertations have been freely available via online sources."

Is an open access dissertation considered a prior publication?

The 2013 study on ETDs also explored the issue of whether openly accessible ETDs should be considered prior publication which would mean that journal editors and academic presses are less likely to consider it for publication. The consensus was that any dissertation is "unpublished" and that creating and posting a PDF of a dissertation does not change that status. 

The 2013 study includes comments from University Press directors. Those from larger academic presses seem to be particularly open to considering ETDs for publication because, as stated in a Harvard Unviersity Press blog post,

"Generally speaking, when we at the HUP take on a young scholar's first book, whether in history or other disciplines, we expect that the final product will be so broadened, deepened, reconsidered, and restructured that the availability of the dissertation is irrelevant."

Do I need to pay any fee to make my dissertation openly available?

No, there is no fee to make your dissertation openly available through the Grad Division procedures. Offers to make your dissertation available for an extra fee can be declined unless you decide you want that service.

How can people find my dissertation?

  • OskiCat Library Catalog: Berkeley dissertations will continue to be cataloged in OskiCat. Dissertations published since 2009 include links to a publicly-available version of the the dissertation housed on the Library's digital repository. If you select to embargo your dissertation, it will not be available or cataloged until your manuscript has been released.
  • eScholarship: More than 5000 ETDs by UC Berkeley authors, dating back to 2009, are also available on eScholarship, the University of California's open access publishing service. You can see Berkeley dissertations on eScholarship by browsing Theses and Dissertations. You can also narrow your results by discipline or campus. Dissertations made available on the eScholarship platform are optimized to be easily discoverable via Google. If you select to embargo your dissertation, it will not be available on eScholarship until your manuscript has been released.
  • ProQuest Dissertations & Theses: Berkeley dissertations are also available on ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. This is a subscription database to which many university libraries subscribe. It indexes graduate dissertations from over 1000 North American, and selected European, graduate schools and universities. Dissertations published since 1980, and master's theses since 1997 are available in full text.. If you select to embargo your dissertation, if will not be available on ProQuest until your manuscript has been released.

How about copyright? Should I pay a fee to copyright my dissertation?

Please see our helpful guide on Copyright & Publishing Your Dissertation for clear and complete explanations of copyright issues surrounding your Dissertation.

In short, under US copyright law, copyright belongs to you, the author, without further registration.

Those who choose to formally register are eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation (See US Copyright Office, Copyright in General). If you chose to register your work for copyright, you have two choices:

  • You have the option to register copyright yourself through the Electronic Copyright Office;
  • Or, Proquest has an option to pay an extra fee to register copyright for your dissertation.

Where can I go if I have further questions?

Complete instructions and information about the dissertation filing process are available on the Graduate Division website Dissertation Writing and Filing.

Please do consult our guide on Copyright and Publishing Your Dissertation, which also provides a lot more detail on these and related issues.  If you are a UC Berkeley student or staff member, you can also contact our Scholarly Communication Officer, Rachael Samberg, with questions about copyright or publishing your dissertation at rsamberg@berkeley.edu.

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