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Copyright for Dissertations

Provides answers to common copyright questions that come up when working on a dissertation, including using others' content and publishing.

Copyright Questions?

The University of Michigan Library Copyright Office provides help with copyright questions for University of Michigan faculty, staff and students. Please email us with questions or visit our website for more information.

Legal Advice

The information presented here is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Michigan, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

If you require legal advice in your personal capacity, the lawyer referral services operated by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan may be helpful to you.

Preparing for Publication

Norms around publishing dissertation material vary from one field to another. For instance, in some scientific fields, it is common to publish individual chapters from the dissertation before it is submitted. In the humanities, it is common to develop a monograph from the dissertation after completing the graduate degree.

Whether you publish before or after submitting your dissertation, it is important to plan ahead when signing publishing contracts or submitting your dissertation. Will the publishing contract you sign allow you to use the article in your dissertation later? How does depositing your dissertation in Deep Blue impact this? Can you use material that you've coauthored in your dissertation or thesis? For questions about the norms in your field, talk with your advisors. With copyright questions, contact the library copyright office.

If you are about to sign a publishing agreement, consider using the U-M Author's Addenda, which may help you negotiate and keep the rights you need in your work.

From Dissertation to Book

Thinking about transforming your dissertation into your first book? Hardly any dissertations are published as books without significant work on the author's part to refocus the manuscript for an audience beyond the dissertation committee.

Here are a few resources to help you understand the process of reworking a dissertation for publication as a monograph:

In reading some of the resources listed above, you might encounter discussions of how having your dissertation available online (for example, in Deep Blue) could negatively impact a publisher's willingness to look at your manuscript. Some authors assert that you should not put your dissertation online if you hope to sign a publishing contract. However, please note there is very little evidence to support this view. In fact, research has shown that publishers will indeed consider manuscripts that are revised versions of openly-accessible dissertations.