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Dissertations & Theses: Understanding Embargoes

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Understanding Embargoes

What is an Embargo?

In academia, an "embargo" is a restriction placed on a thesis or dissertation that allows only the title, abstract, and citation information to be released to the public, while the full text of the work is kept hidden for a limited period of time. Embargoes typically last from one to five years following publication of a thesis or dissertation via the college or university's Institutional Repository or some other publishing service (e.g., ProQuest). Colleges and universities have different rules about whether and how theses and dissertations can be embargoed; however, most embargos can be extended under certain circumstances.

Why Embargo a Thesis or Dissertation?

Most theses and dissertations are not embargoed, but are made  publicly available following their formal defense as part of completing a masters or doctoral degree. Some reasons to embargo a thesis or dissertation include:

  • The author wants to patent something described in the work.
  • The author wants to publish the work in whole or in part in the future and is concerned that making the work public will interfere with this.
  • The author has previously published the work in whole or in part, and the publisher is restricting public release of the work in some way.
  • The dissertation includes data covered by a nondisclosure agreement for a specified period of time, including personal information, company secrets, or intellectual property.

Some colleges and universities encourage all authors to embargo their work, while others discourage embargoes except when they are absolutely needed. 

What are Georgia Southern's Embargo Guidelines? 

As a condition of enrollment at Georgia Southern University, each student grants the University a limited, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce and make publicly available the student’s dissertation or thesis, in whole or in part, in electronic format via Georgia Southern Commons subject to the following voluntary elections:

  • The student may elect to restrict access to the work to the Georgia Southern University campus.
  • The student may embargo the work for a period of one or five years. After the ending date of the initial embargo period, the work will be made publicly available unless the student submits a written request, signed by the major professor, to the College of Graduate Studies for an extension. This request must be received prior to the ending date of the initial embargo period.

Embargoes are intended only for documents that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Includes potential patent pending information
  2. Includes prospective trade secrets
  3. Includes sensitive security information that could be detrimental to the institution, agencies, state, or country if released.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact the College of Graduate Studies at or 912-478-2647.

Should I Embargo My Thesis or Dissertation?

Always discuss the pros and cons of embargoing your thesis or dissertation with your graduate committee prior to submitting your work to Georgia Southern Commons. In addition, to help you with this decision, here are some recent articles that address this question:

How Do I Get Access to an Embargoed Thesis or Dissertation?

If you learn about a thesis or dissertation that you want to read but it currently is embargoed, your best bet is to contact the author. If you are having difficulty finding contact information for the author, try contacting your library or the library at which the author earned his or her degree.