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London Metropolitan University

Research Matters: Copyright

Research Matters

Copyright for theses

When writing your thesis it is acceptable to include third party content subject to fair dealing for assessment purposes. By 'fair dealing' it is meant that you should ensure that the proportion of the work used is not excessive (e.g. using the entire work when an academic point can be made from the use of an extract). This third party material could be extracts of text, quotations, illustrations, figure, photos etc. taken from books, journals, conference proceedings or web pages. All third party content should be fully acknowledged. 

All theses for research degrees are, on completion, uploaded to the institutional repository. This counts as 'publishing' the thesis, so as you progress through your research journey you are strongly advised to obtain copyright permissions as you go, as this is much easier than seeking them prior to publication. 

A template letter for requesting copyright permissions is available. Keep records of any documentation relating to the granting of permissionswhere no-response has been provided, and any instances where you are unable to trace or identify the rights holder. A basic spreadsheet will do the job! Also, it is good practice to record when you grant permission to others to use your work.

In some instances material will have been purposely made available for others to reuse, and a commonly seen example of this is Creative Commons Licensing which provides a standardised way to share or reuse  content according to differing conditions.

See our copyright guidance page for information on amounts, durations and other key considerations.

Copyright and publishing

Remember - start from the position that you own the copyright in your own work unless you sign it away to a publisher!

Give careful consideration to the publisher’s contract to ensure that you do not agree to anything in error. The contracts are often available from the publishers’ websites. Things to look out for are agreements that transfer copyright ownership to the publisher or restrictions in what can be done with the work once it has been published.

It may be possible to work with the publisher to amend terms and conditions in the licence prior to an agreement.

Subject repositories

A word of caution here! Online subject repositories like and ResearchGate can be good for networking but they have been criticised and in some cases been the subject of legal proceedings, for not properly adhering to copyright legislation and allowing articles to be uploaded and made available to all where authors or publishers may not have given their permission.


Early drafts of papers, termed Preprints, are increasingly being shared online in order to foster creative thinking and collaboration. Preprints are more common in some subject areas than others and examples of preprint servers (collections) include: - Multidisciplinary 

bioRxiv - Biology

medRxiv - Medical, clinical and related health sciences

PsyArXiv - Psychological sciences

SocArXiv - Social sciences

If you are considering sharing an early draft of your paper, check to see if your intended journal of publication has a policy on preprints. If the preprint is too similar to the final version you wish to submit it could be regarded as being prior publication and it may not get accepted.