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Theses, Dissertations, and Creative Components: Rights and Responsibilities

Important things for students to know when completing their thesis, dissertation, or creative component.

Reusing your own published work

When reusing previously published work in your thesis—whether it is journal article(s) or a manuscript—use the Journal Template for theses & dissertations:

Why? This template has a built-in structure for providing attribution to your original publication and avoiding copyright infringement concerns. See the FAQ from Grad College for additional information about the Journal Template.

Don’t I own the copyright to my own work?

If you've published it, probably not! Most publication agreements require that you sign over copyright to your publisher. This means you can’t easily share, republish, or reuse your work in future publications.*

So, what can I do?

  1. Get permission before you publish. If you are submitting research for publication that you know you will be including in your thesis, let the journal editor know when you submit your research for publication. Many journals have specific guidelines in place for this type of work. More information about copyright as it relates to publishing and your thesis are provided in the link below:
  1. Get permission after you publish. Better late than never! If you already published your article and you did not ask for permission to reuse your work in your thesis, reach out to the editor/journal for permission after the fact.
  2. Keep the permissions documentation in writing for all reused work. This will be useful if you ever get a letter asking you about whether you have permission to share the research you’ve included in your thesis or dissertation.

This counts for both full articles and portions of previously published works (e.g. figures, images, and excerpts that are longer than a typical citation).

*You can always cite your previous work—and you should cite your sources, even if your source is yourself! However, you cannot copy whole sections of a work without permission from the copyright holder.


And remember! if you published your research with co-authors, they are also copyright holders in your research! Make sure you have discussed your plan to include your article in your thesis or dissertation and gotten permission from your co-authors to do so before you submit! It's important and it's good practice from an ethical perspective, too.

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Abbey Elder
150 Parks Library
Iowa State University