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Theses & Dissertations

What is an Embargo?

Authors who share their work openly will gain more visibility for their research and are contributing to the scholarly record of work conducted at Carnegie Mellon University. Even so, an embargo on your work may be appropriate in certain circumstances. An embargo is a specified time period to delay online access. Applying an embargo to your thesis or dissertation does not mean that your work will be completely hidden. A public record of your thesis will exist online, including the author’s name, title of the work, keywords, and an abstract. In either KiltHub or ProQuest, the embargo options can range from 6 months to 5 years, and will automatically expire. In most cases, an embargo is not needed, but you should discuss your options with your thesis advisor.

Embargo Dos and Don'ts

Embargoes are recommended for a few typical cases: 

  • Non-Disclosure Agreement
    In this case, the author has entered into a legal agreement to not share confidential or protected third-party materials for a specified period of time. The embargo period should be honored per the agreement
  • Patent Agreements or Commercially Valuable Research

    In this case, the authors believe the research is commercially viable and may want to protect intellectual property rights while securing a patent. The embargo period should be used to obtain the patent not for conducting more research.

  • Publisher Requirements
    In this case, the authors believe that a publisher will not let them ‘publish’ their dissertation in a book or journal if they deposit it in a repository (or vice versa.) There is research indicating that this is not often the case, but this belief is pervasive. In fact, dissertations are not generally considered a true publication. The embargo period should be used to revise/rework the dissertation into a publishable format, or to abide by a publisher's requirement for previously published content.

An embargo is not recommended if: 

  • The author wants to do more research or believes the quality of the research is poor. Conducting more research is not an appropriate cause for an embargo.
  • The author is against depositing their work in open access venues. They can deposit their dissertation in ProQuest, a subscription based database.
  • The author believes everyone else in the department is obtaining embargoes so they want to follow the crowd. Each dissertation is unique and should be evaluated independently.