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About Embargoes

Embargoes are restrictions that allow only the title, abstract, and citation information about your dissertation to be released to the public, while the full text of your work is kept hidden for a specified period of time.

Some candidates for master’s or doctoral degrees are concerned that distributing their thesis or dissertation will make it harder for their work to be published. Most publishers, however, do not view the digital submission and release of your thesis or dissertation as a prior publication (see Ramirez, M., Dalton, J., et al., Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities? [College and Research Libraries, 2013]).  Because of the significant editorial and revision required when a thesis or dissertation is reworked as a published monograph or as a journal article, most publishers are not concerned with prior distribution of the original thesis or dissertation.

Making your work openly accessible accrues a number of benefits. Your scholarly work will be readily available to prospective employers as you embark on your job search. You may see increased citation counts (see The Open Access Citation Advantage), because your work enters the scholarly community more quickly and other scholars and researchers have access. You will also receive updates about how often and where your thesis or dissertation is being downloaded from the Institutional Repository, ScholarWorks.

There might be some instances where you should consider an embargo on your work. For example, when:

  • There is a patent pending on the work or there are related issues that might make disclosure detrimental to the rights of the author.
  • There is an ethical need to prevent disclosure of sensitive or classified information about persons, institutions, and so forth.
Choosing an Embargo Period

When you submit your thesis or dissertation, you will be able to choose your embargo period. Embargo periods for up to 2 years will not require additional permissions. Embargo requests for more than 2 years will require that you complete a petition form that includes your rationale for the embargo. The petition form must be approved by your committee chair and the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. If your thesis/dissertation requires an embargo of more than 6 years, the Office of Graduate Studies and Research requires that you attend an Embargo Information Session with a W&M Research Librarian. Attendance at this session must be documented on the Embargo Form and requires the signature of the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. Contact the [[sweref,W&M Research Librarians]] to schedule an Embargo Information Session. It is important to discuss these issues with your advisor and other members of your committee in order to have ample time to consider all implications and be prepared to make an embargo decision that is right for you when submitting your draft.

Please note: Your Embargo Form must have both the ProQuest (PQ publishing options) and ScholarWorks Institutional Repository (IR publishing options) publishing information filled in. Your embargo choice MUST BE THE SAME for both ProQuest and the Institutional Repository.

How People Will Locate Your Work

Dissertations and theses will be indexed by Google, Google Scholar, and other search engines through the Institutional Repository, ScholarWorks, and will be accessible to subscribers to ProQuest’s Theses and Dissertation Global database. If you have chosen to embargo your work, only the metadata (title, author, and abstract) can be accessed by search engines.

Creating good descriptions of your work will make it easier to find by search engines. W&M's Research Librarians can help you do this.


Decisions about embargoing your thesis or dissertation should be made by you in consultation with your advisor. You can also consult a [[sweref,W&M Research Librarian]], with any questions or concerns.