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Policies and Procedures

Submission Procedure

A general outline for preparing a thesis or dissertation for approval by the student’s department and The Graduate School.


Policies for Theses and Dissertations


A Handbook for Theses and Dissertations contains information on the policies and procedures for preparing a thesis or dissertation, having it edited by the Thesis Editor, and filing it as the final step in graduation.

The Handbook includes an explanation of the University of Utah format, examples of forms and essential pages for the thesis, a list of departmentally-approved style guides, and a discussion of copyright issues.

Topic Approval

The supervisory committee is responsible for approving topics for theses and dissertations. No thesis or dissertation subject may be approved that prevents the completed manuscript from being made available for public use.

Contract Research

According to the standard research agreement for sponsored, contract work, the University of Utah, as a state institution of higher education, engages only in research that is compatible, consistent, and beneficial to its academic role and mission, and therefore significant results of research activities must be reasonably available for publication.

The University agrees, however, for a period not to exceed six months following completion of the project, that it will obtain sponsor approval prior to publication, which approval will not be unreasonably withheld by sponsor.

The University agrees to keep confidential any sponsor proprietary information supplied to it by sponsor during the course of research performed by the University, and such information will not be included in any published material without prior approval by the sponsor (Office of the University of Utah Vice President for Research).

Oral Defense

The supervisory committee schedules a public oral examination at which time the candidate must defend the thesis or dissertation satisfactorily. The departmental director of graduate studies and the supervisory committee determine how the oral defense is publicized. The supervisory committee approves the manuscript after a successful defense.

Submission of Thesis or Dissertation

Following the editing and format approval process, the final thesis or dissertation is uploaded to ProQuest/UMI for public sale and distribution to the University of Utah libraries for public access.

Inventions and Patents

The University of Utah has a proactive approach to licensing University research to industry that has led to the commercialization of devices, drugs, and drug delivery systems and many other parallel technologies.

The first step in this process is the disclosure to the PIVOT Center of the invention and the subsequent evaluation of the invention for patent protection and commercial appeal.

All University faculty, staff, and students participating in research have an obligation to disclose to the PIVOT Center any potential inventions.

Details of the University’s patent policy can be obtained from Section 7-002 of the University’s Regulations Library.

Any questions should be directed to the PIVOT Center.

See the Disclosure Process

Publication of Theses and Dissertations Involving Patents and Restricted Data

Departures from the policies above must be approved by the dean of The Graduate School, in consultation with the Graduate Council, and can be made only in exceptional circumstances in which a delay is required. Examples are (a) to protect the rights of patent applicants, (b) to prevent unjust economic exploitation, (c) to protect the privacy of research subjects, and (d) to avoid copyright conflicts. To protect the rights of patent applicants and to prevent unjust economic exploitation, the dean of The Graduate School, in consultation with the Graduate Council, may delay granting of the degree and/or publication of the thesis or dissertation. The committee chair, with the knowledge of the department chair, must approve requests for this action. In either case the delay should be no longer than 3 years, with possible extension if approved by the dean of The Graduate School.

Students may request up to a 3-year delayed release of their thesis or dissertation through ProQuest/UMI.

Content Requirements

Master’s and doctoral candidates must submit a thesis or dissertation “… embodying the results of scientific or scholarly research or artistic creativity which gives evidence of originality and ability in independent investigation and is a contribution to knowledge or the creative arts.” Manuscripts “ . . . must show a mastery of the relevant literature and be represented in acceptable style. The style and format. . . are determined by departmental policy and registered with the thesis editor, who approves the style and format of individual [theses and] dissertations in accordance with departmental policy” (University Regulations Library 6-203-III-F).

The contents of the thesis or dissertation must meet the standards of the college, the department, and the supervisory committee of the candidate. Style, content, and documentation of the thesis or dissertation are approved by the supervisory committee. The thesis editor approves format and editorial style of the manuscript prior to graduation.

Coauthored Theses and Dissertations

Coauthors as degree candidates

On rare occasions, a single thesis that a student has coauthored with another student (or students), each of whom is a candidate for a master’s degree, may be submitted provided the supervisory committee gives prior recommendation and approval to each student’s role in the collaboration, the thesis represents the work equivalent of a single, independent thesis for each coauthor (i.e., the scope, depth of analysis, and sophistication of approach reflect the work of more than one author), and it is evident that each student has made a significant contribution to the thesis. Candidates for the doctoral degree may not collaborate on a single dissertation.

Material coauthored with nonstudent(s)

A degree candidate may use previously published or submitted material that has been coauthored with a nonstudent (e.g., faculty member, research director) as part or all of a thesis or dissertation if the supervisory committee recommends the material be included and has determined the candidate’s role in the collaboration “… gives evidence of originality and ability in independent investigation and is a contribution to knowledge or the creative arts” (University Regulations Library 6-203-III-F).

Multiple author releases required

In all cases of multiple authorship, releases from the coauthor(s) must be submitted to the thesis editor prior to graduation. Forms for the legal release required are available on The Graduate School website (see “Thesis and Dissertation Forms”).

Approval Requirements

Before the final submission of the manuscript for a Thesis Release, approvals must be received from the supervisory committee members, who sign the Supervisory Committee Approval form; from the final reader of the manuscript and the chair of the department (or dean of the college/school), who sign the Final Reading Approval form; and from the thesis editor, who issues Format Approval.

Publication Requirements

Doctoral dissertations and master’s theses must be available to other scholars and to the general public. The University publication requirement is met if one of the following occurs:

  1. The entire dissertation or thesis is submitted to ProQuest/UMI and copies are made available for public sale.
  2. The abstract only is published if the entire dissertation or thesis has been previously published and distributed, exclusive of vanity publishing. The candidate may elect to publish the entire previously published work.


U.S. copyright law is complex. See details of the law, including an explanation of “fair use,” on the Marriott Library website. “Fair use” is a legal defense and does not grant students the right, even for educational or research purposes, to use other researchers’/authors’ text, images, tables, figures, etc. without obtaining the appropriate permission.  It may be advisable to obtain permission early, or to avoid using material with uncertain/questionable copyright. Students are responsible for obtaining and providing proof of permission to use copyrighted material to the Thesis Office. Table 1.1 provides a general guideline for determining if material is likely to be copyrighted based on age, authorship, and publication status.

Students preparing theses and dissertations must be aware of how to protect their own works and how to avoid infringing upon the works of others. Protection of one’s own work is accomplished through placement of a copyright notice and/or registration of copyright.

Some materials that require permission:

  • Long Quotations: Quotations from published material or another student’s thesis/dissertation, research, etc. that is over one and on-half single-spaced pages.
  • Reproduced Publications: Any material, including journal articles, figures, tables, survey instruments, and questionnaires, that has been published requires permission even if the student is the original creator of these works as copyright is usually transferred in order to publish.

Table 1.1

Copyright guideline.  Adapted from “Copyright Law and Graduate Research: New Media, New Rights, and Your New Dissertation.” Kenneth D. Crews, Columbia University, © copyright 2000, ProQuest).

Creation / Publication

General Rule of Copyright Duration

Created in or after 1978 by a named author acting in an individual capacity, whether published or not. Life of the author, plus 70 years.
Created in or after 1978 by an anonymous or pseudonymous author, or by a corporate author, or a work-made-for-hire. The earlier of either 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation.
Created before 1978, but not published. The latter of either 70 years after the death of the author, or through December 31, 2002.  The expiration date is extended through December 31, 2047, if the copyright owner publishes the work before the end of 2002.
Published after 1992 and before 1978 with copyright notice and renewed if required. 95 years from the date of original publication.
Created and published before 1923. Copyright has expired.
  • Internet Sources: Material found on the Internet is no different than material from a book, journal, or other publication. Easy access and wide availability does not nullify copyright.

Notice of Copyright

Copyright protection is obtained by placing notice of copyright on the thesis or dissertation.

Copyright © Your Name (as it appears on the Title Page) 2014

All Rights Reserved

Registration of Copyright

Registration is not required, but it does place details of a copyright claim on public record. Registration is accomplished by filing federal form TX with the U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington DC 20559, or having ProQuest/UMI register the claim.

Registration of copyright allows the owner to qualify for an award of statutory damages in cases of infringement. Otherwise, a copyright owner will be awarded actual damages only.

Avoiding Infringement

“Permission to Quote Copyrighted Material” and “Multiple Author Release” forms are available on The Graduate School website under “Thesis and Dissertation Forms.” Obtaining permission to quote copyrighted material is federal law. Students are required to obtain written permission (hard copy, facsimile, or electronic signature) for any figure or table in its entirety, any poem or musical composition, words or music of popular songs, questionnaires, prose beyond the amount defined as “fair use,” etc.

Students must use the credit line specified by the copyright owner and place it where required by the owner.

All sources must be cited whenever use is made of the material of others, even if the use is limited and no copyright permission is necessary. Direct use of the work of others without citing the source is plagiarism.

Use of Journal Articles in Theses or Dissertations

Obtaining Approval

If students wish to use articles accepted or published by reputable scholarly journals in a thesis or dissertation or to type the thesis or dissertation in the style of a particular journal for subsequent submission, they must first obtain the recommendation and approval of the supervisory committee. If the journal is not on the list of department-approved journals and manuals of style on The Graduate School website, the chair of the department or the director of graduate studies must notify the thesis editor of departmental approval of the journal, and the student must submit a sample of the journal and/or journal guidelines.

Use of Previously Published Material

Appendix B outlines the procedures for the incorporation of previously published, accepted, and submitted articles as chapters of a thesis or dissertation.

A thesis or dissertation containing one or more articles published by a scholarly journal must meet all format specifications outlined in this handbook. Previously published articles are treated as separate chapters (or titled sections). They may be combined in a manuscript with chapters that have not been previously published. Reprints of previously published articles used in theses and dissertations must meet University margin requirements. Pages of reprints must still be numbered in sequence with the rest of the manuscript.

More than one reprint may be used in the thesis or dissertation if the specifications noted above are met and the supervisory committee considers the subject materials to be related. One reprint may be used as all of the thesis or dissertation if the specifications noted above are met.

The title of the thesis or dissertation must reflect the entire work. There must be an abstract summarizing the entire work, even though individual chapters may have abstracts. Citation and reference style may vary for published chapters.

Any use of previously published material requires that permission to quote copyrighted material be obtained from the copyright owner(s) and filed in the Thesis Office. Multiple author release(s), if required, must also be filed.

Use of Material Accepted for Publication

An article or articles that are accepted by journals but have not yet been published may be used as part of a thesis or dissertation. Articles/chapters that have been submitted or accepted for publication but are not yet published must follow the formatting as demonstrated and described in this handbook. Running heads (i.e., an abbreviated title of the manuscript often with the author’s last name printed in the upper margin of each page) may not be used, and tables and figures must be referred to by number in the text and placed after their first reference.

Property Rights

Publication rights (copyright) are reserved by the author, subject to the provisions of research contracts, patent rights, or other agreements made by the author with the University.

Last Updated: 4/15/22