Writing a thesis

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If there is copyright-protected material in your undergraduate thesis, master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation, it is your responsibility to ensure that it either complies with Canadian Copyright Law, or that documented permission has been obtained to use the copyright-protected material (for information on making permission requests, see Asking for Permission). Simply follow the guidelines provided by Library and Archives Canada. The University cannot offer you legal advice as to whether or not copyright permission is required, nor should any information on this website be considered legal advice on copyright issues. Furthermore, you should make sure to take into account both copyright and plagiarism when writing your thesis or dissertation, as these are two similar but different concepts (see the Overview section for more information).

Please note that some copyright requests may take more time to process than others, such as when dealing with copyrights held by a large organization, when dealing with older information or when multiple or international sources need to be consulted. Allow yourself plenty of time when making permission requests in order to ensure you will receive the required copyright permissions before your deadlines. If you are working collaboratively or co-authoring your thesis, each author or participant should be included in your request for permission or license to use copyright-protected materials.

Under fair dealing, the concept of “research” does not generally extend to using copyright-protected material in your thesis. A fair dealing exception exists “for the purpose of criticism or review” which, if applicable to your thesis, may permit use of the copyright materials; however, this requires that the criticism or review of the materials be relatively explicit. The materials must be specifically identified and analysed; if you simply are using the copyright-protected material as an example or to illustrate a point, you should not rely on the fair dealing provisions for criticism or review. As well, under this exception, you must mention and properly cite the source of the materials and, if given in the source, the author (unless the author is anonymous or has instructed that they not be named). You must also follow the general guidelines that apply to fair dealing (i.e. no more than 10% or one chapter of a published work, or one journal article – see Fair Dealing Guidelines for more information).

Once your thesis is complete, refer to the Creators page for information on your rights as a copyright protection holder.

Unable to get permission?

When your use of copyright-protected material is not covered under "fair dealing" and you are unable to obtain permission, or there is an unreasonable charge for obtaining permission, you can remove the copyright-protected material and leave a blank space. 

A handshake being crossed out and a thesis

Note: your thesis must be as complete as possible. Removal of material is only acceptable if you are denied permission, if an unreasonable fee will be charged for use of the material, or if you receive no response from the copyright holder after making repeated and timely efforts at contacting them.

This space must contain the following:

  1. A statement that the material has been removed because of copyright restrictions
  2. A description of the material and the information it contained
  3. A full citation of the original source of the material

Example: “Figure 3 has been removed due to copyright restrictions. It was a diagram of the apparatus used in performing the experiment, showing the changes made by the investigating team. Original source: Wu, G. and Thompson, J.R. (2008) Effect of Ketone Bodies on Dairy Cattle. Biochem J. 255:139-144.”

This short summary of the material is important and provides the reader with a chance to follow your argument without looking up the original source. However, if possible, including a link to an online source is still advisable.

Article-based theses

An article-based thesis includes research articles that have been published or prepared for publication. If your article has been published or submitted for publication, you must verify the copyright or licence conditions of the publisher before including the article(s) in the final version of your thesis.

While some publishers may allow you to include the published version of the article in your thesis, the majority of publishers only allow the use of a post-print version of the article. The post-print version is the final draft version that has been peer-reviewed but not yet formatted by the publisher. You may use SHERPA/RoMEO to verify your journal’s policy on which version of the article you are permitted to include in your thesis.

SHERPA/RoMEO summarizes copyright and self-archiving policies for most academic journals. It is always recommended that you consult SHERPA/RoMEO and the journal’s copyright policies and conditions before submitting the final version of your thesis. Some journals may require that an embargo be placed on the public version of your thesis (which will be made available in uO Research); to apply for one, see How do I request an embargo?

While SHERPA/RoMeo is generally complete, it does not include all publishers. If your journal is not in SHERPA/RoMEO, you should verify terms and conditions on the journal’s website or contact the publisher directly.


Contains materials adapted from Copyright at UBC - Theses and Dissertations by the University of British Columbia - licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

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