Third-party content use and specialized content submission

It is common for theses and dissertations to contain content (typically text or images) created by third parties. Even if you are reusing content that you authored and have published elsewhere, your publishing contract may have required you to transfer copyright to the publisher. It is the responsibility of the author to ensure that all content in your thesis is used in accordance with the Copyright Act. We're here to help you if you have any questions!

Content you can use without permission

Content in the public domain

The term "public domain" refers to works in which copyright has expired. In Canada, the term of copyright for most works is the life of the author, plus 50 years. The copyright length may vary depending on factors such as the type of work, the manner of publication and the date of creation. More information on the public domain is available on the Copyright@Waterloo website, in the following frequently asked questions:

If you need help assessing if something is in the public domain you can email

Content with an open license, or with terms and conditions that allow reuse

Creators may assign an open license (such as a Creative Commons license) or specific terms of use to a work that allows you to use the work given that you follow the conditions outlined. For example, many open access articles are assigned a Creative Commons license that allows users to reuse content from the article as long as the use of the work attributes the original creator and the work. More information about Creative Commons licenses is available on the Library’s Creative Commons guide.

If you need help understanding open licenses or terms and conditions assigned to a work you can email

Remember! Just because a work is freely available on the internet does not mean that it is in the public domain or that it is openly licensed.

Insubstantial amounts of content

When you want to use part of a work, copyright only applies when the amount is substantial. This means that when you are using an insubstantial, or very small amount, such as a quote from a work, you do not need to ask permission.

If you need help assessing if the amount you wish to copy is substantial you can email

Content you need permission for

In cases where you are using an entire work, you need to ask permission from the copyright holder. This permission should be included in an appendix at the end of your thesis.

How do I ask permission?

Most publishers provide some way of asking permission to use an article through the webpage that hosts the article. Usually a ‘request permissions’ button will be available, and will direct you to the service (such as the Copyright Clearance Center) that grants permission. For publishers where this is not available, or creators outside of academic publishing look for a page on their website about copyright or permissions.

Below are links to copyright permissions instructions from a number of the major publishers. If you need any help figuring out how to ask for permission you can email

Publisher Name

Content Platform

Website with Copyright Permission Instructions



How can I get permission to reproduce or re-use Elsevier content?

Springer Nature


Obtaining permissions


Wiley Online Library

Requesting Permission to use Materials from Wiley Publications


Sage Journals

Process for Requesting Permission

Taylor & Francis

Taylor & Francis Online

How can I request permission


IEEE Xplore

Requesting Permission to use IEEE Material

American Chemical Society

ACS Publications

Instructions for Rightslink

American Physical Society

APS Journals

How do I request permission to republish APS-copyrighted material?

American Institute of Physics


Permission to Reuse Content

Any questions? Contact

Content previously published

It is common for publications resulting from graduate student research to ultimately be reused as chapters in their theses. In some disciplines, students publish "sandwich" theses consisting of previously published work "sandwiched" between introductory and concluding chapters that contextualize their research project at large. You may need to obtain permission from the publisher in order to do so.

In most cases, you will have transferred or licensed copyright in your article to the publisher. This means that the publisher controls what you can and can’t do with the work. If you published your work open access, skip to the open access section below.

When you published you likely signed or clicked-through an agreement with the publisher. That agreement will tell you what you can and can’t do with your work. If you do not have a copy of your agreement, looking to the publisher’s author copyright policy is helpful. SHERPA/RoMEO is a good place to start; it is a database of publisher copyright policies, and provides helpful information and links back to publisher websites.

Usually the publisher agreement will allow you to use:

  • The preprint version of the work, i.e. the version of the work you submitted to the publisher, without any restriction. If you are including the preprint version of the work in your thesis before the it has been accepted, take care to check the publisher or journal’s policy on prior publication. In some cases publishers view publication in a thesis as prior publication.
  • The postprint or accepted version of the work, i.e. the version of the work with all changes from peer review, with an embargo period. An embargo period is a period of time where the article must be withheld from public access.

Does your publisher allow you to deposit a version of your work into an institutional repository?

  • If yes, you are eligible to deposit your thesis into UWSpace without obtaining their permission, as long as you provide a link to the published version in your Statement of Contributions, and embargo the work appropriately during the deposit process.
  • If not, you'll need to ask your publisher's permission and include their approval letter in an appendix to your thesis. You will also need to provide a link to the published version in your Statement of Contributions.

Did you publish open access?

You may have published open access. Most open access articles are published under a Creative Commons license. If you published this way, you may have paid an article processing charge. If you published your work open access with a Creative Commons license, you may reuse your content in your article.

Complete your Statement of Contributions

Regardless of how you published, you will need to clearly indicate in a Statement of Contributions that certain sections were previously published, and that you were the primary author of these texts. This short statement should clearly indicate which chapters or page ranges of your thesis were previously published elsewhere, as well as what any other authors contributed to these publications. This example Statement of Contributions, prepared by University of Waterloo librarian Dr. Kate Mercer for her PhD dissertation, can be used as a guide to help you create your own.

Research data, code, and other supplementary materials

Sharing research data and code that enable the reproducibility of research is strongly encouraged, and they should be deposited in an appropriate repository providing long-term stewardship. We do not accept research data and code for deposit in UWSpace, and will ask for a link to the dataset or code repository during the submission process. Please consult our overview of research data management.

Need help? Contact our Research Data Management team.

If your thesis contains an accompanying audiovisual component, model, or other electronic supplementary material, it can be uploaded to UWSpace as a supplementary file when you upload your PDF. Please save these accompanying files in non-proprietary formats. Each supplementary file (or related group of supplementary files) should be referenced and described in a separate appendix to your thesis.

Questions about file formats and supplementary file submission? Contact Priscilla Carmini, Digital Repositories Librarian.

Next: Organizing your thesis