Temporary Publication Restriction of Theses & Dissertations

The provision of access to information and technology is a defining feature of Athabasca University (AU). The University supports the principle of academic freedom and free access to the results of University research, which includes research conducted by AU students. Dissemination of research results is a primary function of Athabasca University.

It is the responsibility of the student’s supervisor, in early discussions about their research topic to advise:

  • Against selection of thesis/dissertation topics if the results cannot be published upon completion of all requirements for their degree
  • Of policies and regulations that will affect the publication of their thesis or dissertation, such as requirements of agencies from whom the student may receive funding for their research.

Anonymity and confidentiality of participants and data in research is paramount. Approval from the AU Research Ethics Board will ensure that the anonymity of the sample (whether individuals, groups, or organizations) is maintained. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation also dictate that personal information not be included in documents that are considered to be public.

Criteria for the restriction of theses or dissertations

There may be specific situations in which the student and supervisor are obliged to restrict the publication of the student’s thesis/dissertation for a temporary period of time. A request for approval from the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies must be made. Valid reasons to restrict the publication of the thesis or dissertation include:

  • time is required for submission of a patent application for a device or idea that might emerge from the thesis or dissertation;
  • the thesis or dissertation describes something of considerable commercial viability potential which, if given an opportunity to develop it, could benefit the student;
  • funding for the research was provided by a sponsor who has requested a delay in publication;
  • public interest is best served by a delay in publication;
  • other reason (this reason must be specified by the student and supervisor).

A plan to submit chapters of the thesis or dissertation for journal publication is not, by itself, grounds for withholding a thesis or dissertation from publication in the AU DTheses repository or being harvested by Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Many journals and book publishers accept a thesis for traditional publication even if it is already available electronically on the website of an educational institution. It is the responsibility of the student to become acquainted with the policies of a prospective publisher to determine if there is a publication restriction. If the publisher specifies a restriction period this should be entered as a reason for temporary restriction under the ‘other’ category.

The thesis or dissertation will not be available for student or public access or harvesting by LAC until after the restricted period. Upon expiration of the restricted period, the thesis or dissertation will automatically be released into the AU DTheses repository and made available for harvesting by LAC.


  1. The student and supervisor must submit their request no later than when arrangements for the final oral examination are being discussed (at least two months prior to the anticipated date of the final oral examination).
  2. The form Request for Approval to Temporarily Restrict Publication of Thesis or Dissertation (Word - 34KB) is to be completed by the student and supervisor.
  3. The student initiates the completion of the form.
  4. The student specifies the restriction period up to a maximum of 12 months.
  5. Documentation must accompany the form indicating how the request corresponds with one of the policy’s criteria to restrict the publication of the thesis or dissertation.
  6. The supervisor must sign the form indicating they agree with the request and may provide additional supporting arguments for the request and/or the length of the time restriction.
  7. The request is submitted to the graduate program designate in the student’s academic unit, who indicates their agreement with the request with recommendation to the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies.
  8. The Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies determines the outcome of the request.
  9. The abstract of the thesis or dissertation will be posted by the student in the AU DTheses repository with the disclaimer that the document has ‘restricted access for the period of ___________ months until dd/mm/yyyy’.