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Digital Publishing Services

Overview of the Digital Publishing options available to faculty, students and staff of Northwestern University.

IR Publishing Frequently Asked Questions for Dissertation Authors

PhD dissertations enter the scholarly record through ProQuest's Dissertation Database and Arch | Northwestern University's Institutional RepositoryAs part of the submission workflow, candidates are given options for making their dissertations available through these platforms. These are frequently asked questions for Dissertation authors.  

What is Open Access?

Open access refers to the free availability of research literature online. By making your dissertation open access, you are allowing researchers from all over the world to read your work, regardless of their access to a subscription database. Arch is an open access  institutional repository (IR) for Northwestern research. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition provides a good overview of how open access differs from traditional publishing.  

Why should I consider Open Access?

There are many reasons why scholars choose to publish open access. One of the most important and powerful of these reasons is that when a scholarly work is published openly, it has the potential to reach the widest possible audience, one not restricted to a pay-for-access model. 

Will publishing my dissertation in Arch hurt my chances for publishing my dissertation research in a book or journal?

This depends on your field and whether or not you decide to make your dissertation open access immediately. Publishers generally require peer-review and substantial revisions before publishing a dissertation, effectively creating a new version of your dissertation. Though it is difficult to generalize, the majority of surveyed academic publishers in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences on this question report that dissertations that are freely available in online repositories will still be considered for publication.[1-2] The bigger questions publishers ask when assessing the viability a publication are the quality of content and the market for the work. In any case, authors seeking to formally publish their dissertation research can delay the public release of their dissertation for six months, 1 year, or 2 years after submitting to Arch. 

How can I delay the public release of my dissertation? 

In the dissertation submission process, you can select to delay public access to your dissertation for six months, 1 year, or 2 years. Here's a screenshot from ProQuest's submission form:

Delay Research of Dissertation to the Public


I published a chapter of my dissertation as an article last year.  I think I transferred my copyright to the publisher in order to get the article published.  What should I do?

Check the publishing agreement you signed or contact the publisher/ journal editor for guidance. If you signed the copyrights over to the publisher, you may need to delay the release of your dissertation. You can also check the SHERPA/RoMEO database for the publisher’s policy on open access archiving. Most journal publishers allow open access in institutional repositories after 1 or 2 years, if not immediately upon publication. 

Do I have to register for Copyright?

Your dissertation is automatically copyrighted by you and additional steps are not necessary to own and manage the copyright to your dissertation. However, there are some advantages to registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Doing so will make it easier for you to defend your copyright against copyright infringement. This is recommended for anyone intending to market, license, or sell your dissertation to others.

Where can I find Northwestern University dissertations?

Consult this Help Guide: How to Find Northwestern University Dissertations and Masters Theses


  • [1] Ramirez, M.L., McMillan, G., Dalton, J.T., Hanlon, A., Smith, H.S., & Kern, C. (2014). Do open access electronic theses and dissertations diminish publishing opportunities in the sciences? College & Research Libraries, 75, 808-821.
  • [2] Ramirez, M.L., McMillan, G., Dalton, J.T., Hanlon, A., Smith, Read, M. & Seamans, N.H. (2013). Do open access electronic theses and dissertations diminish publishing opportunities in the social sciences and humanities? College & Research Libraries, 74, 368-380.