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Thesis Submission

How to prepare and complete submission of your final thesis to Flinders University Library

Copyright and your thesis

Copyright ownership:

As the author, you own the copyright in your thesis.
You need to be aware of any third party material you use, as you will not own the copyright in these portions and will likely require permission to include within the version of your thesis being submitted for public access via the Library.

Third party material includes:

Images and photos that you did not create

Graphs and figures from elsewhere

Tables directly copied and pasted

Most journal articles and conference papers, even if you wrote them

Substantial quotations and text extracts

Unpublished material from an archive or museum, like letters or manuscripts

Inclusion in your thesis:

If your thesis contains any third party material, this is okay to include in the thesis for the purpose of assessment but may not be appropriate to include in the final copy of your thesis being made public. Even if the material is referenced and was freely available online, permission from the copyright owner is still required to share it online.

The information below will help you assess which portions of third party material you can and cannot include in the library copy of your thesis.

Determining third party material in your thesis

Step 1: Download the 'Thesis Copyright Worksheet' document (below) to record and keep track of any third party material that you've referenced from other sources. Just remember, anything you did not create is third party. Journal articles or conference papers you authored may also have had the copyright transferred to the publisher, which makes it third party material too.

Step 2: Assess each piece of third party material by working through each of the following questions (click on each to expand):

An image, table, graph, or figure will always be considered a substantial amount and always requires copyright clearance. You can include written material without permission if you’re only using an insubstantial amount. Substantiality can be difficult to determine as it’s based on quality not just quantity. Short quotes or text extracts are more likely to be insubstantial. If you were to reproduce an entire abstract this would be considered substantial as it’s an important part even though it would be a proportionally small part of the article.


Some very old pictures and books (from last century and earlier) may have no copyright because it has already expired, which means you do not need permission to use any amount of them. See the page on How long does copyright last? to determine if this applies to any works you've used.

It is also possible for someone to waive their copyright by dedicating their work to the' public domain' (the realm of works with no copyright), which will usually bear a CC0 Waiver notice to indicate that they have done so. Most US Government works (including NASA photos) also have the copyright waived. You should check the terms on each image website just in case.

Other than that, everything else is protected by copyright. Even if it does not have a copyright symbol and/ or was freely accessible via the internet.

Some websites may already have terms and conditions that allow you to reuse their images without having to expressly seek permission.
Here are some common ones you might use:

Website Policy Notes
Google Maps Can reuse maps with proper attribution of Google and the data provider See attribution guidelines
Bing Maps Can use unaltered screenshots of maps with proper attribution See 2.2 Attribution requirements

There are other circumstances where the creator might want to allow other people to reuse their work without having to ask permission, which they can do by applying something called a Creative Commons (CC) licence. There are different types of CC licences and all of them permit you to include an unmodified image in your thesis with the correct attribution. To find out if an image has a CC licence, it should be labelled near the image, possibly in abbreviated form (see example). In Flickr, you need to click on 'some rights reserved' to view the particular licence in use. Any licence that does not have 'No Derivatives' (or ND) in the name means that you also have permission to modify the image.

In addition to your standard academic citation with author information, you will also need to attribute the image with a link to the original image, and the title (if supplied). You also need to mention the specific licence and link to it too.

This table has examples of how to acknowledge the licence:

Unmodified Image Modified image

Figure 4.3 : A puppy bonding with a cat
(A True Friendship by Vilma Saarinen, CC-BY-NC-SA)

Figure 4.3 - Starstruck puppy
(Modified version of A True Friendship by Vilma Saarinen, CC-BY-NC-SA)


In Australia, there is no free pass for using copyright material just because something is 'fair', but we do have something called Fair Dealing. Fair Dealing exceptions allows you to make copies for a finite list of reasons, one of which is Research or Study. This applies to copying for research for your private use only, and is no longer applicable if you share your research publicly. Fair Dealing for Research or Study is why you are allowed to include copyrighted items in the copy of your thesis being submitted for assessment, but not in the copy being posted online by the library.

However, you may instead be able to rely on one of the other exceptions: Fair Dealing for Criticism or Review, which does not have the same restriction on being for private use. This one allows you to publicly include include a portion of third party material (for example, a whole image) without formal permission. You must genuinely provide a critique or analysis of the work being copied, rather than using it as in illustration or as part of an analysis of something else. The review must be genuine and authentic, and library staff review each image to check.

So that people know that you are relying on this, your image caption should state "Reused under Fair Dealing for Criticism or Review".

Here is an example of what would and would not be considered review:

NOT considered review Figure 1. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Reused under Fair Dealing for Criticism or Review Genuine review / critique
  • As illustrated by Figure 1, the Mona Lisa is considered a masterpiece of the Renaissance period.
  • Leonardo da Vinci is most well known for his painting of the Mona Lisa, depicted in Figure 1.
  • The Louvre receives millions of visitors a year, many who are visiting the Mona Lisa.
  • The Mona Lisa was once housed by Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • The way the Mona Lisa's arms are folded, as shown in Figure 1, are used as a sign to convey her reserved nature
  • da Vinci has intentionally chosen to paint an unexpected landscape background to add mystery to the painting​
  • The sitting position and smile of the Mona Lisa are used as symbols of calm and happiness
  • The muted colour scheme in the Mona Lisa evokes serenity

Step 3: If you find that you answer those questions and still don't have clearance to use the work, you can either remove it from the library version of your thesis, or follow the guidelines further down this page on how to seek permission from the copyright owner.

How to seek permission

If the piece of work you want to use didn't meet any of the exceptions described above (e.g. copyright expired or had a Creative Commons licence), you will need permission from the copyright owner in order to include it.

The copyright owner will be the creator by default, but if the work was published then it is possible that the copyright was transferred or is being managed by the publisher.

Use the table to determine where to seek permission:

Whole journal articles you authored Use RightsLink (see third tab)
Images/ figures published in a journal article Use RightsLink (see third tab)
Images or quotes from a book Email the publisher (see second tab)
Images or text from a website Email the website owner (see second tab- website owner may direct you elsewhere if they did not create it)
Artwork Seek licence through Copyright Agency

If your request for permission is denied, you will need to make a separate copy of your thesis for the library and remove this work from it. It's a good idea to put in a statement like "Image removed due to copyright restriction. Original can be viewed online at https://flic.kr/p/9FmXnE"

If permission is granted, you do not have to supply the University with copies of your permissions but you should retain them for your own records. You should also include a caption that says "Reproduced with permission".

You can copy and paste the email template below to email to copyright owners. You may need to adapt it for your specific needs, just make sure it is clear that you are seeking permission for an online version of your thesis which is being shared online.

Email template - Permission request

Subject line: Seeking copyright permission for thesis

Dear [insert name or organisation],

I am completing a [PhD/Professional Doctorate/Masters] degree at Flinders University in South Australia.

As part of this, I am writing a research thesis which will be publicly shared online via compulsory submission to the Flinders University Library. My thesis contains copyright material that I believe is owned or managed by you, and therefore requires your permission under Australian copyright law.

The following work is included in my research thesis:

[Insert citation and text/figure/image details]

I wish to seek from you a non-exclusive licence to include the work listed above for an indefinite period in the electronic version of my thesis to be made freely available by Flinders University Library, for the non-profit purpose of disseminating my research. I would welcome the opportunity to use this in my thesis, and I would be grateful if you would give me your permission.

If you are able (or unable) to grant permission, please notify me in writing in response to this email.

If you are not the copyright owner of this work, I would appreciate any information you could provide on who I might be able to contact. Thank you for your time.

Kind Regards,

Your details/signature

RightsLink is a free online service that allows you to seek permissions using an online form, it is typically available for journal articles in popular databases. You can use RightsLink to seek permission to include figures in your thesis, and also to include whole journal articles if you authored them. Once you submit your requests, you will need to wait to see whether you receive a positive outcome.

To use RightsLink:

1. Open the journal article that you are seeking permission for. On the article page, look for a link that says something along the lines of 'Get Permission' or 'Rights and permissions'. It will look different based on the journal you are accessing, here are some examples:

2. This will take you to RightsLink, which is an external platform (if it tells you that the journal is not available via RightsLink, you will need to email them instead). In the top right corner, click 'Create account' to create a free account:
3. Select the option reuse in a thesis/dissertation:

4. To request a permission, fill out the online form with your requirements. If you are seeking permission for one of your own articles, you should make the appropriate selections for that (e.g. Yes to being the author of the article).  Select Quick Price:

5. Your price should be $0.00. If there is a price listed, there is no expectation or requirement for you to pay the fee, you still have the option to remove the image to avoid the cost. If there was no charge, click 'Continue'.

6. Depending on the publisher, you may need to specify the Figure you are using. You may also need to give information about your thesis, such as the title and completion date.

7. Once you have completed the form, you will either be presented with an immediate permission/licence, or will need to wait for an email 

8. The licence you are provided with may stipulate that you have to acknowledge the publisher in a particular way, such as "Reprinted with permission from..."

Here are some tips for requesting permission:

  • Allow plenty of time to receive responses for permissions you have sought
  • Always be clear on exactly the portion of material you wish to use and where it is from
  • Specify that you will be posting your thesis online, rather than just asking for permission to use it in a thesis (which they may not realise is something that is being made public)
  • Send a follow up email after a week or two. If they are based in Australia, see if you can phone up to speak to someone


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