Electronic Theses and Dissertations: FAQs

About ETDs

What is Libra, and what are “Electronic Theses and Dissertations” (ETDs)?

Libra is the University of Virginia’s online institutional repository, which provides a central, stable location for the scholarly output of the university community.  Libra provides a place for journal articles, datasets, and other completed scholarly works to be preserved and accessed online.

Electronic copies of dissertations and masters’ theses can be added to Libra and made available on a long-term basis as a replacement for paper copies added to the library’s shelves.  Not only do ETDs save library shelf space, they provide wider access to students’ work, and save time and money for graduate students by providing an easier workflow for submission of the final thesis or dissertation copy.

Electronic Thesis and Dissertation submission is currently available for students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science; the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences; the Curry School of Education; the School of Nursing; and the School of Architecture.  Students whose schools do not yet participate in Libra deposit can contact libra@virginia.edu to inquire about plans for the near future.

What is the difference between submitting my dissertation to Libra and submitting it to ProQuest?  Do I need to submit it in both places?

ProQuest is a commercial vendor of databases and other information products.  Their Dissertations and Theses Full Text database contains the majority of dissertations published in the U.S. and is widely used by scholars worldwide.  By submitting to ProQuest, you make your dissertation visible to scholars whose institutions provide paid access to the database, where it can be searched alongside other dissertations.  ProQuest also sells full-text copies of dissertations directly to the public.  ProQuest allows authors to make specific choices about how their work will be distributed, including allowing an embargo to be placed on access for specified periods of time, or allowing the dissertation to be made freely available to users worldwide through the open access option.  Please see the ProQuest website for more information.

Submission to ProQuest has been required in the past by U.Va. schools and departments, and may still be, so check with yours to be sure.  Even if your school or department does not require ProQuest submission, you may choose to submit.  Having your dissertation available through ProQuest can greatly increase its visibility and allows it to be accessed alongside similar research from other institutions.  ProQuest does charge fees for submission, and they have particular formatting and copyright requirements.  Please see this page for details, and follow the instructions to request a publishing agreement and information about pricing.

What does Libra submission enable?

Libra serves as a central, stable location for the scholarly output of the UVA community.  By submitting to Libra:

  • You make your dissertation or thesis freely available for reading and download by other scholars, increasing visibility of your work worldwide.  A stable URL will allow you to provide a simple link to include in your CV.
  • Your work is available immediately, without the delays necessary for binding and cataloging paper copies.
  • You can incorporate images, as long as any necessary permissions are obtained for third-party content.
  • Use of Libra ensures preservation of your thesis or dissertation as part of the record of UVA scholarship.

Are there special concerns that I need to be aware of when submitting a dissertation to an online environment such as Libra?

In an online environment such as Libra, issues surrounding copyright and permissions are more complex.  We discuss this in greater detail below.  You will also need to consider whether to impose an embargo period (especially in the case of dissertations) to ensure that if you decide to convert the dissertation to a scholarly monograph or journal article, a future publisher will not view the existing digital copy as a barrier to publication.  These issues can be discipline-specific, and we recommend that you discuss them with your dissertation advisor.

What do I need to know about copyright?

Before you submit—before you even begin your thesis or dissertation–it is very important that you familiarize yourself with the basics of copyright law and understand its implications for your work.  This is especially true when placing your dissertation online for public access, where potential copyright violations are more apparent.  You can begin by reviewing Copyright Essentials for Graduate Students, which is provided as a general introduction to copyright, and which includes links to additional sources with substantial information.

May I include copyrighted material in the version of my dissertation or thesis that I upload to Libra?

Please reference Copyright Essentials for Graduate Students for information on determining whether and how to seek permission for any copyrighted material such as images, charts, graphs, media, etc. that you wish to include in your dissertation.  If you have been granted permission for such material, you should also be careful to review whether the permission obtained is sufficient to enable to you to put your work online for open access through the Libra repository.  If you are concerned that third-party material exceeds Fair Use parameters, and you are unable to obtain sufficient permission to use it, you may need to remove such material from the deposited work as a precautionary matter.

If you must remove copyrighted material, please note that one option is to provide a complete description of the deleted item and a link to the work –for example, a link to an image, sound file, video, etc.  in one of the library’s databases or another licensed campus resource.  These links will be accessible to U.Va. users and to readers at other institutions with the same licensed database access.  Please contact libra@virginia.edu for assistance in determining these links.

Submission Process

What is the process of submitting my dissertation to Libra?

First, check with your School for information on the proper process and workflow for submitting your thesis or dissertation.

Once your thesis or dissertation has gone through the School’s workflow, including final defense and/or other requirements determined by the individual school, the School will complete a milestone in the Student Information System (SIS) indicating that these steps have been completed.  An overnight process will provide communication from SIS to Libra that indicates the completion of this milestone, and you will be authorized for submission as a result.

 Submission steps:

  • Log in to Libra; select “Add Your Work”, which will direct you to the upload form.  If you receive an “unauthorized” message, please consult with your Graduate Office to determine if the appropriate SIS milestone has been completed and when.  If the milestone was completed today, you may need to wait until tomorrow to deposit.  If you are still not authorized after waiting overnight, please contact Libra staff at libra@virginia.edu.
  • Once authorized, you will be presented with a partially completed upload form.  Some fields, such as Thesis/Dissertation title or Date of Defense will not be available for editing in order to ensure that key data in SIS and Libra is uniform.  You will have the opportunity to provide additional metadata, such as abstract or keywords, in order to further facilitate discovery.
  • You will be required to agree or not agree to a deposit license.  Agreement is required for submission, so you should contact your school if you do not want to agree to the license.  The licensing option(s) available may vary by school.  Please see the Deposit License section below for a general description of the content of the deposit license.
  • You must upload one PDF document, containing the final, approved version of your thesis/dissertation.  In addition, you may deposit supplemental material which supports your dissertation.  Supplemental files may include data sets, photos, video, etc.  If you have any questions about whether a supplemental file is appropriate for Libra deposit, please contact us at libra@virginia.edu.
  • You may be presented with an option to delay the release of the full text of your thesis/ dissertation due to publishing, grant or other research concerns.  The availability of this option, called an embargo, may vary by school.  Please see the Embargo section below for more information.
  • After completing all preceding steps, click “submit” to complete the process.

Post-Libra submission

  • An overnight process will provide communication from Libra to SIS that your submission was successfully completed, and thus complete the appropriate SIS milestone to indicate that you have satisfied graduation requirements.

What guidelines do I need to follow for formatting my dissertation?

Libra requires that documents be submitted in PDF format, but beyond that, Libra does not set formatting requirements such as paper size, margins, fonts, etc.  Before the establishment of the Libra repository strict formatting guidelines were enforced by the University’s Printing and Copying Services to ensure that printed dissertations conformed to certain standards.  Some schools or departments at the University may still use formatting guidelines, so please check with your school or department to be sure.

May I delete or change my dissertation after submitting to Libra?

The copy of your dissertation or thesis that you submit to Libra becomes U.Va.’s copy of record.  You should therefore ensure that you are depositing the final, approved version of your thesis or dissertation.  Dissertations and theses may not be deleted or changed by the student once they are deposited in Libra (although the metadata may be changed).

If you discover a change that needs to be made after your deposit has been made, you would need to contact the director or dean of graduate studies for your school and discuss approval to make the change.  A member of the Library’s Libra team would then need to upload the revised file into Libra.

Are there limits on file size, file type and number of items I may deposit?

Files up to 100 MB may be deposited.  You must deposit a PDF of your complete dissertation or thesis, and you may deposit as many supplemental files as you choose.  Supplemental files may be in any format, but we recommend using common file formats which are more likely to be usable in the future. If you have any questions about file formats, please contact us at libra@virginia.edu.

Will my dissertation remain available in Libra for perpetuity?

The Library and ITS are committed to the durability and sustainability of scholarship deposited in Libra.  Libra uses standard data management practices, including security and backup procedures, to provide a reasonable assurance that files will remain retrievable over time.  In addition, UVA Library is a founder and  participant in the Academic Preservation Trust consortium, which aims to ensure preservation of digital library content including Libra files.  However since permanent access is not a guarantee with any technology, we urge scholars to keep personal copies of their files in both print and digital format.


Deposit License

Why do I have to agree to the deposit license, and what does it say?

In order to deliver written works and other copyrighted materials to the public, Libra must have consent from the copyright holder. The deposit license asks you, the author, to confirm that you are the copyright holder and that you have obtained any necessary permissions for any third-party material included in the thesis or dissertation.  In addition, if portions of your thesis or dissertation were previously published, the agreement confirms that you have retained the rights to place this material online.

The agreement does not ask you to transfer your copyright to the University, or to give up any rights you have in the material to the University. The Deposit License confirms that you wish to make the material available through Libra to the public, to allow certain educational, non-commercial, public uses of the material, and to allow for preservation by the University. It is a LIMITED, NON-EXCLUSIVE agreement, meaning you retain all the rights you had before the item was deposited.

What rights do I grant the University when I deposit my thesis or dissertation in Libra?

You grant to the University of Virginia the right to:

  • Reproduce and/or distribute your submission (including the metadata and abstract) worldwide, in any format or medium for non-commercial, academic purposes only.  Please note that you may choose to limit worldwide access for a period of time using an embargo.  Please see the section below for information about embargoes.
  • Migrate the submission, without changing the content, to any medium or format, and keep more than one copy of your work for purposes of security, back up and preservation.
  • Authorize Libra users to reproduce and/or distribute your submission (including the metadata and abstract) worldwide, in any format or medium for non-commercial, academic purposes only.

See the full text of the Deposit License for more information.


What is an embargo?

An embargo is a period of time during which your thesis or dissertation is saved in Libra but not available for worldwide distribution. While under embargo, the metadata (title, abstract, etc.) for your work is available to the world, but the full text of your work is not.  You set the embargo period, which may be 6 months, 1 year , 2 years or 5 years.  ProQuest offers these same embargo periods (though not the 5-year option) for dissertations submitted to their database.

Please note that the nature of an embargo may vary by school:

  • If you are a student in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the embargo option will block your work from worldwide access, but it will be visible to members of the UVA community during the embargo period.
  • If you are a student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the embargo option will hide your manuscript from all users both inside and outside of UVA for the duration of the embargo period. The title and abstract of your work will remain visible to all users during the embargo period.

These parameters are indicated on the submission form when you deposit your work.

Why would I use an embargo?

There are several reasons why you would consider an embargo.  One is to protect your ability to publish your work; see the following question for more on this.  Other reasons would be to satisfy requirements for review of grant-sponsored research, to protect data being utilized by a team of researchers of which you are a part, or to protect your ability to apply for a patent based on your research.  It is important that you discuss any such considerations with your advisor prior to Libra deposit.  While the library cannot provide advice regarding the need for or proper length of embargoes, we are committed to working with you to ensure that your need for an embargo is met.  Please contact us at libra@virginia.edu if you need to discuss a longer embargo period.

Working with Publishers

Will publishers be willing to accept my book or article based on my dissertation for publication if my dissertation is already available in Libra?

ProQuest has useful advice on this question.   Recent research on viewpoints from publishers in Humanities and Social Sciences, and Sciences by McMillan et al also confirms that most publishers will generally not reject a submission based on prior publication as an ETD.  Please also see “Advice to Graduate Students Based on the 2011 Publishers’ Survey” section of the this article by McMillan et al for some practical advice about approaches to publication.

However, be aware that policies will vary from publisher to publisher.  If in doubt you may want to consider an embargo period, during which your dissertation is saved in Libra but not available for public view.  An embargo may be used to balance publishers’ interests in being the first to publish scholarly books or articles, while also ensuring that scholarship is accessible to the general public within a reasonable period of time.  During the embargo the abstract and metadata for your submission can be made public while the full text remains hidden.

If parts of my dissertation have previously been published elsewhere, may I still deposit in Libra?

If parts of your dissertation have previously been published, such as in a journal article or book, you will need to check the copyright transfer agreement that you signed at the time of publication. The agreement may make explicit reference to your right to deposit in your institution’s digital repository, along with any specific guidelines to follow.  You can also check the publisher’s website.  Many major publishers now have clear statements about Author’s Rights on their websites, and many are generous in allowing their authors to deposit a version of a work in a repository.

The SHERPA/RoMEO site provides a useful compilation of many major publishers’ policies.

For additional information on working with a publisher to allow deposit in Libra, please see the Working with Publishers:  Authors’ Rights sections of our Open Access FAQ.  The same general advice applies to you as a thesis or dissertation writer.

Use of Libra

Who can access Libra to search for and download my dissertation?  What can users of Libra do with the content that I have submitted?

Libra is an open access repository, meaning that anyone can search, view and download content. Users are subject to the Terms of Use stated on the Libra site. Those terms make clear that only non-commercial educational uses are permitted, and that unless otherwise stated on the work itself, the copyright holder for each work retains all rights associated with the works deposited in Libra. As with any other copyrighted work, others may use the work as allowed by the “fair use” provisions in U.S. copyright law.  Items that have been deposited with a U.Va. Only Deposit License are available in full-text only to students, faculty, staff, and walk-in users of the university library.

Will the library be scanning and adding older dissertations to Libra?

In the interests of preservation, all dissertations submitted to the U.Va. Library in CD format were deposited into Libra in early 2014. Access to these items is U.Va.-only, replicating the accessibility level of the originally deposited CDs. If you are the author of one of these dissertations and would like to change the access level to be world-wide open access, please contact us.  If your dissertation was published in paper previously and you would like it to be added to Libra, please contact us.

What if I have deposited in Libra, but would still like to add a paper copy of my dissertation to the library shelves?

Once ETDs are being accepted into Libra we will no longer accept paper copies for the library shelves.  Not only is shelf space very limited, but paper copies see relatively little use.  If you would like to ensure wider dissemination of your work, you might consider submitting it to both Libra and ProQuest.

What if I have a question not answered here?

Please contact libra@virginia.edu if you have questions or need additional information.

More information on the ETD process can be found in this Powerpoint Presentation