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As a researcher you are likely to want to copy information from books, journals and web resources to support your research. You may also want to include this material in your thesis or when publishing your research. The work you produce and publish will also be protected by copyright.

Fortunately, there are some exceptions under the current law that allow you to copy for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study within reasonable limits, under what is known as 'fair dealing'. This generally permits you to make single copies of small amounts of a copyright work.

Copying for criticism and review: quoting others' work

There will be times when you wish to include, or make reference to, material which is not your own (i.e. which is someone else’s copyright) when completing your thesis. It is legitimate to include quotations for the purposes of criticism and review, but you must make sure that such material is properly acknowledged or cited.

 Copying for non-commercial research or private study

Copyright allows making single copies or taking short extracts of works when the use is made for non-commercial research or for private study. The purpose is to provide students and researchers broader access to copyright works.

The exception for research and private study applies to all types of copyright work, and to recordings of performances of works. Importantly, it cannot be overridden by contract. This means that any term of a contract will be unenforceable to the extent that it tries to prevent or restrict copying that is permitted under the exception.

However, fair dealing for research and private study is allowed only if:

1) The purpose of the use is non-commercial research and/or private study

2) The use of the materials is fair

3) The use is made by researchers or students for their own use only

4) Researchers give credit to the copyright holder

Text and data mining

In the UK, copyright law provides an exception that allows researchers to make copies of works ‘for text and data analysis’. This means that where a user has lawful access to a work they can make a copy of it for the purpose of carrying out a computational analysis of anything recorded in the work. The exception applies under the following conditions:

1) The computational analysis must be for the purpose of non-commercial research

2) The copy is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgment (unless this is practically impossible)

The provision further specifies that copyright is infringed if the copy made is transferred to another person, or it is used for purposes different than those permitted by the exception (although the researcher could ask the owner for permission to do either of these things). Also, copies made for text and data analysis cannot be sold or let for hire.

Importantly, the provision states that the activities covered by the exception cannot be ruled out by contract. Contractual terms which purport to restrict or prevent the doing of the acts permitted under the exception are unenforceable.

Although text and data analysis is mainly concerned with mining literary works, the exception covers all categories of copyright works, and a parallel exception applies to recordings of performances.

All of the exceptions above are subject to 'fair dealing'

Fair dealing is a UK law which allows exceptions to copyright law if less than a substantial part of third party material is used for criticism, reporting, or research and private study, however what is classed as insubstantial or insignificant portion is not specified by law, and varies on a case by case basis. It also looks at how the use of material affects the market for the original work, which will vary depending on the material, publisher and use in the thesis.

For example: Two lines of a book may be insubstantial, but two lines of a haiku are almost the whole text. A film still may only be a fraction of the whole film, but if it depicts the climax of the film it would be a significant piece of material and could dissuade people from buying the original film. Third party material used in theses should be assessed on a case by case basis.

Using copyright materials

Including 3rd party copyright materials in your thesis

While you might be permitted to use third party material in a thesis for the purposes of examination, you do not automatically have permission to make these materials freely available online. Under copyright law, making a thesis available online is considered a form of ‘publishing’ as it is making the work available to the public. Therefore, inclusion of third party copyright material may require permission from the rights holder. When your thesis is deposited in Pearl and made available to the public, legally it will be viewed as published and you must get permission (unless out of copyright) to reproduce any extracts, images, figures, etc. for which you do not own the copyright.

These are called third party copyright works.

This is only the case if your copying is substantial. Small extracts are likely to be covered by one of the copyright exceptions under 'fair dealing' (see above).

How to seek permission 

To seek permission to include 3rd party material within the electronic version of your thesis you need to contact the rights holder. This may be the author of a work, a publisher, an illustrator, photographer, etc. In the case of material from books and journals your first course of action should be to contact the publisher. Many publishers give details on their web site of how to seek permission and who to contact. Look for information on rights/permissions/copyright clearance. If the publisher does not hold the rights to the work they should forward your enquiry to whoever does.

Once you have established who to contact you can use the template contained in Appendix 1 of the following guide as a basis of a letter or e-mail to the rights holder, asking permission to include the material in the electronic version of your thesis.

What if I have not been able to gain permissions?

Please note that while students are being asked to make best efforts to seek permission to include third party copyright material in the electronic version of their thesis you will not be penalised if it is not possible to gain permission, either because permissions are not granted, or because it would either be too onerous or too expensive to obtain permissions. The outcome of your examination will not be affected in any way. No student will be required to make any payments to copyright holders for material they wish to include in their thesis. Also note that a different 'fair dealing' exception applies to the use of copyright material for the purpose of examination.  

If you have not been able to gain permissions you will need to create and submit to PEARL two versions of your thesis:

  1. The full version including copyrighted materials where permission was not given - this version you can submit for the viva too.  This version will be deposited to PEARL for posterity but locked for internal UoP staff use only.
  2. An edited version with the copyrighted materials redacted and a placeholder citation in place of this content.  This version will be for public open access.

Please refer to the guidance document above for advice on formatting your thesis in this way.

Other ways to use materials

Creative Commons

Using 3rd party materials that are openly licensed is often a way to include more of the material than you would otherwise be able to under Fair Dealing.

Creative Commons licenses provide a simple, standardised way to give the public permission to share and use creative work, given certain conditions. As you do not need the permission of the copyright holder in order to use materials covered by a CC license, it is recommended that you use these materials wherever possible. You must abide by the conditions of the particular license.

More information about the different kinds of CC licenses is available on the Creative Commons website.

Publishing your own thesis: choosing a licence

Licencing your thesis using Creative Commons

Using an open licence such as Creative Commons allows you to get more exposure for your work whilst maintaining control over its use. This helps the spread of information and the creation of new knowledge. Using a licence also means that other people know how to use your work in an appropriate way without infringing copyright.

How to choose a CC licence for your thesis