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Dissertation Embargo Guidelines

In cases where papers are in press, patents are pending, or where there are other intellectual property concerns, it may be beneficial to delay publication (“embargo”). Students should discuss with their advisor whether a delay in publication is necessary or advisable, and may also reach out to their subject librarian for guidance.   

Embargo Options

Dissertations are available through three primary venues: ProQuest, ScholarlyCommons, and for dissertations prior to 2020, the Penn Libraries stacks. Students may apply for a delay in publication/embargo in ProQuest and in ScholarlyCommons. 


ProQuest is a third-party, commercial resource that provides full-text access to electronic dissertations to Penn faculty, students, staff, and anyone else with a ProQuest institutional subscription. Members of the public may view the first 24 pages of a dissertation before being prompted to purchase a copy of the dissertation. 

ProQuest offers the following embargo options: 6 months, 1 year or 2 years.


ScholarlyCommons is the University of Pennsylvania’s open access institutional repository for gathering, indexing, storing, and making widely available to the public the scholarly output of the Penn community. Since December 2015, Penn has required open access publication of dissertations in ScholarlyCommons. Full-text access to electronic dissertations is available to all members of the public (except dissertations that are embargoed). For more information about ScholarlyCommons, visit

ScholarlyCommons offers the following embargo options: 3 years only.

Full-text dissertations available in ScholarlyCommons can be seen by anyone in the world, whereas the full-text of dissertations in ProQuest are only available to those with an institutional subscription. Dissertations prior to 2015 can be added at the request of the author by contacting

Note that dissertations may have two records in ScholarlyCommons: one in Publicly Available Penn Dissertations and one in Dissertations Available From ProQuest.

How to Request an Initial Embargo

Enter embargo preferences, if any, when submitting the dissertation using ETD Administrator. Students’ first embargo requests are granted automatically. 


The PQ Publishing Options tab in ETD Administrator requires you to indicate your selections for ProQuest publishing. You must choose whether you wish to publish on ProQuest immediately or delay the publication of your dissertation for 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years.

PQ Publishing options

Embargo Extensions


ProQuest Embargo Extensions must be requested by the dissertation author directly from ProQuest at The University does not process ProQuest embargo extensions.


  • A request for an additional three year delay (beyond the first three year embargo) in ScholarlyCommons requires approval by the Graduate Group Chair. Complete and submit the Embargo Extension Request Form.
  • The completed Embargo Extension Request Form must be submitted one month before the end of the initial embargo to
  • In the event that a further delay (beyond six years) in ScholarlyCommons is needed, a graduate may petition their school’s Graduate Dean for an extension.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I decide if I should embargo my dissertation?

Students should discuss their embargo options with their dissertation supervisor or may reach out to a subject librarian who is familiar with their discipline for guidance. Your choice to embargo may depend on your discipline (it is more common in some fields than others especially if there are patent rights at issue) as well as your publishing goals.

Can I delay access to the full text of my work if I have patents pending or another reason?

Yes. If you choose to delay the release of your work, access to the full text of your work will be delayed for the period of time that you specify. The citation and abstract of your work will be available through ProQuest and may be available through your institutional repository.

When you upload your dissertation in ProQuest ETD Administrator, please select the option to delay release in the PQ publishing options menu. You can select a 6 month, 1 year, or 2 year delay.

At the same time, you may request a delay of publication through Penn’s Institutional Repository (ScholarlyCommons) in ProQuest ETD Administrator’s IR publishing options menu. The IR embargo is a only available in a 3-year term.

How do I end an embargo early?

If you wish to release your dissertation for publication before the end of your embargo term, please contact to withdraw your embargo in ProQuest and contact to end your embargo in ScholarlyCommons, Penn’s institutional repository.

Can I request multiple embargo terms up-front?

No; separate requests must be made for each embargo, and requests may not be made until the previous embargo is nearing its end (1-3 months before the embargo ends).  

For instance, if you graduate in May 2021 with a three-year ScholarlyCommons embargo, in April 2024 you may request an additional three years to extend the ScholarlyCommons embargo to 2027 with approval from the Graduate Group Chair using the Embargo Extension Request Form. In March 2027, you may petition for an additional three-year embargo with approval from the Graduate Group Chair and the Graduate Dean. The dissertation will become publicly available once the embargo period has passed.  

Does my embargo on ProQuest need to be the same as my embargo in ScholarlyCommons?

No, you may choose to embargo in either ProQuest and/or ScholarlyCommons, and the period of the embargos will differ.

I originally chose not to embargo my dissertation on ProQuest or Scholarly Commons. Is it possible to now request an embargo?

You may ask to retroactively have your dissertation embargoed in ScholarlyCommons with the Embargo Extension Request Form, but it may only be embargoed until the date it would have originally ended. So, for example, if you graduated in May 2022, your dissertation could only be embargoed until May 2025, regardless of when you request the embargo to be added. Further embargo periods would follow the procedures outlined above and are subject to the maximum allowed embargo period.

To retroactively embargo a dissertation in ProQuest, contact ProQuest directly online.

Note that choosing to embargo your dissertation after it has already been made openly available cannot ensure that your dissertation is not circulated or read; it just ensures that others are no longer able to access your dissertation.