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Academic integrity in assignments

An important part of engaging in research and scholarship is giving other authors proper attribution and recognition for their ideas, work, words, and contributions.

Any assignment, including a thesis, must be an original work and presented in your own words. Naturally, you will cite other works, and quote and paraphrase from them. You must do so in a consistent and transparent manner, using a citation or style guide.

Whenever you use someone else's work, cite it according to the conventions or style guide of your discipline. The Library maintains information on citation guides, and offers workshops on best practices and use of reference management tools.

Keep track of the sources you use and make proper citation a practice as you conduct your literature review, research, and drafting. Citation or style guides will show how to cite a variety of scholarly sources, including journal articles, books, conference proceedings, news sources, archival documents, films, audio recordings, and more.

For more information on academic integrity, citation, and how to avoid plagiarism, consult the following Concordia resources:

Student work

As a student at Concordia, you own the copyright in your own work!

Concordia's Policy on Intellectual Property (VPRGS-9) states that students own intellectual property rights (including copyright) in their own work created in courses or in extra-curricular activities. As a student, you are never obligated to participate in projects or activities that require you to assign your intellectual property rights to someone else. However, you can decide to assign your rights if you wish (see section 8 of the Policy).

You should also be aware of some exceptions in the Policy where you would not be the copyright owner. Please review the Policy for more information.

Graduate students

Theses & dissertations: Overview

If you are a graduate student and are unsure which citation style to use, consult your supervisor early in your thesis writing process. The Thesis Preparation and Thesis Examination Regulations guide prepared by the Thesis Office lists some commonly used citation manuals.

Before copying, translating, adapting, distributing, or performing a copyrighted work in your thesis, you need to consider whether:

Although proper citation provides acknowledgment for the sources you use, it is insufficient to meet applicable obligations pursuant to copyright law.

In general, employing a substantial part or all of a copyrighted work requires your use of a work to:

  • Qualify for fair dealing, in which case you do not have to seek permission to use the copyrighted work or
  • Seek and obtain permission for your intended use or
  • Refrain from copying and distributing the work, which means that you can provide your own description of the work instead.

Different disciplines have their own accepted practices. Academic integrity and your discipline's authorship practices may provide more stringent constraints to using copyright-protected works than the Copyright Act. It is highly recommended that you consider such norms and issues in consultation with your thesis supervisor as early as possible while you write your thesis.

Please contact your subject librarian if you have further questions or comments.

How to seek permission to include copyright works in your thesis

When to seek permission

After reading about copyright and consulting with one or more members of your thesis committee, you should be able to evaluate whether your thesis includes elements (text, graphs, tables, images, etc.) that are substantial and do not constitute fair dealing. If no exceptions apply, you must seek permission to reproduce the work(s).

Obtaining an official letter or signed form from the copyright holder can take time. Given that refusal is a possibility, seek permission early in the thesis process, especially if you need to contact multiple persons.

Publisher copyright policies

The first step is to determine who holds the copyright for the materials you are using. In most cases, the publisher will hold the copyright for materials published as part of journals or books. The publisher's website may provide information on copyright policies and people to contact. Journal websites may provide:

  • Advance permission for specific uses, including non-commercial reproduction and use in theses
  • Information on how to obtain permission and whom to contact
  • Types of uses that are specifically prohibited
  • Information on how to reuse your own articles for which the publisher holds the copyright

Contacting the copyright holder

If you determine that you need to ask permission, the following are important elements to include in your correspondence:

  • Clarification that you are a graduate student at Concordia University and that the purpose of the request is to ask permission to include copyrighted material in your thesis.
  • A detailed citation of the document (or part thereof) that you are using in your thesis. Include page numbers, table or chart number, or any other relevant information.
  • Notification that the thesis will be available online through Spectrum, Concordia University's institutional repository, the Library and Archive Canada's website and other websites. Include a copy of these licence agreements or a link to their text: Spectrum Concordia University Research Repository's Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence.
  • Ask the rights holder to respond to your request by a given date. You may also want to offer to send the copyright holder a copy of your thesis.

Permission form

To facilitate the process of asking permission to use copyrighted work, you may want to use this suggested request form: Permission to use copyrighted material in a thesis.

If you do not use the form, try to obtain an official signed letter, such as on letterhead, as signed documents may offer more legal protection than emails. Make sure that the copyright holder specifically agrees with the Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence.

Proof of permission

Keep all correspondence (emails, letters, forms) exchanged with copyright holders. Do not include these documents in your thesis but keep them in your files as they constitute proof that you have obtained permission to use the copyrighted materials.

In your thesis, each time you use material for which you have obtained reproduction rights, you should include a statement such as “reproduced with permission from XYZ.”

Permission denied

In the unusual case where the copyright holder denies permission to use the material, requests a charge for granting this right, or fails to respond to your request, the material must be removed from the thesis. This should only be done as a last resort when the reproduction is not considered fair dealing and you have made a reasonable effort to obtain permission from the rights holder.

If you need to remove copyrighted material from your thesis, leave a space where the original document was located and, in its place, include:

  • This statement: “This [text, photo, graph, image, etc.] was removed because of copyright restrictions.”
  • A description of the material (in case of an image, a table or a graph) or a summary of its content (in the case of an article or book). Try to describe it as precisely as possible, without quoting it directly, so that readers will be able to understand references to it in your thesis.
  • A precise citation for the source of the material, referring to a physical copy if possible. If there is an online copy of the document, provide its URL.


This table (fig. 31) was removed because of copyright restrictions.

It depicts global renewable energy trends over the past decade. Each row represents a year from 2013-2023. The values are shown in GW for the total renewable energy capacity, solar energy capacity, wind energy capacity, hydroelectric power capacity, and other renewables.

Source: “Figure 3,” Smith, J. (2023). Renewable energy trends: A 2023 overview. Green Worlds Institute, 45.

Including your own previously published work in your thesis

First, learn more about your rights as an author.

As graduate students, you hold copyright in your thesis. When submitting the thesis, you retain your rights and sign the Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence to allow the thesis to be made available for others to read.

If you have published or are publishing a portion of your work (i.e., articles, poems, plays, music), and you wish also to include a substantial portion from that work in your thesis, please consider the copyright implications.

As early as possible in the publication process, inform the editor or publisher that you need to reproduce material from your work in your thesis. If you have co-authored the work, you should also inform the co-author(s) that you intend to use the results of your work in your thesis.

Authors usually sign a copyright transfer agreement when they publish. Quite often, this agreement transfers the copyright from the author(s) (i.e., you) to the publisher. If you want to use the content of the article in your thesis, you will need to maintain the right to re-use your own work. When signing an agreement with the publisher, read the terms of the publication agreement very carefully. Look for wording in the publishing agreement about the right to reproduce content from the article in a thesis that will be freely available on the web in an institutional repository (i.e., Spectrum). If you do not see such wording, ask to have it added.

Consider strategies for keeping your author rights.

Keep your publishing agreement/waiver and all correspondence with the publisher on file as they are proof that you have permission to use the material in your thesis.

Finally, familiarize yourself with the section on the Manuscript-Based Thesis in the Thesis Preparation and Thesis Examination Regulations guide (pp. 9–11).

Agreeing to the Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence

As a graduate student at Concordia, you hold the copyright of your thesis for the entire term of copyright protection. As a condition of receiving your degree, you are asked to grant Concordia University permission to make the work openly available. At Concordia, your thesis is submitted through Spectrum, the University's institutional repository. Upon deposit, you agree to Spectrum Concordia University Research Repository's Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence.

The Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence

The Spectrum Concordia University Research Repository's Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence has been revised (November 5, 2022) to include Library and Archives Canada's Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence, formerly a separate document requiring signatures.

The Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence stipulates that you own the copyright in your thesis, but that Concordia University and Library and Archives Canada will:

... archive, preserve on any medium and format, perform, produce, reproduce, translate theses and dissertations in any format, including but not limited to electronic, digital or paper format, and to make available in print or communicate online by telecommunication to the public, loan, distribute for non-commercial purposes, for research and private study.

You can enter into other agreements, such as one for publishing your thesis, so long as subsequent licence agreements respect that Concordia University and Library and Archives Canada have a non-exclusive right to make your thesis available. For example, you cannot assign an exclusive licence for your thesis to a publisher as part of a publishing contract, as you have already been granted a non-exclusive licence. Generally, you should inform any publisher interested in your thesis that it will be available on the internet and in other databases by Concordia University and Library and Archives Canada.

While depositing your thesis is a requirement, you can place an embargo on your thesis for up to two years from your final submission date. Under exceptional circumstances and with written justification to the Thesis Office, the embargo may be renewed. See “deferment” in the Student Guide to Thesis Preparation. Once embargoed and deposited, the abstract and basic bibliographical details will still appear to the public.

IP policy background for the Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence

The Thesis Non-Exclusive Licence originates from the University's Policy on Intellectual Property, which is also reflected in the University's Graduate Calendar and the Thesis Regulations from the Thesis Office.

Paragraph 34 in the Policy on Intellectual Property (VPRGS-9) states:

34. Upon submission of a thesis by a graduate student, the graduate student shall be deemed to have granted the University a non-exclusive, royalty free licence to reproduce, archive, preserve, conserve, communicate to the public by telecommunication or on the internet, loan, distribute the thesis worldwide for non-commercial purposes, in any format including electronic. In the event of a deferment of a thesis for distribution or publication, it is understood that the University's licence to communicate, loan and/or distribute shall only take effect as of the expiry of the agreed upon deferment period.

Page last reviewed on: 2024-05-06