Many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) allow students or their advisors to restrict access to theses/dissertations (TDs) by applying embargoes. This study aims to identify why Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) allow embargoes.
One hundred HEIs were randomly selected, representing seven geographic regions. The authors imported policies/guidelines for embargoing TDs into MAXQDA software and coded the qualitative data.
Among the 100 studied HEIs, 43 HEIs (43%) have policies/guidelines on the web for embargoing TDs, most of which are from North America. For the majority of HEIs, embargoes are a voluntary option for students/advisors. Content analysis of the 32 embargo policies showed that embargo reasons (18 key reasons) can be categorized into six broad themes (commercialization, publication, ethical issues, funding contracts/agreements, security and safety, and miscellaneous).
In this study, only those policies are reviewed that are available, discoverable and accessible on HEIs’ websites.
Highlighting the detrimental effect of not managing stipulations towards embargoes clearly, the findings could be useful for national/institutional policymakers and administrators of research departments, academic libraries, institutional repositories and graduate offices.
This is the first study to investigate rationales for TDs embargo practices. It creates awareness of how embargoes are managed and reflected in policy. Ultimately, it recommends further interrogation on how embargoes influence the principle of openness to scholarship.