Answered By: Monique Ritchie
Last Updated: 12 Jul, 2023     Views: 1598

Referencing images

You always need to reference any third party intellectual property you use in your thesis. The best way to do this would be to have a credit alongside the image to identify the source/copyright owner and to include full details in your reference list, following the styles and conventions recommended by your College or supervisor. See our guide to referencing, linked below.


Do I need permission?

As your thesis will be archived online in the University's research archive, BURA, you might need to ask the copyright owner for permission to use images in your online thesis. This is because the copyright owner has the exclusive right to control the electronic communication of their work, beyond what might be allowed under statutory exceptions to copyright in the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act  (CDPA) 1988 (as amended 2014). 

If an image is used solely to enhance the look of your thesis, or where the use is contextual but you intend to commercialise the work, or formally publish it, permission from the copyright owner should always be obtained. 

However, for the purposes of researching, writing and examining a thesis, where the image use is illustrative and instructional, you will often be able to use an image without permission, as this use is permitted under the statutory exception Section 32 illustration for instruction in the UK CDPA, provided the use is fair dealing, and meets all other necessary requirements of the exception. 

Additional care is needed when assessing whether the use of an image is fair dealing under an exception, because when using images you will normally be using the whole work, not an extract.


What exceptions to copyright might apply to my use of images in a thesis?

There are a number of exceptions covering education and research, including illustration for instruction (Section 32) which covers fair dealing with a work for teaching, including examination. As a the main form of assessment for a doctoral degree, a thesis can be considered to be an examination. Other relevant exceptions cover research and private study (Section 29); and criticism, review and quotation (Section 30). 

If the use is not fair dealing under the terms of the exception applied, permission should be obtained, or content redacted.

See the links below for further information on fair dealing, and guidance on copyright for education and research from the Intellectual Property Office.