Conducting research

Fair dealing for the purposes of research & private study

UK copyright law provides an exception for non commercial research and private study, under which you may make a single copy of a 'fair' proportion of a work for your own personal research or study e.g. photocopy an extract from a book to read for your research.

The law says that copying under this exception must be for 'non-commercial' purposes. Academic activity across the university will generally be classified as non-commercial, but visitors to university libraries carrying out research on behalf of a commercial employer will probably fall outside the scope.

How much can you copy?

What is 'fair dealing' is not defined in law, but as a rule of thumb, safe limits are likely to be:

  • one chapter from a book
  • one article from a single issue of a journal
  • one paper from one set of conference proceedings
  • one short story or one poem not exceeding 10 pages from an anthology
  • one case  from a report of judicial proceedings

This exception covers any type of copying, e.g. photocopying, scanning, printing, downloading.


Please note the following points:

  • You must not copy material for anyone else.  This includes forwarding copies by email, or making them available to others by placing them on the internet, or an intranet site.  When collaborating in research you should only provide others with a link to the original source (e.g. the URL of the ejournal on the publisher’s website).
  • A digital copy should not be altered, edited, incorporated or changed in any way.
  • Digital copies should be stored on a non-networked drive.
  • Single photographs, illustrations, charts, maps etc. should not be copied (unless you are the copyright owner, or have prior permission), nor should such material be isolated from a work and scanned in isolation.

Using library online resources

You have access to many full text electronic journals, books and bibliographic databases through the library. You may have found them by doing an internet search but access is allowed due to a University subscription. These resources are subject to licensing agreements and you need to abide by these.

Please read our guidelines for accessing, copying and sharing library online resources.

Copying materials from the internet

Many people assume that content that is freely available to view on the internet may be freely copied. This is not true. Most works on the internet are protected by copyright.  

  • Check to see if there is a copyright statement or policy on a website. Look for a link at the foot of the home page to 'Legal' or 'Terms and Conditions'. It may provide guidance on whether or not material may be downloaded for personal use and any other restrictions.
  • Check to see whether a work has a Creative Commons or other open licence which may allow copying and reuse without permission. But beware: the person who put the material up may themselves not be the copyright owner, or be infringing copyright. See our open licences page for websites where you can search for open licensed content.
  • In the absence of any clear copyright statement consider applying the 'fair dealing' limits given above.

Remember that many pirated works (books, music, images etc.) are available on the internet. You should not copy, download or link to any such infringing material.

If you are in any doubt, don’t copy!


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