Answered By: Lauren Collister
Last Updated: Aug 11, 2016     Views: 130

You should do your best to gain permission for the use of photographs or images in your thesis or dissertation. For information and request letters on gaining permission, see the ETD Copyright website

If you cannot gain permission, you can consider using another photograph that will serve the same purpose by another (hopefully more responsive) owner, if possible. However, if you wish to use these particular photographs, you have a solid Fair Use argument here since this is a scholarly work.

For information and tools for thinking through Fair Use, see our Guide on the topic

There are guidelines from the Visual Resources Association about the Fair Use of images for teaching, research, and study. Their policy document is linked below, and on page 12, you can see some best practices for using images in a thesis or dissertation if you cannot obtain permission. These include having the images be the subject of commentary, using lower-resolution images if possible, and giving good attribution.

The University of Southern California Library has some more excellent information and suggestions (especially on documenting and citing images), which you can find here:


To conclude, if you use images for which you cannot obtain permission, follow the guidelines above and document your attempts to gain permission (this is called doing “due diligence”). 

Related Topics

Need help? Chat with us!

More ways to contact us

  • Ask Us is intended for current Pitt students, faculty, and staff or questions from others regarding our unique resources and services
  • We cannot respond to medical, legal, or tax-related questions
  • Within 2 business days you should receive a response with an answer or direction to additional resources
  • Use of Ask Us is your agreement to our Privacy Policy Statement
  • Anonymized transcripts may be used to improve our service or for training