The dissertation committee is a unique feature of doctoral education. The committee's primary goal is to provide each student with the guidance and support she/he will need to conduct an independent research project of the highest quality and relevancy. The heart of the Ph.D. program is the completion of a piece of original scientific research leading to the preparation and defense of a Ph.D. dissertation.
The graduate advisor, normally in consultation with the student and other program faculty, recommends appointment of faculty members to advise on and supervise each student’s dissertation research as part of their examination committees. Final approval of committee membership rests with the dean of Graduate Studies.
- What specific expertise will the member bring to your dissertation committee?
- Why do you want this person on your committee?
- Does the person have expertise in the subject of your study?
- Does the person have expertise in the methodology you plan to use in your study?
- How well do you know the person you intend to invite?
- Have you established a positive, professional relationship with this person?
- Does this person know the quality of your work?
- Have you had enough interactions with this person to take direction and advice from him/her?
- Will the person make the time to contribute to your work?
- Can you expect this person to remain on your committee for the duration?
- Can you expect to receive timely and constructive feedback on your work from him/her?
- How well will your committee members work together as a team?
- Does your chair know the committee members and does the chair have a positive, professional relationship with the members?
- Do your committee members know each other professionally or personally?
- What is the history of the relationships between your committee members?
- Open and consistent communications with your committee, especially your chair, are critical to your successful progress.
- Work closely with your chair to see how she or he wants you to submit your work to the committee. Normally, all chapters or sections of chapters are submitted to your chair for first review. After the chair provides feedback and you make necessary changes, typically you resubmit to the chair who sends your work on to the other committee members or directs you to send them your work.
- Ask your chair how she or he would like you to interact with committee members to get feedback from your committee members on your work. (Often the chair will request that all reviewed work be funneled through the chair and then the feedback is passed on to you for corrections and changes.)
- If you receive feedback on your work that is unclear to you or appears contradictory, take your concerns to your chair.
- Your chair and committee members are busy people, yet they should be responsive to you, just as you need to be responsive to them. Send your chair regular updates on the progress of your work. Send your committee members periodic updates on your progress.
- If you are not receiving timely feedback on the work you submit to your committee, contact your chair with your concerns. You need to strike a balance between persistence and becoming bothersome.
- Your chair will determine when it is time for you to defend your dissertation proposal and your dissertation. You will need to take an active role in scheduling the dates of defense. Along with your chair, you will need to schedule these defenses well ahead of time so committee members can read and contemplate your work in an ample amount of time.
- When a proposal or dissertation defense is scheduled you should provide the necessary forms for the committee members to sign.
- If a committee member’s absence from campus for an extended period of time makes scheduling of examinations unreasonably difficult, the student may request that the committee be reconstituted.
- Reconstitution of the committee may also be justified by a substantial change in the student’s thesis topic or may be required by the departure of a committee member from the university.
When membership changes must be made, the graduate advisor in consultation with the student should recommend a new committee member, giving the reason for the change. The student must file a Request for Reconstitution of Committee Membership.