Making the Most of Your Committee

Dissertation Motivation

Many doctoral students view their committee as an obstacle in the dissertation process. While some committees may seem difficult to work with, it is important to remember that they are appointed to provide you with guidance. You should build rapport with your committee members early on in the process. Do research on each professor’s academic focus and review their publications. Identify each committee member’s preferred means of communication and consistently use this method. Determine if they prefer to use tracked changes, highlights, or change matrices to keep track of revisions.

Develop a road map for the dissertation journey and set clear goals and time lines. Ask for sample papers that have been approved from the school so there is a general template to follow.  Touch base with your committee at regular intervals to provide updates or discuss issues; we recommend weekly meetings or check-ins. Determine the sections of the paper that each committee member will reviewing specifically. Typically, universities provide a literature review specialist (sometimes referred to as a “subject matter expert”) and a methodologist. If uncertain of a theory or methodological approach, notify the appropriate committee member so they can provide suggestions. Because the dissertation can be a lengthy process, all of your communication with your committee and school should be saved, if possible, so you can review it in the future. Have the committee double check all permission forms, consent forms, and survey questions. An extra set of eyes can help detect lingering spelling, grammar, and formatting issues.

These are just a few suggestions for how you can effectively collaborate with your committee members and make the dissertation process go more smoothly!


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