Selecting Dissertation Committee Members

Academic News & Updates

If you are fortunate enough to be able to select your dissertation committee members, you have the opportunity to make one of graduate school’s most difficult processes much easier and enjoyable. When selecting members of your dissertation committee, it is important to consider a wide range of factors. Here are five things to consider before agreeing to a new committee member:

1. Talk to other students about their experiences. If a student tells you one member procrastinated on returning feedback on drafts, think about your timetable and if you have time for those delays. It is highly likely that the same committee member will also procrastinate with your drafts.

2. Find a dissertation committee member that can help you structure your work, especially if your Dissertation Chair is not familiar with your topic. You will ultimately be the expert on your specific project. However, if you have a committee member that is knowledgeable your topic, they can guide you when you suggest something that has either been over-studied or does not make any sense based upon previous research findings.

3. If you are scared of statistics, try to find a dissertation committee member that can explain your statistics to you in a manner you can understand. If you are not familiar with statistics, you will need to ask for assistance in choosing the appropriate tests. If you cannot find a committee member to assist you in increasing your statistical knowledge, seek assistance through other means, such as one-on-one statistical consulting with Statistics Solutions.

4. Before you select a dissertation committee member, you need to meet with them to discuss your project and your expectations. Ask the potential committee member in a straightforward manner if they are interested, if they can meet your expectations, and if they can meet your desired timeline. You will also want to ask the potential committee member if they have any long vacations or sabbatical plans. If so, you will need to determine if a potential delay in completing your research is possible for you based on your graduation and career goals. If they hesitate on any of the questions regarding your expectations or timeline, move on to another possible committee member.

5. Consult the guidelines of your department and school. Many departments and schools allow you to choose members outside your department. In some cases, you can select individuals that are working in the area that you have worked with, such as a clinical supervisor.

Best of luck in choosing dissertation committee members and a successful dissertation experience!

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