All You Need to Know About a Dissertation Committee

Is there life after PhD? You will know only after you receive a PhD. It should be noted that not all candidates for a PhD cross the finish line. Only around 20-40% are allowed to defend their dissertations and get a degree. Universities set their own rules for dissertation writing and decide if your dissertation is good enough for a degree. A committee of a few people (usually from faculty of the same university, sometimes inviting professors from other academic institutions) examine and discuss whether the author is worthy of an academic rank or not. Decisions are made by two opponents: “external” (from another university) and “internal” (from the same department). Sometimes the number of opponents increases to three. A supervisor typically can be present during this procedure, but he or she doesn’t participate in making final decisions.

All you need to know about the dissertation committee

So, you have a finished dissertation in your hands, you have several publications, and now you are on the path to gather a dissertation committee. Gathering a thesis committee will be a real joint venture between you and your supervisor. Good supervisors usually are interested in how the thesis committee will judge their students and it’s one of the core responsibilities of a supervisor. If the person is unable to fulfill this duty, then we advise you to reconsider your supervisor.

How to Choose a Dissertation Committee?

First, ask your supervisor. Your supervisor is one of the people that you can ask for advice for appropriate candidates for your committee. If you decide to search for members on your own, we advise you to consider at least three areas. Determine want kind of committee members you want to see on your defense:

  1. Those who will strengthen your professional network. They can introduce you to potential collaborators, and possibly help with your search for tenure track position or postdoctoral; and/or write a letter of recommendation for you.
  2. Those who will give valuable feedback on your work. They are more likely to actually read your thesis (it may be a surprise for you that it’s quite uncommon), and might have some constructive comments to say.
  3. Those who will be quite easy to work with in the process of defense. Professors are likely to be flexible on the date of your defense, and likely to approve your dissertation without demanding lots of changes (it’s a challenge to fit into four schedules besides your own and it may become a nightmare; it’s nice to have committee members who are easy to work with).

Decide what features your committee should have and how it may help you in your future profession after you receive a degree. So, sit down and look at your desires for the future – if you will tend to work in the industry, it’s unlikely that you will use all those “valuable” contacts from your professor, but if you want to continue your path in academia, you should use such a chance. Will you keep working on your research in the sphere of your dissertation? Really, you have only a few options. To make the right decision, compare all three types of members and deduce how useful your cooperation will be.

How to Invite a Dissertation Committee Member?
If the professor that you want to see as a committee member can be reached off-line in a university or other institution, it will be better to have a meeting with him or her. Also, bring a printed letter with your proposal with a little description of your work and why you want to see this person. If it’s hard to organize the meeting, just write an email! However, take into consideration that your message shouldn’t be too generic, so make it look original and interesting. Don’t forget to add some information about your project (but be brief, in order not to overload your letter) and something about you as a person.

Do Dissertation Committee Members Get Paid?

A long time ago, PhD programs would compensate “outside readers” who were clinicians in practice that had an expertise to function as readers and were not in faculty positions. But nowadays, few universities propose credits for participating in a dissertation committee. As to our opinion, it would be unethical (as we all know) for a student to pay someone to sit on their committee. Outside readers are usually interested in particular spheres and are eager to hear new information that can inspire them for new scientific work.

Trust your instincts and communication skills to get lucky! Think twice before choosing your committee members, as all those people may influence your life dramatically. Keep in mind that professors are human beings that suffer from long hours in a university and are contacting many crazy students every day, so if they want to talk for a while at the university coffee shop, let them speak. If they are too busy to talk with you, take another breath.

This little bit of information usually is not discussed in universities, so we hope it will help in your big academic step. In case you will face any difficulties, you are welcome to get help from our cheap dissertation service.