Dissertation Committee

So my latest dissertation-related task is putting together a dissertation committee. I’m doing a survey-based field study with a post-positivist research model (“traditional” North American stuff). My specific questions are, What do you look for in a dissertation committee member (assuming you can pick your members, or at least have a say in the process)? and How many committee members should you have? I ask the latter question because my advisor is leaving it up to me whether to have 4 or 5 members. Thoughts?

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5 Responses

  1. Great question, especially since I am faced with the same thing (my advisor and I will discuss whether I should have 3 or 4 members this afternoon, in fact). I think it depends what you want from your committee. I see many more logistical issues and potential room for disagreement with 5. However, if you know of 5 people who will add really great insight and feedback, then I would do 5. In my opinion, for me at least, I don’t know how much a 5th person would add since I’ve been working on this for so long. And given that I have a defense deadline approaching, I’d prefer to minimize any potential conflict among committee members so that I can actually finish. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I’ve been wondering the same thing. It sounds like you and I are in the same boat, Nick. I’m hoping to be on the market next year too and am finalizing my committee. My advisor voted for 4 instead of 5 because she thought it would streamline some of the scheduling and negotiating, but I’m still looking for members 3 and 4.

    What, if anything, do you send to potential committee members once you have them identified? My project’s ready for guidance, but I don’t want to wander into some stranger’s office and say, “Hey, I know you don’t know me, but can I have your partial attention for a year?”

  3. Hello All,

    I introduced myself to the potential committee members by email. Included was a brief bio, why I decided to take this education path, and the purpose and problem statement along with the title of the dissertation. Once the people accepted I sent them a project plan and a copy of the dissertation propsal.

  4. My advisor had me put together a mini-proposal to solicit members. The mini-proposal basically includes the title, motivation for the study, research questions, brief literature review (slanted toward how it informs my study), research model, brief explanations/logic for each hypothesis, a table defining all constructs with supporting references, and the research method. The method sketched out the approach to test the model, unit of analysis, key respondents (I’m doing org level stuff), and measures (existing and noting those that need to be developed). My mini-proposal is approximately 18 pages (double space with one inch margins).

    I just “signed up” my first committee member today. Hooray!

  5. Ok, I suppose I should explain my previous comment a bit. Given that I’m focused on finishing up (i.e. graduating in May), I read your post to be how many people should you have on your final committee. Since we have different numbers of people for our proposal versus thesis committees, the people may change. Which is what happened to me. We had to have 5 for our proposal defense, but can have 3-4 for our thesis defense. I think the members of the proposal committee are much more influential than the people on the final defense committee. At least at our school, they won’t let you defend your dissertation unless you’re going to pass. So all the work has really been done. Only 2 of my original 5 members will be on my thesis committee – my advisor and another professor in my “area”. One was dropped because I’m not doing an experiment anymore, another was dropped because I dropped another component that he was an expert in, and I added one because of his expertise in the statistical methods I’m using. The remaining “dropped” person could be #4, since he is my technical expert (so hasn’t officially been dropped yet). So that’s a long-winded addition to my previous comment – hope it helps. ๐Ÿ™‚ And good luck to all of you in the proposal stage!!

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