Forming Your Committee

Students should not schedule the proposal defense prior to their committee being finalized and their appointment form being approved by the Graduate School.

It is necessary to have the form approved in advance of the proposal defense, as there are instances in which committee members are not approved (for example, if someone is listed as the Graduate Faculty Representative who the Graduate School does not deem qualified to serve in this capacity).

The Graduate School's requirements for everything from committee formation to graduation clearance can be found under the Current Students tab on the Graduate School website. 

Composition of the Doctoral Committee: Roles and Responsibilities

The Graduate School requires that doctoral committees consist of no less than four members. These four members must be regular members of the Graduate Faculty or must be granted an exception by the Dean of the Graduate School.  All committees must include a chair and a Graduate Faculty Representative. Assistant Professors are usually not approved to serve as chair unless they have served as a committee member first. Exceptions are granted on a case-by-case basis. 

Graduate Faculty Representative

The primary role of the Graduate Faculty Representative is to ensure that the student is treated fairly and that Graduate School policies are upheld. Expertise in the student's area of research is not a requirement. The Graduate Faculty Representative's responsibilities are explained in greater detail here. Assistant Professors are not eligible to serve as Graduate Faculty Representative. 

The requirement to include an outside member on all dissertation committees is not uncommon among institutions of higher education and is in keeping with best practices in doctoral support. 

Committee Members

Committee members are often chosen to provide topic or methodological expertise. Even without contributing their expertise, committee members may be chosen based on faculty with whom the student has a good professional relationship or who could offer a helpful outside perspective. Committee members are generally not as involved as the committee chair in the everyday progression of the dissertation.  Typically, they read the dissertation only in its final form before the defense, although they should be available for consultation throughout the process and may be more closely involved in sections or chapters in which they have particular expertise. 

The committee members and Graduate Faculty Representative will:

  • Approve of the subject matter and methodology of the thesis or dissertation research
  • Review and comment on drafts of the thesis or dissertation prior to submission to The Graduate School
  • Verify, to the best of their ability, the quality of the data collection and evidence, data analysis, and logical reasoning or interpretation in light of the proposal aims
  • Evaluate whether the student’s thesis or dissertation fulfills the requirements of the degree