Selecting a Thesis Committee
Tips for selecting your thesis committee
In our Thesis/Dissertation Writing Series, we answered the commonly asked question: " What is a thesis? " We also discussed how to write a thesis or dissertation and offered some advice on the thesis editing process. We will now discuss how to select a thesis committee. The selection of the thesis committee is one of the most important decisions you will make during your academic career.
What is a thesis committee?
A thesis committee is a group of people, usually professors, who supervise a student's work and work closely with that student to answer questions and provide advice. A thesis committee may also act as the examining committee at a thesis defence. In most departments in North America, it is common for the thesis committee to consist of a principal supervisor and two (possibly three) other experts in your field of study. Typically, one member of the thesis committee must be a professor in a different department from that of the student.
Why do I need a thesis committee?
These individuals will act as mentors who will guide you through the process of defining objectives, conducting research, editing drafts, writing the literature review , and writing the thesis. Choose your committee—and especially your principal supervisor—with care. The relationship between supervisor and PhD student should be mutually beneficial. In the sciences, for example, the PhD student will conduct research and take classes, while the supervisor's time will likely be divided between teaching, administration (procurement of funding/maintenance of a laboratory), writing research articles, and mentoring graduate students.
How should I select my thesis supervisor?
The ideal supervisor would be one who
- is readily available for consultation and proofreading,
- is a balanced thinker (i.e., he or she considers both specific and general questions),
- is respected in his or her field, and
- has a good track record with respect to graduating previous thesis students.
Of these traits, accessibility is crucial, as the skills involved in academic research and dissertation writing are more easily acquired when a student has an accessible supervisor as a mentor.
Some final thoughts...
Most of the time, you will need to send out email requests to gauge the interest of members of your potential thesis committee. Then, you will schedule meetings to discuss your research and find out if you are a good match. You don't want to come off as unprofessional in your email because of grammatical or spelling errors, so send your thesis committee correspondence to our thesis editors for their revision.
Have You Read?
"The Complete Beginner's Guide to Academic Writing"
How to Write a Great Thesis Statement
How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation
What is a Thesis?
Upload your file(s) so we can calculate your word count, or enter your word count manually.
We will also recommend a service based on the file(s) you upload.
Drag File(s) Here to Calculate Your Word Count
English is not my first language. I need English editing and proofreading so that I sound like a native speaker.
I need to have my journal article, dissertation, or term paper edited and proofread, or I need help with an admissions essay or proposal.
I have a novel, manuscript, play, or ebook. I need editing, copy editing, proofreading, a critique of my work, or a query package.
I need editing and proofreading for my white papers, reports, manuals, press releases, marketing materials, and other business documents.
I need to have my essay, project, assignment, or term paper edited and proofread.
I want to sound professional and to get hired. I have a resume, letter, email, or personal document that I need to have edited and proofread.
Select a Service
Prices include your personal % discount.
Prices include % sales tax ( ).
Skip to Content
Other ways to search:
- Events Calendar
Building your thesis committee
Choosing a faculty member for your thesis committee.
Thesis committees are typically composed of a Thesis Advisor from your major department, an Honors Council Representative from your major department, and a third committee member from outside your major department, usually referred to as the Outside Reader . Thesis committee makeup can vary, but committees must always include at least three eligible members of the CU Boulder faculty (see Thesis Committee Policy below) in the roles of thesis advisor, Honors Council representative, and outside/third reader. You are welcome to have additional members on your committee, provided they meet the eligibility requirements. We recommend that you have no more than 5 members, as it becomes quite difficult to coordinate that many schedules when it's time for you to schedule your defense.
To be eligible to serve on a thesis committee one must be a regular full-time faculty member or a multi-year contract instructor involved in an instructional program at the University of Colorado Boulder. In terms of rank, this means Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Teaching Associate Professor (Senior Instructor), or Teaching Assistant Professor (Instructor). Additionally, faculty must hold a terminal degree in their field (usually a Ph.D.). Graduate students are not eligible to serve.
Faculty Eligible to Serve
To find a list of Honors Council Representatives, please click here
To see a searchable PDF of faculty members that have been verified as eligible to serve, please click here *
To see a searchable and sortable Excel file of faculty members that have been verified as eligible to serve, please click here *
*This is NOT a complete list of faculty who are eligible to serve; this is simply a list of faculty who have served previously and were verified as eligible at that time. Please note that eligibility can change as circumstances with faculty change (for example, a faculty member changes rostered departments or leaves the university).
If you do not see a faculty member in this list and would like them to serve on your committee, you will need to check their eligibility to serve. Please see the information outlined in the "Eligibility Requirements" paragraph above to understand the criteria. A great resource to check eligibility is experts.colorado.edu . You can also check the People page of most departments to learn more about an individual faculty member. If you're still not sure, email us at [email protected] and we'll be happy to check for you.
More about the different committee roles
There are three positive signs that a professor might make a good thesis advisor for you: They are well-versed in the particular field of study you wish to investigate, you’ve taken or are taking a class or lab with them and are doing well, and you like them as a person and would be excited to work with them. You will be working closely with them throughout the project, so a good working relationship is very beneficial.
When you meet with prospective thesis advisors, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Be direct - ask how often they'd be willing to meet with you, how many drafts they'd be able to read and critique, and what kinds of expectations they would have of you. They will probably also have questions for you about why you'd like to write a thesis, what you hope to get from the process, and why you'd like to work with them.
If you're having trouble finding a thesis advisor, talk to your Honors Council representative.
Honors Council Representative
The Honors Council is a body of faculty made up of representatives from each Honors Program-participating department within the College of Arts and Sciences. Honors Council Representatives are responsible for making sure students follow the policies, procedures, and deadlines set forth by the Honors Program, as well as any additional policies and procedures the department has enacted, such as thesis format, research methods, and thesis class requirements. When planning to write a thesis, you should always start by contacting one of the Honors Council Representatives for your major to talk with them about your proposed project and to learn what policies and procedures you must follow. In some departments, there is only one Honors Council Representative, and in that case, they will be serving on your committee. In other departments, there may be several that you could work with, or there may be specific representatives for different major tracks.
To see who the Honors Council Representatives are for your major department, and to learn more about any departmental requirements on top of what the Honors Program has set, please click here.
The Honors Council meets in April and November to award honors designations, first in divisional subcommittees and then as a full council. Please note that, since the Council does not meet in the summer, you cannot defend a thesis and be eligible to be awarded Latin honors for a summer graduation. You either need to defend in the fall or spring before you graduate.
If you are writing a departmental thesis (in other words, a thesis in your major), you will need an Outside Reader. The primary role of an Outside Reader is to make sure that your thesis is held to the same high standards as theses in other departments. So, the faculty member you choose as your Outside Reader needs to be from outside your major department. This way they can provide that checks-and-balances piece of the puzzle so that we can confidently say that a Sociology thesis is held to the same standard as a Physics thesis, and Ethnic Studies, and Economics and so on.
At a minimum, the faculty member should be prepared to read and provide feedback on later drafts of your thesis and attend the defense. However, if the Outside Reader's field of study touches on your topic or needs, they may be able to provide more support. For example, if you feel that you could use some extra help in your writing, you could look for an Outside Reader from the Program for Writing and Rhetoric. Or, if you were an Art major working on a project analyzing historic art pieces, it might be beneficial to ask a faculty member from the History department who specializes in the period of history you're studying to serve as your Outside Reader.
Additional Committee Member
If you're writing a General Honors thesis, you will select an additional committee member instead of an Outside Reader. Since your topic is interdisciplinary, it is common for you to have a thesis advisor from one of the disciplines and an additional committee member from the other, but this is not required. Due to the nature of your project, you are welcome to select any eligible faculty member, including faculty from the Honors Program, the Program for Writing and Rhetoric, or any other major department at CU Boulder. To determine eligibility, please see the "Eligibility Requirements" section above. Some suggestions on how to choose your Additional Committee Member: You may choose someone that you feel would be a key contributor to either the content, structure/writing, or process of your project that you work well with, or you could select someone that will step in towards the end of your project to read your final draft(s) and participate in the defense, or any other criteria you feel would most benefit your project. Please see the section above titled, "Faculty Eligible to Serve" for more details on verifying a potential committee member's eligibility.
If you're writing a departmental thesis, you may also wish to add additional committee member(s). These members must meet the same eligibility criteria as all your other members. Keep in mind that the more members that you add, the more people you'll have to coordinate with when it comes time to schedule your defense.
- Patient Care
- School of Medicine
Life at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Do’s and Don’ts for Preparing for Your Thesis Committee Meeting
- by Rachel Evans
- June 12, 2019 June 12, 2019
- A Day in the Life
Every year, after passing the dreaded preliminary oral exam, Ph.D. students are required to meet with their thesis advisory committee (TAC) to assess their progress and plan future work. These meetings can be incredibly valuable, and they provide important check-ins during the sometimes chaotic day-to-day lab work. While preparing for my last TAC meeting, I realized I was asking many of my classmates for tips about how to have a successful meeting. I share some of their advice, and my own experiences, below. Graduate programs have handbooks with important deadlines and more comprehensive details on how to structure the thesis committee, but this post is meant to be a miniguidebook from a student’s perspective.
DO: Contact your committee members very early to schedule your meeting.
Faculty members are incredibly busy, and trying to wrangle four to five of them into one room at a single time is more difficult than one might expect. It is absolutely critical to give them plenty of time to look at their schedules and find a time when they are available for your committee meeting. Faculty input is the crux of all thesis committee meetings, and their advice will be invaluable in guiding your thesis project, so try to make the scheduling process easy for them. Start scheduling your meeting at least two months in advance, especially if it will fall during the summer months. Using a survey-based tool like Doodle or Google Forms can be helpful. If the majority of your members respond with a date that works, follow up with unresponsive members by giving the date and time that works for the others. Sending a “yes or no” option makes responding easy. Once you have the date and time set, send out a calendar invitation and get your room reserved!
DON’T: Forget to schedule your annual evaluation-of-progress meeting with your P.I.
Besides the TAC meeting, most Ph.D. programs require that students meet with their PIs to go over their projects’ progress and address what will be discussed during the meeting. For my department, this should be done about one month before the meeting. Although this meeting is generally more informal than the TAC meeting, it is helpful to prepare any necessary documents, and maybe a presentation with recent data, to discuss with your thesis adviser. This is an opportunity to address any major issues one-on-one, and it may help guide any final experiments or changes to your slides before the bigger meeting. Students should also use this discussion to speak candidly with their adviser about graduation timelines, career goals, etc. Often, during the TAC meeting, these questions will come up, and it is helpful to have already considered your answers and discussed them with your adviser to avoid any surprises.
DO: Start earlier than you think you need to.
I realize this may incite flashbacks of your parents telling you not to procrastinate, but this advice rings true for your TAC meeting. To summarize months of work and data in a coherent way, and not just to someone in your lab who has seen your lab meetings 10 times, is no small task and may require more background slides. For most committee meetings, start to gather your data and figures at least one week in advance, and if you have time, perhaps start structuring your presentation a month in advance. This may vary from department to department, so ask your lab mates and peers to find out how they have done this in the past. You may also want to show the presentation to your PI beforehand, so be sure to incorporate that into your timeline.
DON’T: Try to do it all on your own.
It can be tempting to just assemble your meeting presentation all on your own. You know your data inside and out, right? While that may be true, contact your PI and lab members for feedback on your presentation. They can give tips on the order to present your projects, things to emphasize and formatting styles. One of my previous lab members told me that, for later meetings, you should structure your presentation as you would chapters of your thesis. This conveys that you have thought through the data, and it gives a nice scaffold to frame your results. Your PI can also give insight as to what topics to avoid — if they might bring up issues with committee members or take too much time away from the main topics.
DO: Go into the meeting confidently!
Presenting your data to your committee is the ultimate exercise in trying to gain someone’s approval. As such, it can be daunting and stressful. However, students should think of this as a marketing exercise. You need to sell your project, and your skills, so that the committee members believe in your plans. A past graduate of my program told me that the most important thing is to present your data confidently and concisely, giving them a clear idea of how you have worked hard and planned ahead for experiments.
DON’T: Digress extensively from your data.
With all of the administrative details and professional development that is expected of Ph.D. students, it is important to keep the main purpose of the meeting in focus. You want to show them your work as a Ph.D. student in the lab — this means that data should be the star of the show. Prepare a few slides at the end of the presentation summarizing any class requirements, grant writing and other details in case they ask for it. But remember that dedicating too much time to these details can take important time away from discussing your data and can alter the focus of the meeting. Professional development is equally important as graduation requirements, but the focus of your meeting should be your progress in the lab. This may change as you go through your program, but if you are unsure of how much emphasis to place on professional development, you should ask your PI.
Note that as students near graduation, the emphasis of the thesis committee meeting starts to shift. Students hoping to defend in the near future should prepare a structured timeline of everything they have completed, and the things they still need to complete, to show they have a plan for their proposed timeline. Here, students should present completed projects and submitted publications, and only focus on actual, attainable future directions (not just anything that is possible to do in the lab).
Next week, I will share more details about how to prepare for and succeed in your meeting as the date gets much closer. These tips should give you an idea of where to start when it comes to your committee meeting, but keep in mind that all departments are different. Be sure to contact your peers and ask about their experiences. While the thesis committee meeting is an important learning experience in itself, the process is also a wonderful opportunity to learn from your classmates.
- Every Ph.D. Journey Is Different, and That’s OK
- Finding Your Niche: How Rebecca’s Ph.D. Launched a Career in Medical Writing
- The Future of Biomedical Education: Part 1
Want to read more from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine? Subscribe to the Biomedical Odyssey blog and receive new posts directly in your inbox.
The Ph.D. Thesis Committee has the responsibility of advising a student on all aspects of the thesis experience, from the proposal process through the preparation and defense of the final document.
The Committee should be comprised of
- the Thesis Advisor(s),
- the Thesis Committee Chair who presides at all committee meetings (must be a BE faculty member), and
- at least one additional member (unrestricted).
The student and research supervisor should agree upon members of a Thesis Committee, and the student is responsible for inviting faculty to sit on their committee. Beyond administration of the Oral Exam, the Thesis Committee is meant to provide guidance on the various aspects of the student’s project; Thesis Committee members should therefore be selected with this goal in mind.
Forming the Committee
During the summer of the second year, the student must submit the BE PhD Thesis Committee form to the BE Academic Office ) to request approval of the Thesis Committee membership.
Changing the Committee
The Thesis Committee constituted for the Oral Exam/Thesis Proposal may change over the course of the student’s research, as determined by the student and advisor with approval by the Graduate Program Chair. Students should submit a new PhD Thesis Committee form (above) to the BE Academic Office.
Feb. 27, 2023
Selecting your master’s thesis committee members, by karyssa courey: selecting a thesis committee is like completing a puzzle every piece of this process is very valuable to have the right fit for your committee.
First off, congratulations on advancing to this stage in your academic career! Meeting the requirements for your thesis is not an easy task but you did it! You deserve to celebrate your achievements, both big and small.
After you have finish celebrating, it’s now time for you to select committee members for your thesis. A thesis committee is a group of faculty members who provides mentorship for your entire thesis experience.
Before you begin randomly selecting members of your committee, there are a few steps and strategies that will help you pick the right members!
Where do I start?
- Review the requirements for thesis committees in your department
Rice provides requirements for thesis committees online . For example, a thesis committee for a graduate student in the psychological sciences must have three members (your advisor and two others). At least two committee members must be within your department. Reviewing the requirements will help you understand who can and cannot be on your committee!
- Breaking down your topic
If you are considering committee members, you likely have a draft of your master’s proposal or at least an idea of what your project will be about. Consider the keywords of your project (i.e., what are five terms that can be used to categorize your proposal?). These keywords are the core of your project and can help you identify faculty that align with your interests and research goals.
- Connect your topic to faculty research
Now that you have identified your keywords, think about faculty that you know in your department that are knowledgeable in the topics you are studying. You can also search faculty/lab websites or Google Scholar if you are unfamiliar with a faculty member’s research expertise.
If there are aspects of your master’s proposal that are interdisciplinary, don’t be afraid to search for faculty outside of your department that can provide you with a valuable perspective on your research topic.
Who should I be in communication with?
- Talk with your advisor
Often, your advisor will have suggestions for potential committee members. Your advisor is one of the few people that will understand both the scope of your research project and know the faculty expertise in your department. Listen to your advisor’s recommendations and suggestions, note any faculty that may be a good fit, and share any ideas that you have based on your search in steps 2 and 3. Don’t feel constricted the recommendations from your advisor either, your peers could also be a resource.
- Talk with your peers
Older peers in your program often have a great perspective on selecting thesis committee members. Your peers may also have first hand experience with the same faculty members you are considering. E.g., Professor X provides more substantive feedback than Professor Y, so if you want substantive feedback, this is extremely helpful information!
- Talk with other faculty
Don’t be afraid to schedule meetings with potential faculty members if you want to discuss your thesis. Meeting with faculty is a great way to explain your project, hear their feedback, and gauge their interest.
I’ve talked to everyone on the list; what's next?
- Email potential committee members
Once you have selected your committee members, it is now time to email them! This might be scary or feel like a daunting step, but remember that the faculty at Rice are here to support you and help cultivate your skills as a researcher. Committee members are your team members, and are here to ideally provide constructive feedback to make your project even better!
When emailing faculty, make sure to use an appropriate tone, provide the title of your thesis, explain your project in a few sentences (or add your abstract), and note any specific reasons that that faculty is a good fit.
For example, if a faculty member has expertise relating to a theory you are applying in your research, make sure to name the theory in your email! The goal is for your potential committee members to have a clear understanding of the scope of your project and connect their expertise to your project.
What should I be mindful of during this process?
- Handling rejection
If a prospective committee member declines your offer, it’s okay! Do not take it personally or be discouraged! There may be many reasons why a faculty member might decline (e.g., tight on time, perceived lack of fit, or think another faculty member might be a better fit). Do, however, consider other faculty members and consider scheduling a meeting to discuss your thesis project. Meeting with potential committee members can help you understand if they would be a good fit, plus it’s a great opportunity to meet faculty members outside of your courses!
- Sticking to your timeline
Lastly, keep in mind your deadlines. Different departments have different requirements for scheduling your proposal and declaring your master’s candidacy. For example, in the Psychological Sciences department, a student can propose their master’s without declaring a master's candidacy. However, it is required that committee members are notified at least ten days prior to scheduling your proposal meeting.
MIT Department of Biological Engineering
- DEI Collaborative
- DEI Current Efforts
- DEI Newsletter
- Learning Resources
- Faculty Directory
- Staff Directory
- Prospective Undergraduate
- Major Degree Requirements
- Minor Programs
- Undergraduate Thesis
- Research Prize
- BE Student Life
- Career Resources
- Master's Degree
- Graduate PhD Application
- Application Assistance Program
- Graduate FAQ
- Graduate Life
- Meet The Graduate Students
- PhD Course Requirements
- Advisor Selection
- PhD Written Exam
- Thesis Committee
- PhD Oral Exam
- PhD Dissertation Requirements
- BE Graduate Student Board
- Teaching Assistant Award Winners
- BE Communication Lab
- Research Areas
- Wishnok Prize
- BATS Resources
- BATS Archive
- For Undergraduate Students
- Professional Development
- For Post Docs
- Covid-19 Resources
- Laboratory Safety
- Faculty & Instructors
The student and research supervisor should agree upon members of a Thesis Committee and propose a Committee to the appropriate Graduate Program Committee Chair. During the summer of the second year, the student must submit the PhD Thesis Committee form to the Graduate Committee Chairs (Profs. Katharina Ribbeck and Alan Jasanoff, copy to the Academic Office) to request approval of the Thesis Committee membership. The Committee should be comprised of the thesis advisor(s) plus a minimum of two additional members, at least one of whom must be a member of the BE faculty. The Committee Chair (who presides at all Committee meetings, including the Oral Examination) must be a BE faculty member.
The Ph.D. Thesis Committee has the responsibility of advising a student on all aspects of the thesis experience, from the proposal process through the preparation and defense of the final document. The Thesis Committee must be approved prior to the scheduling of the thesis proposal/oral exam presentation, which must take place in the spring academic semester following the spring semester in which the General Written Exam is successfully completed.
It is expected that the student and supervisor will hold progress reviews with the entire Thesis Committee at least once a year. In addition to the Oral Exam/Thesis Proposal, the student must eventually present at least two Regular Thesis Committee Meeting Reports (one of which must be a Final Thesis Committee Meeting Report) and a Thesis Defense to the Thesis Committee. Progress Reports are required once a year or more frequently if the Thesis Committee so requests. More frequent one-on-one meetings are strongly recommended. Thesis Committee Member changes must be approved by submitting a petition to [email protected] .
The first Progress Report must be held within one year of the Thesis Proposal/Oral Exam presentation. One week before the Progress Report meeting, the student should deliver annotated Specific Aims to each of the Committee Members. The aims should be 2 pages long (at most/ 12pt font). After each up-to-date Specific Aim, please add a few sentences outlining the status of that aim.
At the Progress Report presentation, the student should hand out photocopies of slides to the Thesis Committee Members (generally, this will be a print out of a PowerPoint presentation). Also, the student should provide the Committee Chair with the Thesis Progress Report form to complete. The form should be emailed to b[email protected] within two weeks of the committee meeting.
- Current Students
- Staff Directory
My UNC Charlotte
- About UNC Charlotte
- Campus Life
- Graduate Admissions
Faculty and Staff
- Human Resources
- Auxiliary Services
- Inside UNC Charlotte
- Academic Affairs
- Financial Aid
- Student Health Center
Alumni and Friends
- Alumni Association
- Make a Gift
- Thesis and Dissertation
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 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
- Dissertation Editing
- Dissertation Coaching
- Free Consultation
Dissertation Committee: Roles, Functions, and How to Choose
The path to a dissertation is filled with choices that determine the quality of your experience as a student as well as the future strength of your professional network.
Choosing your dissertation committee is one of the most important decisions–and one of the most fraught–that you’ll make as a graduate student. With the stakes being so high, many doctoral students worry about making a misstep and getting it wrong.
Fear not! Putting together your dissertation committee becomes easier once you know the right questions to ask: of potential committee members, of your dissertation chair, and of yourself. While forming your dissertation committee can be challenging, striking the right balance will lead to a richly rewarding academic experience that will pay dividends throughout your career. Do your homework, and you’ll be just fine.
Dissertation Committee Questions
- What does a dissertation committee do?
- Who serves on your dissertation committee?
- How do you choose dissertation committee members?
- What can you expect from your dissertation committee?
What Does a Dissertation Committee Do?
The basic function of your dissertation committee, which typically consists of five members, is to guide you through the process of proposing, writing, and revising your dissertation.
Dissertation committee members serve in a mentoring capacity, offering constructive feedback on your writing and research, as well as guiding your revision efforts. They are also the gatekeepers of the ivory tower, and the ultimate judges of whether or not your dissertation passes muster.
The dissertation committee is usually formed once your academic coursework is completed. It is not uncommon in the humanities and social sciences for dissertation committee members to also write and evaluate qualifying exams, and of course serve as faculty. By the time you begin working on your dissertation, you may know the faculty members who will serve on your dissertation committee quite well.
Who Serves on Your Dissertation Committee?
To a degree, who serves on your dissertation committee is up to you. Dissertation committees usually consist mostly of faculty members from the doctoral student’s home department, though this can vary due to the rise of interdisciplinary programs.
Some universities also allow an outside expert–a former professor or academic mentor from another university–to serve on your committee. It’s advisable to choose faculty members who know you and who are familiar with your work.
While it’s a good idea to have a mix of faculty members, it’s also important to be mindful about the roles they can play. For instance, I always advise graduate students working in quantitative fields to have a statistician on their committee. When there’s big data to crunch, it never hurts to have a stats expert in your corner. You’ll also want at least one faculty member–besides your chair–whose research is in the same relative area as yours, or adjacent to it.
How to Choose Dissertation Committee Members
Think Carefully. It’s tempting to approach a faculty member who is a superstar in their field (if not, necessarily, in yours) to lend a little extra sparkle to your own academic credentials. Or perhaps the kindly professor you can always count on for an easy A. Or even the faculty member you’d like to be friends with after graduate school. Right?
Not so fast. Here are some things to keep in mind when building your dissertation committee dream team:
- Avoid Superstars. Though the prospect of having your department’s most eminent name on your committee sounds exciting, their star power comes with a price. Between guest lectures, books, keynotes, and conference travel, their time is not their own, and it won’t be yours, either. Choose dissertation committee members who have time for you.
- Choose faculty members you know, like, and can learn from. It’s not a bad idea to approach a professor whose coursework challenged you. One of the professors who served on my committee was such an exacting grader that my term papers for her courses were accepted for publication without revision (academia’s most coveted mythical creature).
- Keep your eyes on the future. Members of your dissertation committee can be your mentors, co-authors, and research collaborators throughout your career. Choose them wisely.
Forming Your Dissertation Committee
Reaching out to potential dissertation committee members and formally asking them to serve on your dissertation committee can be a surprisingly taxing process. It takes some planning, and you’ll want to put some thought into it before making the big ask. While being asked to serve on a dissertation committee won’t come as a surprise to most faculty–they know the drill–these are some considerations to know going in:
- Talk to your advisor before approaching anyone to be on your committee. Remember, your advisor knows their colleagues in a way that you don’t, and is also aware of departmental politics, potential personality conflicts, and which faculty members are a good fit on a dissertation committee. Trust your advisor’s judgement.
- Know what you’re asking. Serving on a dissertation committee is a big time commitment for any faculty member. If they say yes to being on your committee, it means they are invested in you and your research, and they want to play a role in your future. It doesn’t hurt to send a thank-you note.
- Don’t sweat it if they say no. It does not reflect on you as a student or a scholar. A good faculty member is aware of their limitations, and they probably just don’t have the time or bandwidth to take on another big commitment. Thank them and move on.
Once your dissertation committee is formed, it’s time to get down to business. As a faculty member, I love serving on dissertation committees because doing so gives me the chance to work with grad students one on one as they journey into new frontiers and carve a place for themselves in academia. It is a deep, rich learning experience, and it’s thrilling to watch students transform into scholars.
Even though researching and writing a dissertation is the most challenging work you’ll ever do, recognize this time for the opportunity it truly represents. In your dissertation committee, you have a panel of experts all to yourself, and they’re eager to help you knock your dissertation out of the park. This is the experience of a lifetime; take advantage of your dissertation committee’s time and talent, and channel that energy and goodwill into your development as a scholar.
Courtney Watson, Ph.D.
Courtney Watson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English at Radford University Carilion, in Roanoke, Virginia. Her areas of expertise include undergraduate and graduate curriculum development for writing courses in the health sciences and American literature with a focus on literary travel, tourism, and heritage economies. Her writing and academic scholarship has been widely published in places that include Studies in American Culture , Dialogue , and The Virginia Quarterly Review . Her research on the integration of humanities into STEM education will be published by Routledge in an upcoming collection. Dr. Watson has also been nominated by the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Rising Star Award, and she is a past winner of the National Society of Arts & Letters Regional Short Story Prize, as well as institutional awards for scholarly research and excellence in teaching. Throughout her career in higher education, Dr. Watson has served in faculty governance and administration as a frequent committee chair and program chair. As a higher education consultant, she has served as a subject matter expert, an evaluator, and a contributor to white papers exploring program development, enrollment research, and educational mergers and acquisitions.
Comments are closed.
Free Dissertation Evaluation
How Can We Help?*
Please subscribe me to your newsletter.
Dr. Courtney Watson In the News
“ See It for Yourself ” in With Good Reason: Beyond the Book July 22, 2022
“ I Thought You’d Never Ask: Consent in Contemporary Romance ” in New Frontiers in Popular Romance (McFarland) June 13, 2022
- Common Errors
- Dissertation Success
- Quantitative Analysis
- Surviving Grad School
“How to Finish Your Dissertation in Half the Time”
Learn how to avoid the pitfalls preventing you from finishing your dissertation faster.
Subscribe to get the free eBook!
Choosing a Thesis Committee
Published by dr. david banner on may 21, 2022 may 21, 2022.
Last Updated on: 3rd June 2022, 04:17 am
One of the most critical decisions you will make as a PhD candidate is selecting your thesis committee. These people will be with you (we hope) throughout your journey, and there are some key issues to consider as you make these selections. In this article, I will explore some of the things to look out for in this process.
Choose Thesis Committee Members Who Are Strong in the Methodology You Will Use
Once you have a good research question, the appropriate methodology will be obvious. Remember, the methodology flows from the question, not the other way around. Once a methodology becomes obvious, get at least one person on the thesis committee who is strong in that methodology. The choices are qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-method.
Qualitative methodology is now quite popular. It is useful to explore a phenomenon, if you just want to learn more about it. There are specific strategies to employ in this methodology. I urge you to get a used copy of Leedy and Ormrod Practical Research (8th edition or later) for more details.
Quantitative methodology is for hypothesis testing. It uses quantitative techniques, such as chi square, T-test, F-test, analysis of variance, and so on. If quantitative is the appropriate methodology for your thesis, we have a mentor on staff who specializes in it and can guide you through the process.
Mixed-method methodology is appropriate when you want to explore a topic and then do some hypothesis testing. This is often seen as a more difficult methodology to implement but, when appropriate, can be quite powerful.
The important thing to remember is that the methodology must follow the question , not the other way around. Many first-time researchers pick a methodology that they think will be easy to implement, but this should not be your criterion.
So, after you discern which methodology best suits your thesis question, pick at least one committee member strong in that methodology.
Be Aware of the Politics of Thesis Committee Work
There are political factors to consider as well. Stay focused on your goal. Your job is to get done with a PhD in hand. Avoid any behavior that will put you at a disadvantage politically with the thesis committee. Be sure to get a committee that can work together; talk to other doctoral students about combining certain faculty, who, for example, are known to “butt heads”
Also, don’t be a know-it-all. You can assert your position, but be willing to change your mind if one of your thesis committee member s makes a strong point for you to consider. Keep an open mind as you traverse this journey.
Try to avoid reactivity in the process. You are relying on your thesis committee for their expertise. Seek to listen to all voices and not choose sides in your thesis deliberations. You are quite vulnerable as a doctoral candidate, so you need to avoid rigid positions and dogmatic viewpoints.
Choosing the Right Chair
Another consideration is asking for someone to chair the thesis committee . Do not pick a junior faculty member (assistant or associate professor), since other thesis committee members are likely to be full professors. Also, do not pick someone as chair who is a “lightning rod” for controversy and a junior faculty member to boot; I did this and it proved to be challenging to get through.
The thesis committee chair is supposed to be helping you navigate the process of doing the research and writing the five chapters when you are done. So, get a chair who is well-respected , a senior faculty member , tenured , and very knowledgeable in your chosen topic area .
Avoid Thesis Committee Members Nearing Retirement or About to Change Jobs
Another consideration to investigate is whether the thesis committee members have tenure (most will) and whether or not they’re about to retire or move to another university. Many PhD programs have been sabotaged by committee membership upheaval.
So, if you can discreetly discern this, find out if a potential member might retire soon and move to another job. If a key member moves or retires, it can really slow down the process.
Remember, the thesis committee is there to support you. However, dissertation approval is a rite of passage and it seems that most committees will really make you work at the defense to make sure you are prepared to join the PhD “club.”
If you cannot find the “ideal” committee, then go for the following qualities, if possible: Choose committee members who are tenured , are genuinely interested in your topic , and are likely to stay at your university and/or are not nearing retirement .
Making It a Rewarding Experience
All in all, the PhD journey is a rich experience, and both “stick-to-it-ive-ness” and resilience are needed. Consult your thesis committee members often to show your interest and your need for their counsel. Also, pick a topic area that you are really interested in. This work will be your major life focus for quite a while, so pick an area of real interest for you.
Remember: The PhD journey is arduous, and persistence and resilience are needed. Pick a topic you are really interested in and thesis committee members who can support you, so you will stick it out until completion.
Book a Free Consultation
Book a Free Consultation with one of our expert coaches today.
Dr. David Banner
David Banner is the author of 6 books, 40 journal articles, and 35 conference papers on transformational leadership, Dr. David Banner received his PhD in Policy and Organizational Behavior from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University in Illinois. He worked for the DePaul College of Commerce, The University of the Pacific School of Business, and the University of New Brunswick (Canada) School of Management; he was tenured at all 3 universities and was voted “Outstanding Professor” at all three. He also worked at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wi, where he was the Director of the values-based MBA program, which he designed, recruited students, mentored faculty, set up an Advisory Board and got the program accredited (2003-07). He also worked for 16 years as a faculty mentor for the Leadership and Organizational Change PhD students (2005-21); in his 16 years, he graduated 82 PhDs in his roles as Committee Chair, Committee Member and URR (University Research Reviewer). Mentoring PhD students gives him the most joy and satisfaction. He offers his services to help people complete their PhDs, find good academic jobs, get published in peer-reviewed journals and find their place in the academic environment. Book a Free Consultation with Branford McAllister
What makes a good research question.
Creating a good research question is vital to successfully completing your dissertation. Here are some tips that will help you formulate a good research question. What Makes a Good Research Question? These are the three Read more…
When it comes to writing a dissertation, one of the most fraught questions asked by graduate students is about dissertation structure. A dissertation is the lengthiest writing project that many graduate students ever undertake, and Read more…
Choosing a Dissertation Chair
Choosing your dissertation chair is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make in graduate school. Your dissertation chair will in many ways shape your experience as you undergo the most rigorous intellectual challenge Read more…
Make This Your Last Round of Dissertation Revision.
Learn How to Get Your Dissertation Accepted .
Discover the 5-Step Process in this Free Webinar .
Please verify your email address by clicking the link in the email message we just sent to your address.
If you don't see the message within the next five minutes, be sure to check your spam folder :).
Hack Your Dissertation
5-Day Mini Course: How to Finish Faster With Less Stress
Interested in more helpful tips about improving your dissertation experience? Join our 5-day mini course by email!
The header image is the default header image for the site.
Forming a doctoral or thesis program committee.
Every graduate student must form a faculty committee to oversee the process of thesis or dissertation completion.
A thesis committee is composed of three members of the MU faculty: a major advisor from the academic program (i.e., department, unless it is an interdisciplinary program not housed in a department), a second reader from the academic program, and a third reader from either the academic program or member of the graduate faculty from a different MU graduate program.
The doctoral program committee is composed of a minimum of four members of MU graduate faculty.* Three members must come from the student’s academic department or interdisciplinary degree program. The fourth may come from either a different academic department/interdisciplinary degree program at MU or from within the student’s home unit. Every department and interdisciplinary program must have a formal documented policy that establishes whether the fourth member is required to be from outside the student’s department or program. The fourth member’s role includes ensuring procedural fairness and objectivity, maintaining appropriate standards for scholarly work, offering interdisciplinary perspectives and complementary expertise. As such, having a fourth member from outside the department or program is an important consideration. At least two of the doctoral committee members, including the student’s advisor, must be MU doctoral faculty.
*Exceptionally, the Doctoral Nursing Program uses a three-member committee.
- Doctoral committee
- Master’s committee
- Jointly appointed faculty membership
- Adjunct faculty membership
- Why Grad School at MU?
- Staff Directory
- Give to the Graduate School
- Latest COVID-19 News
- Graduate Program Statistics
- Graduate Career Outcomes
- Graduate/Professional Student Experience Survey
- Submit An Event
- Inclusion Initiatives
- McNair Scholars Directory
- National GEM Consortium
- National Name Exchange
- Guidelines for Good Practice in Graduate Education
- Scholarly Integrity & Ethics
- Responsible Conduct of Research
- Academic Honesty & Professional Ethics
- Visiting Campus
- Global Mizzou
- Our Community
- Columbia Resources
- Housing in Columbia
- Facilities, Centers & Institutes
- Student Organizations
- Interdisciplinary Opportunities
- Tuition & Estimated Expenses
- Budget & Loan Resources
- Pay Your Bill
- External Fellowships
- International Teaching Assistant Program (ITAP)
- MU Graduate Student Fellowships
- Tax Information
- Tuition Support Processing
- Federal Aid for Domestic Students
- Search for Campus Employment
- Student Medical Insurance
- Travel Scholarships
- Preparing Future Faculty – Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Program
- MU Research Excellence Program (REP)
- Prospective Postdocs
- Current Postdocs
- Mentoring & Training
- MU Postdoc Association
- Annual Review of Graduate Student Progress
- Awards for Faculty Mentoring
- Forms and Downloads
- Graduate Curriculum
- Graduate Faculty Senate
- Graduate Awards
- Inclusion & Recruitment Resources
- Departmental Contact Roster
- Mizzou Graduate Fellowships
- Recruitment Toolkit
- Career Resources
- How to Prepare for Graduate School
- Degree Seeking Applicants
- Non-Degree Applicants
- MU Undergraduate Applicants
- Professional Degree Seeking Applicants
- Re-admitted Graduate Students
- UM Visiting Students Program
- International Applicants
- On Campus New Graduate Student Orientation & Resource Fair
- Degree Programs
- Considering Mizzou?
- Doctoral Timelines & Deadlines
- Master’s Timelines & Deadlines
- Educational Specialists Timelines & Deadlines
- Dual Degree
- Honoring Deceased Students
- Graduation and Commencement Deadlines
- Commencement Ceremony Participation
- Commencement Ceremony RSVP
- Academic Regalia
- Intellectual Property and Copyright
- Supplemental Materials
- Supplemental Electronic Materials
- Body Format
- Formatting Additional Pages
- Technology & Your Submission
- Thesis Process
- Dissertation Year Fellowships
- Donald K. Anderson Awards
- Dissertation & Thesis Awards
2023-2024 Academic Catalog
Composition of master's thesis and doctoral advisory committees, composition of master's thesis committees.
Graduate faculty status is a prerequisite to chairing a master's thesis committee. A master's thesis committee must consist of a minimum of three members, at least two of whom must be members of the graduate faculty.
Composition of Doctoral Advisory Committees
Graduate faculty status is a prerequisite to chairing a doctoral advisory committee. Additional criteria for chairing dissertation committees may be prescribed by the appropriate academic division. A doctoral advisory committee must consist of a minimum of four members, at least three of whom must be members of the graduate faculty. One of the members must be an external member whose primary appointment is outside the candidate's program or department, or outside the University. The external member must be familiar with the standards of doctoral research and should be in a collateral field supportive of the student's dissertation topic. It is recommended that this member have graduate faculty status, if from another graduate program.
The composition of the doctoral advisory committee is recommended by the chair of the relevant department/program, requires concurrence by the dean (or designate) of the academic division and approval by the Associate Provost for Graduate Academic Affairs.
Send Page to Printer
Print this page.
Download Page (PDF)
The PDF will include all information unique to this page.
How to pick a thesis committee
The thesis committee is all that stands between you and graduation, so choose wisely.
I was asked the other day what factors to consider when picking a thesis committee. And I realized that this is not a question I have pondered a lot. Normally, when one of my students needs to pick a committee, I just recommend people that seem a good choice. I don’t have a properly thought out, systematic framework to steer the selection process. So with this post I’ll try to develop a more systematic approach to this question.
Let’s first think about the purpose of the thesis committee. There are at least four distinct functions the committee should perform: 1. The committee should be your personal science advisory board. It should provide relevant expertise you or your adviser may lack. 2. The committee should review your research approach and verify that your data support your conclusions. 3. The committee should make sure you progress adequately and stay on track. 4. The committee should serve as advocates on your behalf in case your adviser develops unreasonable expectations.
The advisory-board function is probably the most straightforward to satisfy. Pick a group of people that, jointly, cover the topics relevant to your work. For example, if you work on the evolution of influenza virus, you might want to pick an expert in the molecular biology of influenza, an evolutionary biologist, an epidemiologist, and a computational biologist or biostatistician. 1 Of course, to some extent the choice may depend on the expertise of the lab you’re in. If your lab is an influenza lab then your adviser may be the influenza expert and it might be more important to have another evolutionary biologist. By contrast, if your lab is an evolution lab, it might be more important to bring in more influenza expertise.
For the remaining three points, personality of your committee members matters more than expertise. You want people who will speak up, who won’t let you get away with BS, but also who care for you and won’t put you through any unnecessary difficulties. Basically, people who can give you tough love. I wouldn’t worry too much about picking people who have a reputation of speaking their mind. Once you’re past candidacy, it’s unlikely that you will be kicked out of graduate school, and in any case if there are issues with your performance or research approach you’d want to hear about them earlier rather than later. In my mind, the worst committees are those that let a student bumble along for six years and then say “Well, this work doesn’t quite rise to the level that we expected from a PhD.” I think the best committee members are those that push you to develop a clear plan on how to complete your work, that tell you exactly what they expect from you before you can graduate, and that reign you in when your plans get overly ambitious ( which happens to almost every student ).
Next, consider possible inter-faculty dynamics. Don’t put two professors on your committee that are known to have issues with each other. You might end up as collateral damage in a fight between them. 2 Also, make sure your committee has at least some members who could speak up against your adviser if necessary. If your adviser is a very senior scientist, choosing four assistant professors as committee members would be inadvisable. Have at least one, and better two or more, committee members of comparable rank and seniority.
Committee members to avoid are those that are overly passive, that like to talk just to hear themselves speak, and that tend to get lost in tangents or irrelevant minute details. Your adviser and your fellow graduate students should know who they are. Finally, it’s important that your committee members are actually available to you. The best committee doesn’t do you any good if you can never get them all into the same room at the same time. Therefore, I’d advise against any committee members who have a reputation for being difficult to schedule. It is generally known in the department who is never around, or who may rarely have more than one open time slot every few weeks. All else being equal, I would recommend against putting such a person on your committee.
Every committee should have a computational biologist or biostatistician, to verify data is analyzed properly and results are statistically sound. ↩︎
I have never personally witnessed something of this sort happening, but I’m sure some poor graduate student somewhere is finding himself or herself in exactly this situation right now. ↩︎
Claus O. Wilke
Professor of integrative biology.
- Excess ambition—the eternal flaw of all PhD thesis proposals
- 6 reasons to do your graduate work in the lab of a junior PI, and 6 reasons not to
- Understanding the graduate-school interview or recruitment event
- What does it take to be a computational biologist?
- How to choose the right lab for graduate school
- College of Arts & Sciences
- Graduate Division
- College of Liberal and Professional Studies
- Thesis Committee Meetings - Third Year Students and Beyond
- Graduate Student Handbook
- Advising, Assessment, and Examinations
An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is required annually after successful completion of the candidacy exam. It should be filled out before each thesis committee meeting. The goals of the IDP are to help the student develop skills, plan their career, and to facilitate open communication between the student and thesis advisor. The form is available here with detailed instructions.
After successful completion of the Candidacy Exam, the student must select the members for their thesis committee.
The thesis committee should consist of at least four voting members, three of whom must be from the Biology Graduate Group. The student's thesis advisor shall not be a voting member of the thesis committee. The chair of the thesis committee must be a member of the Biology Graduate Group and cannot be the student's thesis advisor. The names of the thesis committee members must be submitted to the Graduate Chair for approval. Any subsequent changes to this committee must be approved by the Graduate Chair. In addition, the department coordinator must be notified of the committee members and any future changes for notation in the student's file.
After formation and approval of the thesis committee, the Graduate Office will provide a copy of the Candidacy Exam Report to the thesis committee members.
Thesis Committee Meetings
Third-year students must meet with their thesis committee within six months after successful completion of the Candidacy Exam. Additional meetings must be held at least once a year or at the discretion of the thesis committee. The purpose of the meetings is to ensure academic progress. Input from the committee members can be helpful to the student, especially when students encounter technical or other problems in their research. The committee is there to help the student overcome problems.
Students must advise the department coordinator of committee meetings, including date, time, and location. The department coordinator will provide the committee chair a copy of the student’s file along with a committee meeting review form for completion.
In order to alleviate occasional scheduling difficulties, one committee member can be absent from meetings. This committee member can attend through online video conferencing or the student can meet with the member at a later date for their input and advice. Please note that the student's progress report must be submitted to all committee members in advance, even if one member does not attend the meeting.
At least one week prior to the thesis committee meeting, the student will submit the following items to the department coordinator for inclusion in file:
- CV - should be formatted in accordance with guidelines as staed by NIH, NSF or other appropriate agency.
- Research summary and progress report, 2 pages in length, stating thesis aims, progress and plans.
- Parts B and C of the Individual Development Plan as stated on the form instructions.
At the start of each meeting, the student will leave the room so that the committee may consult with the advisor regarding progress and any concerns. The student will return and the advisor will leave the room so that the committee may consult in a similar manner with the student.
After the thesis committee meeting, the committee chair will write an evaluation that will be given to the department coordinator for the student’s file. This form can be downloaded at the Forms web page. The student will also receive a copy of this report for review and comments. At these meetings, the student must show satisfactory progress towards completion of their dissertation research as judged by the thesis committee. If not, the thesis committee can recommend dismissal from the program. Under these circumstances, a Master of Science degree will be awarded.
Please note that thesis committee meetings, as stated in this policy, are a requirement of the Biology Graduate Group as well as a University policy. Students must schedule their meeting as determined by the committee members.
Should the student fail to schedule a thesis committee meeting within the designated time frame stated at the previous committee meeting, the following actions will be taken:
If the meeting is 3 months past due, the student will be put on official academic probation. The University Registrar’s Office will be notified and a hold placed on the student’s account. The department coordinator and graduate chair will schedule a meeting with the student to discuss the reasons for the delay.
When the meeting is 6 months past due, the stipend will be discontinued, and the student will be dismissed from the program.
Masters of Science Degree
The Biology Graduate Program is a doctoral degree program. However, occasionally extenuating circumstances arise which require that a student leave the program before completing their doctoral thesis. Under these circumstances, a Masters of Science degree can be awarded if the student has satisfied the following requirements:
- All courses must be graded, including lab rotation(s) and/or independent study work. Courses marked as “Incomplete (I)” or “No Grade Reported (NGR or NR)” must be completed before applying for graduation with a Masters degree.
- Grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher.
- Completion of 14 course units, including lab rotation(s) and/or independent study work. (done after second year of study).
- Research paper (thesis proposal) and oral presentation submitted to exam committee.
- Handbook More
- Admin. Structure More
- Program Assessment Plan More
- Timeline for Progress More
- New Student Info More
- Course Requirements More
- Core Curriculum More
- Elective Courses More
- Registration More
- Lab Rotations More
- Thesis Advisor More
- Thesis Committee More
- Curric. Certification More
- Preliminary Exam More
- Seminar Requirement More
- Progress Report More
- Thesis Defense More
- MD/PhD Program More
- Direct Admit Students More
- Financial/Insurance More
- Grievance Policy More
- Conduct More
After joining a thesis lab, students are required to form a Thesis Committee. CMB students will have a total of five faculty on their thesis committee. One member will be the faculty advisor. Students will choose an additional three committee members by March 15 of their first year, with the input of their faculty advisor. By no later than March 15 of their second year, students should select the last (fifth) committee member themselves and get approval from their faculty advisor. This should allow time for students to select someone they feel comfortable enough to approach for input on a variety of topics as their fifth committee member. Students should meet with the fifth committee member once they are identified to introduce their research project and to review the discussion from their first committee meeting.
The Thesis Committee Approval form, available in the CMB Forms section of the CMB website, must be filled out and submitted to the CMB Office by March 15 of the student’s first year. Students should only have four committee members when submitting this form. Failure to submit the form in a timely fashion will result in a hold being placed on the student’s registration. The same form can be used to add or change committee members. At any point, committee members can be changed.
Responsibilities of the Thesis Committee
- Advocate for the student’s success by being available to discuss issues of importance, including the thesis project, career planning, and equity.
- Meet annually with the student to provide critical evaluation of the student’s scientific progress, in regard to the CMB learning goals.
- Provide feedback to the student and Thesis Advisor regarding the feasibility of research goals and plans.
- Cross-check training in responsible conduct of research and experimental design, as it relates to ethical considerations, rigor, and reproducibility.
- Support the student’s professional development, using the student’s Individual Development Plan (IDP) as one point of discussion.
- Step in should disagreements arise between the student and Thesis Advisor or if other issues arise that impede progress toward the PhD. Communicate serious issues with the CMB Program Chair.
- In consultation with the student and Thesis Advisor, set objectives that need to be met for a student to defend their thesis. Objectives could include completing particular experiments and publishing the findings. The CMB Program does not require publications for a PhD, but for career advancement it is in the student’s best interests to publish their work prior to defending their thesis.
- At the end of the meeting, the student should leave the room and the committee should discuss what the student needs to do over the coming year. When the student returns to the room, a member of the thesis committee other than the thesis advisor should summarize the discussion. It is good practice to do this at every meeting, even if the student is doing well.
Responsibilities of the Thesis Committee Chair
- The Thesis Advisor serves as the chair of all Thesis Committee meetings other than the Preliminary Exam. See the Preliminary Exam section of the CMB Handbook for guidance on establishing a chair for that meeting.
- The duties of the Thesis Committee Chair are to maintain the pace of the meeting, to promote open dialog, and to provide written feedback to the student on the corresponding CMB form.
Composition of the Thesis Committee
- The Thesis Committee consists of five faculty members, including the Thesis Advisor. Students are required to have four committee members by the spring of their first year and five members before the preliminary exam in their second year. The purpose of the later addition of the fifth committee member is to give students time to meet more faculty and to define their research project, thereby allowing them to identify a faculty member that best serves their advising needs.
- Three committee members, including the Thesis Advisor, must be faculty trainers in the CMB Program.
- Two committee members must be outside the student’s direct area of expertise.
- Students may change committee members at any time by submitting a Thesis Committee Approval form with the name of the new committee member and a note indicating who they are replacing. Revised Thesis Committee Approval forms only require signatures from the Thesis Advisor and the new committee member.
- The maximum number of Thesis Committee members is six. A sixth member can be added at any time.
- For more information, see the Graduate School Academic Policies and Procedures website.
- MD/PhD Students: MSTP requires students to have one MSTP Director serve on the Thesis Committee.
Formation of the Thesis Committee
- The student and Thesis Advisor should work together to determine members of the Thesis Committee.
- Fill out the Thesis Committee Approval form, available in the CMB Forms section of the CMB website.
- Obtain signatures of four of the five Thesis Committee members on the form and submit it to the CMB Office by March 15 of the student’s first year. Obtain the signature of the fifth committee member by March 15 of the student’s second year.
- If a member of the student’s Thesis Committee is changed, submit a revised Thesis Committee Approval form with the signature of the new member and the Thesis Advisor (other members do not need to sign the revised form).
- If the student and Thesis Advisor wish to form a committee that does not fulfill one or more of the requirements listed above, they need to request an exemption from the CMB Program.
- If a student changes Thesis Advisors, they must form a new Thesis Committee within three months of joining the new lab and turn in a new Thesis Committee Approval form to the CMB Office.
The instruction belongs to the following themes.
- PhD supervision
Search for degree programme
Open university programmes.
- Open university
- Bachelor's Programme for Teachers of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry
- Bachelor's Programme in Agricultural Sciences
- Bachelor's Programme in Art Studies
- Bachelor's Programme in Biology
- Bachelor's Programme in Chemistry
- Bachelor's Programme in Computer Science (TKT)
- Bachelor's Programme in Cultural Studies
- Bachelor's Programme in Economics
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: Class Teacher (KLU, in Swedish)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: Class Teacher, Education (LO-KT)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: Class Teacher, Educational Psychology (LO-KP)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: Craft Teacher Education (KÄ)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: Early Education Teacher (SBP)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: Early Education Teacher (VO)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: General and Adult Education (PED, in Swedish)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: General and Adult Education (YL and AKT)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: Home Economics Teacher (KO)
- Bachelor's Programme in Education: Special Education (EP)
- Bachelor's Programme in Environmental and Food Economics
- Bachelor's Programme in Environmental Sciences
- Bachelor's Programme in Food Sciences
- Bachelor's Programme in Forest Sciences
- Bachelor's Programme in Geography
- Bachelor's Programme in Geosciences
- Bachelor's Programme in History
- Bachelor's Programme in Languages
- Bachelor's Programme in Law
- Bachelor's Programme in Logopedics
- Bachelor's Programme in Mathematical Sciences
- Bachelor's Programme in Molecular Biosciences
- Bachelor's Programme in Pharmacy
- Bachelor's Programme in Philosophy
- Bachelor's Programme in Physical Sciences
- Bachelor's Programme in Politics, Media and Communication
- Bachelor's Programme in Psychology
- Bachelor's Programme in Science (BSC)
- Bachelor's Programme in Social Research
- Bachelor's Programme in Social Sciences
- Bachelor's Programme in Society and Change
- Bachelor's Programme in the Languages and Literatures of Finland
- Bachelor's Programme in Theology and Religious Studies
- Bachelor's Programme in Veterinary Medicine
Master's and Licentiate's Programmes
- Degree Programme in Dentistry
- Degree Programme in Medicine
- Degree Programme in Veterinary Medicine
- International Masters in Economy, State & Society
- Master ́s Programme in Development of health care services
- Master's Programme for Teachers of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry
- Master's Programme in Agricultural Sciences
- Master's Programme in Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Economics
- Master's Programme in Area and Cultural Studies
- Master's Programme in Art Studies
- Master's Programme in Atmospheric Sciences (ATM)
- Master's Programme in Changing Education
- Master's Programme in Chemistry and Molecular Sciences
- Master's Programme in Computer Science (CSM)
- Master's Programme in Contemporary Societies
- Master's Programme in Cultural Heritage
- Master's Programme in Culture and Communication (in Swedish)
- Master's Programme in Data Science
- Master's Programme in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
- Master's Programme in Economics
- Master's Programme in Education: Class Teacher (KLU, in Swedish)
- Master's Programme in Education: Class Teacher, Education (LO-KT)
- Master's Programme in Education: Class Teacher, Educational Psychology (LO-KP)
- Master's Programme in Education: Craft Teacher Education (KÄ)
- Master's Programme in Education: Early Education (VAKA)
- Master's Programme in Education: General and Adult Education (PED, in Swedish)
- Master's Programme in Education: General and Adult Education (YL and AKT)
- Master's Programme in Education: Home Economics Teacher (KO)
- Master's Programme in Education: Special Education (EP)
- Master's Programme in English Studies
- Master's Programme in Environmental Change and Global Sustainability
- Master's Programme in European and Nordic Studies
- Master's Programme in Finnish and Finno-Ugrian Languages and Cultures
- Master's Programme in Food Economy and Consumption
- Master's Programme in Food Sciences
- Master's Programme in Forest Sciences
- Master's Programme in Gender Studies
- Master's Programme in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences
- Master's Programme in Geography
- Master's Programme in Geology and Geophysics
- Master's Programme in Global Politics and Communication
- Master's Programme in History
- Master's Programme in Human Nutrition and Food-Related Behaviour
- Master's Programme in Integrative Plant Sciences
- Master's Programme in Intercultural Encounters
- Master's Programme in International Business Law
- Master's Programme in Languages
- Master's Programme in Law
- Master's Programme in Life Science Informatics (LSI)
- Master's programme in Linguistic Diversity and Digital Humanities
- Master's Programme in Literary Studies
- Master's Programme in Logopedics
- Master's Programme in Materials Research (MATRES)
- Master's Programme in Mathematics and Statistics (MAST)
- Master's Programme in Microbiology and Microbial Biotechnology
- Master's Programme in Neuroscience
- Master's Programme in Particle Physics and Astrophysical Sciences (PARAS)
- Master's programme in Pharmaceutical Research, Development and Safety
- Master's Programme in Pharmacy
- Master's Programme in Philosophy
- Master's Programme in Politics, Media and Communication
- Master's Programme in Psychology
- Master's Programme in Russian, European and Eastern European Studies
- Master's Programme in Scandinavian Languages and Literature
- Master's Programme in Social and Health Research and Management
- Master's Programme in Social Research
- Master's Programme in Social Sciences (in Swedish)
- Master's Programme in Society and Change
- Master's Programme in Theology and Religious Studies
- Master's Programme in Theoretical and Computational Methods (TCM)
- Master's Programme in Translation and Interpreting
- Master's Programme in Translational Medicine
- Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning (USP)
- Master’s Programme in Global Governance Law
- Nordic Master Programme in Environmental Changes at Higher Latitudes (ENCHIL)
- Doctoral Programme Brain and Mind
- Doctoral Programme in Atmospheric Sciences (ATM-DP)
- Doctoral Programme in Biomedicine (DPBM)
- Doctoral Programme in Chemistry and Molecular Sciences (CHEMS)
- Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research (KLTO)
- Doctoral Programme in Clinical Veterinary Medicine (CVM)
- Doctoral Programme in Cognition, Learning, Instruction and Communication (CLIC)
- Doctoral Programme in Computer Science (DoCS)
- Doctoral Programme in Drug Research (DPDR)
- Doctoral Programme in Economics
- Doctoral Programme in Food Chain and Health
- Doctoral Programme in Gender, Culture and Society (SKY)
- Doctoral Programme in Geosciences (GeoDoc)
- Doctoral Programme in History and Cultural Heritage
- Doctoral Programme in Human Behaviour (DPHuB)
- Doctoral Programme in Integrative Life Science (ILS)
- Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI)
- Doctoral Programme in Language Studies (HELSLANG)
- Doctoral Programme in Law
- Doctoral Programme in Materials Research and Nanoscience (MATRENA)
- Doctoral Programme in Mathematics and Statistics (Domast)
- Doctoral Programme in Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Doctoral Programme in Oral Sciences (FINDOS)
- Doctoral Programme in Particle Physics and Universe Sciences (PAPU)
- Doctoral Programme in Philosophy, Arts and Society
- Doctoral Programme in Plant Sciences (DPPS)
- Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Changes (PYAM)
- Doctoral Programme in Population Health (DOCPOP)
- Doctoral Programme in School, Education, Society and Culture
- Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences
- Doctoral Programme in Sustainable Use of Renewable Natural Resources (AGFOREE)
- Doctoral Programme in Theology and Religious Studies
- Doctoral Programme in Wildlife Biology (LUOVA)
Specialist training programmes
- Multidisciplinary studies for class teachers (teaching in Finnish)
- Multidisciplinary studies for class teachers (teaching in Swedish)
- Non-degree studies for special education teachers (ELO)
- Non-degree studies for special education teachers (LEO)
- Non-degree studies for special education teachers (VEO)
- Non-degree studies in subject teacher education
- Specific Training in General Medical Practice
- Specialisation Programme in Clinical Mental Health Psychology
- Specialisation Programme in Neuropsychology
- Specialisation Programme in Veterinary Medicine, Environmental Health and Food Control
- Specialisation Programme in Veterinary Medicine, Equine Medicine
- Specialisation Programme in Veterinary Medicine, Food Production Hygiene
- Specialisation Programme in Veterinary Medicine, Infectious Animal Diseases
- Specialisation Programme in Veterinary Medicine, Production Animal Medicine
- Specialisation Programme in Veterinary Medicine, Small Animal Medicine
- Specialisation Studies in Community and Hospital Pharmacy (for B.Sc.Pharm.)
- Specialisation Studies in Community and Hospital Pharmacy (for M.Sc.Pharm.)
- Specialisation Studies in Industrial Pharmacy (for B.Sc.Pharm.)
- Specialisation Studies in Industrial Pharmacy (for M.Sc.Pharm.)
- Specialist Training in Dentistry
- Specialist Training in Hospital Chemistry
- Specialist Training in Hospital Microbiology
- Specialist Training in Medicine, 5-year training
- Specialist Training in Medicine, 6-year training
- Trainer Training Programme in Integrative Psychotherapy
- Training Programme for Psychotherapists
The thesis committee (follow-up group) assigned for all doctoral researchers is responsible for monitoring the progress of the doctoral dissertation work as well as the quality of the degree and supervision.
The thesis committee meetings are organised annually. The aims of the meetings are
- to provide feedback on the progress of the research work and doctoral studies
- to support graduation in the target duration and to monitor that other duties are not preventing the scheduled progress of the dissertation
- to issue recommendations on the continuation or interruption of the dissertation as well as for changes to be made in supervision
- to support the doctoral researcher in career planning
- to support the progress of high-quality doctoral studies by offering expertise in the topic of the doctoral thesis
Please select your doctoral programme from the site's degree programme menu to see the doctoral programmes' specific instructions below.
On this page
The regulations behind the instructions.
The decision to utilise thesis committees as part of the support for doctoral dissertations was made by Rector’s Decision 801/2017 . The general disqualification principles applied in all workings of the university (Universities Act §30) are provided in the Administrative Procedure Act (section §27 and §28). The disqualification of thesis committee members from acting as preliminary examiners or opponents is based on Rector's Decision 498/2017.
Molecular and Cell Biology
- Maps and Directions
- Contact Information
- Chairs and Division Heads
- Make a Gift
- Undergraduate Program
- Graduate Program
- Related Academic Programs
- Other Career Development
- Faculty Research Descriptions
- Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology
- Cell Biology, Development & Physiology
- Genetics, Genomics, Evolution, and Development
- Immunology and Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Therapeutics
- Postdoctoral Fellows
- Related Institutes and Research Units
- Research Facilities
- Industrial Affiliates Program
- Resilience Training Program (RTP)
- Department Staff
- Graduate Students
- Lab Staff and Researchers
- Directory Search
- Code of Conduct
- Equity and Inclusion
- Health and Wellbeing
- iMCB+ | About Us
- Assessment Team
- Board Members
- Conference Team
- Mentoring Team
- Postdoc Liaison Team
- Research Group
- iMCB+ | Membership
- iMCB+ | Past Events
- iMCB+ | News
- Conference 2018
- Conference 2019
- Conference 2020
- iMCB+ | Resources
- Resources and Support
- Seminar Schedule
- Department News
- Transcript Newsletter
- Seminars Overview
- COVID-19 News
- MCB 30 | 30 Years of Scientific Discoveries
- MCB 30 | Alumni Symposium Details
- Current Students
- Courses & Requirements
Thesis Committee Meetings
TCM To-Do List
- Fill out this Google Form to let the GAO know when your thesis committee meeting is scheduled.
- Submit your online academic progress report prior to your meeting.
- Have the present committee members sign your completed TCM form and leave it in 299 Weill Hall (you can slip it under the door if no one is in).
- Have your committee digitally sign your completed form and email it to the GAO.
- Forward the GAO an email thread that shows your committee members agree with the outcome of your meeting; still must send the GAO the TCM form but no signatures are required.
- It is fine if not all your committee members are available for the meeting. So long as your mentor/advisor and at least two other committee members are present, you have a quorum.
- If you are a 3rd or 5th year , your must also schedule a time to discuss your individual development plan (IDP) with your advisor and sign the appropriate space on the TCM form.
Table of Contents
Suggested Topics for Discussion
Purpose of Thesis Committee Meetings
Meeting Schedule and Attendance
Prior to the meeting
Conducting the Meeting
Record of the Meeting
Following the Meeting
Sixth Year Extensions
Students are required to hold annual thesis committee meetings to discuss the dissertation project, to review results, and to chart research directions and timelines for the following year up to the completion of the dissertation.
The average time to complete the Ph.D. degree is 5.5 academic years. If a student is unable to complete their degree by the end of 5.5 years the thesis committee can grant a one-semester extension. Funding and continuation in the Graduate Program beyond the May filing deadline in the spring of the sixth-year will be considered on a case by case basis by the GAC upon petition by the Thesis Committee and the student. (MCB Handbook, p. 12)
For students who matriculated in 2019 or before, there is a two-year extension to normative time due to interruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. These students should add two years to the timings listed below (i.e. 7.5 years instead of 5.5).
After students advance to candidacy, they meet annually with their Thesis Committee. Please adhere to the following guidelines and timeline.
Suggested Topics for Discussion:
In general, students may want to discuss any or all of the following with their committees
- Progress they have made
- Setbacks they have encountered
- Places where they need advice or have questions
- Dissertation outlines
- Figures for publication
- Graduation timelines
- Career goals and advice for achieving their desired post-graduation position
The purpose of committee meetings is for students to receive regular guidance from the committee on selecting and implementing research strategies, publishing research papers, and moving towards their career goals. Thesis committees will also play a central role in implementing and ensuring the success of the MCB publication policy, which states:
The goal of Ph.D. is to prepare students to become independent researchers and to master the scientific process. An important step in this training is the publication of scientific findings, which marks a milestone in completing a project and teaches valuable skills in communicating these results to other scientists and the public. The process of preparing manuscripts also serves as an important step in ensuring that scientific conclusions are placed into a broader context and are based on rigorous and reproducible experiments. Moreover, the process of submitting manuscripts introduces students to the system of peer review and teaches them how to respond to reviewer requests and questions.
Students are expected to publish at least one 1st-author (or co-1st-author) peer-reviewed research paper prior to graduation. Submission of a manuscript to an online archive (such as bioRxiv) or submission to a peer-reviewed journal prior to graduation, will satisfy this requirement. In the case of extenuating circumstances (serious illness, change of mentor, non-renewal of a visa) that may preclude publication prior to graduation, a written waiver from the thesis advisor and signed by the thesis committee will be necessary for the student to graduate.
To encourage productive interactions between the student, their mentor, and the Thesis Committee, the GAC recommends the following guidelines for conducting the annual meeting.
Meeting scheduling and attendance :
It is the responsibility of the student to work with the GAO to organize their Committee meetings within the time windows indicated in the table below. The mentor and two of the three other members will constitute a quorum. If a committee member cannot be present, a one-on-one meeting is acceptable, provided that the faculty member fills out a report that is countersigned by the student.
Prior to the meeting :
Prior to the meeting, the student will write an Annual Progress Report in consultation with the Thesis Committee Chair and email report to the committee. The student will also submit the Annual Progress Report Information to the webform: https://mcb.berkeley.edu/internal/grad/progress-reports/student.php
The report sent to the committee should have the following elements:
- What progress did you make towards your degree in the past year? Compare this with your previous goals (if applicable). If you were unable to attain them, what were your obstacles?
- Please describe your current plans for the dissertation, providing a timetable for completion.
- In which year and term do you plan to file for your degree?
Conducting the meeting:
The GAC recommends the following guidelines for conducting thesis committee meetings:
- Once all committee members are present, the student will briefly leave the room so that the dissertation chair can provide other members of the committee with a verbal evaluation of the student's progress to date, identifying both the student's strengths and any areas in which the student can improve. This information will help the committee members more effectively provide advice to the student.
- The student will then provide a focused summary of research progress. They should also discuss technical difficulties that have been encountered. The committee will evaluate the student’s progress, provide advice, set goals/expectations for publication, and set goals for the coming year as well as for the timely completion of the dissertation within the normal 5.5 year period.
- Toward the end of the meeting, the dissertation chair will leave the room and any remaining issues will be discussed with the student in the absence of the mentor. This phase of the Thesis Committee meeting is intended to facilitate interactions with the other committee members by allowing the student to establish a closer relationship with the other committee members. It is intended to provide the student with an opportunity to identify any issues that might have been difficult to discuss in front of the mentor, which can include lab culture, mentorship needs, and other sensitive topics.
Record of the Meeting:
At the conclusion of the meeting, all faculty will sign the MCB Annual Academic Progress Form attesting to their attendance at the meeting, confirming that plans for a first-author publication were discussed, providing the semester of anticipated completion, and indicating the level of progress achieved (very good, satisfactory, or inadequate). Third and fifth-year students are also required to discuss their IDP with their PI and use the form to provide confirmation that the discussion took place. This form will be returned to the GAO within one day of the meeting date. For students who matriculated in 2021 or later, records of the thesis committee meetings will be added to their Academic Progress Report in Cal Central. Students must have at least three meetings in order to graduate, including one meeting at least six months prior to filing (for students filing sooner than in 5.5 years exceptions can be made).
Following the meeting - the Annual Progress Evaluation :
The Committee Chair/Dissertation Advisor will write a report to be circulated to the entire committee for comments and approval. This report should be submitted to the webform within one week of the meeting date . Filing such reports is required for demonstrating compliance with departmental policy. Webform: https://mcb.berkeley.edu/internal/grad/progress-reports/faculty.php
If a problem arises that cannot be resolved by the committee, they may recommend that the student should not continue in the program. The recommendation is then forwarded to the GAC and the Graduate Division for a final decision.
Sixth Year Extensions
If a student is unable to complete their degree by the end of 5.5 years the financial support provided by the mentor may be extended five months to the University’s dissertation filing date in May of their sixth year. The decision to grant extensions is the responsibility of the student's Thesis Committee and requires appropriate and documented special circumstances. Examples would include illnesses, change of mentor, a fourth rotation, and scientific problems unforeseen at the annual fourth or fifth-year Thesis Committee meetings. In order for such extensions to be granted, reports of all previous Thesis Committee meetings must have been filed with the GAO, and the Thesis Committee and the student must unanimously agree with the extension. If there is disagreement on the extension within the Thesis Committee or if the student disagrees with the Thesis Committee decision, the case will be referred to the GAC. Funding and continuation in the Graduate Program beyond the May filing deadline in Spring of the 6th year will be considered on a case by case basis by the GAC upon petition by the Thesis Committee and the student . If such a petition is not filed by the end of January in the Spring semester of the 6th year, a recommendation will be made to the Graduate Division to terminate graduate standing. Anyone seeking an extension to file in the summer after their sixth year must submit a statement signed by both the student and the PI that they are aware SHIP insurance coverage ends on July 31 st .
Any food at meetings of students with faculty mentors, including qualifying exams and thesis committee meetings, shall be provided by faculty, not students.
Information above can also be downloaded as a document from here .
The Graduate Division and Graduate Council have approved a two-year increase in normative time for doctoral students (a two year increase for MCB students is until 7.5 years / December of the eighth year). Accordingly, the MCB Graduate Affairs Unit will continue to grant extensions for the affected students beyond 7.5 years whenever necessary, as they approach graduation. The one year increase as well as any further extensions should only be used for students in cases where there is still work directly related to dissertation research; the student’s thesis committee should be in agreement that an extension would be beneficial to the student and not only to the PI.
Any student seeking the two year extension in normative time (to fall of the eighth year) must communicate this to the GAO for record-keeping and funding purposes only; these extensions do not need to be formally requested or approved by the GAC however the GAO will reach out to the PI of the student to confirm any extension beyond 6 years. Any extensions beyond 7.5 years will go through the normal extension process (memo addressed to the GAC signed by both the PI and student).
The two year increase of normative time applies to students who began graduate school in 2019 or earlier; this may be extended to later years depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions progress. The extension only applies to the graduation timeline and not to other Departmental milestones, such as the Qualifying Exam.
The GAC is asking both faculty and students to incorporate a discussion of how the pandemic has impacted the trajectory of the student’s graduate career and timeline. GAC recommends a general discussion at the end of the thesis committee meeting among all committee members and the student. The conversation can continue afterwards in the absence of the thesis advisor. This discussion should not stop at the level of academic progress, but should also be an opportunity to check in with the student about their wellbeing. Some questions to consider are below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please take time to discuss any additional COVID-related concerns you may have.
- Overall, how has the pandemic affected your personal well-being, current research, and future plans?
- How has the shift-based schedule impacted what you can accomplish in a given day, week, or month?
- Are you able to accomplish any of your work remotely?
- If you are working remotely, do you feel that you have adequate resources to do so?
- If you are not working remotely, what is your comfort level with returning to working in the lab? Do you have any safety concerns?
The GAC also understands that the pandemic has not and will not impact everyone in the same way. Because of this, we are asking the committee members to work with students to help them develop clear, realistic and measurable plans towards achieving academic goals without compromising wellbeing . In particular, the committee is encouraged to provide input in terms of prioritizing experiments, recalibrating objectives given the current limitations, setting realistic timelines with specific objectives, while considering individual needs for each student.
- Future Students
- Current Students
- Current Students Hub
- Getting Started
- Student Policies and Procedures
- Student Life
You are here
- Dissertation Reading Committee
The Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee consists of three faculty members (the principal dissertation advisor and two other readers) who agree to read a student’s dissertation and serve on the orals committee. All members of an approved reading committee are expected to sign the signature page of the completed dissertation. The reading committee normally serves on the oral exam committee, but not always. At the very least, the primary dissertation advisor and one reader from the reading committee serve on the oral exam committee. The student is responsible for obtaining signatures from advisor and readers before submitting the form to the Doctoral Programs Officer for final processing.
The rules governing the composition of the reading committee are as follows: at least one member of the committee must be from the GSE; the principal dissertation advisor must be on the Stanford Academic Council (AC); and any member of the committee that is not a member of the academic council must be approved by the Area Chair and the Associate Dean for Student Affairs. In the last case, the Petition for Non-Academic Council Member to Serve on Doctoral Committee form (available from the Doctoral Programs Officer) and a current CV of the proposed member are required. This person must be particularly well qualified to consult on the dissertation topic and hold a PhD or an equivalent foreign degree. Non-AC members may not serve as dissertation advisors, but may serve as a co-advisor along with a member of the AC. Students may only have one non-AC member on the reading committee. The only exception to this rule is if you have more than the three members required for a reading committee. At least two members of the reading committee must be members of the Stanford AC. Reading Committee members must sign the Doctoral Reading Committee form (all forms located on the GSE website under current students>forms). Email confirmations or digital signatures will be accepted.
The reading committee formation, and any subsequent changes to the committee composition, are reviewed and approved by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs. This signature is obtained by the Doctoral Programs Officer, not the student.
The University requires approval of the Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form prior to advancement to Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status, or before scheduling a University Oral Examination–whichever comes first in the student’s program. Further instructions for form completion are on the GSE Website.
- Printer-friendly version
- Timetable for the Doctoral Degree
- Degree Requirements
- Registration or Enrollment for Milestone Completion
- The Graduate Study Program
- Student Virtual and Teleconference Participation in Hearings
- First Year (3rd Quarter) Review
- Second Year (6th Quarter) Review
- Committee Composition for First- and Second-Year Reviews
- Advancement to Candidacy
- Academic Program Revision
- Dissertation Proposal
- Dissertation Content
- University Oral Examination
- Submitting the Dissertation
- Registration and Student Statuses
- Graduate Financial Support
- GSE Courses
- Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education (CTE)
- Developmental and Psychological Sciences (DAPS)
- Learning Sciences and Technology Design (LSTD)
- Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE)
- Social Sciences, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Policy Studies in Education (SHIPS)
- Contact Information
- Stanford University Honor Code
- Stanford University Fundamental Standard
- Doctoral Programs Degree Progress Checklist
- GSE Open Access Policies
PhD students, please contact
MA POLS and MA/PP students, please contact
EDS, ICE/IEPA, Individually Designed, LDT, MA/JD, MA/MBA students, please contact
Stanford Graduate School of Education
482 Galvez Mall Stanford, CA 94305-3096 Tel: (650) 723-2109
Improving lives through learning
- Contact Admissions
- Site Feedback
- Web Accessibility
- Career Resources
- Faculty Open Positions
- Explore Courses
- Academic Calendar
- Office of the Registrar
- Cubberley Library
- Stanford Home
- Maps & Directions
- Search Stanford
- Emergency Info
© Stanford University , Stanford , California 94305 .
Deadlines & Submission Instructions
During your last semester as a graduate student, you must apply to graduate, in addition to completing other required steps.
Review the information below for Master's and Doctoral students.
Master’s graduation application form.
If you expect to complete your degree during a given semester, file to graduate by submitting the Master’s Graduation Application form online.
The form must be completed and submitted during the appropriate time period:
- Summer 2023 Graduates : June 1, 2023 – July 28, 2023
- Fall 2023 Graduates : August 30, 2023 – November 10, 2023
Students who do not submit the form by the deadline will not be eligible to receive their degree until the subsequent semester.
If you find after filing for graduation that you will not complete your degree requirements, contact the Graduate School for instructions for rescheduling your graduation. The Master’s Graduation Application form is valid for one semester only; a new application must be submitted if your semester of graduation changes.
Registration Requirement for Final Semester
All students must be registered in their final graduating semester. Thesis Option students must be registered in 698B and Report Option students must be registered in 398R to submit a graduation application.
Thesis or Report Submission
The university has acquired access to iThenticate by Turnitin that allows you to check your report, thesis, or dissertation to help identify potential textual similarities between your document and other previously published documents.
The Graduate School strongly encourages the use of this tool while preparing drafts of your report, thesis or dissertation, along with discussion of the results of these reviews with your supervisor. You can find information about using this tool at the link above.
Digital Submission Requirement
Graduating students are required to publish their thesis, report, dissertation or treatise digitally by uploading a single PDF to the Texas Digital Library.
Thesis/report options ONLY: Students must upload the thesis or report BEFORE submitting the required pages detailed below. The Graduate School will not accept a paper copy of the thesis or report, although the student’s graduate department or program may require one. There will be a final format check when the required pages (see below) are submitted.
It is critical that your submission be complete and correct. After submission, no revisions or corrections will be allowed except for those required by the graduate dean.
The upload and required pages are due by 3 p.m. CDT on the deadline:
- Summer 2023 Graduates: August 11, 2023
- Fall 2023 Graduates: December 1, 2023
Thesis/Report Option students are also required to submit a copy of the following pages to the Graduate School at [email protected] by 3 p.m. CDT on the relevant deadline listed above. All signatures must be on a single form. Incomplete forms or multiple forms will not be accepted.
Please include the following:
Master's committee approval form.
A master's committee approval form with signatures of your supervising committee is required. All committee members must sign the master's committee approval form - no proxy signatures are allowed.
Request to Delay Publication
If you wish to request a temporary delay of publication of your thesis, report, dissertation, or treatise, you must make this request before graduation. Review the instructions and form on this linked page.
Doctoral graduation application form.
If you expect to complete your degree during a given semester, file to graduate by submitting the Doctoral Graduation Application form.
It must be completed and submitted during the appropriate time period:
- Summer 2023 Graduates: June 1, 2023 – July 28, 2023
- Fall 2023 Graduates: August 30, 2023 – November 10, 2023
In your final semester, you must be registered for _99W. (Music majors should check with their graduate adviser for registration requirements.)
Dissertation Defense/Final Oral Examination
Request for final oral examination instructions.
You must schedule your dissertation defense, also known as the final oral examination, at least two weeks prior to the defense date. You must submit your dissertation/treatise to your Dissertation Committee at least four weeks before your defense. A defense cannot be held within two weeks of the last class day of the semester, unless the committee has consented to hold the defense within those last 2 weeks.
The last day a doctoral candidate may hold a dissertation defense:
- Summer 2023 Graduates: July 28, 2023
- Fall 2023 Graduates: November 17, 2023
It is critically important that all doctoral candidates complete the following surveys:
The Association of American Universities Data Exchange survey
The Association of American Universities Data Exchange exit survey reviews your experience as a doctoral student. If you have trouble accessing the survey using the link above, please contact [email protected] .
Survey of Earned Doctorates
The exit survey of earned doctorates is administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is completely confidential.
The University has acquired access to iThenticate by Turnitin that allows you to check your report, thesis, or dissertation to help identify potential textual similarities between your document and other previously published documents.
The Graduate School strongly encourages the use of this tool while preparing drafts of your report, thesis, or dissertation, along with discussion of the results of these reviews with your supervisor. You can find information about using this tool at the link above.
Doctoral candidates must upload their dissertation BEFORE submitting the required pages detailed below. The Graduate School will not accept a paper copy of the dissertation, although the student’s graduate department or program may require one. There will be a final format check when the required pages (see below) are submitted.
It is critical that your submission be complete and correct. After submission no revisions or corrections will be allowed except for those required by the graduate dean.
The upload and required pages are due by 3 p.m. CDT on the deadline:
- Summer 2023 Graduates: August 11, 2023
- Fall 2023 Graduates: December 1, 2023
Doctoral students are also required to submit a copy of the following pages to the Graduate School at [email protected] by 3 p.m. CDT on the relevant deadline listed above. All signatures must be on a single form. Incomplete forms or multiple forms will not be accepted.
The Report of Dissertation Committee
The Report of Dissertation Committee with signatures of your supervising committee is required - no proxy signatures allowed. All committee members and the GSC Chair (or representative) must sign the report- no proxy signatures allowed. This form will be emailed to you at the time of your defense.