In a doctoral dissertation, you as the dissertation candidate will have a dissertation chair and two committee members that will be assisting you through the dissertation process. Now for some schools, it is possible for there to be a requirement for more committee members, typically three is the standard number. Selection of this committee is very important and pick each member wisely.

As a learner in the dissertation phase currently, there is wise advice that has been given regarding the committee and this month’s blog is to share some of that information. First, remember the committee is not there to find fault with your work. The committee is there to get you graduation! Not sure who started the saying, but one saying said over and over is “The best dissertation is a done dissertation.”

This past couple of weeks, this learner was struggling with research questions and hypotheses, reaching out to my dissertation chair for assistance. My dissertation chair gave me 30 minutes of time and more than twice in our conversation, her comment was “let’s get you to graduation.” I am all for getting to graduation, but in a dissertation, there are so many people that have to be made happy. My dissertation chair responded to me by saying, “if you want my suggestion, here is what I would recommend.” Those are wise words and I soaked them up like a sponge. After finishing our conversation, I took those words of wisdom, did some research and revamped my dissertation methodology within a couple of hours. What transpired was not just the methodology making more sense, but the direction the research study is headed made me happy as well.

Why share this information? First, the committee is there is to help you finish your dissertation not prevent you from graduating. They say, 1 – 2% will graduate with their full doctorate because they get to dissertation and get frustrated. The key is knowing that the committee is there to help you succeed, so pick a dissertation chair who is going to be direct and guide you in a proper direction. There is advise to select someone that uses your methodology or is in your field of study or even someone you like, my advice pick someone is who is going to tell you, not what you want to hear, but what you NEED to hear.

Remember when writing a dissertation, it is not just about pleasing the dissertation committee, but the IRB (Internal Review Board). Every school has an IRB and your dissertation will have to pass through their hands for several approvals throughout the dissertation journey. Having a committee that understands the IRB and what they will be looking for, is important. The IRB can request changes to your study as well, a dissertation chair and committee members with experience will know the expectations of the IRB, which is why select committee members carefully.

One of the recommendations, I would personally make, is during the course work get to know your professors and who serves on the committees. Begin networking with them so see who you like and dislike. As wild as this might sound, you may even want to consider a tough professor you didn’t like for a committee member. The tough professors are the one’s going to push you into success and give you the feedback needed to make it a done dissertation. While a tough professor may seem mean or unfair, they are serving the purpose of pushing you to success if one is flexible and willing to learn. As I stated and will state again, the dissertation chair and committee is there to get the dissertation done, not prevent you from graduating. Heeding words of wisdom is important, which has been shared with me by others who have been down the journey before me. From experience, these are words of wisdom.

A successful dissertation begins with a dissertation chair and committee that is chosen wisely, network early and build those bonds. My dissertation chair agreed to serve several years ago and I am thrilled to have her honest, direct and even painful feedback guide me on my dissertation journey! Do not give up!…..“The best dissertation is a done dissertation.”