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Dissertation or Thesis Committee

Those who serve to advise and guide your research

Library Subject Guide

Dissertation and Thesis Committees

Introduction to Human Subject Research

The committee members will be responsible for overseeing the research and writing, and eventually, test the student’s knowledge of the subject. Choosing committee members who are qualified, both in subject expertise and the ability to support research with sound guidance and timely feedback, is vital to success. 

With the exception of choosing the dissertation topic, there is no single decision more important to success than the individuals selected to serve on the dissertation committee.

Notice that these individuals serve on, rather than lead or run, the committee. This is an important distinction. They are recognized experts and leaders in their fields and have as their goal successful completion of the dissertation. Thus, their work is more of a consultation and mentorship, although quite a bit of teaching and instruction is included. Their consultation and mentorship suggestions and direction should be heeded; however, the work is the candidate’s, and the student has the final determination in what will and what will not be included.

Always remember, these professionals have been through the same efforts and are included in the number of the few who succeed. They will be making the determination of the fitness of the work and success of the defense, so select them wisely.

Draft an email or prepare a phone call script to formally request someone to serve on your committee.  

Each member of the dissertation committee needs to fill out a Dissertation Committee Member Signup Form, a copy of which is located in Appendix A of the DSS Doctoral Program Handbook and Dissertation Guide.  A copy of which is located below.  

Changes to the Committee. A change in a dissertation committee can occur due to general circumstances such as illness, death, job change, etc. of a committee member or due to differences within the committee or between the student and the committee member in question.

1. In the event of the loss of a committee member due to general circumstances, the student may nominate a replacement member. Remaining members of the committee may also nominate a replacement. Nominations must be submitted to the associate dean of the Doctorate in Strategic Security in writing no more than 30 days following the loss of the committee member.

2. A committee may elect to remove one of its members by majority vote. A letter describing the reasons for the removal must be submitted to the associate dean of the student's program and signed by a majority of the committee members. If the removal is approved by the associate dean, the member may be replaced using the process described in point number one above.

3. In cases where a student has difficulty with a particular committee member, the student is advised to attempt to work out the difficulty via the chair of the committee. If this is not possible, the student should use the Grievance Procedure outlined in the National American University Catalog as a means to find an appropriate solution, which may include replacing the committee member in question.


Does your Committee include:

Collapse Does your Committee include:

The Chair must have a terminal doctorate degree.  Consider the relationship you will need to have with the chair.  Choose someone who matches your availability, style of feedback needed, preference of methodology, personality, and who has strategic security subject matter expertise.  You might also want to consider their previous success rate helping students.  

Ensure at least one member of the team has subject matter expertise or proven interest in your topic.  

Ensure at least one member of your committee has experience in and prefers the methodological design you intend to use.  

At least two of the three members must have a doctorate degree.  The other member must have a master's degree if they are professionally recognized subject matter expertise in your topic.  If in doubt, discuss the choice with the Associate Dean of your program or Dean of Henley-Putnam School of Strategic Security.    

Ensure all members of the dissertation committee have agreed to serve and have documented it by returning the committee member forms.  Once you have them, upload them into the appropriate assignment area for milestone completion documentation.  

If you are an English as a Second Language speaker/writer, you should consider adding one of the foreign language instructors to your committee.  Even if those FL instructors speak a different language.  They usually can provide feedback on those items ESL candidates usually struggle with. 

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