Choosing the right defense committee can potentially be the difference between a smooth transition of receiving your doctoral degree or dodging bullets in an all-out civil war. Hyperbole aside, I’ve been particularly lucky with picking my defense committee members. However, I’ve had colleagues who have struggled, so it’s easy to be on either side of this tough choice. As a new blogger to this site, I wanted to contribute to other great blog posts here and here, so I thought I’d create a series about important decision for grad students.

Guideline 1: Pick a balanced committee

In most cases, you have four committee members to choose, and you’ll want to choose your members based on their background and how they can contribute to the success of your project. This blog post will discuss how to choose these types of committee members and how to ensure that your committee is as balanced as possible (in skills, temperament, and knowledge).

Guideline 2: Pick members who are willing to spend time with you

In order for the above specialties to be effective, it is paramount that your committee members have the ability (and the desire) to work with you on your project. You wouldn’t want to choose committee members you don’t work well with or who do not believe in your study, so that’s what you’ll find in the blog post about the second guideline.


Guideline 3: Decide on a chair/advisor that can communicate well

Ultimately, you’ll be spending most of your time with your chair/advisor. There are many things to keep in mind in this important bond and relationship. This third post will define what this relationship looks like and what you need for it to thrive and not just survive throughout your grad school journey.

Guideline 4: Choose members who will challenge you (but not too much)

You want committee members who will be able to spot the gaps in your arguments and methods. After reading this blog post, you’ll learn how important it is to avoid choosing committee members who are unable to point out the flaws and how to enhance the best points of your research.

Guideline 5: Beware the politics

All in all, remember that university professors are human beings. As you probably know, politics tend to get in the way of productive work towards receiving your degree, which is what this blog post will discuss. It will be important for you to learn how to weave through these issues and how to choose committee members who won’t have these issues to begin with.

I look forward to this upcoming blog and can’t wait to share my thoughts with you all. Does anyone have any thoughts or advice for those looking for committee members before we jump into this series?


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