This blog post is the second part in our 5-part series: Your Dissertation Committee. To read the first part of the series, go back to March 26 and read about the various tips and tricks on how to maintain a good relationship with your committee.
When you read this post, you’ll learn that selecting and assembling a committee encompasses many tasks that require attention and detail-oriented work. You might be surprised by the amount of work it will take before even formally asking faculty or advisors to be a part of your committee. Then, of course, asking your potential committee is a job in itself.
How Do I Prepare Myself?
In preparing yourself to ask certain faculty to be a part of your dissertation committee, you’ll want to do several things: do your homework, choose wisely, and outline your future work.
Doing your homework basically entails researching, questioning, and observing. You’ll want to research each potential committee member (if you don’t already know about their contributions) to get to know them, not only as academics but also as people. Learn about the work they’ve done and their personalities to get a feel for who they would work with best. Some of the research will come from surfing the Internet, but you might also want to question other faculty members who work with those you’re interested in for your committee. It doesn’t have to be an interview-type questioning; it could be something that you casually bring up to a trusted staff or faculty member. Also, try observing how your potential committee members deal with certain situations, such as conflicts with students or other professors, communications with yourself or others, and endurance with long projects.
Another way to prepare yourself for asking your members to be a part of your committee is to choose wisely. As you might have gathered from the previous section about research, knowing your committee members well is extremely important. I will advise against silently deciding on your members and impulsively asking them to be a part of your committee. Whatever your personality trait is, my suggestion is to either chart out your “dream” committee or create pro con lists, etc. so that you can narrow down your choices in a more organized manner.
Once you decide on whom your chosen faculty members are, you will want to personally prepare to ask them to be a part of your committee. If you show up in their offices and ask them straight out, they might want to see some examples of your past work or even part of the work you plan on doing for your dissertation. If they are going to work with you extensively on this project, they want to know that their time will be well worth it. You may not have all of your thoughts completed for your dissertation, but as long as you have some sort of outline or written idea of what you want as your end result in your dissertation, the faculty members will be more willing to accept your request because they will see that you are prepared and know what you want from them.
To gain more knowledge about how to research and observe faculty members, take a look at this article from the University of Texas at Austin. Next comes the major task of asking the faculty members of your potential dissertation committee.
How Do I Ask My Future Committee?
I don’t have many tangible tips on the words to say or the nitty-gritty specifics of how you would want to ask your faculty members because you know them, and I don’t. I got some help from “Karen,” a former tenured professor from Oregon and Illinois. This blog post will help you with knowing what to do, what to say, and what not to do and say when talking to potential committee members.
For instance, I agree that you will definitely want to make an appointment to see the prospective committee members; this is not a situation that warrants a hallway conversation. I also credit Karen on the 3 things that professors want to be sure of when you request their help:
a) that you will not be a clingy burden;
b) that you will finish efficiently and successfully; and
c) that your ultimate success will add to the glory and fame of the professor.
If you make sure that you tailor your presentation of your request to them with these elements in mind, you will have a much better chance with receiving an acceptance.
How Do I Continue A Good Relationship With My Committee?
Continue reading this series. The next blog in the series is about what to expect from your committee and what they can expect from you. You will want to read this next one because committees and students must learn certain expectations in order to function properly. Please also visit the following link to our PhDStudent article, Choosing Your Team: Selecting a Chair and Academic Committee. You will benefit from the amount of advice and information that we have to offer you.