Some students expect too much or too little out of their dissertation committee. I want to clear the air and give you a few tips on what you should not expect your committee to do for you. Your committee members are there for you every step of the way, but don’t expect them to do more than they should.
First, you’ll want to read your graduate student handbook to understand what your particular university and graduate program specify about what your committee can and cannot do for you. Given my experience in academia, I know these few things that no committee should ever do for you as a graduate student:
Your committee will not hold your hand.
Don’t depend on your committee members to guide you along every step of the way in your dissertation process or even after you have graduated. They will expect you to do things on your own so that you can become accustomed to the real world quicker. Of course, they’ll help you when you ask for it, but just be careful of the things you ask of them. For instance, depending on the work that you have done for them, they will probably write you a recommendation letter for work or further education, whichever you desire. They will not, however, look for jobs for you. For more advice about dissertation committees from John L. Jackson, read his article, Lies Your Dissertation Committee Told You.
Your committee will not edit your dissertation.
Their job as your advisors for your dissertation process does not include editing your dissertation, but they will review your dissertation throughout the process and comment on it. Their feedback for your dissertation is valuable because they are the subject matter experts that you need to learn from to get the most out of your education and dissertation writing process. For instance, if you send a version or chapter of your dissertation to your committee members, you can expect their comments to include statements such as “Expand this section to include more detail” or “Watch your grammar in this section.” They will not, however, provide editing marks and fix specific mistakes in your document.
You may be thinking, “Well, I’m not the best with grammar and punctuation, so how can I make sure I have a great dissertation?” Think about possibly hiring an editor for your dissertation. Many students hire editors, and it benefits students in the long run because good editors only make dissertations better. If you decide to allow editors to assist you in your dissertation writing process, make sure they have the proper education and means to help you. For instance, don’t just pay one free-lance editor who works in a basement to look over your dissertation. Do your research to find a competent and willing company that has a team of editors to help you.
For example, Elite Research is one such company. Visit their webpage, and more specifically, their Editing Services page to find out more information about them. Elite Research, LLC is a company that specializes in research and statistical analysis, but they also have editing consultants who can edit your document in any way you need. They can edit for grammar, spelling, punctuation, clarity, formatting, etc. Visit their site to find out if this company can help ease your editing anxiety.
I hope that you have gotten a lot out of this article. It’s important that you understand what is appropriate for you to expect from your dissertation committee. And as always, PhDStudent has some great articles with further tips on how to succeed you’re your committee members. Take a look at our page on how to maintain great relationships with different people in your graduate community.