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What things should I keep in mind when selecting a dissertation advisor and/or dissertation committee members?
Factors to consider vary widely, and will often be specific to your program. However, there are a few general things to keep in mind:
  1. Try to make sure that the majority of the faculty members on your committee are going to be around indefinitely. For example, if your department is notorious for withholding tenure from junior faculty members and your dissertation committee consists mainly of junior faculty, the chances are good that several of these faculty members will have left your department before you phinish. The same thing applies to very senior faculty who are likely to retire before you phinish.
  2. Query students who are currently working with the faculty members you are considering adding to your committee. Not only should you ask these students what it is like to work with these faculty members, but also what the students' individual goals and workstyles are (i.e. while the laissez faire Professor X might be a perfect match for a graduate student who works best when left to her own devices, he'd be the worst nightmare of a student who needs frequent and regular feedback).
Questions to ask yourself and other students when evaluating a faculty member as a prospective advisor or committee member include the following:
  • Does the faculty member give good feedback of students' written work?
  • Is the faculty member a good advocate for his/her students when problems arise with the department, the administration, or other committee members?
  • Does the faculty member help his/her students with professional development (e.g. helping to revise papers for publication, encouraging students to attend conferences, etc.)?
  • Is the faculty member enthusiastic about your areas of research in general and your proposed dissertation topic in particular?
  • Is the faculty member accessible - that is, will s/he be available to meet with you regularly?
See also the Advisor and Mentor Relationships section of the Links.

I sent my advisor a draft of my chapter/latest paper months ago and s/he hasn't gotten comments back to me yet. What should i do?
What do you do if your advisor takes four months to get comments back to you?: Waiting for advisor feedback by garth.

Advice on reasonable expectations for turnaround from committee members: Expecting quick turn-around by GeoGal.

What can I do if I find my advisor's/committee's criticisms of my chapters daunting or unreasonable?
A post by Fran led to an interesting discussion of how to deal with negative advisor feedback on drafts:Feedback blues by Fran.

How do I set up and run committee meetings?
In the thread HELP! Preparing for my first committee meeting!!, Yasmin gets a lot of good advice.


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