Dissertation Committee: a Student's Friend or Foe?
A dissertation committee is both a friend and a foe of the student writer. Although dissertation committees are integral to the researching and writing process, they do not always seem as if they serve the best interests of the student.
Many students are frustrated by their dissertation committees early on because they feel that the committee has too much control over what they feel is their own document. However, despite the fact that the project itself is certainly the student's to create, it is the committee that ultimately has to approve the end result. Therefore, it simply makes sense for students to make sure that they get along well with all committee members.
A student must realize that the committee generally has far more experience in dissertation writing. It is, therefore, a good idea for the student to defer to the committee even if he or she does not necessarily agree with the committee's suggestions or decisions.
Many students have their first disagreements with their dissertation committees when deciding on a topic for their project. Often, the committee may believe that the topic that the student has selected is too broad, too narrow, or the wrong topic altogether. They may suggest, or insist upon, an entirely different topic than the one on which the student had planned on writing. Ultimately, most students discover that the report committee's recommendations are sound and make the report-writing process easier in the long run. A good dissertation committee knows that students are often so excited by the topic they have selected that they don't realize how difficult the work will be. It is the job of the committee to ensure that the student selects a manageable topic and stays on track.
Managing the dissertation committee means scheduling regular meetings. This is beneficial for both the student and the committee since it not only helps the committee members and the student get to know each other better, but it ensures that the student does not take a wrong turn in the development of his or her project. One wrong turn can mean months of useless work that will ultimately need to be redone. Regular meetings also mean that the committee can ensure that the student is complying with the regulations of the college or university for research studies. Ultimately, dissertation committees and students must work together to ensure that the final dissertation meets the standards of the college or university.
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