Doctoral Guidance Committee

1. The committee and its members

According to department policy, a Guidance Committee must be appointed no later than the end of the next quarter following submission of your M.A. thesis. This committee consists minimally of three “inside” members (Linguistics professors). Additional members, including “outside” members, may be included if desired.

The Guidance Committee is the precursor of the official Ph.D. committee, which will usually have similar membership. The official Ph.D. is usually appointed during the first quarter of your fourth year, and has four, rather than three, members. For information on the official Ph.D. committee and how to set it up, see Taking Orals: Official Requirements You Have To Pass Before Taking Orals – Paperwork Needed.  

2. Forming your guidance committee

A good committee has helpful members who know the field and offer you good advice; also who want to work with you on your topic.

Most advisers would agree that a good topic has these traits:

  • It has a solid basis in the current research stream in your area.
  • It addresses a clear question or set of questions.
  • It is feasible to do in a limited time and with the resources you have.
  • It can be advised by faculty committee members who are available, knowledgeable, and willing.
  • It is sufficiently interesting to you to make you feel happy and satisfied that you are doing it.

It is completely permissible, at this stage of your career, for the topic to be uncertain or a bit vague; an explicit topic will ultimately needed, but only later, when you write a prospectus and take orals.

You can find committee members who form a good fit for your work in the usual way, making appointments with them, bringing a handout, and going over your current thinking and research progress with them. This will give you a clear idea of what they would be like as committee members, and give them a clear idea of whether this is a feasible project that they would want to get involved in advising.

3. Signing up your Guidance Committee

Once you and your teachers have worked out the composition of your Committee, please prepare an email message in the following format below and send it to the Graduate Student Affairs Officer and each committee member:

Dear [name of Student Affairs Officer ] and Committee Members,

This is the official email proposing a Guidance Committee for the initial stages of my Ph.D. work. The proposed members of my committee are:

_______________________ (chair (or co-chair, if there are cochairs))

_______________________ (chair (or co-chair, if there are cochairs))


_______________________ (optional fourth member)

I verify that I have received permission from all faculty nominated to include them on the proposed Committee.

My research area and proposed dissertation topic are:  ([give description here; it can be brief]).

Yours sincerely,

(your name)

4. Questions

Please feel free to consult the Student Affairs Officer and/or the Director of Graduate Studies with any questions.