Doctoral Exam and Dissertation Committee

During the second semester of their second year, students, in consultation with their advisor, constitute their dissertation committee. The committee will help guide the student through their research proposal, qualifying exam, public proposal presentation, grant submissions, the writing of the dissertation, and other milestones along the way. The composition of the dissertation committee should reflect the nature of students’ proposed dissertation research along with the expertise of faculty in the Department.

By March 1st of the second year, a student should complete a Dissertation Committee Form, which must be signed by all relevant parties and submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The Dissertation Committee form may be downloaded on-line ( If this form has not been signed by all relevant parties by the end of the 2nd year, the student will not have met this requirement and will jeopardize his/her standing in the program.

Once the student has completed the qualifying exams and presented the proposal and is ready to move into candidacy (usually the end of the third year), he or she will upload the committee form to the LGS system (see link above), along with candidacy and MA (optional) paperwork.

Constitution of the Committee

  • The doctoral committee comprises at least three members, two of whom must be regular faculty (full voting members) in the Department of Anthropology at Emory.
  • The committee may or may not include the original advisor assigned by the department upon arrival into the program.
  • Students have the right to request any adjunct faculty member of the department to serve on the committee (e.g., as a third or fourth member).
  • Three members of the committee must be Emory Graduate Faculty.
  • If the doctoral research involves a regional culture area as a relevant part of the project, the student must include at least one relevant area specialist from Emory or from another university on the committee.
  • Topical area specialists from Emory or another university may be included if needed.
  • Members from outside of Emory must be approved by Laney Graduate School as an Emory Adjunct Faculty member. Check with Graduate Coordinator for details regarding this process.

Changes to the Committee

When a student wishes to alter the structure of his/her committee:

  • The student must communicate the composition of the reconstituted committee to all members, previous and new, and obtain the consent of all members.
  • A Change of Dissertation Committee form signed by all committee members, must be provided to the Graduate Coordinator for DGS approval and submission to LGS. The form is available online at

If, as the dissertation topic develops, a faculty member feels that her/his expertise is no longer relevant to the research trajectory, s/he may resign from the committee following discussion with other committee members and the DGS.

Doctoral Dissertation Committee Meetings

It is strongly recommended that the student periodically meet collectively with all members of his/her doctoral committee. The student should work with the committee chair to schedule meetings so all members can attend. Doctoral committee meetings should take place at the following times:

1.  When the committee is first constituted (second semester of the second year) – For the student to discuss her/his anticipated plans for the doctoral research and for formulating and writing a research proposal.

2.  In the semester prior to taking qualifying exam (fall of third year) – To review the student’s choice of topics and bibliography for the qualifying exam. The committee will meet again or consult to develop the exam questions in the following semester.

3.  Oral qualifying exam (spring of third year) – After the written portion of the student’s qualifying examination for doctoral candidacy, the committee will meet, ask additional questions, and discuss the results with the student.

4.  Between the circulation and public presentation of the student's doctoral research funding proposal (spring of third year) ­– This meeting is an opportunity for the committee to make suggestions to the student about the proposal before it is publicly presented and critiqued. This allows opportunity for the student to make changes before the final product is submitted to funding agencies.

5.  After the research proposal is publicly presented to the department – This meeting will frequently occur immediately after the proposal preparation, e.g., committee members stay after the defense to discuss the presentation and help clarify what changes should be made to finalize the proposal.

6.  Before the student leaves for the field – To discuss the anticipated scope, purpose, and schedule of fieldwork. Each member, with the student, should be clear about his/her support of the project.

7.  Upon the student's return from the field – To discuss a student’s initial prospectus and writing/work schedule. Expectations of various committee members should be made clear to one another as well as to the student.

8.  Periodically during dissertation write-up (at least twice annually until completion) – For the student to report progress of the dissertation and for the committee to communicate their support and/or concerns about the project on a regular basis. Once a major portion of the dissertation has been submitted for review, the committee should meet without the student present. The committee should then meet with the student to communicate their feedback so the dissertation can be satisfactorily finalized and criteria for acceptable revision communicated.

9. Dissertation defense by the student – The actual defense of the dissertation occurs in a meeting with faculty members of the doctoral committee only, typically after the public presentation of the dissertation to the department.

Appeal/Mediation Process

If appeal or mediation is necessary concerning the actions of a doctoral committee:

  • The student or faculty member concerned should bring the matter to the attention of the DGS.
  • If the student or faculty member is dissatisfied with the decision and/or the attempts at mediation by the DGS, s/he may appeal the DGS’s decision/actions to either the Graduate Concerns Committee or the Department Chair.
  • If the issue pertains to the role of the DGS on a committee, then the matter should be brought to the attention of the Department Chair.
See Student Concerns for more information.