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School of International Service, PhD

The Doctoral Dissertation

The Dissertation Committee

Each student is responsible for assembling a dissertation committee. According to the Graduate Academic Regulations, a dissertation committee must meet the following criteria:

A committee must consist of at least three members, including a committee chair.

All committee members must have received a terminal degree from an accredited institution and at least two of the core members must be full-time, tenure-line faculty members at American University, preferably from the program in which the student is enrolled.

The committee chair must be a tenured faculty member in the School of International Service. Untenured, tenure-line faculty may be appointed as co-chairs but must serve with a tenured faculty member.

The committee must be approved by the SIS Director of Doctoral Studies and the University’s Dissertation Council.

At the time of the dissertation defense, an outside reader will join the committee to review the dissertation. This outside reader serves an advisory role and is to determine if the dissertation meets general standards in the field, but not necessarily to critique the work in detail. This outside member must have the appropriate terminal degree and must be an expert in the subject matter of the dissertation. However, the outside reader should have no direct association with the student. The outside member is selected by the chair of the dissertation committee.

A student may have one or more committee members from outside the university. If a student chooses to have a committee member from outside the university, the student is solely responsible for obtaining comments on the dissertation as it progresses, and making arrangements for the external members to be present physically or virtually for the prospectus and dissertation defenses. ) along with an explanation of each member’s qualifications and ability to contribute to the student’s dissertation to the Director of Doctoral Studies. Once the Director has given preliminary approval of the committee, the student should email the completed form and the following additional documents to to be reviewed by the Dissertation Council. The required additional documents include the following:

An abstract of the dissertation proposal.

A copy of relevant research assurance certificates.

A rationale for the inclusion of each proposed committee member.

For more on these required accompanying documents, please see the second page of the Doctoral Dissertation Approval Form here . ).

In the event that an American University faculty member serving on a dissertation committee resigns his or her position at the University, the Dissertation Council may permit him or her to remain part of the committee. A Dissertation Committee chair who retires or leaves the University before the dissertation is complete may also petition the Dissertation Council to remain on the committee as chair, as a co-chair, or as a member. Should a faculty member remove him or herself from the committee, it is the student’s responsibility to identify and confirm a new member.


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