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Doctoral Committee Member Roles and Functions
Faculty members in Walden University doctoral programs who accept the duty of serving on a dissertation or doctoral study committee assume a dual responsibility of high importance. One part is service to their students; the other is service to the academic practice, discipline, and professional field to which the dissertation is related. For the first part, expectations concerning the faculty service to be performed are determined by students’ needs, and by university academic policy pertaining to how these needs are to be addressed. For the second, expectations are set both by university academic policy and by policies and practice that frame acceptable work in the discipline and professional field at large.
The committee’s guidance to students will be “team advice.” Any written dialogue between a student and a committee member is shared within the committee. Committee members recognize that issues may be controversial, divide opinions, or otherwise cause disagreement. When conflicts arise, the committee members are obligated to restrict the discussion to only other committee members and the committee chairperson, to avoid involving students in disputes or disagreements among themselves. The committee chairperson will act as an arbitrator to resolve the situation and obtain a consensus.
Walden intends that dissertation/doctoral study committee members work as a team, directly guiding students through the proposal, research and analysis, and ultimately the final oral presentation. Although the committee members are expected to support and facilitate students’ progress through their doctoral capstone project, students are ultimately responsible for preparing a dissertation/doctoral study that meets the rigors of academic excellence.
Required Roles in Walden Doctoral Committees
All Walden dissertation/doctoral study committees will be comprised of three members: 1) a chair, 2) a second member, and 3) a University Research Review (URR) reviewer.
The committee chairperson leads the committee members as they work with students on their doctoral capstone projects. As a result, they are primarily responsible for ensuring that such projects meet all of Walden’s requirements including those pertaining to content coverage, methodology, research ethics, and form and style. Moreover, they are responsible for making sure that the work of committee fulfills expectations of service to the student, the academic discipline(s), and professional field(s) of practice involved. Chairs must lead, monitor, coordinate, and assess the progress of the capstone research from start to finish.
In order for the chair to provide effective leadership of capstone committees, committee members must individually apprise the committee chairperson of their respective expertise, if not already known or any special knowledge that they may be able to contribute to the student’s capstone project. Committee members must contact the committee chairperson before beginning to work with students.
Chairs must be from the program in which students are enrolled, with further specificity required from some schools. Students are expected to confirm with their advisor and/or their proposed chairperson that he/she is indeed eligible to serve in that role.
- Second Member
Collaborates with chair throughout capstone completion process to provide overall guidance about the acceptability of the capstone taking into account:
- Walden capstone rubric requirements
- Norms of program and profession
- Form and style requirements
In addition, between the chair and the second member, the following functions must be fulfilled. The functions may be split between these two members, or the chair or second member could perform both roles.
- Provides feedback to student on the following:
- Proposed research design including appropriateness for addressing the problem statement and research questions or for testing stated hypotheses
- Selection of specific methodology
- Selection of a sample of appropriate characteristics and size
- Oversee implementation of the selected methodology, assuring compliance with the following:
- Program/professional norms
- Generally accepted ethical and moral principles regarding human subjects
- Provides constructive criticism about the following:
- Data collection and analysis
- Presentation of the data and the conclusions drawn from the analyses
- Assists students with the following:
- Conceptualizing the research issues
- Preparing a literature review that provides a comprehensive summary of current knowledge and identifies the gap therein
- Identifying all variables and potential relationships
- Articulating a clearly defined research question
- Establishing the significance of the topic and the potential of the study to contribute to positive social change
- Provides feedback on the following:
- Degree to which assumptions and limitations impact upon the research conclusions
- Comprehensiveness of the literature review and theoretical base of the study (if appropriate)
- Potential for research outcomes to contribute to positive social change
- Overall significance of the research findings or outcomes
- University Research Review (URR) Reviewer
Overview of Process
The University Research Review (URR) process is the quality control mechanism for capstone research at Walden University. The goal of URR is to facilitate quality student research through a supportive environment of committee members dedicated to a collaborative enterprise. Below are a description of the URR review role and the URR reviewer assignment process.
The Role of URR Reviewers
The specific role of this committee member will be to collaborate with student, chair, and second member immediately prior to defense of proposal and prior to the final oral defense, and to perform a final review of the completed study to provide a consistent and reliable mechanism for quality management of student research including the following:
- Insuring the maintenance of a high level of integrity in the research students’ produce
- Facilitating a level of consistency in the application of university research standards
- Providing timely and substantive feedback that is within the defined scope of the URR reviewer role:
- The defined scope includes feedback related to theoretical, methodological, analytical, and organization content. URR reviewers use the capstone rubric as their means for providing feedback on submissions.
- The defined scope does not include minor form and style and ethical issues; however, URR reviewers are instructed to alert students to such issues when they come across them. On occasion they may make mandatory referrals to the Writing Center or the Institutional Review Board for advice, on such issues.
- Determining if the proposal or research study is ready for advancement to the next milestone in the process. URR reviewer approval, expressed through scores and comments entered in the appropriate capstone rubric, will be a prerequisite for conducting oral defenses of the proposal and completed capstone, as well as for submitting the abstract to the CAO for final approval.
- External, Non-Walden Dissertation/Doctoral Study Committee Member
In some rare cases, the committee chairperson may conclude that special expertise is needed to appropriately mentor or evaluate a specific aspect of a student’s research topic. In such instances, an external fourth member may be added to the committee. The qualifications of this member shall include all of the following:
- Expertise on the research topic, not otherwise available within the Walden faculty
- Possession of the highest academic degree awarded in the field
- A record of publications in scholarly journals closely associated with the topic area
- A record of guiding the development of doctoral dissertations in the topic area
- Evidence of current, active involvement in research related to the topic area
A request for such a member must be accompanied by a copy of the proposed member’s CV, and a letter from the student including all of the points above. An external member of a dissertation/doctoral study supervisory committee has the same rights and responsibilities as any other member. Review and approval of a non-Walden member nominated to a dissertation/doctoral study supervisory committee is in the purview of the program chair and/or dean of the student’s program. Nomination of such a member is initiated by the student, approved by the committee chairperson, and then evaluated by the program chair, who determines if the request shall be approved.
For more information on the specific responsibilities of each capstone committee member at each point in the capstone completion process, visit the Walden Research Center web page and see “URR Steps for Dissertation/Doctoral Students.”
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Selection and Appointment of Committees
Chairs and Second Members
Ph.D. Committees: Chairs and committee members in Ph.D. programs will be selected by students with assistance from their program and the Center for Research Support’s (CRS) Office of Student Research Support (OSRS).
After identifying a chair and a second member willing and able to serve in those roles, Ph.D. students must have their committees approved. This requires the student to complete the Request for the Appointment of the Dissertation Supervisory Committee form. Visit the Office of Student Research Support web page and select Committee Nomination form and submit it to the Office of Student Research Support (OSRS) (email@example.com).
The university processes all Request for Appointment of the Dissertation Supervisory Committee forms within one week of receipt. The program chair of the school makes the final determination on committee appointments. His/her approval will be processed in 10 business days or less. Students may not submit proposal drafts to nominated committee members until the committee has been officially approved. The OSRS will notify students when their committee is approved.
Ed.D. and DBA Committees: Students in the Ed.D. and DBA programs will have chairs and committee members appointed for them. Program coordinators will assign each student a committee, and alert the graduate student services coordinator of the committee’s approval once students have reached specific milestones in their progress within the program. The graduate student services coordinator will then e-mail the student and all committee members of the approval status, and include information regarding the next steps of the doctoral study process. The effective date of students’ committee will be communicated in this e-mail.
For information on changing one’s chair or second member after a committee is approved, students should consult the relevant Dissertation Guidebook or the Doctoral Study Guidebook for theprogram.
University Research Review reviewers will be assigned upon completion of the master’s thesis in the following manner:
- The URR reviewer assignment process will be conducted by the Office of Student Research Support. Send correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- A URR database of reviewers’ content and methodology expertise will be maintained by the OSRS to help facilitate the matching process.
- The student (with a copy sent to the committee chair) will submit the prospectus or a URR Request form to the OSRS to forward to the appropriate program for URR assignment. Students should send correspondence to the address listed in the URR Request form for their specific degree.
- The focus of the match will primarily be based upon research design/methods (qualitative, quantitative, mixed-methods), rather than subject matter, because the focus of the input provided by this committee member will be on issues such as methodology, data analysis, use of primary sources, organization, and so on, that transcend topic areas. Subject-matter feedback will be provided by the content expert of the committee.
- All URR reviewers must meet approved requirements for serving in this capacity and must complete the university’s URR Orientation Module.
- Should the focus of a student’s project change to a methodology with which the assigned URR reviewer is not familiar, a new URR reviewer can be assigned to the committee at the request of the student, the chair, or the URR reviewer.
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Doctoral Capstone Completion Process
All students enrolled in a Walden University doctoral program will proceed through the following steps as they complete their capstone:
||Items to Be Completed
||The premise is a short document that is used to identify a preliminary topic and approach for the doctoral capstone, and to help align the student with the faculty member who will guide continued development of the prospectus, either as chair and/or instructor of a prospectus course. This document may have a different name in some programs.
||The prospectus is a brief document that describes an agreed upon plan for developing the proposal and is evaluated to assure a doctoral-level project. In some programs, this document is completed in a required course; while in others, it is completed under the guidance of the committee chair. An approved prospectus also formalizes the structure of the doctoral committee that will work with the student on completing the doctoral capstone. An approved prospectus is required for doctoral candidate status.
For more information consult the Office of Student Research Support web page.
||The proposal is comprised of the first three chapters of a dissertation or the first three sections of a doctoral study along with the reference list. These chapters establish the rational for conducting the study and describe the design and methodology it will utilize.
|Proposal University Research Review
||Once the chair and second member are satisfied that the first three chapters of the capstone meet all of the requirement specified in the appropriate rubric, the chair will submit the proposal for review.
The student’s URR reviewer will review the proposal using the capstone rubric, and will either approve the proposal, which enables the student to set up an oral conference, or return the proposal with a set of required revisions.
|Proposal Oral Conference
Following URR approvals, the student will present the proposal to the chair and second member via a teleconference scheduled with the Office of Student Research Support.
For more information on this step, see the Walden Research Center web page, and under “Student Oral Presentations,” click on “Arrange a Conference Call.”
Walden’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews each study conducted by Walden students to determine if the anticipated benefits of the study outweigh risks associated with participation in it.
For more information on the IRB approval process, consult the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance web page.
|Completion of Doctoral Capstone
||Following IRB approvals, students collect, analyze, and report their findings, and complete the remaining chapters or sections of their capstone.
|Completed Capstone URR
Once the chair and second member are satisfied that the abstract and full capstone meet all of the requirements specified in the appropriate rubric, the chair will submit the complete document for review.
For instructions on submission of a completed capstone for URR, see the Walden Research Center web page and download the URR Request form.
|Form and Style Review
||Upon approval of the completed capstone by the student’s URR reviewer, the document will be submitted to the Writing Center for a Form and Style (F&S) Review, a final check for errors in APA style, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and related issues.
|Dissertation/Doctoral Study Oral Conference
Following F&S approval, the student will present the complete capstone project to the chair and second member via a teleconference scheduled with the OSRS. The oral conference is a formal discussion of the scholarly content of the capstone followed by an evaluation of your paper.
For more information on this step, see the web page, and under “Student Oral Presentations” click on “Arrange a Conference Call.”
|Final URR Review
After successful completion of the oral and committee approval of the final capstone project, the chair forwards the final document along with the consensus rubric to the URR for review while copying email@example.com. The OSRS will submit a copy of the F&S review to the URR. At this time, the URR conducts a final review to make sure all methodological, content, and writing issues have been addressed.
In addition, the URR reviews the abstract to make sure it meets university guidelines.
|Chief Academic Officer Review
||When approval from the URR has been received, the OSRS will send the abstract of the dissertation or doctoral study to the university Chief Academic Officer (CAO) or designate. Upon CAO approval, the thesis is officially completed.