The Ph.D. Supervisory Committee

The Ph.D. dissertation is a substantial piece of original research that reflects your ability to select an important problem for investigation and address it using appropriate research techniques. The Ph.D. Supervisory Committee guides you through all phases of the dissertation process.

The Chair

The chair of the Ph.D. supervisory committee is your primary academic advisor during the Ph.D. phase of the program. This faculty member guides your choice of topics for required subject area examinations (major and minor area exams), works with you to develop a dissertation project, and helps you identify additional members of the committee. We suggest choosing your chair soon after advancement to the PhD program.

The appointment of the Ph.D. committee chair is a sociology requirement, and it is distinct from the Graduate School petition to appoint the full committee. To appoint your committee chair, complete the Petition to Appoint the Ph.D. Committee Chair form. 

The Full Committee

You will eventually assemble a full supervisory committee, recommended by the department and appointed by the Graduate School. This committee provides advice and feedback on the design and writing of the dissertation. To appoint your full committee, complete the Petition for Appointment of the Ph.D. Committee. Email signatures work great. You can use this language: 

"In order to make this official, can you please rely to this email (cc with your agreement to serve on my committee. Attached is the form that you are, in essence, signing."

You are not considered a doctoral student by the graduate school until the establishment of your full supervisory committee. The graduate school recommends that you establish the committee four months before your general exam (prospectus defense). 


The Sociology department requires that the supervisory committee consist of four faculty members:

  • The committee chair, who must be a member of the graduate faculty in Sociology
  • Two additional sociology faculty members, at least one of whom must be a member of the graduate faculty
  • A Graduate School Representative
  • (optional) faculty members from outside of the department or university

The Graduate School Representative

The primary duties of the Graduate School Representative (GSR) are to protect you against unfair treatment and to promote quality control in awarding the Ph.D. degree. You choose the GSR in consultation with your chair. The GSR must be outside the home department and have a graduate faculty endorsement. You can use the Faculty Locator to check faculty appointments and determine eligibility to serve as GSR.

The Reading Committee

After the General Exam, you will choose at least three members of your committee to serve on a reading committee.  Your readers are responsible for approving your dissertation. 

Non-UW Sociology Members

In general, Ph.D. Supervisory Committees are composed of UW Sociology graduate faculty. In some cases, it may be appropriate to include a non-UW faculty member, or a UW faculty member from another department, on a supervisory committee. Such appointments are routinely approved if:

  • The non-UW faculty member or non-Sociology UW faculty member will bring something unique to the committee.
  • The chair of the committee approves.

Graduate School Links