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I am currently writing my PhD dissertation and was wondering in what order I should list committee members in my dissertation? What is a good order that does not offend anyone? I know the advisor has to be listed first. For the rest of the members, some of the options I considered were: (a) listing by decreasing order of seniority, (b) alphabetical, (c) list external last. The problem with (a) is that the senior most professor is an external (from a different university) and comes up before Profs from my own department. The problem with (b) and (c) are that the senior most person, who is also quite famous, now comes last. Am I overthinking this?

  • I think this might be location specific, as its not something I've ever heard of. – Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩 Mar 15 at 19:08
  • If it helps I am in a US university. – Smoke Mar 15 at 19:10
  • "I know the advisor has to be listed first": well, in some places the advisor is not a committee member. – Massimo Ortolano Mar 15 at 19:11
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    How involved was the external committee member in your dissertation? If the answer is "not very," put them last. – Elizabeth Henning Mar 15 at 20:41
  • @ElizabethHenning Apart from my advisor, none of the committee members have been involved at all. I will meet them only for the 2nd time during my defense. – Smoke Mar 15 at 21:30
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Probably you are overthinking it. If they have different roles you can list them with their role and avoid ordering problems. Otherwise I'd consider alphabetical.

I'll admit that in some fields there may be a tradition about how to do it, but I've never heard of that. And note that in some circles the one listed last is considered the most prominent. It is hard to really draw conclusions, hence alphabetical.

And, your advisor might have some good advice about this.

  • Got it. I am my advisors first student, so I don't have full faith in his judgement when it comes to "soft skills" matters like these. – Smoke Mar 15 at 19:12
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    @Smoke: I don't have full faith in his judgement when it comes --- You could look at some of the recent dissertations written in your department and see if you notice a specific format being used. These dissertations should be shelved somewhere in your university library, and copies might also be in your department library, department reading room, department common room, etc. (if any of these exist). – Dave L Renfro Mar 15 at 19:17
  • @DaveLRenfro Good idea. I will do that. Although, my case is a bit less common in that I have an external from a different university, but I should be able to find something. – Smoke Mar 15 at 19:25
  • @DaveLRenfro: Wow. This is a really, really great idea!! Would you mind writing it as an answer? – user105595 Mar 15 at 21:26
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    @user105595: OK, I've made my comment into an answer. I'm surprised at your excitement because this seems rather obvious to me, although in view of the fact that I've posted several similar comments here in the past few years saying essentially the same thing regarding certain theses formatting questions, I suppose it's not obvious to others. When I was in graduate school, this was what most (all?) students did, although in many cases their thesis adviser had bound copies of previous theses on their bookshelves, so students usually didn't have to go to the library. (continued) – Dave L Renfro Mar 16 at 10:38
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Besides asking your adviser, you could look at some of the recent dissertations written in your department to see whether a specific format tends to be used. Print copies of the dissertations are probably shelved somewhere in your university library (and/or you might have access to digital versions using your university library), and copies might also be in your department library, department reading room, department common room, etc. (if any of these exist).

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I suggest checking with the graduate school administration of your university (not just your department). There may be amazingly specific rules about the format of your dissertation, including the list of committee members. For example, in my university, the title page of a doctoral dissertation must say that it's "submitted to The University of Michigan" with a capital "T" in "The". I think the committee members are listed with the adviser first (labeled not as adviser but as chair of the committee) and then the other members in alphabetical order; I don't guarantee that, though, since I never paid much attention to the ordering of the list.

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