How to Be a Quality Dissertation Chair

How to Be a Quality Dissertation Chair

Chairing a doctoral dissertation is a very rewarding and challenging mission. Doctoral dissertation chairs guide doctorate candidates through the last stage of their higher education and toward the completion of their journey. To successfully fulfill such a mission, a chair plays multiple roles. Each role is described below.

Mentor

Quality chairs play the role of mentors who possess expertise in the dissertation topic and/or research method. If chairs are not experts in the research method, they need to be at least familiar with the method and one of the co-chairs must then be the expert. To play the role of mentors, chairs should:

  • Be willing to share their expertise and skills with their learners
  • Show a positive attitude and be enthusiastic about the dissertation process
  • Take personal interest in the mentoring process
  • Update their learners about the latest researchable topics in the field
  • Stay updated with the latest trends and issues in their fields by participating in professional conferences and academic journals 

Listener

In order to effectively help their learners, chairs carefully listen and identify their learners’ problems, needs, and challenges. The learners’ challenges can be related to their dissertation topics, methods, or personal issues such as time management, self-discipline, or motivation. It’s up to the chair to listen carefully in order to properly understand and offer support.

Advisor and Counselor

Effective chairs inform their learners about all the requirements and stages necessary to complete the dissertation. In addition, depending on their learners’ needs, chairs refer them to the appropriate department or support service provided by the university including the writing center, library sources, research method webinars, and workshops.  

Communicator

Interaction is the key to establishing a healthy relationship with the doctorate candidates and leads to effective mentoring. Good chairs communicate in a timely manner with their learners. They maintain an ongoing rapport with their learners throughout the process of completing the dissertation. 

Critic

Quality chairs provide constructive feedback for their learners in a timely manner. Helpful feedback should include adequate details and guidance for the candidates to be able to address the comments and move toward success.   

Team Player

Successful chairs are effective team players as they collaborate with their learners and co-chairs to complete the dissertation process. They value the co-chairs’ contributions and address team conflicts with positive attitudes and constructive approaches. 

Role Model

Superior chairs are a role model for their learners; they set examples through their personal success as scholar practitioners in conducting and disseminating research.

In addition, highly qualified dissertation chairs can be effective guides for showing their students how to disseminate their research through journal publications and conference publications, as well as showcasing their research for success in the students' future careers.