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Ph.D. Committee Responsibilities - Research Doctorate



To identify the duties and responsibilities of the Doctoral Committee – Research Doctorate (hereafter, Ph.D. Committee) in guiding the student in scholarly work and professional development.


Academic Goal

The academic goal of this policy is to ensure that research doctoral students receive timely and comprehensive guidance from members of the Graduate Faculty that facilitates progress toward their degree, including meeting the Graduate Council’s Scholarly and Professional Goals for All Graduate Degree Students.



All students enrolled in programs of study leading to the Ph.D.

The broad purpose of the Ph.D. Committee is to ensure that each Ph.D. student receives the attention, guidance, and mentoring necessary to successfully earn their degree and meet the Graduate Council’s Scholarly and Professional Goals for Penn State graduates from a representative cross section of the Graduate Faculty. This policy describes the particular responsibilities of the Ph.D. Committee.

Moreover, continuing communication on a regular basis among the student, the committee chair, the dissertation adviser, and the other members of the committee is strongly recommended, in order to preclude misunderstandings and to develop a collegial relationship among the student and all members of the committee.

Policy Statement

  1. Primary Responsibility: A doctoral program consists of a combination of courses, seminars, individual study, and research/scholarship that meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of Graduate Council. The primary responsibility of the Ph.D. Committee is to guide the broad scholarly development of the Ph.D. student, including direct responsibility for guidance and assessment of the student’s dissertation research and academic progress toward the Ph.D. degree. Ph.D. Committee members are appointed based on their skills and expertise with these goals in mind. Specific responsibilities include (but are not limited to):
    1. The Ph.D. Committee shall approve the educational program for each individual student beyond the program requirements.
      1. The Ph.D. Committee can require additional education, including course work, depending on the student’s background and research plans.
    2. The Ph.D. Committee shall approve a written assessment of the student’s progress on an annual basis. This assessment will:
      1. Include a review of any prior annual assessments.
      2. Address the quality of the student’s research and progress toward their degree, including:
        1. Recommendations, as appropriate, to improve the student’s research;
        2. Any concerns identified and recommend actions to address the concerns.
      3. Assess the student’s professional development and provide any recommendations as appropriate and that reflect, to the extent possible, the student’s career goals;
      4. Accurately reflect the assessment by all members of the committee, including any minority opinions.
    3. The Ph.D. Committee shall administer the student’s Comprehensive Examination and assess the student’s performance on the examination.
    4. The Ph.D. Committee shall assess the student’s dissertation and recommend (or not) its approval to the Graduate School.
    5. The Ph.D. Committee shall conduct the student’s Final Oral Examination and assess the student’s performance on the examination.
  2. Annual Assessments: The goal of the annual assessment is to evaluate student progress toward the degree and in meeting the Graduate Council’s Scholarly and Professional Goals for All Graduate Degree Students.
    1. The Ph.D. Committee will assess the student within one semester after its formation (excluding Summer Semester) including a review of the student’s dissertation research and the student’s understanding of the dissertation research goals, objectives, and methods. This is separate from evaluation of the student’s performance on the Comprehensive Exam unless additional time and focus are added, as needed, to allow a holistic review of the student’s progress.
      1. If the student’s program has received approval through the Graduate Council’s curricular review process to establish the Ph.D. Committee later than specified in GCAC-602, then the program head or designated academic adviser assumes Ph.D. Committee responsibilities as outlined in this policy. The first assessment will take place approximately one year after the Qualifying Examination is passed; the program head or designated academic adviser will provide an assessment of the student at least once annually after that until the student’s Ph.D. Committee is formed.
    2. For subsequent assessments of the student, the Ph.D. Committee shall:
      1. Assess the quality and progress of the student’s research;
      2. Assess the student’s professional development;
      3. Decide whether any interim meetings should take place and, if so, when.
  3. The Ph.D. Committee shall meet as necessary to advise the student and the student’s dissertation adviser.
    1. It is strongly recommended and a best practice for the entire Ph.D. Committee to meet together with the student to conduct the annual assessment. If there is no meeting, it is strongly recommended that the student meet individually with each member, at least annually.
    2. The student, the student’s Dissertation Adviser, the Ph.D. Committee Chair, or any two members of the Ph.D. Committee may request a meeting of the Ph.D. committee.


  1. Committee Assessment Reports: The Ph.D. Committee will review and approve the annual assessment that should include the opinions of all members and need not be unanimous.
    1. The assessment shall include:
      1. The Ph.D. Committee’s assessment of the student’s research and professional development progress, along with any advice the Ph.D. Committee may have for the student; such advice may include recommendations for supplemental study, an improvement plan (if necessary), and/or any other advice that would support the student’s progress toward their degree.
      2. Any comments by the student with respect to the report.
      3. The Ph.D. Committee’s decision on whether any meetings of the full Committee are to be scheduled (remote participation is acceptable).
    2. The student must acknowledge receipt and understanding of the annual assessment.
    3. The Ph.D. Committee Chair shall submit the completed annual assessment, with all approvals, to the major (and as appropriate, dual-title and/or minor) Graduate Program Head.


P1 - Distance Participation Request


insert_drive_file Annual Assessment of Ph.D. Student Progress - SAMPLE (PDF)

Further Information

Ph.D. Committee Responsibilities - Research Doctorate - FAQs

Revision History

  • Approved by Graduate Council, February 13, 2019. Effective date: Fall 2019 (08/12/2019).
    • Policy revised extensively.
  • Adapted from Graduate Bulletin: June 2018.
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