Can your friends be on your dissertation committee?

accept your nature

When I enrolled in my doctoral program in 2005 I had the idea that I would bring in a team of my friends to work with me as co-researchers and also to join my dissertation committee.  

I envisioned having two committees-one that was the traditional setup of chair, research chair, third chair and then external reader. I then planned to have about four of my friends be advisors on my committee as well.Balloons for you test

From my first course in my doctoral program, I began writing up research projects where I could include my friends as co-investigators. This involved having to draft IRB applications way before the start of my actual dissertation research.

I was researching a new model for how adults perceive learning and for how peers learn together. I felt that each course in my doctoral program could be shaped to inform my dissertation and to actively experiment together with my friends.

I had been involving friends in my school research way before I began my doctoral program. Above is a picture of a research project I did while completing a  post-baccalaureate degree in User Design at a Midwestern art school. You can see a few friends here who were a part of the project as coordinators.

scalpel drawing test

What I noticed was that the further I went along into my graduate studies the more that bringing friends (or family) to work with you in the classroom was a “no-no”. brick wall testThe wall between what you knew in your everyday life and observed with peers suddenly needed to become a surgical act that demanded scalpel-like precision.

I have heard professors describe interviewing friends for data collection as tainted data or even ‘dangerous’ in that I could hurt the research subject if I didn’t adhere to the most sterile research approach. Friends and family often seemed pushed to the back corner while the graduate student struggled to learn more ‘informed’ knowledge about the real world.

Often the biggest role for friends and family was to drive you to class or to bring balloons to your graduation ceremony. How limiting!





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.