SSRC DPD Sample Page

Welcome to the DPD University Initiative Workspace!

This page currently serves as a model for the site that would be developed with SSRC support of the program.  The purpose of this page is to show our concept for the digital meeting space and the functionality and content that it can provide.

This site will be your hub for resources, tutorials and discussions that will support you as you develop your proposal and participate in the SSRC funded DPD Program.  On this page you’ll find:

  • Information about awards, including our one-of-a-kind database of graduate student funding opportunities, hand-picked articles from our extensive blog of proposal writing advice, and guidance that will help you understand how applying for funding will fit into your graduate career. 
  • Our Proposal Writing Tutorial, which will walk you through the steps required for you to write your most competitive fellowship or grant application.  You’ll start by getting to know your funder, and then you will brainstorm, outline, and write the components of your application.  We also include guidance on how to get useful feedback, edit your work, and manage your time. 
  • Advice and guidance for applying for funding, from deciding which awards are best for you and understanding the application timeline, to writing tips and insights about funders. 
  • A forum dedicated to the SSRC DPD forum, where you can talk with your peers and faculty mentors as you work on your application.  Talking with your peers will be a great way to share insights and tips, and work through any questions or roadblocks you encounter.  Your faculty mentors will be there to help with their wisdom and guidance to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. 

We hope that you find this site helpful.  Get started by exploring our website and award database using the search box below, or scrolling down to begin the proposal writing tutorial!

Advice from GradFund

Make the Case That Your Project Will Contribute to Your Field

From a funder’s perspective, your passion for your project isn’t enough. Funders want to know that you have designed a project that does more than simply exercise your own intellectual curiosity. Even when it is not explicitly stated among the priorities listed in the...

Developing a Relationship with your NSF Program

*This blog is in preparation for GradFund’s upcoming Applying to the NSF workshop The National Science Foundation funds graduate students every year in a wide array of disciplines, from cultural anthropology to biomedical engineering. Awards are available for almost...

Strategies for Revision Series (Part 2)

Have a draft of a research statement or personal narrative for your fellowship application? Feel like it’s in pretty good shape, but not sure how to give it that top-level shine? This post suggests a strategy of revision for seeing each part of your essay in a new...

Strategies for Revision Series (Part 1)

Have a draft of a research statement? Sometimes get a sneaking suspicion that it’s not quite hanging together? This post suggests a strategy for revision that’s quick, straightforward, and yet often effective in shedding light on structural problems. I can’t claim...

Procrastinating on your Proposal? Recover Your Motivation for Your Project (Post 3)

One thing reviewers look for in an application is your excitement for the project you’re proposing. But sometimes, it’s hard to access your own excitement. Grad school is a long haul, and even the most passionate researcher on the most interesting project will...

Procrastinating on your Proposal? Try These Tips To Jump-Start Your Writing Process (Post 2)

Some applications have so many different parts, each with its own guidelines, that the process can feel overwhelming. But remember: you only have to work on one piece at a time! Research statements and personal statements are required components in most grant...


Profiled Awards

Featured Funder: Point Foundation National LGBTQ Scholarship Fund

Today’s Featured Funder, Point Foundation, is a unique scholarship organization for “out” lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) students. Awardees receive funding for up to five years of educational expenses and also participate in mentoring...

A Visit from the SSRC-Part I

At Rutgers, we recently had a visit from the program officer of one of the most prestigious fellowship awards for which we help graduate students apply: the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship. The IDRF supports 9-12 months...

Alternative grants for STEM graduate students

Although the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) F31 grants are two of the most well-known research fellowships for STEM graduate students, they are not the only sources of substantial...

Featured Fellowship: National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program

By: Marian Ahn Thorpe Writing a dissertation about education? If you are in the final data analysis and/or write-up stage of your dissertation, consider applying to the NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program. The fellowship provides $27,500 to doctoral students...

ACLS/Mellon Completion Fellowship: Wrapping It Up (Advice from the Archives)

Advice from the Archives Series Note: Occasionally, we dig into the archives to uncover a post we feel holds relevant and timely information worthy of a repost. If you are interested in learning more about research grants and fellowships to support your graduate...

Literature Citations, Literature Reviews, and the Fulbright IIE Research-Study Grant (Advice from the Archives)

Advice from the Archives Series Note: Occasionally, we dig into the archives to uncover a post we feel holds relevant and timely information worthy of a repost. If you are interested in learning more about research grants and fellowships to support your graduate...

Graduate Funding Glossary

A lot of specialized language is used to describe the world of graduate funding.  To help you cut through the jargon, here is a list of a few key terms:

  • Dissertation research: funding to support research for the dissertation
  • Dissertation writing: funding to support the final stages of writing for the dissertation. Occasionally, there will be a funder that will support either one or both of these phases.  More typical however, is a funder who will support either research or writing, not both.
  • Research grant: funding that will support research related expenses such as travel to the research site, photo copying documents relevant to your research, supplies relevant to your research, the purchase of data, fees to compensate research subjects.  Funders who offer research grants will tend to be most interested in the project you are proposing and how it will intersect with their research interests and agenda.
  • Fellowship: is a funding opportunity that will provide you with a stipend as support.  The stipend will typically be intended to support your living expenses to free you from work obligations as you do your research.  Funders who offer fellowships will tend to be most interested in you as an applicant along with your project and they will want to know how you, as an applicant, through your training and research intersect with their research interests and agenda.

Dissertation research grants and fellowships can range in support from a few weeks to a year and the financial support can be modest (a few thousand dollars) to lucrative ($30-40k).  Typically, dissertation fellowships and grants will not pay for tuition.

Why is it important to apply for external funding?

Securing dissertation support can be essential to advancing your dissertation work.  For many students, they will not be able to complete their dissertation research without a fellowship or grant.  Even if you really do not need external funding to complete your research, the benefits of applying for dissertation funding are many.   Working on a funding application alone has many benefits.  By writing a funding proposal, you will learn how to talk about your project in a clear, concise and compelling way. Presenting your ideas in a proposal may lead to grappling with challenging issues in the dissertation such as developing a conceptual framework or sorting out methodological issues.  In the end, working through these types of issues sooner rather than later will only strengthen your dissertation and keep the process moving forward. The benefits of securing external funding will continue to follow you as you enter the job market.  Potential employers look for evidence that job candidates have secured external funding in the past as this is an indicator of the significance of their dissertation and their potential to secure funding as a faculty member.

While applying for dissertation research funding is important, it can be highly competitive.  As a student begins to explore their funding options, we advise that it is best to consider carefully the mission and goals of the funder.  Why does the funder offer a particular fellowship or grant?  Are they interested in a particular theme or activity?  Are they interested in supporting students with specialized career goals?  Unfortunately, few funders have the broad goal of supporting doctoral research in the humanities.  Therefore, as you evaluate your funding options, it is important to consider carefully the funder’s goals and objectives.  Even if the particular fellowship or grant competition is highly competitive, if you match up well with the funder’s interest and goals, you have a much better chance of being successful.

There are many dissertation fellowship and grant competitions that are highly competitive, which can bring a great deal of prestige to the award. Some of these competitions have funding rates as low as 2%.  Although they can be highly competitive, we encourage our students to apply for these awards.  In the past our students have won some of the most competitive dissertation research fellowship and grants in the humanities including the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship, the Council on Library and Information Resources Mellon Dissertation Fellowship for Research in Original Source Material, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Women’s Studies Fellowship, just to name a few.

At the same time, we encourage students to broadly explore their options.  While large lucrative grants and fellowships are an important option, so too are smaller, perhaps lesser known awards.  By doing an extensive search for options, you may find that there are some small grants which may be modest but when combined with other small grant can add up to generous and flexible support.  This is especially the case in the humanities where a particular archive or library may offer a modest travel grant to use their collection.  Alternatively, it could be that a professional society or association (such as the Society for French Historical Studies or the Medieval Academy of America) offer modest graduate student awards to support dissertation research.

Regardless of the competitiveness of the award, it is important that the proposal you write for the application is clear, concise and compelling; that it connects with the funder’s goals and makes a strong case for the potential contribution to the discipline.

Early Graduate Fellowships

Early graduate fellowships provide you with fellowship support that allows you to concentrate on your studies.  These awards often include invaluable access to mentoring community, in addition to tuition support and benefits.  Key awards include the Ford Foundation’s Predoctoral Fellowship, the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.

Dissertation Research Awards

Dissertation research grants and fellowships provide you with the financial support you need to carry out your in-depth, original research.  These awards include the Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowships, the Council on Library and Information Resources Mellon Fellowships for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, the National Science Foundation’s Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants, the Fulbright IIE, Fulbright Hays, and many others.

GradFund Services

In addition to our online graduate student funding database, we are happy to meet with you to help you find fellowships and grants that fit your interests, research, and stage of study, and to help you develop a long-term plan to incorporate funding applications into your graduate career. Schedule a meeting to get started.

Search our Database

GradFund maintains a database of more than 3800 awards for graduate students.  To begin searching that database, as well as our extensive blog of proposal writing advice, just start typing below.

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Funding Proposal Advice

Plan ahead and start early! Applying for funding is a long-term process, and we encourage you to begin working on an application up to a year-and-a-half before you need the money: Successful applicants often spend four to six months working on an application, including many cycles of revisions and drafts from scratch. Then, the review process and administration of the award mean that successful applicants may not receive funding for up to a year after the application deadline. As soon as possible, work with your faculty advisor and GradFund to develop a long-term graduate program funding plan that includes potential grant and fellowship needs and awards available to support those needs.

Know your funder! Every funder and award program has a specific set of goals they intend to accomplish by funding graduate research. One of the most common mistakes made by applicants is neglecting to research these goals and appeal to them in the application. Conversely, the most successful external funding applicants are those scholars who invest the time and effort into understanding their funders and using the application materials to demonstrate that their work allows the funders to fulfill their stated purpose. Understanding your funding program begins with carefully reading the website, publicity materials, and award solicitation.

Articulate a clear and innovative research idea that is well-grounded in the published literature of one or more disciplines and will result in a concrete contribution that will move the discipline forward. While many dissertation projects may seek to answer multiple questions, we strongly suggest students focus funding proposals around one of those questions in order to fully explain that question and the relevant details to a review audience that is inherently unfamiliar with the project. Since even reviewers who are specialists in the field may not be familiar with your sub-field of work, the value of the question should be justified and supported by the literature review.

Work with your faculty advisor and committee at every step of the application-writing process. Your faculty have the expertise necessary to help you to identify important citations in your field, hone and revise your research question/hypothesis/argument, and build a strong case for the importance of your question and the appropriateness of your methods to your discipline. Faculty often have extensive experience preparing funding applications for different agencies, and may even have served as reviewers for graduate funding programs. In addition, at the graduate and postdoctoral levels, a strong and enthusiastic letter of support from graduate faculty can make the difference between the success and failure of an application in review.

Clearly articulate your methodology with the question asked by the proposal. Provide a detailed rationale behind each method and justify and explain how that method will enable you to answer your question in the best possible way. If using a mixed-methods approach, describe what each individual method will bring to the project and how the results of those disparate methods will be integrated with one another in the analysis.

Describe your work’s contribution to your field of study and to the program’s goals. By engaging with the current state of literature on your topic and directly explaining how your dissertation will move that literature forward, you can spell out for the reviewer the ultimate reason for funding the proposal. While it may be difficult to be certain of what this contribution will be, especially if you are applying for a research grant and have not yet begun the project, your knowledge of the topic, research plan, and your anticipated dissertation allow you to make an educated prediction about possible outcomes and contributions that the reviewer may not have imagined.

Proposal Writing Tutorial

We have developed for you a self-paced mentoring program to assist you in the development of a proposal for a funding application. This tutorial is designed to help you with the task of writing a competitive application and organizing all of its components.

By using this tutorial, you will learn the mechanics of proposal writing and best practices in grantsmanship while you develop an outline of your funding application, including the research proposal, supporting materials, and the application form(s). Although this tutorial is self-paced, we encourage you to set up a schedule to keep yourself on track.  The program consists of 8 lessons, and you should schedule about a week to complete each one.

When you have completed the tutorial, you will have the first draft of your application materials and a good idea of how to assemble your funding application package. The more time you invest in crafting the essays detailed in this tutorial, the more advice and guidance we will be able to provide you. Providing ample time to work on your applications is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Completing this tutorial will not accelerate the application development process but it will be a valuable time investment: competitive funding applications take time to write and rewrite.

We encourage you to complement the tutorial  with individual meetings with a GradFund fellowship advisor.  During an application review meeting, you will receive personalized feedback to help you target the goals of your particular funder, ensure that you are providing the appropriate tone and level of detail for your review audience, and improve clarity and organization of the application. You can schedule a meeting through our website.

This tutorial is designed for graduate students who have selected an award to apply for. If you would like to search for awards to support your graduate work, you can use our website to search for awards andschedule a pre-applicationmeeting to discuss your options with a fellowship advisor. For more information about grants and fellowships, please visit our website,  our blog GradFund Conversations, and theGradFund Knowledgebase for more information and insights into the proposal writing process.

If you have any questions or concerns as you work through the tutorial, please let us know. We look forward to working with you!

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