Typically, dissertation funding may be divided into two separate phases: dissertation research and dissertation writing. Most funders will support either research or writing, not both. Funding to support dissertation writing frequently comes in the form of a fellowship that provides a stipend to support your living expenses and free you from work obligations as you write. In many disciplines, writing fellowships require students to finish the dissertation while on tenure, and because a significant part of the application for this type of award is demonstrating how the funds will help you finish, these may also be called completion fellowships. As with other graduate fellowships and grants, applying for writing/completion fellowships has many benefits, from learning to describe your project clearly and concisely for different audiences to added competitiveness on the job market. Dissertation writing/completion fellowships nearly always require doctoral students to have advanced to candidacy in order to apply, though you should verify this and other eligibility and timing details with your specific funder.
Writing/completion fellowships typically fall into two categories:
- Portable: the funder does not stipulate that you need to be in a particular location to receive funds, and it is possible to live and work wherever you can be most productive (at your home institution, research site, or another locale)
- In-residence: offered by stand-alone or university-connected research institutes to support a community of scholars working on a specific theme or topic, and therefore require students to be in residence at the funding institution for the duration of the award
Funding for a successful application may not arrive for 9-12 months after the application deadline, and writing/completion fellowships commonly have deadlines in September to January, meaning that students should apply for these awards nearly two years before they plan to defend the dissertation.
When thinking about whether to apply for dissertation writing/completion funding, ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of support do I need? (For instance, a grant to support some late-phase data collection? A fellowship to support living expenses while you write?)
- When do I need funds to support my dissertation writing? (Typically, you should plan to apply for funding up to a year before you need the money.)
- For how long do I need the support? (A few weeks, a month, 6 months, a year?)
As always when exploring funding options, GradFund encourages you to carefully consider the mission and goals of the funder. Your ideal funder is one for which you and your research project are a good match with the intentions and interests of the funding program, regardless of the level of competitiveness.
While each application is different, common elements in successful dissertation writing/completion funding applications may include:
- A 2-10 page proposal (depending on funder requirements)
- A timeline detailing all completed and remaining work, with an emphasis on progress toward degree during the award tenure
- Two to four letters of recommendation from your advisor and committee members
- Official transcripts of all graduate work
- CV and/or personal statement
Featured Dissertation Completion Fellowships
Dissertation fellowships are often awarded in a national competition. Some of these competitions, like the Ford Dissertation Fellowship, are administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on behalf of the Ford Foundation. The awards will be made to individuals who, in the judgment of the review panels, have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.
The National Science Foundation’s Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS), Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES), National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), and the SBE Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (SMA) award grants to doctoral students to improve the quality of dissertation research. These grants provide funds for items not normally available through the student’s university. Additionally, these grants allow doctoral students to undertake significant data-gathering projects and to conduct field research in settings away from their campus that would not otherwise be possible. Proposals are judged on the basis of their scientific merit, including the theoretical importance of the research question and the appropriateness of the proposed data and methodology to be used in addressing the question.
AAUW American Fellowships support women scholars who are completing dissertations, planning research leave from accredited institutions, or preparing research for publication. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Candidates are evaluated on the basis of scholarly excellence; quality and originality of project design; and active commitment to helping women and girls through service in their communities, professions, or fields of research.
How Can GradFund Help?
Consider participating in one of our Graduate Funding Mentoring Programs, which offer a structured and intensive platform that is ideal to help graduate students develop their applications for competitive, dissertation-level funding.
Throughout the calendar year, we provide individual meetings to help you select a funder and develop and hone your application materials.
Participation in one of our workshop events may help you through the start of an application process as well.