By Alexandria Smith
The term ‘interdisciplinary’ has become increasingly common as more funders, academic institutions, and individual scholars recognize the utility of engaging methods, perspectives, and scholarship from multiple academic disciplines in their research. As with most academic terms, the precise meaning of ‘interdisciplinary’ varies depending on the context in which it is used. In this post, we will explore a few potential ways to approach the term and concept of ‘interdisciplinarity’ while applying for funding in the humanities and social sciences.
My research is interdisciplinary and I want to apply for a ‘disciplinary’ award. You may consider your work interdisciplinary if you are enrolled in a department that defines itself that way, such as Comparative Literature, Women’s and Gender Studies, or American Studies. Alternatively, you may be enrolled in a “traditional” disciplinary department like English, History, Sociology, or Economics, and consider your work interdisciplinary because your work is significantly influenced by methods and approaches from one or other disciplines. Just like with all other awards, if you are interested in applying to fund interdisciplinary research with a disciplinary award, your first step is to determine your eligibility. Does the award require membership in a discipline-specific organization? Is the award limited to students or scholars in a specific list of disciplines, regardless of project focus? The answers to these questions will vary according to each award. After determining your eligibility, your next priority is to emphasize the contribution your interdisciplinary scholarship makes to the field in question. Be sure to consult your advisors about the best ways that this is done in your field(s).
I usually think of my research as ‘disciplinary,’ but I want to apply for an interdisciplinary award. Determining your eligibility for an interdisciplinary award depends on how the award-granting organization defines interdisciplinarity. The Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship (SSRC IDRF), funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation, asks applicants to answer the question: “How do other disciplinary approaches, concepts, and debates inform your research?” Applicants must also illustrate how their project uses “humanistic inquiry” to explore the human condition. Eligibility for this award therefore requires that you identify the broader questions that your research speaks to beyond the terms of intervening in disciplinary debates. As with all proposal writing, your advisor is the best authority on how to present your work to different audiences.
Consider scheduling a meeting with GradFund for tailored discussions about how well your draft application materials address a potential funder’s disciplinary funding goals.