Whether you’re looking for a few extra dollars to fund research or a larger fellowship that will pay for a year or two of focused work on your dissertation, a research grant can be just the ticket for finishing your dissertation and launching your career. A smaller award shows that you’re capable of getting money to fund research and, when it comes time to apply for a larger award, you’ve demonstrated that you are capable of using funds effectively to support your work. Larger dissertation grants may fund an entire year of full-time work on your dissertation, so you don’t have to take on additional jobs as you finish writing it. These awards are harder to get but very prestigious.
Where to Look
The first place you should look for dissertation funding is within your department and the university. The odds of receiving funds from these sources are far better than getting funded by a foundation or another organization. Ideally, you would look for funds early in your doctoral candidacy, so you can build the case for applying for more funds from foundations in a year or two.
Foundations and other organizations may be interested in supporting your research. To find these foundations, you can make use of a few resources, including Foundation Center, a powerful database that you can access from Love Library computers. The libraries also maintain a list of grants, many of them local. Another resource for finding foundations may be through your discipline. Check listservs and newsletters specific to your subject. Finally, you may try an online search engine to see if there’s a group or organization that may be interested in your research. Smaller archives sometimes have funds for work that rely on their collections, or there may be an organization that’s interested in your topic.
Read any and all instructions carefully. Also look at the mission statement of the funding organization and check that your work will further their goals.
Applications often ask for you to present a work plan, clarify your dissertation topic, and explain how the funds will be used. Make sure that you include this information and also follow all directions concerning page length and formatting! When there are far more applications than available funds, a committee will simply move all the applications that didn’t follow directions to another pile and not consider them. Don’t let this be your application’s fate!
Have colleagues double-check your writing; be sure to provide them with the instructions so they can see if you’ve addressed all the prompts. During the application process, be sure to solicit your advisor’s feedback as well.