Predissertation Research Grants as a Foundation for Successful Dissertation Research

In the last few weeks, our blog posts have focused on the early stages of graduate study, including early graduate study fellowships and general advice for planning award applications long-term. Today, to round out this picture of the first few years of a graduate student’s external, merit-based funding perspective, we’d like to discuss pre-dissertation research grants, which commonly fund summer study activities building up to the main research phase of the dissertation.

External pre-dissertation awards can be foundational to the success of a student’s graduate research, allowing students to participate in a short-term skill-building experience or conduct preliminary fieldwork to evaluate the feasibility of a research site or topic. These awards are generally limited in funds and time, since they are meant to supplement a student during the full-time coursework stage of the graduate program. Language study awards, dissertation proposal development funds (such as the SSRC DPDF), and small grants offered by professional societies and other institutions can fall into this category of awards, though you should check with the program officer if you are unclear about what stage of study the award is intended to support. Critically, your application for this type of award will need to articulate a specific idea for dissertation research and explain how this preliminary experience will help you work toward honing your research question or plans or otherwise enable you to be more successful. In part, this rationale may also include making your applications for future dissertation research funding more competitive!

Applications for external pre-dissertation awards are often due between October and March, so now is the perfect time to begin considering your funding needs and working on applications. During our upcoming 2012 Fall GradFund Conference on September 28, the workshop “Proposal Writing 101: Crafting a Competitive Application Package” will give you a look ahead at what types of information and materials your application should include. Also, our SSRC Information Session on October 9, 2012 will feature Dr. Marika Dunn, Program Officer for the SSRC Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship. Join us for one of these upcoming events, or (if you’re a Rutgers graduate student) schedule a Planning Meeting to discuss pre-dissertation awards today!

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