Dissertation Completion vs. Postdoctoral Fellowships in the Humanities: Being Future-Oriented

If you’re in your final year of graduate study, you may be planning to apply for postdoctoral fellowships. This can be a particularly challenging application to manage, even if you’ve previously had success securing external funding. Here at GradFund Conversations, we’ve recently discussed how to pitch a second project, but in today’s post we will discuss the difference between applying for a dissertation completion fellowship and applying for a postdoc in the humanities.

A key difference between dissertation completion fellowships and postdoctoral fellowships is your relationship to your timeline. In your application for a dissertation completion fellowship you are providing a timeline to the end of your graduate student career — the point is to convince your funder that, in fact, the end is in very clear sight. Meanwhile, postdocs in the humanities are about the future — your proposal needs to project into the tenure of the postdoc and beyond, including a detailed publishing schedule that also gives the reviewers the impression that your next project will fuel you into the next phase of your career. They want to know that this postdoc will be a springboard to your next application.

So how do you project yourself into the future when you’ve already spent so much time trying to get to the end of graduate school?

Throughout your application materials (which typically include a cover letter, CV, research statement, teaching statement, and sample course descriptions or syllabi), you will need to be mindful of your audience and position yourself as a colleague and as a junior scholar — not as a graduate student. You do this, in part, through the confidence you exude and the specificity of your second project. But elsewhere, you do this through your language, presenting yourself as a scholar in a particular field with particular focus or disciplinary angle. Connecting to the postdoc institution is essential, as you explain why the particular host institution is the best place for you not only to pursue your research, but also a place that houses a community to which you can contribute.

As you begin to consider applying for a postdoctoral fellowship, think about where you would like to see yourself in the next few years, and use these ideas to fuel your narrative about where you want to go. Once you feel ready, make an appointment to meet with us to review your applications.

This entry was posted in Humanities, Proposal Writing Advice, Understanding Award Types and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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