Some thoughts about grad student research grants

Frank Baumgartner, October 18, 2001


First question: Do you need one?

What will a grant pay for, and what do you need to do your project?

What are the potential sources?

Why bother?

Some reasons not to:

Some reasons why it might be worth it:

What does a proposal look like and how will it be evaluated?

§         Some focus on the previous accomplishments of the student, with less attention to the proposed project.

§         Different granting agencies are looking for different things. Some want to encourage the study of a certain language, some to focus on theory, some on a substantive topic, some to support students of certain backgrounds. Match the proposal to the agency. Pay attention to the criteria. Address all stated criteria explicitly.

§         Project description

o       Clear statement of the theoretical idea and goals of project.

o       Good command of the literature. (Demonstrated, not hinted at.)

o       Good command of appropriate methods. (Note the plural. Also demonstrated, not to be guessed at.)

o       Feasible research strategy, by this individual applicant. Again, this must be demonstrated.

o       Endorsement by the advisor.


§         Evaluation criteria (can vary by funding agency, as noted above)

o       Importance of topic, likely impact (different standard for $8,000 than for $250,000)

o       Quality of the treatment (lit review, methods, writing quality, organization)

o       Feasibility by this particular student


Some final thoughts

§         The bar is not so high as you might think, even at a place like NSF

§         Simultaneous submissions encouraged (not like journal articles).

§         Internal grants can be very good practice for larger later ones.

§         Explaining your project in an abstract or two-page format is hard to learn but very useful.

§         The batting average doesn’t matter. Only the number of times you get on base.

§         Go to bat early and often.