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Support for Dissertation Research and Writing

It is important to begin looking for dissertation research funding well before you anticipate beginning your work. A good rule of thumb is to begin identifying opportunities at least 18 months before you plan to start your research or writing, and to begin drafting your proposal 3–6 months ahead of  a submission deadline. There are several productive ways to identify sources of funding for research and writing.

    • First, ask your peers, advisor, and other professors in your department.
    • Second, consult journal articles and scholarly books in your discipline, which often include an acknowledgment of the source(s) of funding that supported the associated research.
    • Third, use a grants search database to identify opportunities that match your status and needs. All Vanderbilt students, using their Vanderbilt e-mail address, have free access to Pivot (, a searchable grants database that contains thousands of external funding opportunities, including long-term funding for dissertation research and writing.

Among the most critical elements of the dissertation research proposal are the central research question/hypothesis/problem, your proposed methodology, your preliminary research and findings, and your qualifications to carry out the proposed research.

Below are a few illustrative examples of funding opportunities, by donor category:

Private foundations or institutions:

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD):   DAAD supports research and study in Germany on a wide variety of topics. Because Vanderbilt is a Partner University with DAAD, student applications are reviewed first by a Vanderbilt panel before they are nominated for submission. Information about the review process and internal deadlines is sent to departments early in the fall semester, or contact Vanderbilt’s DAAD liaison, Marion Pratt, Grants Resource Officer in the College of Arts and Science, ( The internal Vanderbilt deadline for submission to the selection committee is in early to mid-October, and the DAAD submission deadline is usually in late October or early November.

Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Dissertation Completion Fellowships:   This award funds a year of research and writing to help advanced graduate students in the humanities and related social sciences in the last year of PhD dissertation writing. The deadline is usually in late October.

Social Science Research Council (SSRC):    SSRC sponsors many types of fellowship opportunities for doctoral students; the International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) ( supports students conducting dissertation research on non-US topics. The submission deadline is usually in late October or early November.

U.S. Government:

Fulbright U.S. Student Study/Research Grants:

These awards are available in approximately 140 countries; applicants design their own projects and typically work with advisers at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education. The Fulbright Programs are administered through Vanderbilt’s Office of Honor Scholarships (OHS) (, which offers workshops as well as application and submission support. Refer to the OHS website for internal deadlines; the Fulbright deadline is usually mid-October.

 Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Research Abroad (U.S. Dept. of Education):  The Fulbright-Hays program provides grants through colleges and universities to fund individual doctoral students who conduct research in foreign countries, in modern foreign languages and area studies. The program is often announced mid-spring, with an early May deadline.

 National Science Foundation (NSF)  NSF administers grants by discipline or clusters of disciplines (Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, Economics, Linguistics, Political Science, etc.) each with specific instructions and deadlines. NSF also supports the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)( Available to seniors, and first- and second-year graduate students, the application for this three-year fellowship is guided at Vanderbilt by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, which distributes announcements and organizes informational sessions. Deadlines vary by discipline, but are usually in late October.

  Professional societies:

N.B.: Professional societies tend to offer support for short-term research opportunities rather than for long-term dissertation research.

American Philosophical Association:

Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research  This APA award supports exploratory field studies for the collection of specimens and data, usually with an early February deadline.

  Libraries and archives:

          Huntington Library:  An independent research library, the Huntington offers fellowships to consult its significant holdings in British and American history, British and American literature, art history, the history of science and medicine, and the history of the book. Residential fellowships of up to five months and travel grants/exchange fellowships (for study in the United Kingdom and Ireland) are open to advanced doctoral candidates, and have a mid-November deadline.