Skip to main content
Vanderbilt Background Photo

Support for Dissertation Writing

How to Find Dissertation Funding

You should begin looking for dissertation 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:

  • Ask your peers, adviser/mentor, and other professors in your department.
  • 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.
  • 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 SPIN, a searchable grants database that contains thousands of external funding opportunities, including long-term funding for dissertation research and writing.

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

Funding Options

Dissertation funding can come from a variety of sources. The following options are some of the most commonly used by Vanderbilt graduate students. Note that each option has its own application requirements and process. For a longer list of funding options, see the main Graduate Student Funding page.

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. 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). An ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship funds a year of research and writing for advanced graduate students in the humanities and related social sciences. Applicants must be in the final year of dissertation writing. The deadline is usually in late October.

Social Science Research Council (SSRC). The SSRC sponsors many types of fellowship opportunities for doctoral students, including the International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF). The IDRF supports students conducting dissertation research on non-U.S. 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 for study or research in approximately 140 countries. Applicants design their own projects and typically work with advisers at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education. Fulbright funding is administered by the Vanderbilt Career Center's Fellowships Team, which offers workshops as well as application and submission support. The Fulbright deadline is usually in 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. Research must be in modern foreign languages and/or area studies. The program is usually announced mid-spring, with an early May deadline.

National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF administers grants by discipline or clusters of disciplines in the natural and social sciences. Each group has specific instructions and deadlines. NSF also supports the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, a three-year fellowship administered at Vanderbilt by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. Students must apply for the fellowship during either the senior undergraduate year or first or second year of graduate study. Deadlines for NSF fellowships vary by discipline, but are usually in late October.