Typically, dissertation funding may be divided into two separate phases: dissertation research and dissertation writing. Most funders will support either research or writing, not both. The focus of this page will be dissertation writing/completion fellowships and, to a lesser degree, grants; please also visit our page on Dissertation Research Awards.
Funding to support dissertation writing frequently comes in the form of a fellowship that provides a stipend to support your living expenses and free you from work obligations as you write. In many disciplines, writing fellowships require students to finish the dissertation while on tenure, and because a significant part of the application for this type of award is demonstrating how the funds will help you finish, these may also be called completion fellowships. Small research grants offered by professional societies or private funders may also support the final stage dissertation research.
Writing/completion fellowships typically fall into two categories: portable or in-residence. With portable fellowships, the funder does not stipulate that you need to be in a particular location to receive funds, and it is possible to live and work wherever you can be most productive (at your home institution, research site, or another locale). In-residence fellowships are often offered by stand-alone or university-connected research institutes to support a community of scholars working on a specific theme or topic, and therefore require students to be in residence at the funding institution for the duration of the award.
As with other graduate fellowships and grants, applying for writing/completion fellowships has many benefits, from learning to describe your project clearly and concisely for different audiences to added competitiveness on the job market. Winners of these prestigious fellowships specifically benefit from additional time set aside for productive dissertation writing without the distractions associated with a teaching assistantship or part-time lectureship.
Dissertation writing/completion fellowships and grants nearly always require doctoral students to have advanced to candidacy in order to apply, though you should verify this and other eligibility and timing details with your specific funder.
Funding for a successful application may not arrive for 9-12 months after the application deadline, and writing/completion fellowships commonly have deadlines in September to January, meaning that students should apply for these awards nearly two years before they plan to defend the dissertation. Therefore, depending on your program, you will most likely be applying for writing fellowships sometime from early in the research process to once you have started to write. Students who have won dissertation writing/completion fellowships in the past have often invested 4-6 months into the application-writing process, and we strongly encourage doctoral candidates to begin thinking about writing and completion fellowships in the spring before their fall deadline season.
The competitiveness of dissertation writing/completion fellowship and grant programs varies widely, from less-competitive in-residence fellowships with heavy teaching requirements, to highly competitive and extremely prestigious portable fellowships with funding rates as low as 2%. In the past, Rutgers students have won awards at all levels of competition and prestige, and we encourage our students to apply for any and all awards that would benefit their writing process and progress toward degree.
When thinking about whether to apply for dissertation writing/completion funding, ask yourself the following questions:
As always when exploring funding options, GradFund encourages you to carefully consider the mission and goals of the funder. Your ideal funder is one for which you and your research project are a good match with the intentions and interests of the funding program, regardless of the level of competitiveness.
Fellowship funders tend to be most interested in you as an applicant, and they will want to know how you advance their agenda through your graduate program training and research. Funders of small research grants will be interested in how that research will benefit the dissertation project at its advanced stage and further the contribution to the discipline.
While each application is different, common elements in dissertation writing/completion funding applications include:
Consider participating in one of our Graduate Funding Mentoring Programs, which offer a structured and intensive platform that is ideal to help graduate students develop their applications for competitive, dissertation-level funding. Throughout the calendar year we provide individual meetings to help you select a funder and develop and hone your application materials. Finally, participation in one of our upcoming events may help you through the application process as well.
Once you have selected one or more specific dissertation writing/completion awards, be sure to visit the Funder Profiles on the GradFund Knowledgebase to learn more about some of these awards from different perspectives and to view sample applications. To get started on writing your application, visit the Proposal Writing Tools page of the Knowledgebase for workbooks and activities that will help you on your way!