Pre-Dissertation Awards

Pre-dissertation research grants and fellowships are often relatively modest, and are designed to support short-term activities like preliminary research travel, language training, and specialized skill development. Depending on your program and dissertation topic, pre-dissertation awards can provide a critical foundation for the main phase of dissertation research. In all programs, pre-dissertation funding helps students to build skills and gain recognition in advance of more competitive dissertation research grants.

Timing of Eligibility

Pre-dissertation awards target students in the early or middle coursework phase of a doctoral program, prior to taking exams or writing a committee proposal. GradFund strongly suggests that students plan to apply for pre-dissertation research grants and fellowships during the first year of graduate study.

Timing of Application

Since summer is a common time for pre-dissertation award activities, deadlines for these programs often fall between November and March. In order to write a competitive application, we strongly advise that students begin to work on their applications as early as the summer, and as soon as possible. Visit the Guide to GradFund Services and the section below on how we can help!

Competitiveness and Availability

The number of pre-dissertation funding options varies widely depending on the topic of research or type of funding needed, reflecting the priorities of the organizations that offer support. Much of the available funding at this stage supports overseas research and training in lesser-taught languages. Many pre-dissertation funders require the applicant to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Your specific options and the competitiveness of the funding programs you select may depend on these and other factors.

Finding a Funder

Pre-dissertation funders are primarily private foundations and the U.S. federal government. Professional societies, academic organizations, libraries, and research centers may also offer small research grants to pre-dissertation students.

To determine your pre-dissertation funding needs, ask yourself the following questions:

Characteristics of a Successful Application

Having a clear sense of your future dissertation topic is key to finding the right pre-dissertation funding opportunity that will meet your dissertation needs writing a competitive proposal. A competitive proposal will demonstrate that you understand how the funding opportunity will help you to achieve your dissertation research goals.

While each application is different, common elements in most pre-dissertation applications include:

How GradFund Can Help

GradFund is able to work with students as soon as they have accepted an offer of admission from a Rutgers graduate program. Throughout the calendar year we provide individual meetings to help you select a funder and develop and hone your application materials. Participation in one of our upcoming events may help you through the application process as well.

Once you have selected one or more specific pre-dissertation research 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!