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NSF Dissertation Grant Types and Application Tips

Instructor: Eric Campos

Eric has tutored in English, writing, history, and other subjects.

The NSF offers several grants that fund research towards doctoral dissertations in many scientific disciplines. Read on to learn about these grants, as well as tips on how to successfully apply.

Types of National Science Foundation (NSF) Grants

Grants can be applied for in various scientific fields; from archaeology to sociology, and everything in between. Below are a few of these grants and their descriptions:

GrantDescription
Biological Anthropology Doctoral Dissertation Grant This grant supports research in human evolution, combining such fields as ecology, human biology, and more. While in the realm of anthropology, this grant encourages interdisciplinary research.
Cultural Anthropology Doctoral Dissertation Grant Another grant that allows for a broad range of study into anthropology, this grant focuses directly on the complexities, development, and reasons behind human culture. Many topics are welcomed, including social resilience, economy, conflict, urbanization, language and culture, and more.
Biological Sciences Doctoral Dissertation Grant Proposals are accepted for dissertations researching any scientific topic within environmental biology and behavioral systems.
Political Science Doctoral Dissertation Grant This grant will fund students whose dissertations seek to expand knowledge of government, citizen support, political behavior, and other topics relating to government and political concepts.
Science of Science and Innovation Policy Doctoral Dissertation Grant This program refers to the guidelines and resources that are used in scientific processes and procedures. Dissertations should be aimed towards investigating ways to improve scientific research, such as designing new ways to analyze science, improvements in data collection, new metrics, and more.
Archaeology Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award Awarded to the graduate student studying archaeology, this dissertation grant is flexible, allowing the candidate to focus on any region or topic within the archaeological field for study.
Geography and Spatial Sciences Doctoral Research Improvement Award This grant is open for research dissertations that focus on geography and spatial sciences. To be eligible, projects should focus on the physical earth, examining the effects of humans on geography, environmental processes, and more.
Linguistics Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award This grant is for grad students who want to research language and how it's developed and used in various ways. Funding is available for a broad range of topics. You can study the foundations of language, such as syntax or phonetics, or research specific topics within the field, such as what factors actually influence language.
Sociology Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Award Dissertations for this program should focus on social issues and questions, such as human social organization, demography, social movements, labor force participation, and more. Projects should explain and expand our understanding of human sociology.

Tips for the Application Process

Be Aware Of Individual Dates And Submission Policies

As you identify the appropriate grant to apply for, it's crucial for you to pay attention to the specific criteria involved with each application. On the NSF website, you'll see a description of each grant, as well as due dates, instructions, requirements, and other important information you'll need to have in order to submit a successful proposal. You'll also see the solicitation number for each grant, which you must include on your application. All proposals must be submitted online either by the NSF FastLane System or through Grants.gov.

Utilize the NSF Application Guide

One of the best resources at your disposal is the NSF Application Guide. Be sure to read through this carefully, as it will give you details on each step towards completing your application. You'll also be able to read about the layout your grant proposal must follow. Other topics covered include how the proposal is reviewed and information about renewing a proposal.

Craft A Quality Proposal

Your written proposal is what will actually earn you the grant. After determining the topic of your doctoral dissertation, it's time to write the winning proposal that will earn you those helpful funds! As you begin to write, make sure you're addressing all of the components required by the submission guidelines such as a detailed summary of your project and what you hope to accomplish. Make sure your work is error-free and polished before submitting.

Find Proposal Writing Resources

It would greatly behoove you to have a firm grasp of proposal writing itself. For the fundamentals and objectives underlying proposals, check out our Purpose, Content & Structure of Proposals resource to help you get started. Although this lesson focuses on business proposals, the concepts presented in it are applicable to grant proposals as well.

Remember, you want your proposal to be accepted, which means that your writing must convince the reader that the dissertation is something important and worth being funded. Take a look at this short video lesson on Persuasive Elements of Proposals to gain some insight into how to make your proposal stand out with clear language and supportive information.

Research will be a crucial factor in both your dissertation and proposal. Your proposal should really tell the reader what your dissertation will cover, how you'll go about researching your topic, and what impacts it will have. Learn to incorporate these elements and more into your proposal with this What is a Research Proposal? - Components & Examples lesson.

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