Anthropology Grant Resources

How To Apply

One of the first steps in the process is identifying potential sources of funding. Start early—deadlines have a habit of creeping up on you and coming on in clusters.

How many?

It helps to apply to 3 or more sources-this simply increases your statistical chances of getting a grant. And you can't get too many-even if you can't keep all the money, having more grants on your CV always looks good.

How big?

A smaller grant can bring bigger grants later-it begins to establish a record of your "fundability" and preliminary research improves your chances for a larger grant. Ideally, you should apply for a smaller grant for the summer after your second year (if you are a PhD student); this will make your applications for a larger grant for your fourth year (submitted in the Fall of your third year) easier and will improve your chances. You should also think creatively about getting yourself involved in your research area during the summer after your second year-if a research grant is not possible, you might want to find an internship, fact-finding mission, or related job. Not only will this give you a head start on your research, but the contacts and details that these experiences will afford you will improve your chances of getting a larger grant later. If you are applying for a year of field-research a larger grant is ideal, but a series of smaller ones strung together may work too.

Is my project fundable?

There is a source out there that is right for you. Even if you think your topic is controversial, or your research location is considered "dangerous" by governmental authorities, it still might possible to find funding through a combination of careful presentation/packaging and a search for alternative funding sources. Ask your advisor to help guide you.

Is this source right for me?

Remember that you will have to tailor your proposal for each specific source. Be realistic and eliminate any sources you are not eligible for or are not appropriate for your project. Then be strategic about the rest. Some sources have specific mission statements or angles. You will want to highlight aspects of your research that relate to the funder's mission-rework the focus of your draft for each grant. This will make it easier for reviewers to understand your projects in the context of a specific source. Make sure to let the reviewers know why you are perfect for this particular source.

Can I do this?

Of course you can. With proper planning, advice and a little self-discipline, funding is well within your reach. Remember that some of these grants are very competitive, but don't be discouraged. Your fellow students in anthropology have gotten NSFs and Fulbrights. Also don't be discouraged if you don't get anything the first time. Persevere and re-apply next year and your chances improve.

Where to look?

There are many sources out there. Below is a list of a few grants that might be of interest to many doctoral students in anthropology. But depending on your research topic, area and your background you will be eligible for many others. You can find these by doing database searches described below. Some grants have very specific criteria-- e.g. Canadian woman under 30 studying grass roots organizations. Make sure you fit them all so you don't waste your time. Be creative about what you search for, don't limit it to anthropology only-- if you are working on a project on reproductive politics among Palestinians-you may qualify for sources that focus on population and demography, gender issues and women, medicine and health, peace and conflict resolution… etc.

Any faculty advice?

In addition to consulting with you advisor and committee members on funding sources and proposals, some faculty at AU have reviewed applications for different sources and will have specific advice for you. For example, Prof. Dolores Koenig has reviewed NSF applications, and Prof. Lesley Gill has reviewed SSRC applications, etc. They have insight into what reviewers were looking for in proposals.

Database searches

SPIN (Sponsored Programs Information Network) is a listing of national and international government and private funding sources, updated daily. SPIN searching is used for one time searches of the database. SMARTS (SPIN Matching and Research Transmittal System) matches investigator profiles with the funding opportunities in the SPIN database and delivers automatic daily updates by email. GENIUS (Global Expertise Network for Industry, Universities and Scholars) holds profile data, both for use in SMARTS, and if desired by the investigator, for use by other investigators. If you complete the optional fields in the GENIUS profile, and release your profile for public searching, researchers seeking collaborators will be able to use GENIUS to match their interests to yours and to contact you. To use SPIN, SMARTS, or GENIUS, go to and select either SPIN, to do a one time search from any computer on campus, or GENIUS, to create or update a SMARTS/GENIUS profile from any internet capable computer. Instructions for database use and profile creation and editing are available on the InfoEd website. You can also access SPIN from other computers by creating an account-fill out the forms on the website. If you need assistance with SPIN, SMARTS, or GENIUS, please call OSP at x3440.

The foundation Center has another database. AU has an online subscription which you can access at the Office of Sponsored Programs (call x3440 to set up an appointment) or you can go down to their offices at 1627 K Street NW, 3rd floor, Tel (202) 331-1400.

Possible Grant Sources

Sources potentially of interest to doctoral students in anthropology

These are only some of the larger and more well known sources:
The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Dissertation Fieldwork Grants
The Wenner-Gren Foundation pursues its two major goals-advancing basic research in anthropology and building an international community of anthropologists-through several funding programs. Grants for amounts up to $25,000 are available for basic research in all branches of anthropology. Grants are made to seed innovative approaches and ideas, to cover specific expenses or phases of a project, and/or to encourage aid from other funding agencies. The foundation particularly invites projects employing comparative perspectives or integrating two or more subfields of anthropology. Dissertation Fieldwork Grants are awarded to individuals to aid doctoral dissertation or thesis research. Applicants must be enrolled for a doctoral degree. Application must be made jointly with a thesis advisor or other scholar who will undertake responsibility for supervising the project. Awards are contingent upon the applicant's successful completion of all requirements for the degree other than the dissertation/thesis. Applications may be submitted before such requirements have been met; however, should an award be approved, the foundation will at that time request evidence of that the applicant is "all-but-dissertation/ advanced-to-candidacy". Qualified students of all nationalities are eligible. Deadlines: There are two deadlines each year, May 1st and November 1st.

Social Science Research Council
Offers a number of Dissertation fellowships-some area specific. This includes:
Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship.
This program provides support for social scientists and humanists conducting dissertation field research in all areas and regions of the world. Up to fifty fellowships will be awarded in the year 2004. The IDRF awards enable doctoral candidates of proven achievement and outstanding potential to use their knowledge of distinctive cultures, societies, languages, economies, polities, and histories, in combination with their disciplinary training, to address issues that transcend their disciplines or area specializations. The program supports scholarship that treats place and setting in relation to broader phenomena as well as in particular historical and cultural contexts. Standard fellowships will provide support for nine to twelve months in the field, plus travel expenses. They will rarely exceed $20,000. In some cases, the candidate may propose fewer than nine months of overseas fieldwork, but no award will be given for fewer than six months. deadline: On-line Registration Nov 3.

Social Science Research Council Sexuality Research Fellowships
The Sexuality Research Fellowship provides dissertation and postdoctoral support for social and behavioral research on sexuality. It is intended for scholars conducting research in the United States. The Program seeks to contribute to a more thorough understanding of human sexuality by encouraging researchers to formulate new research questions, generate new theories and apply new methods in sexuality research. There are no citizenship, residency or nationality requirements. Women and members of minority groups are especially encouraged to apply. Deadline: December 15, 2003.

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship Program
Program provides opportunities for graduate students to engage in full-time dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies. A research project that focuses on one or more of the following areas: Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, South Asia, the Near East, East Central Europe and Eurasia, and the Western Hemisphere (Canada, Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean). Please note that applications that propose projects focused on Western Europe will not be funded. Applications Available: August 26, 2003. Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: October 20, 2003.

National Science Foundation. Anthropology Dissertation Improvement Grants
For cultural anthropology:

The Cultural Anthropology Program promotes basic scientific research on the causes and consequences of human social and cultural variation. The program solicits research proposals of theoretical importance in all substantive and theoretical subfields within the discipline of Cultural Anthropology. You can contact Stuart Plattner for proposal preparation advice. Deadline for Spring Funding Cycle: January 1.

For archaeology:
The Archaeology Program provides awards of up to $12,000 to meet expenses associated with doctoral dissertation research. In government fiscal year 2000, 39 of 76 applications (51%) received support. The NSF Archeology Program constitutes part of a larger Anthropological and Geographical and Regional Sciences cluster and its focus is limited to research of clear anthropological significance. In a proposal the students should describe why their research is important from an anthropological perspective. Do not hesitate to telephone or email either the Program Director or Senior Program Assistant for proposal preparation advice.

Additional sources potentially of interest (in random order)

AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship
The American Anthropological Association invites minority doctoral candidates in anthropology to apply for a full-year dissertation fellowship of $10,000. This program is designed to demonstrate the Association's support for promising minority graduate students in anthropology and to demonstrate its commitment to the long-range goal of increasing diversity in the discipline. The implications of the awardee's research to issues and concerns of the US historically disadvantaged populations, relevant service to the community and future plans are of specific concern in the review process. African American, Alaskan Native, American Indian or Native American, Asian American, Latino/a, Chicano/a, and Pacific Islander doctoral students who are US citizens who have been admitted to degree candidacy are urged to apply. Only one fellowship is awarded annually. Deadline: received by February 15, 2004.

Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Grants in Women's & Children's Health
The Woodrow Wilson - Johnson & Johnson Dissertation Grants encourage original and significant research on issues related to women's health. This program emphasizes the implications of research for the understanding of women's lives and significance for public policy or treatment. Previous grant recipients have explored such topics as postpartum depression; contraceptive law; sex hormones and ovarian cancer; dietary determinants of morbidity; sex and violence in everyday life; and sexuality on the Internet. Students in doctoral programs such as nursing, public health, anthropology, history, sociology, psychology, and social work, at graduate schools in the United States are eligible to apply. Candidates must have completed all pre-dissertation requirements by October 24, 2003, and expect to complete their dissertations by the summer of 2005. Candidates who are within a few months of completing their work should not apply Awards: Winners will receive grants of $6,000 to be used for expenses connected with the dissertation. These may include, but are not limited to, travel, books, microfilming, taping, and computer services. Ten awards will be made with funds from Johnson & Johnson and winners will be announced in February 2004. Dates and Deadlines: All applications, proposals and other materials must be postmarked by November 3, 2003.

Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Grants in Women's Studies
Purpose: The Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Grants in Women's Studies encourage original and significant research about women that crosses disciplinary, regional, or cultural boundaries. Previous grant recipients have explored such topics as sterilizationand reproductive rights; women's political presence worldwide; gender, culture, and prospects for girl's education and women's literacy; and Middle East feminists. Eligibility: Students in doctoral programs who have completed all pre-dissertation requirements in any field of study at graduate schools in the United States. Candidates must have completed all pre-dissertation requirements, including approval of the dissertation proposal, by October 24, 2003, and expect to complete their dissertations by the summer of 2005. Candidates who are within a few months of completing their work should not apply. Awards: Winners will receive grants of $3,000 to be used for expenses connected with the dissertation. These may include, but are not limited to, travel, books, microfilming, taping, and computer services. Awards will be announced in February 2004. Dates and Deadlines: All applications, proposals and other materials must be postmarked by November 3, 2003.

National Women's Studies Graduate Scholarship Award
NWSA will award $1,000 to a student who, in the fall of 2003, will be engaged in the research or writing stages of a Master's Thesis or Ph.D. Dissertation in the interdisciplinary field of women's studies. The research project must be on women and must enhance the NWSA mission. Applicants must be members of NWSA at the time of application

American Educational Research Association (AERA)/Spencer Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship

American Institute of Indian Studies Junior Research Fellowships

Palestinian American Research Center

Links to the following at

American Academy of Rome
American Philosophical Society - Several Research Grants
American Women in Science
Society for Medical Anthropology Awards including Margaret Clarke Student Award in Anthropology/Gerontology, Bioethics Interest Group Award
Humanities Practicum Grants
Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in original sources
Wm. James Awards studying Primary Religious/Spiritual Experiences

Links to the following available at

AAUW(American Association of University Women): dissertation work
Fellowship at the Library of Congress
Smithsonian Institute
Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships
Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowship
Program on Global Security and Cooperation
International Research and Exchange Board (IREX)
Council for Advanced Studies in Peace and International Cooperation (CASPIC)
Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship in Archaeology

There are many, many more. Do your search and find them!!

The Unofficial Anthropology Guide to Grants

By Rhoda Kanaaneh

Work closely with your advisor. Different subfields and funding sources vary in terms of requirements and methods of evaluation, as do faculty approaches to grant writing.

Getting grant money can help you survive graduate school and complete your research, but also helps promote your project as fundable and credible. Being a recipient of a grant or grants can also become important for your career farther down the line, and should help open doors.

However, projects that get funded are not necessarily better than projects that do not get funded-funding simply means that you were able to navigate the grant application process which requires a particular set of skills. Almost any project can get funded (well, almost) if it is well presented.

After identifying sources of funding (see handout #1), get started.
It is important to start thinking about funding early. If you're hesitating to start writing your proposal because you haven't worked out all the details of your project, go ahead and start anyway. Just like writing any paper, you don't have to have all the answers before you begin-the writing process itself will help you make some decisions. Note that funders realize that it is unlikely you will wind up doing exactly what you planned to do, so you will not be expected to stick to every minute detail of your proposal (complete changes of country of research for example are no good, but "side issues" frequently become central issues and vice versa). Your work is likely to go through some changes, so don't let your hesitations or ongoing questions keep you from starting to write the proposal. However, make sure those hesitations do not come out in your application-you should write persuasively assuring the reader that your project is important, well thought out and doable.


Give yourself enough time to go through drafts and revisions. Like any substantial project, it's a good idea to get feedback from faculty advisors, fellow students (the proposal writing group?), and even non-anthropologists. The turnaround on getting feedback can take time, so earlier is better.

Learn from history

Reading past successful proposals can be very helpful. You might be able to get some from fellow students (the anthropology front desk has on file successful proposals by Katrina Greene for 1999/2000 Fulbright and CAS dissertation fellowship on "Informal Savings and Credit Associations: Change and Adaptation in Cape Town, South Africa" and Audrey Brown's 1998/1999 NSF and CAS application "Imagining a Nation: Late Twentieth Century African American Women's Participation in cultural Politics and Transformative Social Action", you may borrow these to photocopy), but some funders provide sample successful proposals as well (e.g., NSF has samples on-line Take note of the style used and the type of information provided.

Adopt a new style of writing

Remember that you are not writing a paper for your upper level small graduate seminar, or for a specialized journal. For many grants, your application will be read by people who are not in your area of specialty and are not familiar with the terminology and theory that you and your professors are familiar with (or it might be read by a combination of specialists and non-specialists). So try to avoid too much jargon and highly specialized language. This is where feedback on drafts from a non-anthropologist can be helpful-is the project clear and comprehensible to someone from outside your specific subfield? This is tricky, because you want to prove that you are an expert without using the usual language of your expertise.

Remember to write clearly and directly to the point. Keep your sentences short and the flow of your argument smooth. Your readers are likely to have a whole stack of proposals that they have to go through in a limited amount of time, so you don't want to loose them in a convoluted argument or run-on sentence, or to have them tune out because of phrases they don't understand and you haven't explained.

Be collegial

This is especially important in the "significance of your research or literature review section". In grad school, you might be accustomed to passionately critiquing books and entire fields of study, as well you should. However, in a proposal, it might be wise to use a more moderate tone. You could opt for a "this theorist points in this direction, I take X idea in a new direction" rather than say "this theorist utterly fails to do this or that." There is always some chance that said theorist will be on the selection committee, or someone who is a big fan of theirs, and you might fair better if you don't antagonize them. You can convey more or less the same ideas while being collegial.

Tailor different versions

If you are applying to more than one source (which statistically improves your chances), remember that you will have to strategically tailor your proposal for each specific source. Once you have one version it will not be that difficult to write new ones. Some sources have specific mission statements or angles. You might want to change some of your language depending on whether you are applying to the National Science Foundation or the National Endowment for the Humanities, or between a grant that wants to promote "peace and security" and a grant that wants to "preserve indigenous cultures." You will want to highlight aspects of your research that relate to the funder's mission-rework the focus of your draft for each grant. This will make it easier for reviewers to understand your projects in the context of a specific source. Make sure to let the reviewers know why you are perfect for this particular source.

Some funders prefer a more social science approach to research and like you to frame your research in terms of "unit of analysis," "data collection" and "independent variables." Even if you do not subscribe to all the positivistic implications of this language, it is sometimes possible to phrase a fairly sophisticated non-positivistic approach using these terms. So if you can see your way to using the language that a particular funder prefers, it improves your chances.

Follow instructions

Follow any and all instructions given by the funder. This cannot be overemphasized-certain funders will actually not consider (i.e. throw out) applications that come in on the wrong size paper, or that do not include specified subheadings. These vary a great deal from source to source. For example, one source might request that you write a section on "significance of research" while another will ask you to write on "connections to the field"-while the paragraphs you include might be basically the same, make sure to title the section using the term provided by the funder. Also organize the sections according to the order requested. This will help reviewers easily navigate your proposal.

What goes into a proposal

Each source has different requirements in terms of length of proposal and sections requested. Remember, the information below might be helpful but is TOO GENERAL to rely on alone.

1. One of the "transcendent" elements of a convincing research proposal, is to show a high level of mastery of the existing scholarship in your field. Your proposal should show a keen grasp of the literature in the specific topic area as well as a sophisticated understanding of how this problem based literature fits inside a larger body f theory in the discipline (or across disciplines). Developing this usually means that the applicant has done a good deal of research already. It is a joke among social scientists that one applies for an NSF grant when the research is already finished.

2. Make a convincing case that your project will make an innovative contribution to the filed, that it will cover new ground either because the topic has never been explored before, because it has not been explored in your particular proposed context or period (although it may have been dealt with elsewhere) or because exploration of it will shatter previous misconceptions about a problem.

3. Demonstrate that your project is feasible. (a) you know where to find the resources you need (in terms of people or archives); you have made appropriate contacts already or have laid plans to make them. You have made the maximum effort possible from whatever distance you are at to make the project work. (b) you have chosen topics/problems that are on the "doable" side of ambitious. Your project is not pedestrian, but it is realistic. A granting agency is not likely to fund a project that would require a ten-volume work. So the trick is to find the balance between innovation and pragmatism.

4. Argue that your qualifications clearly connect to the project. Your biography makes it clear that you developed the appropriate methodological skills, intellectual training, or language capacities. Grantors will not be impressed if you say you that you want to do research on Ukranian religious movements but you cannot speak/read the language; they will not be confident you can work is some areas of urban history if you cannot show that you've been trained in the use of census records or have no experience in statistics. Talk yourself up and show them you have laid the groundwork (mentioned relevant course work, participation in conferences, internships, jobs, papers/publications).
letters of support

When you ask for letters of support, make sure to ask your references if they are willing to be "enthusiastic" and downright "gushing" in supporting you, while giving them an easy way to say no. Once they say yes, give them a schedule, a cv, a draft of your proposal and a short description of each specific grant. Use a highlighter to mark particular points you want them to emphasize. That makes it easier for them to write you a letter than is not too general, and to convey that they know and like what you are doing. Timely reminders about upcoming deadlines are generally appreciated and so are mailing labels.

Other grant writing tips

There is a lot more to be said on this topic. Besides following the instructions and advice of the particular source you are applying to, you might consider the following:

1. enclosed advice by Daniel Gross (courtesy of Prof. Koenig)
2. list from former student (and NSF recipient) Audrey Brown.
3. Proposal writing short course from the foundation center
4. Corporation for Public Broadcasting basic elements of grant writing
5. NSF guide for proposal writing

Reviewers are often looking for a spark, convince them that you have it.
Good Luck!