Research Grants for Grad Students
By Kathleen Carmichael, Ph.D., and Kay Peterson, Ph.D.
April 21, 2009
Your research can go a long way with the help of research grants.
Maybe you have a fellowship. Or student loans are helping you out. But even if you’re not strapped for cash, you should check out an important part of graduate school funding: research grants.
Like a scholarship or fellowship, research grants can help to fund your graduate work. But a research grant offers so much more: an opportunity to further your unique work, an indication of the importance of your research and a boost to your post-graduate career.
The Many Benefits of Research Grants
Money to fund and finish your degree is only one reason to apply for a research grant. The money you receive can help you take your work to a new level by providing you with access to rare materials and expensive equipment.
For example, traveling research grants can support the cost of transportation to research sites all over the world. Or if you need access to materials or equipment at a laboratory or special collections library, institutional grants can cover the costs of visiting and using these research facilities. There are also grants to help cover the costs of materials for a particular project.
But the benefits of a grant extend beyond your project or even your degree. In the short term, research grants (even small ones) help you build a reputation as a committed scholar and forge the connections you’ll need to generate more opportunities once you complete your degree. Working in the field at research sites or institutions provides a great opportunity to meet other experts in your field.
And don’t forget the long-term benefits. The ability to make a case for your work, and convince others to support it, is a useful skill wherever you go. And having grant credits on your resume or curriculum vitae says a lot to future employers, hiring committees and even future research funders.
Uncovering Grant Money
Start at your library reference desk and ask for books listing grants and fellowships. They’ll provide all the basics: who is eligible, the amount of the award, whether travel is necessary and contact information.
You should also check online for fast and easy access to grant listings. Free Internet searches can provide up-to-date listings of grants available in all areas of study. Try FastWeb’s scholarship search, and surf to find the home pages for major foundations, labs and research libraries. Some good places to start include:
- The Social Science Research Council
- The Smithsonian Institute
- The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship
- The National Science Foundation
Tips for Making the Most of Your Grant Opportunities
When looking for grants, remember to think big. Maximize your grant possibilities by recognizing the “crossover possibilities” of your project. Maybe you’re working in English, but your project has a historical bent. Or your project in communications has applications for women’s studies. Be aware of all of the potential classifications of your research topic as you look for grants.
And don’t neglect new grant offerings. Newer and smaller awards attract fewer applicants, improving your chances of getting noticed. Like an investment in an up-and-coming company, the “prestige” value of a new grant will increase over time as awareness of the award grows.
So as you progress through your degree, keep your eye on your grant opportunities—and make an investment in your future in school and beyond.
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