How do I get funding for summer history research?
January 29, 2008 8:33 AM   Subscribe

How do I get an undergraduate summer research grant in history? I want to spend my summer working on my senior thesis without going completely broke.

I'm a 2nd semester Junior history major at Columbia, looking to write a thesis next year. I'd like to do as much research as possible this summer, while also bumming around with my boyfriend in Providence (where I would have access to Brown University's libraries). Is there any way to have someone else pay for it, ie, are there any fellowships or research grants I could apply for? Columbia offers two fellowships, but they're very competitive. Where else should I look? I've never applied for a grant, written a proposal, or really done anything in this vein before, so I'm not sure where to start. Any advice would be much appreciated. (Also, I'm not sure if it makes a difference what my topic would be, but I'm thinking about something on the Spanish Civil War and its influence on American intellectuals. Or possibly something relating to environmental history).
posted by slowcat to Education (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First off, congrats on wanting to tackle the grant monster. If you progress into graduate school grant writing will be a must. So, it is always good to get some practice in at the undergrad level.

The specifics are obviously school dependent, but I would start by looking for Undergraduate opportunities. Most schools have some sort of Undergraduate Research symposium or department that will be a good starting spot. Also, it is possible that the history department might have some smaller grants it can hand out. But again, look for undergrad specific grants and look far and wide within the institution. (oh, check with the history department main secretaries... they are oracles of knowledge).

Then I would formulate a research proposal based on what you can travel to. Remember, that when eventually applying you aren't going to say that you are bumming around researching. Identify a specific resource, like a collection at Brown University, which your project will depend on. With a few resources and a general topic decided upon, then off to see a prof.

Find a professor who you feel comfortable working with and if possible is familiar with your topic. Tell them you want help writing a grant. Your Prof has already written tons and will be a great resource. Take their advice on how to structure a grant proposal, write a draft, and have them look it over.

Lastly, I would advise that you look into who was awarded the grant(s) you are applying for in previous terms. If you can, send them an e-mail asking about their project and any tips they have. By knowing what the grant committee has awarded in the past, you can get a feel for their tastes. I have done this and found that former student grant awardees are more than happy to share with me how they approached the grant.

That should get you started. It may seem like a lot of hassle and paperwork, but it is free money after all. I was an undergrad history major and received several research grants following the above advice. However, when it comes to writing the actual proposal, well, that is a whole other question in itself :-) If I can help in any way drop me a line (email in profile).
posted by boubelium at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2008

If you're Asian, apply to the William Orr Dingwall Foundation. A solid academic record and Asian ancestry can result in very generous funding (and this is any part of Asia).

For non-Asians funding is available only to those studying the neural bases of language.
posted by whitneykitty at 9:48 AM on January 29, 2008

This isn't exactly what you're looking for, because it would require staying in New York, but the Gilder Lehrman history scholars program might be perfect for you. It's probably even more competitive than the Columbia grants, though.

A lot of libraries have grants for scholars to use their particular library. If it's a well-known library with a much-used collection, those grants are going to go to real scholars. But if it's a library that doesn't get a ton of use, they may have more grants than applicants, and you could possibly be in the running. So see if there are any libraries in the Providence area that offer research grants, and then tailor your project to fit into their collection.
posted by craichead at 10:34 AM on January 29, 2008

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