The deadline for the Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant is coming up on November 1st, with next round applications due May 1st.
When I was applying to Wenner-Gren for dissertation funding, I analyzed several successful proposals to see what made their narratives compelling. Not surprisingly, they all had a lot in common. What follows is the template I created for Question 1, which is the essay that has to sum everything up. It helped me write my own successful proposal.
I recommend using it as a check list once you've got a working draft to revise. The numbered points roughly correspond to each paragraph of your essay.
Project Description Question 1: Describe your research question/hypothesis or research objective. That is, what will the focus of your investigation be?
- Concise, catchy first line.
- First paragraph that sums it all up.
- Layman’s explanation/walk-through of the issue, place, dynamic, problem, or technical stuff involved in your research site/topic.
- Include the uniqueness or surprise (a twist!) that your site or question offers (how things aren’t what they seem in popular or academic perceptions, how your site represents a unique case).
- Karen Kelsky, in her blog as well as her new book The Professor Is, calls this a hero narrative ("good thing you're here to save the day!"). She also reminds us that grant proposals must demonstrate legitimacy, urgency, and viability.
- Paint a portrait of your site and its people, as well as what you’ll be doing there with them.
- This is a quick and dirty version of your answer to Question 3 ("What evidence will you need to collect to answer your research question? How will you go about collecting and analyzing this evidence?").
- Reference preliminary fieldwork and site access.
- Research Questions
- Minimize your use of theoretical terms or jargon. If you must, use them sparingly and strategically. Avoid parenthetical citations here.
- Ask several questions that build on one another, expanding in scope. Use scale to gain both precision and depth.
- What are the people in your research doing? What are their motivations?
- What do they think about what they’re doing?
- What effects do those ideas have?
- What do those ideas, actions, or effects mean more broadly?
- Theoretical Implications and Hypothesis
- What will your project offer - to anthropology and to the world - that is different?
- Clearly state your hypothesis: what do you expect to find?
Notice that there is no section for a lit review. That's because you want the focus to be on your research. Of course, it helps to cite relevant literature, but do so in the interests of your own research questions. This template may seem cryptic, but you can be sure your narrative is on the right path if it's hitting all these points.
Do you have tips for writing a Wenner-Gren proposal?