SSRC President Ira Katznelson on the 20th Anniversary of IDRF
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) program at the Social Science Research Council. Since 1997, with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, IDRF has provided support for more than 1,200 PhD students pursuing dissertation research across the globe.
SSRC IDRF fellows have gone on to be leading scholars in their fields, providing rich contributions to scholarship. Beyond academia, the program’s fellows have gone on to achieve success across many different career paths.
In recognition of the contributions that IDRF has made to the US scholarly community, the program will be featuring the work of our esteemed alumni whose research benefited from its support early in their careers. We celebrate the work of our fellows—past, present, and future—and IDRF’s continued commitment to young scholars.
IDRF Interviews 2007 alum Tariq Thachil
IDRF Interviews 2006 alum Ahmed el Shamsy
- Applications go through a multi-tiered review process, and will be evaluated by a panel of scholars with a range of disciplinary and regional perspectives. We suggest you ask someone outside of your discipline to read your proposal before submitting it. Write in clear, intelligible prose. Strive for clarity on both topic and methodology and minimize disciplinary jargon.
- You are permitted ten double-spaced pages to write about your project and research goals. We suggest you do not submit a proposal that is significantly shorter than ten pages.
- Adhere to the application guidelines.
- Read through the selection criteria posted on our website and in the application portal, and take these criteria seriously.
- Be sure to allow yourself enough time to write carefully considered responses to each of the three research relevance questions in the application. In the third research relevance question we ask how your project increases humanistic knowledge. We are not asking how your project, or your specific discipline, fits in with (or is one of) the disciplines traditionally considered as part of the humanities. Rather, we are asking you to consider how the end result of your research – your dissertation and other writings – will expand the record of human interactions and endeavors across different historical, regional, and cultural contexts.
- Submit your application in advance of the deadline.
Am I eligible to apply for the IDRF grant if I am not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States?
Yes. The IDRF welcomes proposals from full-time graduate students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences who are enrolled in PhD programs in the United States, regardless of citizenship.
If I have not yet obtained ABD status at the time of application, can I still apply?
Yes. Applicants for the 2018 competition must achieve All But Dissertation status (completed coursework and passed qualifying exams) by the time the proposed research begins or by December 2018, whichever comes first. They must also fulfill all other eligibility requirements.
Am I eligible for IDRF funding if I am a student in a discipline such as art history, literature, or philosophy?
The IDRF accepts proposals from all disciplines within the humanities and humanistic social sciences. All applicants should specify why site-specific research is critical to the successful completion of the proposed doctoral dissertation. If you have any questions about whether your discipline or topic is eligible for IDRF funding, please contact us.
Are doctoral students enrolled in professional degree programs (EdD, PsyD, etc.) eligible to apply to the IDRF program?
No. The IDRF program accepts applications from students enrolled in PhD programs only.
What do you mean by on-site, site-specific research? Does this apply to applicants from disciplines in the targeted humanities list?
“On-site, site-specific” research means that the researcher must be at the specified location for an extended period of time. Research that can be done at any location, either online or via interlibrary loan, will not be funded by the IDRF program. This requirement applies to all applicants from all disciplines, whether conducting US based research, or not. The IDRF program will not fund research at an applicant’s home institution unless that research is specific to an archive or other collection located at that institution or city. In addition, the IDRF program will not support dissertation write-up either at the home institution or elsewhere.
Does the IDRF program have any geographical restrictions?
No. The IDRF program has funded research in all areas of the world. Your proposal should address any potential challenges to security, access to information, or visa support, as necessary.
Will the IDRF fund applications that propose research on the United States?
Proposals that identify the United States as a case for comparative inquiry are welcome; however, proposals which focus predominantly or exclusively on the United States are not eligible.
Will the IDRF fund applications that propose research within the United States?
Yes. The required minimum research outside the United States is dependent upon your discipline. For select humanities disciplines (Art History, Architectural History, Classics, Drama/Theater, Film Studies, Literature, Musicology, Performance Studies, Philosophy, Political Theory, and Religion), that minimum is three months. For all other disciplines (including Anthropology, History, and Political Science), funding for US sites will be considered for short durations. All research, including research within the US, must be site-specific.
Do I need to be enrolled as a full-time student in order to be eligible for an IDRF grant?
Applicants are expected to be affiliated with a university and progressing toward a PhD and in good standing. They do not need to be paying semester fees.
I am already conducting research overseas. Can I use an IDRF to extend my research?
Applicants who will have completed significant funded dissertation research in one country by the start of their proposed IDRF research may not be eligible to apply to the IDRF to extend research time in the same country. Applicant eligibility will be determined at the discretion of the program. Applicants who have undertaken unfunded research in the same country, funded research prior to obtaining ABD status, or research in a different country are eligible to apply. Please contact the program if you are unsure of your eligibility status.
What is the minimum length of research?
Fellowships provide support for nine to twelve months of on-site, site-specific dissertation research. No awards will be made for proposals requiring less than nine months of research. The IDRF-funded research must take place in a single continuous period of 9-12 months within the eighteen months between July 2018 and December 2019.
How do I apply for the IDRF award?
The IDRF application must be filled out online and can be accessed through the SSRC Online Application Portal. You will also use this portal to contact your referees and language evaluator(s), complete the research relevance section, upload your research proposal and bibliography, and send reminders to referees and language evaluators.
When is the deadline for the 2018 IDRF application?
Applications must be complete and submitted online before 9:00pm (EST) on November 7, 2017. The reference letters and language evaluation(s) must also be submitted online by the same deadline.
I applied last year. Can I edit my old application and resubmit it?
No. You will need to start over with a new online application, and request new reference letters and language evaluation(s). When accessing the application portal, you can use the same login credentials as last year.
Where do I find the reference and language evaluation forms?
There are no forms. You must use the “References & Language Evaluations” sections of the online application to contact referees and language evaluators. Once you have entered your evaluators’ contact information, they will receive emails with instructions on how to submit the reference letters or language evaluation(s) online. The submitted material will be automatically added to your application.
Do I need to complete the application all at once?
No. You may return to the application as many times as necessary until the application deadline. Be sure to save your work after you finish each section of the application. Once the application has been submitted, you will no longer be able to alter the information.
Do you have examples of proposals that have been awarded fellowships?
No. The IDRF program does not provide examples of proposals that have been awarded fellowships. However, you may visit our website to learn more about the research that current fellows are conducting. For suggestions on proposal writing, we encourage you to consult The Art of Writing Proposals.
Can I submit my online application even if my reference letters and language evaluation(s) have not been received?
Yes. You are strongly encouraged to submit your online application well in advance of the deadline. There is no need to wait for your reference letters and evaluations to be received in order to submit your application – they will be automatically added to your application. You may continue to check the status of your references and language evaluations and you can send reminder requests through the “Track References” section of the application portal, even after your application has been submitted.
How many references do I need and whom should I ask to write references for me?
Two. One reference letter must come from your principal faculty advisor and the second reference letter from someone who is familiar with your work and academic interests. Follow the instructions on the “References” section of the application portal to send an electronic request to the referees.
Please note that the online application portal allows applicants to invite only one principal faculty advisor. Once you have invited an advisor you may not invite another. You may, however, invite up to two people as a second reference. Whichever second reference letter is submitted first will be accepted; any additional letters from second references will be discarded.
Do I need to submit a language evaluation?
You do not need to submit a language evaluation form if you will be conducting research in English or your native language(s). Applicants conducting research in another language are required to submit a language evaluation with their application.
Language evaluators should be qualified individuals who are able to test your proficiency in the language(s) needed for your on-site research at the time of your application. Ideally, your evaluator will be a language instructor at a university, in the United States or abroad; however, exceptions can be made for less commonly taught languages. Departmental language exams will not be accepted as proof of language proficiency. Please note that referees may not submit language evaluations on your behalf. A sample language evaluation can be found here.
Does my language evaluator have to be at my institution?
No. Ideally your language evaluator will be someone at your institution who is qualified to assess your language capabilities; however, it is not a requirement that this person is from your institution.
Does my language evaluator have to hold a PhD?
No. It is not a requirement that your language evaluator holds a PhD; however, the evaluator must have the appropriate language qualifications required to conduct this particular language evaluation.
I think the language I am using would be considered a less commonly taught language. How do I know if an exception can be made for who conducts my language evaluation?
It is not a requirement that the language evaluation come from an instructor at your institution. If no one at your institution can conduct the evaluation, the next step would be to reach out to a language instructor at another institution. If geographical limitations present a problem, keep in mind that it is possible to conduct the evaluation over Skype. Please refer to the sample language evaluation form for a sense of what the evaluation entails. If you still do not think you can find a language instructor to conduct the evaluation, please contact us.
Should I include a budget in the proposal?
No. Do not include a budget in your proposal. If you are selected as an IDRF fellow, we will work with you to make budget determinations.
Are there formatting requirements for the research proposal and bibliography?
Yes. Your research proposal and bibliography should be collated as one continuous .PDF file not exceeding twelve pages in total. Research proposals must be double-spaced and not exceed ten pages in length (including any appendices or end notes). The bibliography must not exceed two pages and must be in standard bibliographic format.
The proposal and bibliography must be in Times New Roman 11-point font type with at least one inch margins on all sides. Proposals must be formatted with double-spacing. Footnotes and endnotes may be single-spaced but must be included within the ten pages. The bibliography may be single-spaced. Proposals not adhering to these guidelines will not be considered.
Can I submit photographs or charts with my application?
Yes, but any non-textual material must be included within the ten-page limit.
Do I need to submit transcripts with my application?
No. Transcripts are not required at the time of application. Relevant coursework and grades should be listed in the course report section of the online application. However, you should be prepared to submit one official transcript for each graduate-level school you have attended (including any degree certificates from graduate institutions outside the United States) upon request of the program.
Do I need to send letters of affiliation with my application?
No. Do not submit letters of affiliation with your application.
Should I include a budget in the proposal?
No. If selected as a fellow, we will work with you to determine your budget.
How will I know that my application is complete?
After you have successfully submitted your application, you will receive a confirmation email from the SSRC. You may continue to check the status of your references and language evaluation(s) and send reminder requests through the “Track References” section of the application portal, even after your application has been submitted.
Technical Support - Proposal and Bibliography Document
My proposal and bibliography document was exactly the correct length in my word processing program, but when I convert it to a .PDF file, it exceeds the page limit. Is that acceptable?
No. Your combined proposal and bibliography may not exceed twelve pages in total as a .PDF file.
I added page numbers to my proposal document, but when I converted it to a .PDF file, the formatting changed.
We recommend that you use the footer function for page numbering, rather than the header function.
I uploaded my proposal and bibliography onto the application form, but when I print out the application, only my bibliography appears. Was my proposal uploaded?
No. Your proposal and bibliography must be collated as one continuous .PDF file. If you try to upload two separate documents, the second document will replace the first. Please combine the two documents into one document and then upload again.
Technical Support - References and Language Evaluations
What should I do if one of my referees and/or evaluators cannot send in the letter s/he agreed to?
You may check the status of your references and language evaluations and send reminder requests through the “Track References” section of the application portal. The online application portal allows applicants to invite only one advisor. Once you have invited an advisor, you may not invite another.
If one of your designated second referees and/or language evaluators cannot submit a letter on your behalf, you may send a request to someone else using the References section of the application portal. Please note that the second reference that is submitted first will be accepted. Any additional second references will be discarded.
My referee/evaluator cannot (or refuses to) use an online system to submit a reference/evaluation. What should I do?
Please follow the instructions in the References section of the application portal. Your referee/evaluator will receive an email from us with information on how to contact us if s/he cannot use the online system. We will work with your referee/evaluator to ensure that the necessary materials are submitted in a timely manner.
When will award announcements be made?
Incomplete and ineligible applicants will be informed of their status by December 2017. All other applicants will be contacted by the program, via email or USPS, about their status in February 2018. Fellows will be notified by May 2018.
What happens if my project is selected for funding?
You will be asked to submit an estimated budget outlining the funds you will need to complete your project. This will be taken under consideration, along with any other funds you may have received, when your final award amount is determined.
When can I begin my IDRF research if I am selected for funding?
IDRF-funded research may begin in July 2018 (research conducted prior to July 2018 will not be supported by IDRF). All 2018 fellows must commence fieldwork by January 2019.
What is the IDRF grant amount?
Fellowship award amounts will vary depending on the research plan. The 2018 per-fellowship average award amount is $21,000.
What does the IDRF grant cover? Conversely, what doesn’t the IDRF grant cover?
The IDRF grant will cover fellows’ travel, research, and living expenses for nine to twelve months of dissertation research. The IDRF grant will not cover tuition costs, dependent living expenses, taxes, or dissertation write-up.
I am applying for multiple grants. Should I be awarded an IDRF grant, can I also accept funding from other sources?
Yes, but fellows cannot accept funding from IDRF and another organization for the same expenses at the same time. The IDRF program will work with fellows to construct a budget that is acceptable to IDRF and to other funding organizations.
Do IDRF awards go directly to the fellows or are they channeled through a university?
All awards are paid directly to the IDRF fellows.
Does the IDRF offer support for visas and IRB clearances?
No. Fellows are responsible for their own travel arrangements and research clearances.