New! Hey Jane Column: Finding Grants

October 20, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Funding, Hey Jane Column, Writing | 1 Comment


What’s the best way to find out about available grants?


There is no one way, but many. If you are a grad student, make sure you talk with your mentors (plural!) about funding sources in your areas of interest. Distinguish between fellowships and grants, as the former are usually for you alone whereas the latter often require a faculty PI to sign off on your behalf.  Also, don’t forget to check both private (foundations etc.) and public (government) sources of funding. If you are an international student, you will not be eligible for fellowships/grants from government sources unless you are a permanent resident; private organizations make up their own eligibility rules. Exception to the exception: international students can compete for grant/fellowship competitions internally held at your institution.  But in general, for non-nationals, private foundations become an important lifeline.

Apart from your mentors, check with your graduate school – they often have a website devoted to upcoming competitions, both internal and external. If your grad school doesn’t, check the grad school websites of top-10 schools around the country.  Remember that they often post deadlines way too late for you to tailor your project, get it through the required official channels – including signatures from financial officers (whatever your school calls its “Office of Sponsored Programs” or “Grants Management”) and Human Subjects Approval (sometimes needed at time of application, other times needed at time funding is scheduled to start). So think about funding sources one year before you actually need to apply. Most of these deadlines are recurrent, on an annual basis.

Also, read the acknowledgments often printed on the bottom of the first page of articles, and at the start of books.  It tells you who has supported that research – and thus can give you ideas for who might support yours. And talk to older graduate students, both in your department and outside. Don’t cast yourself too narrowly. Maybe your approach to research makes you eligible for humanities or hard-science based funding opportunities?

If you are already post-dissertation stage, which grants and fellowships you can apply for depends on whether you are in academia, or whether you are working e.g., for a non-profit or research facility.  If you are an academic, the same rules apply.  Key is now to make sure you are applying for grants aimed at your target group (e.g., junior profs, or post-docs).

Finally, keep in mind the NIH for health-related (broadly conceived) work, and the NSF for sociology more generally. NSF funds quantitative, qualitative, and comparative-historical research, and is particularly interested in funding data collection (rather than simply funding data analysis of existing data). Many foundations support sociological research, including SSRC, Russell Sage, Spencer, Sloan, Guggenheim, William T. Grant, and many others. It is worth meeting with the grants/foundations relations people at your university to see if they have ideas about where to look. Seed grant money can also come from the ASA Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline.

What are the components to a grant proposal? Where can I get samples of successful grant applications?

A successful grant proposal should show that it (a) is about an important topic, one with real relevance to the world outside of sociology (even when it is basic research), (b) is being carried out by someone who knows the relevant literature and is likely to produce the research (funding a proposal is taking a gamble; the review panel will try to increase their odds), and (c) has a strong research design, one that is likely to yield useful and important insights.

There are lots of guides available online, and the following essay contains great information:

In addition to following general rules about how to organize a grant proposal, make sure you read, and follow, the funding agency’s actual grant guidelines. For instance, if they request information about the broader impact your research will have or how it relates to the funding agency’s mission, make sure you address this head on.  How to get examples? If you know someone who got a grant/fellowship from an agency where you want to apply (say, NSF, or Ford Foundation), ask them. Many funding agencies will list their most recent grant recipients online.  Even if the proposals are not posted, contact the recipients and ask them to share their recipe for success (or even the grant proposal).  They are your peers – probably just a year or two ahead of you in grad school/tenure track – and you will likely continue to run into each other at conferences down the road.

What are some issues to keep in mind when applying for funding for a quantitative project? For a qualitative project?

Regardless of your methodology, your proposal needs to demonstrate the elusive theory-method-data link. Make sure you understand this part: Most proposals get rejected because that link is broken.  For example, if you propose to study how gender identity shapes people’s conflict resolution strategies, doing interviews may not produce the most accurate picture.  Perhaps an experimental design, or a survey would be better.  If you want to examine how different policy contexts affect educational outcomes, you need to be clear about whether your theory is better designed to explain cross-sectional or longitudinal policy-outcome trends, and use the appropriate data.

Apart from that, good proposals, regardless of methodology, demonstrate that the PI has (or will acquire) the skills to complete this project in the intended timeframe, that the data can actually yield answers to the questions asked, and that the concepts being invoked can be gauged reasonably well with the data available. Providing the funding agency with a table of what your data sources are, what variables you will use to gauge which concepts (if quantitative) or what your coding scheme is likely to look like if collecting your own qualitative data can go a long way to getting approved.

Beware of falling into the trap of thinking that quantitative proposals have a better chance of getting funded.  It’s the theory-method-data link that remains key.  Unfortunately, in my own experience as a reviewer, some proposals simply fail because they come across as what we call “trust me” proposals – in other words, the reviewers get the impression that the PI is on a fishing expedition but fails to verbalize a clear research question, or expectations grounded in one or several (competing or complementary) theories, or seems to engage in haphazard data collection/analysis. Continue Reading New! Hey Jane Column: Finding Grants…


Hey Jane says: Back up your work!

July 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Technology, Writing | Leave a comment

Do you regularly back up your work? Your data? Your photographs and videos?

Most people would probably answer no to that question.

But hard drives die. Everyone knows someone who has had a hard drive die beyond retrieving anything from it. Don’t let it happen to you!

I didn’t used to back up my computer’s contents regularly, and I’m still guilty of not regularly backing up photographs. But, about a year ago I started using’s free back up service, and now every single morning at 8am, a complete back up is made of my most important folders– i.e. my dissertation folder, job market folder, and teaching folder. I don’t have to even think about the back up or remember to do it. It just happens. To back up my entire hard drive I have to plug it into an external drive, so that happens less often. Even so, I know that everything has been backed up at least once a month. And the important stuff, once a day. And that’s peace of mind!

Here’s some links to advice on how to keep regular back ups:

Jane Recommends [Links]

May 12, 2009 at 2:43 am | Posted in Publishing, Technology, Writing | Leave a comment

Historiann has an interesting post about reputation and measures of quality in women’s history journals— mentions Gender & Society.

Historiann has another great post, this time on “opting out”– reminding us all we have the power to say no and not participate in discussions and situations that may be unhealthy for us.

Becky over at the Every Day Sociology Blog writes about using participant observation to study subcultures and includes recommendations for further reading.

Tomorrow’s Professor Blog has tips on writing before you’re ready and avoiding writer’s block.

There are some great suggestions for Internet tools for PhD students (and not only for students) over at 32 Days Remaining.

Lifehacker recommends a new Firefox addon to keep you from goofing off online when you should be working.

Jane Recommends [Links]

March 30, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Finances, Graduate School, New Faculty, Teaching & Mentoring, Technology, Writing | Leave a comment

GayProf over at Center of Gravitas has a great post with advice for newly hired faculty.

Gina at the Academic Ladder has a great piece on avoiding writer’s block.

For those still in grad school or still paying off loans, consumerist has posted a “big ass” list of student loan resources.

Career Advice: Dancing with Kate Smith at Inside Higher Ed has some great syllabus tips.

Historiann interviewed the editor of the journal Gender and History, Ruth Mazo Karras. Both posts have excellent general advice on publishing in academic journals.

Dave over at Academic Hack has some great tips on academic branding and creating an online portfolio.

Best Advice: Writing [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:38 am | Posted in Dissertation, Hey Jane Column, Publishing, Writing | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

Buy and use the book Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day (so that you don’t become paralyzed at the enormity of the project).

Regarding my dissertation, my mother (who is an academic) said to me, “Your dissertation is a brick, not a castle. Finish your dissertation and then spend the rest of your career building your castle.”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing substitutes for high quality publications — you can never make a ‘trade-off’ of this against anything else.  Period.”

“One idea per article,” meaning pace yourself in terms of articles.

My graduate school advisor told me to publish often – book reviews, instructor manuals, anything to get my name out there and lines on my vitae.  This was great advice – and if you can find a mentor to help you create such avenues for publication, all the better.

The best advice I think I ever got was to apply for every competition you see – campus syllabus competitions, theses, published and unpublished papers, books, and on and on.

Volunteer to be a reviewer for a journal in your area of study early in your career (ideally during graduate school).  Reviewing journal articles and book manuscripts has helped me to become a much better writer.

One time after multiple revisions requested by the editor of a journal, I found that I no longer recognized my own ideas.  A mentor advised me to “never let reviewers hijack your work.” In trying to appease several different reviewers, I had lost sight of what I wanted to say.  Use the feedback of reviewers and editors to help make your ideas better, but don’t let them turn your ideas into something you’re not comfortable with.  Rather, make the changes you find appropriate and then explain to the editor why you have decided not to make some of the suggested changes.

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