Skip to main content

Graduate Research Grant

The Graduate Research Grant (GRG) is intended to help PhD and MFA students and postdoctoral fellows in historically underfunded disciplines meet expenses related to scholarly research and creative endeavors.

Note:   Students traveling outside of the United States must adhere to all graduate student travel policies.  Failure to do so could result in revocation of the award.


  • Monday, October 16, 2023, 11:59 pm (Letters of recommendation due Friday, October 20 by 11:59 pm)
  • Monday, January 22, 2024, by 11:59 pm (Letters of recommendation due by Friday, January 26, 11:59pm)
  • Monday, April 15, 2024, 11:59 pm (Letters of recommendation due by Friday, April 19, 11:59pm)


PhD students, MFA students, or postdoctoral fellows in the following schools/disciplines:

  • Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (humanities and social sciences projects)
  • School of Education and Social Policy
  • School of Communication (humanities and social science projects)
  • School of Music
  • Kellogg School of Management (social science projects)
  • Clinical Psychology (social science projects) 

At the time of application, PhD students must have completed at least 3 quarters of full-time, full tuition registration. (An exception may be made for students who will commence working on the project in the summer after their first year). MFA students must have completed at least 1 quarter of full-time registration.

Postdoctoral trainees must have at least a one-year appointment at Northwestern University.

Students who have exceeded the time limitation for their degree are not eligible.

A student may receive only one grant equivalent to $3,000 (or multiple grants whose cumulative total may not exceed $3,000) under this program during his or her graduate career at Northwestern. Applicants who have applied before and have not received an award may apply again.


  • The maximum award amount is $3,000.
  • Awards are for a twelve-month period (beginning from the date funds are awarded). Unused funds do not roll-over past the end date of the award and are not available for use after the award end date listed in the award notification.
  • Awards will not be granted for retroactive payments.
  • Awards will not fund projects/expenses that don’t relate to the applicant's research/creative work, nor will they fund seminars/skills-building not related to the dissertation or overall scholarly project.
  • Students may utilize grant funds only while active students in The Graduate School at Northwestern. Should students graduate or otherwise depart the University prior to completion of the project and/or expenditure of funds, funds will no longer be available for use
  • Postdoctoral fellows may utilize funds only during their appointment at Northwestern. Once an appointment ends, unused funds must be returned to The Graduate School.
  • This award only provides funding for non-compensation expenses (i.e., no expenses are permitted on Northwestern payroll such as salary, add pay, special pay, temp pay, etc.)

Awards are typically announced at the end of the quarter and available starting the quarter following the application deadline.

Review process

Recipients of grants are determined at the quarterly meetings of the Graduate Research Grant committee. All applications are reviewed by a faculty committee. Decisions are based on the committee’s final evaluations and the availability of funds. This is a competitive award. Far more applications are received than can be funded.

Applications are evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Impact and significance of project. 
    • The impact of the project on the field and the impact on the author’s own research or creative work
    • The likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence in the field
    • For creative projects, plan and aims for the medium-specific impact (ways in which the work will reach and affect audience, community, and/or field) 
    • How the project addresses an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field
    • Potential for knowledge, technical capability, and/or practice to be improved
    • Potential for successful completion of project to influence the concepts, methods, technologies, or interventions that drive this field 
    • For creative projects, contribution to artistic field and place of the project in the applicant’s current work and future trajectory
  • Approach and innovation of the project: 
    • How the project challenges and seeks to shift current research paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches/methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions
    • Refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions
    • Originality of the project
    • Is the research design sound and are the overall strategy, methodology, and/or analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project?
  • Feasibility of project:
    • Feasibility of work plan, budget, schedule and project outline
    • Potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success are presented 
    • Applicant is capable of completing the proposed work given their level of training and as evidenced by prior work and letters of recommendation 
    • If required, has IRB approval been granted?
    • For digital humanities projects, feasibility of the project goals and Northwestern’s ability to supply necessary technical knowledge, facilities and support pre- and post-award supported training are crucial considerations. Applicants are urged to consult the Digital Humanities Library Guide or Media and Design Center.
  • Letters of recommendation indicating academic/research performance and potential.
    • Recommendation letter addresses the specific proposal/project

Application instructions

Please note that grantees are responsible for obtaining all regulatory approvals. TGS does not check compliance and funding does not imply any approval of research practices (such as those involving human subjects or animal care and use.)

The materials described below must be submitted by the deadline via The Graduate School online grant/fellowship application tool.

  • Description of the project: Must be in PDF format and may not exceed five pages, double-spaced:
    • The description should present the conception, definition and organization of the work and plan of study. Include information about sources used, the thesis and the interpretive stance of the research.
    • The applicant should include a statement that articulates the anticipated impact of the work (on the field, community, and/or audience).
    • If the grant is for work on the dissertation, include a chapter outline and a summation of progress to date, such as research already completed or chapters already drafted. If the grant is for work leading to the MFA thesis, include an overall project plan and summation of progress to date.
    • The description of the proposed project should be written in plain language, free of jargon. Committee members who may not have specialized knowledge of an applicant’s area of study.
    • The applicant must provide a clear and compelling description how the use of the awarded funds would materially benefit the student’s progress through their program and/or what role the results of this funding would play in the larger research project.
    • Applicants proposing a research project that requires IRB approval must include approval confirmation OR a statement of where in the process IRB approval is.
    • For proposals related to digital humanities training opportunities, include description of the training opportunity, an explanation of how the training opportunity will result in the necessary proficiency/skills/knowledge and how it relates to the dissertation project, and a statement about Northwestern’s ability to supply the necessary technical knowledge, facilities, and/or support in order to make the project feasible.
    • Artists submitting a proposal for a creative project must also include work samples from the artistic medium in which they normally work.  These samples may be either from past work or from the creative work in progress (for which a proposal is being submitted). The proposal should illuminate what the grant reviewer is meant to note when looking at these samples.  See the guidelines below for submitting samples of creative work. Creative work samples do not count toward the 5-page limit, but carry their own limitations, outlined below.*
    • Endnotes, references, IRB approval confirmations, or pictures do not count toward the 5-page limit, but may not exceed three additional pages.
  • Itemized budget: Itemize the estimated expenses using the budget worksheet. Budget worksheet must be saved as a PDF in order to upload to the online grant/fellowship application tool.  The applicant must make clear exactly what expenses the GRG would cover. Allowable costs include:
    • Acquisition of research materials unavailable locally or via microfilms, photographs, photocopies, etc.
    • Travel costs for travel necessary for successful completion of the project/research. This includes airfare, ground transportation, commercial vehicle rental, lodging, and meals while traveling.
    • Payment for services through a vendor or external consultant/independent contractor.
      • On rare occasions, funds may be approved to reimburse subjects from outside the University for tests and experiments or to pay technical or clerical aides if their services are essential to the research project. Decisions about whether payment for services will be permitted will be based on the justification provided by the applicant for why the service is essential and why the work cannot be done by the applicant themselves.  The budget should include specifics of how the individuals providing services will be identified, who they are, how they will be selected, and the specific rate of pay.
      • Payees may not be employees, faculty, or students on Northwestern's payroll, because the funds cannot be used for add pay, temp pay, special pay or other forms of payroll. It may be possible to pay those individuals with “stored value cards” instead.) Contact The Graduate School's Financial Team with questions.
    • Artistic supplies beyond what would be considered normal and customary in the field.
    • Construction, rental or purchase of special equipment not available on campus. The possibility of renting or leasing (rather than purchasing) such items as audiovisual and photographic equipment should be explored. All merchandise purchased with University funds is the property of the University.
    • Access to software, databases or collections
    • Fees related to skills-building/workshops/seminars to obtain training in technologies necessary for the dissertation or overly scholarly project (e.g., text encoding and analysis, data visualization, programming and coding languages, games and gaming, multimodal narrative and platforms, etc.)
    • Non-Allowable Costs:
      • Payroll expenses through Northwestern such as salary, additional pay, temp pay, or special pay
      • Travel expenses not directly related to the project
      • Tuition
      • Costs of preparing the dissertation
      • Travel to consult with members of the dissertation committee
      • Retroactive charges for expenditures incurred or committed prior to review and approval of the GRG application
      • Computers or other electronic devices. Such devices are generally used for many different activities/projects and/or for personal use and therefore are not allowable.  In specific situations, the purchase of computers or other electronic devices required specifically for the conduct of the proposed research may be allowed.  In such cases, the proposed cost must be well-justified in the budget and proposal and the applicant must indicate how the device will be used solely or primarily for the research/project in question.

Applicants must list any other applications, either funded or pending, to support the proposed project.  Any changes in the status of pending funding must be communicated to

  • Curriculum vitae (PDF)
  • Unofficial Northwestern transcript (PDF)
  • Letter of recommendation: Submitted by a faculty member best qualified to comment upon the student's academic/research performance and potential (typically the advisor/mentor).
    • The letter of recommendation must address the specific proposal.
    • When submitting the application via the online application tool, applicants will have an opportunity to invite a faculty member to submit a letter of recommendation. (Note: Faculty member must be invited using their primary Northwestern email address.) See the "Deadline" section, above, for recommendation letter deadlines. Applicants should notify the intended letter-writer in advance of entering their name in the online application tool.  Applicants can check the status of the recommendation letter or change the recommender via the online application tool. 

Applicants resubmitting an application

If your application was denied in a previous cycle and your proposed project has not changed significantly, include the following:

  • A point-by-point response to the reviewers’ comments. This can be up to one page included in the research description, but does not count against the page limitation. 

Resubmitted proposals that do not conform to these requirements will be returned without review. 


Email for more information.

*Guidelines for including work samples

For creative project proposals.

Cinema and media:

  • Filmmakers, videographers and artists working in film, video and media should submit one sample of a film, video or new media work (no longer than 5 minutes).
  • Note whether the sample is a complete work or an excerpt and what role (director, co-director, writer, etc.) you played in creating the piece.
  • If desired, submit a 75-word description with the work sample.

Creative and dramatic writing:

  • Fiction, creative non-fiction and other creative prose writers (including writers of graphic novels) should submit a complete work or excerpt of no more than 5, double-spaced pages total (including any images, if working in mixed-media/graphic language arts).
  • Poets should submit no more than 5, single-spaced pages of their work.
  • Screenwriters and playwrights should submit up to a 5-page writing sample of a play, screenplay or teleplay (either a complete work or an excerpt of one or more works).
  • Note whether the sample is a complete work or an excerpt, and whether the work is finished or in progress.
  • If desired, submit a 75-word description with the work sample.

Performance and theatre:

  • Directors and performers should submit a portfolio of recent work in the form of a PDF or PowerPoint presentation (no more than 10 images) or audio/video files (no more than 5 minutes in duration) that may be accessed on the internet. 
  • Directors working on devised pieces or adaptations may instead submit a writing sample, following the guidelines for the relevant discipline as described above.
  • Note whether the sample is a complete work or an excerpt, whether the work is finished or in progress, and what role (director, co-director, writer, etc.) you played in creating the piece.
  • If desired, submit a 75-word description with the work sample.

Visual arts:

  • Visual artists should submit a portfolio of recent work in the form of a PDF or PowerPoint presentation. This may include up to 10 images and/or links to digital or audio files—totaling no more than 5 minutes in duration—that may be accessed on the internet.
  • Note whether the sample is a complete work or an excerpt, and whether the work is finished or in progress.
  • If desired, submit a 75-word description along with the work sample.