Faculty Research Grants

Faculty Research Grants are intended to support the research and creative projects of faculty in fields where there is little or no external funding or start-up money available. Awards are restricted to those in:
  • Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (social sciences and humanities)
  • School of Communication
  • School of Education and Social Policy
  • Bienen School of Music

Criteria for selection include:

  • Clarity of the proposal - must be intelligible to non-specialists
  • Academic, scholarly, or creative merit of the project and its significance to the applicant’s career
  • Impact of the project: Why is the project significant and what will be learned from the work
  • Feasibility of completing the project during the grant period
  • Potential or demonstrated productivity of the applicant


  • Monday, October 2, 2017
  • Monday, January 22, 2018
  • Monday, April 16, 2018

Awards are announced at the end of the quarter with funds intended to support projects that begin in the quarter following the application deadline. (For example, applicants submitting for the October deadline should plan to have access to funds, if awarded, no sooner than the beginning of the winter quarter.)


  • Regular full-time faculty, including tenure-track or tenured faculty at the assistant professor level or above. (Regular faculty is defined as voting members of the faculty of the school in which they hold their appointment. Specifically excluded from eligibility are emeritus faculty, part-time adjunct faculty, research faculty, visiting faculty, contributed service faculty, faculty whose contracts will not be renewed for the following year, and faculty who plan to resign their appointments or retire.)
  • Professional library staff members
  • Artists-in-Residence or lecturers with continuing appointments
  • Postdoctoral fellows with at least a one-year appointment at the University

For individual projects, the highest priority is the provision of seed money for new projects by new faculty in all ranks, but especially junior faculty. Awards are granted to more established senior faculty in fields for which there is little or no external funding available.

Requests for supplemental funding for ongoing projects will not be disallowed, but they will receive a lower priority than new projects and require more elaborate budgetary justification than requests for start-up money. 


  • The maximum award for individual projects is $5,000.
  • Recipients are limited to one research grant per year.
  • Awards are for a twelve-month period (starting on the date that funds are distributed) and require that a final report is submitted at the end of the award period.
  • At the end of the project period, any remaining funds in the project account revert to the URGC, unless the awardee requests and is granted an extension. Only a single one-year extension will be permitted.

Recipients of grants are determined at the quarterly meetings of the University Research Grant Committee (URGC). Decisions are based on the committee’s final evaluations and the availability of funds.  The Faculty Research Grant is a competitive award and more applications are received than can be funded.

Review Process and Criteria

Application evaluations are based on:

  • Impact 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)
  • Significance of the project: 
    • 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
  • 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
  • Approach and feasibility:
    • Feasibility of work plan, budget, schedule and project outline
    • Overall strategy, methodology, and/or analyses are well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project 
    • Potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success are presented 
    • Applicant is capable of completing the proposed work given their level of training 

This is a competitive award. More applications are received that can be funded. 

Application Instructions

Please note that grantees are responsible for obtaining all regulatory approvals. The Graduate School (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.

1. Description of the proposed project

Must be in PDF format, not to exceed four double spaced pages. 

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Endnotes, references, or pictures do not count toward the 4-page limit, but may not exceed two additional pages.
  • 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 4-page limit, but carry their own limitations, outlined below.*

2. Proposed budget, itemized by category of expense.

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. 

Allowable costs include:

  • Essential travel. Travel must be for well-defined research, creative and/or field work related directly to the proposed project, using the least expensive mode of transportation and accommodation. Airfares must be for economy class travel. Per diem and lodging should be listed separately. 
    • Acquisition of research materials unavailable locally or via microfilms, photographs, photocopies, etc.
    • Payment for services. 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 compensation. 
    • 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.

Non-Allowable Costs:

  • Tuition fees
  • Travel to professional meetings, including symposia, conferences, colloquia, summer institutes, and seminars
  • Retroactive charges for expenditures incurred or committed prior to review and approval of the FRG application
  • Computers or other electronic devices. Such devises 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 funding or pending, to support the proposed project.  Any changes in the status of pending funding must be communicated to gradfund@northwestern.edu

3. Curriculum vitae (as a PDF)

Applicants resubmitting an application

If your application was denied in a previous cycle, include the following:

  • Include 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 Kate Veraldi for more information.

*Guidelines for Including Work Samples to Accompany Proposals for Creative Projects

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.