Tips and Advice: Humanities Proposals

Most funding sources will want to know these details about your humanities research project:

  • What are the basic ideas, problems, works, or questions the study will examine?
  • What is the planned approach or line of thought?
  • If the area is new to you, what are your reasons for working in it or what interests have led to it?
  • What is the current state of the proposed study? Is it in the beginning stages or well underway?
  • What are your plans for each stage?
  • How does the part to be done during the grant period fit into the whole?
  • Can you provide a proposed schedule or plan of work?
  • What is the relationship between the proposed work and the work of others in the same general subject area?
  • What contribution is the proposed study likely to make, and what is its significance for the humanities? If the subject might seem narrow or obscure, can you explain the project's larger significance?
  • What is distinctive about the proposed study?
  • For what audience are the results of the study intended?
  • What format (book, articles, paper, other) is the outcome of the proposed study likely to assume?

Some funding sources will be concerned about other things as well, so read the guidelines carefully and follow them exactly to be sure you answer all the questions. For example, you may be asked to relate your project to your career goals or to your teaching.

The NEH Fellowship program asks about the relationship of the proposed study to your development as an interpreter of humanities. Other organizations may want to know how they will benefit from the study or how society in general will benefit.

If languages other than English are needed to conduct the research, the funding source may want you to document or demonstrate your competence. You may need to state that you have the facilities and materials needed to conduct the study (phone, fax, computer, copier, film, tapes, etc.). Be prepared to document that you have access to any archives, collections, or institutions with resources necessary for your project. Try to anticipate questions reviewers might have--and answer them.

(Adapted from the NEH Fellowship guidelines)

Is a budget required? Consult our budget tips and advice.

Fulbright Scholar Program

Allow ample time for the online application process.

Study the application guidelines carefully, especially the:

  • Project Description outline (Lecturing or Research)
  • Review Criteria
  • Reminder List

Follow all instructions!

Read the Tips for Applying.

Make the Project Statement the focus of your efforts (should be free of jargon).

Ensure that your CV and Publications List reinforce your project statement.

Choose references who can attest to your abilities related to this project.

Collect information on the host country and institution—begin making arrangements NOW.

Remember that your professional qualifications are reviewed in the context of your career stage.

Tell a story about your career (show a pattern that includes a Fulbright).

Call the appropriate CIES program officer with any questions (see award description for name, phone, email).

Include a research or curriculum-development component and express a willingness to lecture.

Answer these questions:

  • Why this particular award/country?
  • What will you do?
  • Why you?
  • How will you do it?
  • Why are you able to do it?
  • What preparations have you made?
  • What can you contribute (to the host country, host institution, your discipline)?

Peer review is conducted by a panel of scholars (often Fulbright alums) with extensive experience in the region of your award—it may be a single country, a few countries, or a larger region, depending on the number of awards offered and the number of applications received. Each regional panel includes scholars chosen to provide balance in terms of discipline, based on the awards offered and the actual proposals submitted. Specialist reviews are sought from non-panel members when necessary. Panels recommend more proposals than there are awards; final decisions are made by the Fulbright commissions in the respective countries (or US embassies in countries with no commissions).

(Adapted from the Fulbright guidelines)

Other Advice

Writing Proposals for ACLS Fellowship Competitions—(PDF)—Advice that pertains to most humanities fellowship proposals

The Art of Writing Proposals—Download the Social Science Research Center's classic brochure on grantwriting (free)