Dissertation Research Grants

Next Application Deadline: February 1, 2025

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The Russell Sage Foundation (RSF) has established a dissertation research grants (DRG) program to support innovative and high-quality dissertation research projects that address questions relevant to RSF’s priority areas: Behavioral Science and Decision Making in ContextFuture of Work; Race, Ethnicity and Immigration; Immigration and Immigrant Integration; and Social, Political, and Economic Inequality. Proposed projects must be closely aligned with the funding priorities listed on the RSF website for any of these areas, contribute to RSF’s mission to improve social and living conditions in the U.S., and demonstrate appropriate use of relevant theory, innovative data, rigorous research methods, and measures.

In partnership, RSF and the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research will support dissertation research on employment-related topics in any discipline, with particular interest in policy-relevant research pertaining to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

Applicants must be enrolled doctoral students at an institution of higher education in the U.S. or a U.S. territory, who have completed all program requirements except the dissertation. To receive funding, an applicant whose proposal is selected for a grant must have their dissertation supervisor document that the dissertation research (a) is the same research that was described in the DRG proposal and (b) has been approved by the dissertation committee. In cases where a dissertation consists of several related papers, the proposal should focus on the most important paper. If your discipline, department, or institution does not use this process to approve dissertation proposals, please email programs@rsage.org to see if you or your project is at the appropriate stage for RSF support. These grants will support all aspects of dissertation research (data collection, data preparation, data analysis and writing), but are not intended for students who have completed data collection and analysis and propose to spend the entire grant period writing the dissertation.

There is a lifetime limit of one dissertation research grant per applicant. Previous recipients of RSF grants are also ineligible. RSF encourages applications from scholars who are traditionally underrepresented in the social sciences and its applicant pool, as we seek to promote diversity broadly, including (but not limited to), racial, ethnic, gender or sexual identity or orientation, first generation, disciplinary, institutional, and geographic. Priority will be given to doctoral students who are underrepresented in the social sciences and those lacking the resources to carry out the proposed research. If you are fully funded, for the proposed grant period, on a departmental, university, or national fellowship, your application is less likely to advance because RSF prioritizes applicants who do not have sufficient time to devote to the dissertation and/or sufficient funds to pay for necessary research expenses. If your financial support is in the form of a Teaching or Research Assistantship, your application may still be likely to be externally reviewed if it is of interest to the Foundation.

Applicants must submit proposals through RSF’s online application portal. The maximum length of a proposal is five single-spaced pages, plus the bibliography (with standard 12-point font, and 1-inch margins). Proposals should briefly outline the rationale of the research, clearly state the question(s) under study and provide extensive details regarding the research methods, data, measures, and analytic approach to be employed. Priority will be given to proposals that will use RSF funds to gather new quantitative or qualitative data, including conducting interviews, field work, and archival work, carrying out experiments, paying study participant incentives, purchasing data not already available to the investigator, etc. The proposal should briefly discuss the project’s relevance to any of our program and priority areas. The initial submission must also include a brief budget description that explains what RSF funds would cover and what existing sources of support are already secured.

Conditional on positive reviews, a detailed budget and a project timeline that indicates how RSF funds will be used at various stages of the project (e.g., data collection, data preparation, data analysis, etc.) will be requested at a later date. The timeline should also indicate when the dissertation is expected to be completed. We realize most dissertations will not be completed during the one-year grant period.

Grantees of RSF-Upjohn grants will be expected to give a research seminar at the Upjohn Institute at a time that is useful to the grantee. Upjohn will cover expenses for the visit.

RSF priorities do not include analyses of where the primary focus is on health​ or mental health outcomes or health behaviors ​as these are priorities for other funders. ​For the same reason, RSF seldom supports studies focused on educational processes or curricular issues but does prioritize analyses of inequalities in student achievement or educational attainment. However, proposals that utilize data from the Stanford Educational Data Archive to analyze the effects of policies, practices, and socioeconomic conditions on educational inequalities are encouraged.

A budget is not required at the time of submission. The budget will be finalized with the grantee, their university's research office, and RSF after the approval of the grant. The maximum allowable budget is $10,000 for a one-year grant. RSF does not allow indirect costs on Dissertation Research Grants. Representative categories of expenditure that should be described in detail in the budget narrative include:

  • Applicant stipend up to $5,000
  • Research assistance
  • Study participant incentives
  • Data acquisition, such as data access fees, purchase of data sets, funding of surveys or in-person data collection costs
  • Transcription costs
  • Laboratory costs
  • Travel (for data collection or data access only).
    • Conference travel will be considered on a case-by-case basis if the applicant certifies that such funding is not available from the home institution or other sources.
  • Other research expenses will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Budget line items that are not well justified or are judged inappropriate will be cut from the budget. Tuition remission for graduate or undergraduate students is not allowed. RSF does not generally approve the purchase of personal computers.

For detailed information about what can and cannot be included, as well as the budget template, see the RSF Budget Guidelines at: http://www.russellsage.org/how-to-apply/apply-project-awards/budget. The budget guidelines for the dissertation research grants program supersede any conflicting guidelines listed on the general budget webpage.

How to Apply
Applications must be submitted via the RSF online application portal, Fluxx.

  1. Create an account or log in to your existing account.
    **Allow up to 5 business days for a new account to be approved**
  2. Start a new “Dissertation Research Grants” application and select the appropriate program option.
  3. Fill out the short application form with basic questions about the applicant and the project
  4. Submit these documents:
    • A concise single-spaced (5 pages maximum) proposal describing the research; Bibliography does not count towards page limit
    • An up-to-date abbreviated CV (maximum of 5 pages);

Conditional on positive external reviews, applicants will be invited to submit: 

  1. A letter from the dissertation supervisor
    • The supervisor must document that the dissertation research (a) is the same research that was described in the DRG proposal and (b) has been approved by the dissertation committee.
    • If you are defending your prospectus this Spring after the application deadline, this must be received before funds can be disbursed
  2. A detailed Excel budget, using the RSF budget template;
  3. A budget narrative that explains what RSF funds would cover;
    • The budget narrative must also include a timeline that includes the dissertation activities for which funds will be requested and when the dissertation is expected to be completed.
  4. Due diligence requirements requested for all RSF grants, including:
    • Confirmation of IRB approval or IRB exemption
    • Confirmation of access to restricted data sources (if applicable)
    • Proof of pre-registration (if applicable)

Deadlines and Review Process
Applications will be accepted through February 1, 2025 (2 pm Eastern Time/11 am Pacific Time). Late applications will not be reviewed. All applications are internally reviewed to determine fit with the RSF’s priorities and the quality of the application, including clarity in presentation, and whether the data and research methods are described in sufficient detail. Applications that pass internal review will be externally reviewed by experts from different disciplines and will receive reviewer comments on their submissions. Decisions are expected to be announced in May and grants can start on or after July 1. Funding decisions are final. RSF expects to approve up to 25 grants. 

Administrative Procedures
The grant will be administered by the applicant’s university which must act as the fiscal agent. RSF will pay the entire grant within several weeks of receiving the signed grant letter. Narrative and financial reports will be due at the conclusion of the grant period.

Papers that are coauthored with faculty are eligible under this program, but the faculty coauthor is ineligible for funding.

An applicant whose proposal is not funded can reapply in a subsequent competition.

Learn more about Dissertation Research Grants


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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