The Grant Application Process

continuing the extracts from my field methods book…

Here is a summary of what to do to apply for a grant, in approximately the order it needs to be done in:

  1. Work out where you want to do fieldwork. Decide on the language and/or the general area. For some discussion of this, see Section 7.1.
  2. Identify agencies to apply to. This often needs to be done at least a year before you want to start your trip to the field, so start on this as soon as you think you might want to do fieldwork. The Linguistic Society of America has a list of grant bodies and their application deadlines (; regional groups also maintain lists. There is a basic list on Different grants have different requirements, of course. Some institutions which fund anthropological fieldwork (such as the Wenner Gren Foundation; also fund linguistic descriptive work, at least in theory, although there are reports of linguists submitting proposals for descriptive work and being rejected on the grounds that that type of work is not anthropology.
  3. Make contact with the community you want to work with, get letters of permission, and start the preliminary negotiations about you’ll be doing. There’s a lot more discussion of this in Section 7.3.5. Make sure that they know that you haven’t yet received funding, and that it is not definite that you will be coming to work with them.
  4. Write the preliminary application for the funding body. More on this below.
  5. Find referees. Most grant applications require referees. If you are a PhD student, your advisor should be one of the referees.
  6. Find an administrative body. Most grants are not awarded to individuals; rather, they require an organisation to administer the grant. Usually this will be your university, but some times a body local to the community you are going to work in would be more appropriate.
  7. Work out the budget, including getting costings and quotes for major items.
  8. Apply for human subjects approval, if applicable. Even if you do not require ethics approval from your university, you should create a research plan with discussion of ethics and show it to someone. It not only protects your consultants from inadvertent harm, it also protects you in the event of any accusations of unethical behaviour.
  9. Submit applications before the deadline.
  10. Start again. Apply to several places simultaneously, you can always refuse funds if you get too much). Do refuse funds quickly if you are awarded more than one grant. All agencies get many more applications than they can fund, and the money can always be used by someone else to do a project just as worthy of funding as your own. Note also that some grant bodies do not let you apply to more than one agency for the same project.
  11. Expect hold-ups for all sorts of things. Making initial contacts can be hard. IRBs often only meet once a month (or every two months).

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