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SBE Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants

Political Science Program
Division of Social and Economic Sciences
Brian Humes
, Program Director
Erik Herron, Program Director

 Political Science Dissertation Deadline Dates: January 15th

Indirect Costs Notice: Please note an important change to the treatment of indirect costs that was incorporated into the SBE Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants (SBE DDRIG) program solicitation (NSF 11-547). NSF's long-standing policy regarding the reimbursement of administrative costs is full reimbursement of indirect costs, based on the awardee's current Federally negotiated indirect cost rate agreement. To ensure consistency with Foundation and Federal-wide policies, proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation are subject to the awardee's current Federally negotiated indirect cost rate.

Proposals for Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants submitted to the Political Science Program must comply with or have information about the following bulleted items:

  • Deadline Dates: ABSOLUTE DEADLINE is January 15th. Decisions about support or declines will be made within six months of this deadline date.
  • Project Duration: 12 months
  • Project Budget: Maximum of $14,000 in direct costs.* Proposals with budgets that exceed $14,000 in direct costs will be considered to be non-compliant and will be returned without review. The budget must include indirect costs at the institution’s negotiated rate. Indirect costs are not included in the calculation of the $14,000 maximum. Students are strongly encouraged to work with personnel in their institution’s Sponsored Research Office to develop the budget.
  • Principal Investigator: List the dissertation advisor as Principal Investigator and the student as Co-Principal Investigator. It should be clear, however, that the proposal is written by, and the research conducted by, the student.
  • Proposal Title: The title should begin with the phrase: "Doctoral Dissertation Research in Political Science: ..."
  • Project Summary: 1 single page. The project summary should be a summary of the proposed project. The project summary consists of an overview, a statement on the intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and a statement on the broader impacts of the proposed activity.
  • Project Description: 10 single pages. Maximum length of the project description is 10 single-spaced pages. Otherwise, all other formatting rules found in the Grant Proposal Guide apply.
  • Letter: The proposal must include a letter from the major professor who serves as the Principal Investigator. The letter should indicate his/her confidence in the scientific rigor and value of the proposed dissertation research project. The letter should be uploaded as a supplemental document via FastLane.
  • Data Management Plan: The proposal must be accompanied by a data management plan that describes what data are to be generated by the research, how the data will be managed and shared, and other pertinent information about the content and handling of data.
  • Human Subjects: For proposals involving human subjects, please be sure to specify the date on which the university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved or exempted the project. If the certification is pending, please state this on the cover page. Please do not wait until you have been notified of funding to start the certification process.
  • Please note that at this time the Political Science Program does not co-review DDRIG proposals with other programs. If you have a concern about which program provides a better fit for your proposal, please contact the program directors.
  • All proposals must be submitted electronically via Fastlane or Grants.gov. Please note that all proposals must be submitted through your academic institution. Since proposals will need to be cleared by your Office of Sponsored Research or its equivalent, please be aware of any internal deadlines that may apply.
  • Proposals that violate these regulations in an attempt to squeeze in more information antagonize reviewers and may be returned without consideration.
  • Except where noted above, all proposals must be compliant with the rules described in the Grant Proposal Guide. Please consult the Grant Proposal Guide for full instructions about completing the proposal.

Graduate students and advisors should feel free to contact the program directors with questions or to discuss proposed research.

Dissertation Advice to Students

Outstanding proposals specify how the knowledge to be created advances our theoretical understanding of the study situation, so that people interested in similar situations in different contexts will learn from the project's outcome. The key is to be explicit in showing how the general theory explains the local situation, and in showing how the new knowledge from the local situation will advance the theory.

Follow the proposal preparation guidelines in the Doctoral Dissertation Program Announcement, especially the instructions for spacing, biographical sketches, and the one-page proposal summary. The one-page summary must address in separate paragraphs the "intellectual merit" and the "broader impacts". (See the Grant Proposal Guide).

Use a clear and concise writing style. Reviewers will include scientists from a variety of specialty areas. It is possible that no specialist from your particular area of research will be on the panel. Defining key terms and keeping your proposal free of jargon will ensure that all reviewers will be able to understand your proposal and evaluate it fairly.

One of the areas in which the proposal will be evaluated is "Research Competence of the Student." You can provide information to reviewers in the body of the proposal as well as in your biographical sketch. Be sure to include any other information which can help reviewers evaluate how well prepared you are to conduct the research.

Do not attach any appendices unless you have received permission from the NSF program director. Proposals without explicit permission for appendices may be returned without review. Even if appendices are allowed, reviewers are not obligated to read them, so critically important information should be in the body of the proposal. Letters testifying to local institutional sponsorship are encouraged if applicable.

The following are suggested allocations for the Project Description. These are not hard-and-fast rules, but indicate reviewers' interests:

  • Statement of the research problem, specific aims, expectations, propositions or hypotheses
  • Review of the literature and significance
  • Preliminary studies by the student, if any (which can show feasibility of research and/or preliminary findings)
  • Research Plan, including:
    • Research Design, with an explicit rationale defending choices in the design
    • Research Site or source of data
    • Data analysis plans (Note that references are as important in the section on methods as in theory)
  • Research Schedule

The research plan should begin with an overview of the research design, relating it to the theory. This should be followed by a brief description of the research site. Data collection and analysis methods follow. Theories, setting and methods should be tightly linked: Readers should learn what the researcher is going to do and how the specific activities to be pursued relate to both theory and setting. Note that a mere listing of a method is not enough to tell a reader what the researcher plans and why. The term "participant observation," for example, is extraordinarily general and should be unpacked into its specific components, each related to the intended information outcome, which should then be related to the research design and theory.

Sampling—or any sort of case selection—should be explicitly justified by discussing how data will generalize to a relevant population or theory. Each method, whether it generates qualitative or quantitative data, should be justified in terms of the research aims. The key issue is to impress reviewers that the new knowledge from your project will generalize to significant populations and theories.

Proposals also should include an analysis plan, although readers recognize that plans change in the process of fieldwork. Describe how you will use your data to answer your research questions and test your hypotheses. A mere listing of software programs will not demonstrate to reviewers that you have seriously considered all phases of the research process in designing your proposal. It should be possible for a reviewer to look back to your specific aims and understand why each kind of data is being collected, and why a particular analytic technique is planned.

If there are weaknesses in your design or analytical strategy, it is wise to recognize them and explain why the resulting product will nonetheless be of value. Reviewers are well aware that there are no perfect strategies for conducting research, but will be looking for evidence that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the approach selected. In a competitive review process where only a subset of excellent proposals can be funded, reviewers need to be told how the new knowledge to be gained from your particular study will advance our theoretical understanding of the problem.

*Note: Students doing collaborative work in international settings may be eligible for additional funding. Please contact the program directors for more information.



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