Dissertation Fellowships Ssrc

This page contains historical information and is preserved here as a matter of record.


The Dissertation Proposal Development Program began in 2006 as a fellowship program for early-stage doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences to help them formulate innovative dissertation research proposals. The Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, or DPDF, provided workshops, exploratory summer research, and writing guided by peer review and faculty mentorship.

Between 2006 and 2014, the DPDF was thematic, with several interdisciplinary research fields selected annually though the program’s faculty field competition as the basis for student training workshops. Through the DPDF's student fellowship competition, graduate students then applied to participate in one of the thematic training workshops offered in a given year, which were led by senior faculty from each selected research field.

Following the 2014 fellowship cycle, the DPDF was reconfigured to engage with a broader cross section of graduate students in the humanities and social sciences. This reconfiguration eliminated the faculty field competition and thematic workshop components while becoming accessible to more students in the humanities and social sciences, regardless of topic, who were in the early stages of dissertation proposal development.

As of fall 2016, the DPDF as a fellowship program for individual graduate students will be discontinued. Instead, the Dissertation Proposal Development Program will shift toward providing resources and guidance directly to universities to help them establish interdisciplinary dissertation proposal development trainings on their own campuses.


Over its 10-year span, nearly 650 graduate students from universities both in the US and abroad received the Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, allowing them to refine their dissertation projects and conduct exploratory research in more than 110 countries across the globe.

In assessing the fellowship program's benefits for students, program staff found that alumni were, on average, significantly more successful in winning dissertation research grants and quicker in obtaining doctoral degrees than were students who did not participate in the program. DPDF alumni also reported overwhelmingly that the program's activities helped them to develop professional skills in writing clearly and explaining their research to broad audiences, giving and receiving critiques from colleagues, and developing academic networks that furthered their career advancement.

Please visit the Resources links for more information on the training components and financial resources the DPDF provided, as well as the fellowship competition's eligibility and criteria.


The Dissertation Proposal Development (DPD) Program is an interdisciplinary training program that helps graduate students in the humanities and social sciences formulate dissertation research proposals through exposure to the theories, literatures, methods, and intellectual traditions of disciplines outside their own.

Learning from its 10-year history as a national student competition and fellowship program for graduate students across the humanities and social sciences, the program now works with universities to help them develop interdisciplinary dissertation proposal development programs on their campuses.

Through its University Initiative, the DPD Program is providing funding, advice, and other resources to five universities over three years to help them pilot similar programs for their own graduate students, sharing successful interdisciplinary pedagogical practices cultivated over a decade of experience. More information about the University Initiative and its institutional partners is available on the University Initiative's website.

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