Dissertation Research Initiation Grants Program Guidelines

The Dissertation Research Initiation Grants for College of Education doctoral students are provided through the generosity of the College of Education’s Dean.

Deadlines for Application:

Fall Semester – September 30
Spring Semester – February 15


Following are the general guidelines approved by the Faculty Council's Committee on Graduate Studies and Research Policy.

  • Eligibility is restricted to doctoral students, enrolled at the University Park campus, who have successfully defended their dissertation proposal within the College of Education.
  • Research on the Application form is intended to mean the student’s dissertation.
  • Individual awards will generally be limited to a maximum of $600. It is anticipated that up to ten awards will be made each academic year. Software is not an eligible expense.  If you have a software need, please contact Dr. Rayne Sperling, [email protected], to determine if a loaner computer with the required software is available.
  • Expenditures will not be approved from this fund when other sources are available or have already been granted. Typically, funds will not be provided for prizes or incentives to have subjects participate in research.  However, if incentives are requested, the proposal must provide a compelling rationale for this need. Cash incentives are not allowed. Additionally, if awarded, the student must contact the departmental budget person for specific procedures related to incentives to comply with Penn State policies. 
  • Funds may not be used to purchase computers or iPads, or for reproduction, printing, binding or other costs related to the distribution of the dissertation.


Examples of activities which qualify for support include, but are not limited to:

  • Purchase of specialized supplies and materials needed for research.
  • Travel support for data collection.
  • Photocopying of research materials.
  • Printing or duplicating of data collection instruments, and materials.
  • Purchase of relevant specialized services and/or access to specific databases.
  • Applicants must abide by University policies on human subjects for research purposes. The IRB number should be included in the proposal.
  • Research plans are to be no more than 1000 words including figures. This word total does not include a list of references and appendices, which may be attached on a separate page. The research plan should contain the following elements:
  • Problem statement or research question.
  • Significance of the research activity (in terms of its contribution to the field supported by professional literature).
  • Research plan (Provide detail, including the research design and analysis.)
  • A line-item budget by category.
  • Relationship of the proposed expenditures to the research plan.
  • Candidates may be asked by the committee to provide the complete proposal electronically.
  • A letter of reference, that affirms the proposed research importance and contribution to the field, is required (500 words maximum). This is the 2nd page of the application form and should be from a faculty member, preferably the research supervisor.
  • Funds awarded may only be spent on items outlined in the budget. Any revisions in the budget must be approved by the Associate Dean.
  • The recipient of a Dissertation Research Initiation Grant agrees to provide a one-page progress report on the status of research activities and a financial accounting. Progress reports are to be addressed to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Studies, and may be emailed to Heather Decker, [email protected]. Reports need to be received by June 1 for awards made in the fall semester, and December 1 for awards made in the spring semester.


JUNE 30 – if award is received in the fall semester
DECEMBER 30 – if award is received in the spring semester.

  • Award winners will be recommended by the Faculty Council’s Committee on Graduate Studies and Research Policy to the Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Studies and awards will be announced as quickly as possible after the closing date.
  • All applications will be evaluated equally on the following key criteria: (1) clarity of the problem statement/research question; (2) appropriateness and quality of the methodology to address the research question(s); (3) quality of the presentation of the research activity significance and its connection to appropriate literature; (4) justification of requested funds.

Any application not meeting all the criteria will not be reviewed by the committee.

Application Submission: The application cover sheet, research plan with budget, and a letter of reference must be submitted as a complete packet electronically in an Adobe .pdf format.

Send submissions to: [email protected]