DPDF Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Student Applicants

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Eligibility and Selection Criteria
Summer Research and Financial Support

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

How and when can I apply for the program? You must apply directly to the program using the online application available on the SSRC website by October 15, 2014, 5:00 p.m. EST. Late applications will not be accepted.

Does the DPDF require a nomination? No. This is an open competition. Students apply directly to the SSRC with no campus nomination required. Similarly, fellowship awards go directly to fellows, not through their institutions.

Is this program open to international students? The DPDF Program is open to all students, regardless of citizenship, who are currently matriculated in a PhD program at an accredited institution in the United States.

I will have begun a PhD program a month before the October application deadline. Am I eligible to apply? You are eligible to apply to the DPDF program while in your first year of a PhD program only if you will have completed two full years of graduate study by the end of June 2015. Generally, this means that you will have already completed at least one full year of graduate study in a master’s or equivalent program related to your current research interests prior to entering into your current PhD program.

I will be transferring into a new PhD program this September from another PhD program. Am I eligible to apply? You are allowed to apply to the DPDF Program after you have transferred into your new PhD program as long as you will have completed at least two years of graduate study by June 2015 and your combined progress between the old and new PhD programs still fits within the time frame outlined in the eligibility requirements. If you are unsure of your eligibility as a transfer student, please contact DPDF staff.

I am enrolled in a JD/PhD, MD/PhD, or other joint doctoral program. Am I still eligible to apply? Yes, applicants enrolled in joint doctoral programs are eligible for the DPDF student competition, provided that they are at the required stage in their PhD programs to apply (see eligibility requirements).

I will be taking my comprehensive/qualifying exams before the end of the fellowship period in September 2015. Am I eligible to apply? Yes. You can apply to the DPDF Program as long as you will not have completed all other pre-ABD (all but dissertation) requirements for your department, including defense of your dissertation proposal, before the end of the fellowship period. However, you must be on track to complete all other pre-ABD requirements no later than the end of June 2016.

I have incomplete courses remaining on my transcript. Am I eligible to apply? Yes, students may apply for a DPDF fellowship while having incompletes in courses taken prior to the upcoming spring semester. However, if you are offered a fellowship, you must complete all courses from prior semesters by the beginning of April 2015. If you fail to do so, the offer of a fellowship award will be withdrawn.

What funding in support of dissertation research disqualifies a student from applying to the DPDF Program? Students who have sought funding in order to implement a research design or plan for their dissertation research are not eligible to apply to the DPDF Program. We consider such dissertation research funding to include awards, such as grants or fellowships, that provide funds sufficient to support research for three months or more and that are intended to support research at the ABD stage of a student’s PhD career. If you are unsure whether an application you have submitted or if funding you have received falls into this category, please contact DPDF staff.

What funding for research does not disqualify a student from applying to the DPDF program? Students who have applied for funds to support predissertation research for less than three months (e.g., for exploratory summer research) or participated as a trainee or research assistant in someone else’s research project (e.g., of a senior faculty member or organization) are still eligible to apply to the DPDF Program. If you are unsure whether funding you have applied for or received falls into this category, please contact DPDF staff.

I have applied for funding to support long-term dissertation research, but I won't hear back until after the DPDF application deadline or until after the DPDF fellowship period ends. Am I still eligible to apply to the DPDF Program? No. If you have applied this year or in previous years for funding to support your dissertation research, you are not eligible to apply to the DPDF Program. Even if your application for a major funding opportunity has been found ineligible or incomplete, or if you feel that you submitted a low-quality application with little chance of being funded, you are still not eligible to apply for a DPDF award.

Can I use the fellowship to write my dissertation? No. The Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship does not support dissertation writing. The fellowship is intended to support pre-ABD doctoral students who are conducting exploratory research to develop their dissertation proposals.

Summer Research and Financial Support

Can I use the DPDF fellowship to carry out my already established dissertation research plans? No. While we hope that any summer investigations supported by the DPDF Program will contribute to future dissertation research, the primary purpose of the program is to help students explore, test, and design dissertation research proposals that can be approved by their departments, secure funding, and guide future investigations. If the goal of your summer research is to get a jump start on already established research plans, then you should not apply to the DPDF Program. Your application will be evaluated with regard to how likely your summer research plans will contribute to refining and strengthening the design of your proposed plans for future dissertation research.

Does the DPDF Program restrict geographically where fellows may conduct summer research? No. The DPDF Program has funded predissertation research in all areas of the world. However, your application must address any potential difficulties or challenges you may face regarding security, access to information, or visa requirements, as necessary to carry out your proposed research plans. If you receive a DPDF award, you will be responsible for securing visas and any other documents required for entry or permission to conduct summer research in your anticipated research site(s).

Is there a minimum length of time required for summer research? Yes. You are required to conduct at least six weeks of summer predissertation research away from your home institution between the spring and fall workshops.

May I propose to conduct research at more than one site? Yes. Applicants may propose to conduct predissertation research at more than one site, but at least six weeks of your summer research must be conducted at one or more sites away from your home institution.

Do I need to have already made contacts at my proposed research site(s) when I apply to the DPDF Program? To help assure that your proposed summer research will be as productive as possible, we recommend, but do not require, that prior to submitting their proposals to the DPDF Program, students make any formal or professional contacts that might facilitate their investigations at their proposed research sites.

If I am selected as a fellow in the DPDF Program, will I automatically get funds for summer research? No. You must specify in your application your summer research plans and an estimated budget of research expenses. You must also explain how your plans will contribute to the development of your dissertation research proposal. If you are selected as a fellow, you will be asked to submit an updated budget for research funds before the amount of an award will be determined.

What research expenses are eligible for funding? The DPDF Program may award funds for airfare, lodging, transportation, basic living expenses away from your home institution, and limited research equipment and supplies. The program will not award funds to cover expenses related to university fees, courses, tuition, or conferences, or living expenses at your home institution (e.g., storage costs, rent, or mortgage).

I plan on applying / have applied for other predissertation research training or research support, but I will not hear the results until the spring. Can I still apply to the DPDF Program? Yes. You may apply for other predissertation training or funding support for exploratory summer research, but you must inform DPDF staff if and when you receive any such awards. You may be able to keep awarded research funds, but the DPDF Program reserves the right to reduce the level of its funding to you should the total amount you receive exceed necessary research expenses. Should you receive an offer to participate in both the DPDF Program and another predissertation training program that will take place during the DPDF fellowship period, you must promptly notify DPDF staff, who will coordinate with the other program to determine whether you will be able to participate in both.


If I get a fellowship from the DPDF Program, do I have to attend both workshops? I have or might have a longstanding obligation that coincides with the dates of one of the workshops. Yes. If awarded a fellowship, you must attend both workshops in their entirety. If you know that you will be unable to be present at one or the other, you should not apply to the DPDF Program.

When and where will the workshops take place? The spring and fall DPDF workshops take place at venues in the United States in June and September. Dates for the 2015 workshops are listed on the program’s DPDF Program Cycle Timeline page and in the application itself. Locations will be posted on the DPDF Program Cycle Timeline page as they are confirmed.

Do I have to pay my own way to attend the workshops? No. If awarded a fellowship, your necessary expenses to participate in the workshop, such as airfare, hotel, meals, and ground transportation, will be paid for by the DPDF Program. DPDF staff will make these arrangements for you or, in special circumstances, offer you a maximum sum with which you can make your own arrangements.


Do I need to complete the application all in one sitting? No. You may return to the application portal as many times as necessary to complete your application until the deadline. Be sure to save your work after you finish each section of the application. Once you have submitted your application, you will no longer be able to revise it.

I have taken community college, summer, study abroad, or other courses outside of my current PhD institution, but I did not receive a degree from the institution that provided them. Do I need to upload a transcript from this institution? No. It is not necessary to upload such transcripts. You only need to upload transcripts from schools you have attended or currently attend for study toward a graduate degree. However, you may want to refer in your application to any nondegree trainings or certificates that are relevant to your ability to carry out your dissertation research plans.

Do I need to upload transcripts from my undergraduate institution? No. You should only upload transcripts from schools you have attended or currently attend for study toward a graduate degree. However, the educational background section of the application form will ask you to list your undergraduate institution and basic information about your undergraduate degree.

One of my graduate school transcripts is from a foreign institution and is not in English. Should I upload the original transcript, an English translation, or both? You are required to upload both the original transcript and an English translation of the transcript.

Can I ask more than one faculty member to write a reference form for my application? If I request more than one reference, can I choose which one should be included in my application? We require one reference form submitted by your primary advisor or, if you do not have an advisor, the faculty member who can best vouch for your academic progress, research skills and interests, and potential to benefit from participation in the DPDF Program. If more than one referee submits a form, only the first reference submitted through the online portal will be reviewed with your application.

The person I want to ask to write my reference form is on sabbatical or has limited Internet access. Can I request a deadline extension for this recommendation? No. All application materials are due by the application deadline.

Will the DPDF Program accept reference forms submitted by facsimile, hard copy, or e-mail? No. All reference forms must be submitted through the online application portal by the application deadline.

Will the DPDF Program accept a reference letter by my advisor instead of the reference form in the online portal? No. All applications must include the DPDF reference form completed by your advisor and submitted through the online portal, not a separate letter. Without the DPDF reference form, your application will be considered incomplete.

I use Mac OS X, and I am having difficulty uploading my documents. What should I do? There is a known problem specific to Mac OS X machines with uploading files over a secure connection. You should be able to upload files using either of the following options: (1) Apple’s browser, Safari, or (2) a computer not running OS X.

I am encountering problems when I try to “View/Print Application” on the application portal. What should I do? Make sure that your browser's pop-up blocker is not interfering with the SSRC website. If you are working in Firefox, try working in Safari or Internet Explorer. If you continue to have difficulty, please click on the “Help” link within the application portal and fill out the technical support form.