Dissertation Grants
Call for Proposals

The next application deadline will be
announced soon!

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the AERA Grants Program announces its Dissertation Grants competition. The program seeks to stimulate research on U.S. education issues using data from the large­ scale, national and international data sets supported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), NSF, and other federal agencies, and to increase the number of education researchers using these data sets. The program supports research projects that are quantitative in nature, include the analysis of existing data from NCES, NSF or other federal agencies, and have U.S. education policy relevance.


AERA invites education­-related dissertation proposals using NCES, NSF, and other federal databases. Dissertation Grants are available for advanced doctoral students and are intended to support the student while writing the doctoral dissertation. Applications are encouraged from a variety of disciplines, such as but not limited to, education, sociology, economics, psychology, demography, statistics, and psychometrics.

The Governing Board for the AERA Grants Program has established the following four strands of emphasis for proposals. Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals that:

  • Develop or benefit from new quantitative measures or methodological approaches for addressing education issues
  • Incorporate subject matter expertise, especially when studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning
  • Analyze TIMSS, PISA, or other international data resources
  • Include the integration and analysis of more than one data set

Research projects related to at least one of the strands above and to science and/or mathematics education are especially encouraged. Other topics of interest include policies and practices related to student achievement in STEM, contextual factors in education, educational participation and persistence (kindergarten through graduate school), early childhood education, and post-secondary education. The research project must include the analysis of data from at least one of the large­-scale, nationally or internationally representative data sets such as those supported by NCES, NSF, and the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the National Institutes of Health. The data set(s) of interest must be available for analysis at the time of application (public­ or restricted­-use files are permissible). Additional data sets may be used in conjunction with the obligatory federal data set. If international data sets are used, the study must include U.S. education.


Applicants for Dissertation Grants may be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents enrolled in a doctoral program. Non-­U.S. citizens enrolled in a doctoral program at a U.S. institution are also eligible to apply. Applicants should be advanced doctoral students at the dissertation writing stage. Underrepresented racial and ethnic minority researchers are strongly encouraged to apply.


Awards for Dissertation Grants are up to $20,000 for 1­-year projects. Grants are not renewable. In accordance with AERA's agreement with the funding agency, institutions may not charge indirect costs on these awards.

In addition to the dissertation grant award, grantees will participate in a 2­-day conference in Washington, DC. The conference will provide unique professional development experiences for grantees, including highly qualified speakers on topics of education policy and career development, presentations of dissertation research by former grantees, and interaction with the Governing Board and federal agency staff. This conference is specifically for AERA grantees, and travel expenses will be paid by AERA.

Grantees will present their research at a poster session during the AERA Annual Meeting and will participate in a one­ day capstone workshop. Grantees must include travel funds (up to $1,000) in their grant budget to attend the AERA Annual Meeting held in Spring.

Application Requirements

All information must be entered and uploaded electronically by the deadline. Late applications and supporting materials will not be accepted. All uploaded documents must be submitted as .pdf files. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit proposals in advance of the deadline.

You may complete your application in one sitting, or you may save your work and return to it later. However, documents that have been uploaded into "browse" boxes will not be saved from one session to another. When all information has been entered and you click the "Submit Proposal" button, your information will be transmitted to AERA and you will receive an email notification that your application has been received.

The AERA Dissertation Grant Application includes the following components:

Applicant information
Applicant enters name, contact information, and background information.

Research abstract
Enter the abstract of your proposed research project (250 words maximum). You may cut and paste the abstract or type it into the text box.

Contribution to the field
Briefly describe the potential contributions this research will make to the field of education (200 words maximum). You may cut and paste or type into the text box.

Enter the proposal title, amount of funding requested, start and end dates of project, data set(s) used (e.g., ECLS­K, ELS:2002, IPEDS, CCD, AddHealth, etc.) Proposals must include the analysis of at least one nationally or internationally representative data set supported by NCES, NSF, or other U.S. federal agency (such as Labor, Census, NIH, etc.)

The proposal is one uploaded document that must be submitted in PDF. Proposals must be self­-contained within the specified page limitations. Internet Web site addresses (URLs) may not be used to provide information necessary to the review because reviewers are under no obligation to view the Internet sites.

The Dissertation Grant proposal must include the following 7 components in one PDF document. Proposals should be organized in the order listed, and page limitations must be observed. Please include your last name and first initial in the uploaded document's name (example, Doe_J_proposal.pdf).

1. The proposal narrative should be no more than four pages in length, single-­spaced, in 12 point type with 1" margins. Approximately two pages should be devoted to the problem statement/policy issue, theoretical framework, review of current literature, and research questions. The remaining two pages should include the methodology, contributions to policy, and dissemination plan. The methodology section should describe the proposed data set and criteria for selecting the data file, sample (e.g., groups used, exclusions to sample, and estimated sample sizes), the selection of variables and rationale for using them, and analytic techniques. Applicants must present a clear and well thought out model that identifies the selected variables and specifies the analysis to be done. The brief dissemination plan should include the intended audience and relevant journals where the research findings might be submitted for publication and professional meetings where the findings might be presented. (4 pages maximum)

2. The conceptual model(s) that outline the framework or design of the study. (2 pages maximum)

3. The statistical model(s) or formulas, appropriately defined, that are connected to the conceptual model. (2 pages maximum)

4. Variables list. A categorized one or two­-page list of the variables from the NCES, NSF, or other data set(s) that will be used in this research project. (2 pages maximum)

5. Reference list. A list of all references included in the text or in the models. Use complete citations, including titles and all authors. (no page limit)

6. Budget. There is no specific template for the budget. It may be a simple 2­-column format or a more complex spreadsheet. Note that institutions may not charge overhead on AERA Dissertation Grants. (1 page maximum)

7. Applicant's curriculum vitae (CV). (2 pages maximum)

Letter(s) of Recommendation
Enter the name and institutional affiliation of the applicant's faculty advisor(s) who will write letters of recommendation. The letters must be sent separately, either electronically or in hard copy. One substantive letter of support is required from the applicant's primary faculty dissertation advisor that includes an indication of the applicant's current progress toward the degree and expected date of completion, and of the student's potential for success in his or her anticipated career path. If the applicant is from a discipline other than education, a second letter of support from a faculty advisor who has an education research background is also required. Although this second letter should focus mainly on the applicant's qualifications, research experience and potential, it should also include a brief paragraph on the advisor's own education research experience. An exception to the second letter requirement will be made if the applicant's primary faculty dissertation advisor is very experienced in education research. In that case, one letter from the primary faculty dissertation advisor is required, and it should include a brief paragraph on the advisor's own education research experience.

Letters may be sent electronically to the AERA Grants Program Manager at grantsprogram@aera.net or in hard copy but must be received by the deadline. Note that applicants are responsible for ensuring their letters of recommendation are received by the deadline. You are encouraged to ask your advisors early for letters. If you wish to send the Letter(s) of recommendation in hard copy, they may be sent in the mail to:

AERA Grants Program
1430 K Street NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20005

Hard copy letters must be received by the deadline. The letter should be on institutional letterhead with signature in a sealed envelope with the advisor's signature over the seal. If you have questions or technical problems, or if you do not receive a confirmation message with the proposal submission date and ID number, please contact grantsprogram@aera.net.

Application Deadlines

Proposals for Dissertation Grants will be reviewed twice a year, once in the fall and once in the winter. The deadline for proposals for the current cycle is:

The AERA Dissertation Grant application will be available soon! The next application deadline will be announced soon!

Due to the large volume of applications received, the AERA Grants Program is unable to provide individual feedback on unfunded proposals.

Application Submission

Proposals must be submitted electronically. Applicants should read carefully the entire Call for Proposals prior to starting the online submission process. Applicants will be asked to enter specific information in text boxes and upload documents that have been saved in PDF. The deadline for submission is 11:59 pm Pacific Time. Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals in advance of the deadline. Submission must be made electronically on the AERA Dissertation Grant submission web page.

Contact grantsprogram@aera.net if you have questions regarding the application or submission process. NOTE: all awards are contingent upon AERA's receiving continued federal funding.

Important Additional Information Regarding Dissertation Grants

Considerations in the development of the proposal

Applicants are strongly encouraged to read Estimating Causal Effects: Using Experimental and Observational Designs, by B. Schneider, et.al. prior to submitting a dissertation grant proposal.

Selection bias is a recurring issue during the review process and should be addressed in the proposal.

All proposals must include the analysis of data from at least one of the large-­scale, national or international data sets supported by NCES, NSF, or other federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Census Bureau, or the National Institutes of Health. Additional large­-scale data sets may be used in conjunction with the obligatory federal data set. If international data sets are used, the study must include U.S. education. The data set(s) of interest must be available for analysis at the time of application (public­ or restricted­-use files are permissible).

Applicants should choose research topics that can be supported by the samples and variables contained in the proposed NCES or NSF data set(s). Applicants should also be familiar with the specific data set's User Guides and/or Manuals (e.g., use of design weights and design effects).

Applicants should be familiar with statistical methods and available computer programs that allow for sophisticated analyses of the selected data.

The proposed topic must have education policy relevance, and the models to be tested must include predictor variables that are manipulable (e.g., course work in mathematics, instructional practices used by teachers, parental involvement).

Applicants who plan to model achievement test data should define the achievement construct and identify the kinds of items to be used to operationalize the research project. Also, when planning to use existing sub-scales, the applicant should describe why these sub-scales are appropriate and how they will be applied. Existing sub-scales provided by NCES may not be appropriate for the proposed construct.

Applicants should adequately deal with the curricular content when it applies.

Applicants are encouraged to capitalize on the capacity of large-­scale data sets to look at diverse populations.

The AERA Grants Program has funded more than 400 grant proposals to date. Applicants are encouraged to review the lists of Funded Research Grants and Funded Dissertation Grants to ensure that their proposed project has not already been done.

A researcher may submit only one proposal to the AERA Grants Program for review at any one time.

Proposal dates

AERA is flexible on research project dates, depending on what is best for the applicant. The earliest date a grant may start is approximately three months following the application submission. Alternatively, an award start date of several months after the review date may be requested.

Funding restrictions

Dissertation Grantees may not accept concurrent grant or fellowship awards from another agency, foundation, institution or the like for the same dissertation project that is funded by the AERA Grants Program. If the awardee is offered more than one major grant or fellowship for the same project for the same time period, in order to accept the AERA Grants Program Dissertation Grant, the other award(s) must be declined. Awardees may accept RA or TA appointments at their doctoral institutions and may have additional employment.

If the applicant is employed by a contractor of NCES or NSF, the dissertation project must not be directly related to the applicant's work responsibilities. An additional letter from the applicant's employer is required as part of the application submission, stating that the dissertation project is separate from the applicant's job duties. This letter must be sent electronically or in hard copy by the deadline.

Evaluation criteria

Evaluation criteria will include the importance of the proposed policy issue, the strength of the methodological model and proposed statistical analysis of the study, and relevant experience and research record of the applicant. Additionally, the review criteria will include the following: Is the policy issue clearly defined? What is already known on the issue? How does the methodology relate specifically to the policy question? Does the applicant know the data set? Does the analytic plan fit the question and the data? Is the applicant qualified to carry out the proposed study? Reviewers will be members of the AERA Grants Program Governing Board. Due to the large volume of applications received, the AERA Grants Program is unable to provide individual feedback on unfunded proposals.

Reporting requirements

All Dissertation Grantees will be required to submit a brief (3­6 pages) progress report mid­-way through the grant period. A final report will be submitted at the end of the grant period. The final report may be either a copy of the dissertation or an article based on the dissertation research. The article must be of the quality and in the format for submission to a journal for publication.

Funding disbursement

Funding will be linked to the approval of the progress report and final report. Grantees will receive two­-thirds of the total award at the beginning of the grant period, one­-sixth upon approval of the progress report, and one­-sixth upon approval of the final report. In most cases awardees may choose whether to have funds sent directly to them or have the funds channeled through their institutions.

Visit the AERA Grants Program Website at http://www.aera.net/grantsprogram.

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