Want to apply for an IDEA Grant?
Beatrice Dain and Jacob Bloch both applied for and were awarded IDEA grants in spring 2020. Below they describe how they crafted their successful applications.
Applying to IDEA Grant can be daunting – you need to write a project proposal and personal statement, compile a budget, and request 2 letters of recommendation. But before you get caught up in the components of the application, it is important to take a step back and think about what you are interested in studying.
I applied for the IDEA grant in conjunction with my Honors in the Major thesis, which helped to solidify my thoughts for an application. The grant application guidelines are very clearly laid out; they explain what is needed for each component of the application and how candidates are selected. Be sure to carefully read through all of these criteria and review their example applications to see how other students have structured their applications in the past.
The process started for me with developing a well thought out research plan. I suggest you try to answer these questions in an outline before you start writing your application. They helped guide me in the flow and layout when writing my proposal.
- What/who: What will you investigate? Has anyone else conducted research on this specific topic or is this a completely new line of research?
- Why: Why is your research important? What implications might your research have today? What makes you excited about this particular project?
- When: Describe when you plan to conduct your research. IDEA grants are for the summer but give a more detailed explanation of your timeline. Will you go at the beginning of the summer and then review all of your scanned documents? Or will you go at the end of the summer and spend the beginning of the summer conducting preliminary research in preparation for your trip? Either of these options are okay, just be sure to explain why you chose the particular timeline that you did.
- Remember you have to conduct at least 8-12 weeks of research if you receive a grant.
- Where: The next step is to look up places to conduct research at. What archives will you visit? Be as specific as possible. Why this particular archive over others? What collections will be used in your research? Here it is helpful to look at the finding aids and outline the specific folders/sub-series that you will use. Have you already visited this archive or spoken with an archivist there? Be sure to mention this as it shows you are passionate about the work beyond the grant application and that you will have contacts during your visit.
- What challenges do you foresee? It is okay to acknowledge challenges and then flip them into a positive. For example, is the collection poorly organized or is the finding aid not detailed? Mention this and explain how the funding will enable you to afford a longer visit to the archive for more in-depth research.
For you budget, you should make an itemized list of your expected costs. The review committee understands that these costs are estimates, but it is important to be as specific as possible. Before you begin your itemized list, briefly explain how you will use your time. For me, the itemized subheadings included travel (airfare, travel to and from the airport, and metro fare), food and lodging (outlined the estimated cost of each meal and the cost/night of a hotel/Airbnb), research expenses (a high-quality scanning app and museum fees), and lost income. Do not be afraid to include lost income in your budget! The IDEA grant is designed to fund your research and part of that is not needing to work at another job.
In my case, I wasn’t able to visit the archive I had based my entire project proposal and funding upon. However, I am lucky in that the archive scans certain materials for remote researchers. Scanning can be very expensive ($0.85 per page), so this is definitely a financial item you should include in your application funding.
This should showcase how your past experiences have prepared you to conduct research for your project. It is important to show how you have used your time before and at FSU to prepare yourself for this project. Also, explain how this project will benefit you in the future – be it at graduate school, professional school, or in your career. For structure, I would follow the past, present, future model. Start with your experiences in the past that led to this moment, talk about your current experiences, and then show how this research will contribute to your future. Again, the focus should be on what past experiences make you uniquely qualified for this funding? How did these past experiences help you develop skills that you can use in your research?
The second most important part aside from writing your essays is to edit them. If you know other people applying to the IDEA Grant, you can edit each other’s applications. If you have a thesis director or a faculty advisor, ask if they would be willing to look over your application. It’s important to have someone review your application who knows you well and someone who knows you less well. The person who knows you well will be able to tell you if your voice is heard through the application, while someone who isn’t as close will tell you if your stories/experiences are written in a way that makes sense to an outsider. Reviewers can also help if you are over the word count. Reviewers are good at identifying the parts of your application that are most important and others that are less important.
Whenever you have someone review your paper, it is still important to keep your voice throughout the application. After all, the application should be yours. Also important to an application is ensuring that your excitement about your research comes off the page. While grant applications should be formal, they should also express how interested and dedicated you are towards the subject.
Before You Submit:
Finally, give yourself a couple weeks to work on your application. When you finish your application, leave at least 5 days to let your application sit before you look at it again. I find that when I write something and read it back to myself immediately, I unconsciously add words or thoughts that aren’t written down. If you leave your writing for a while, you are more likely to notice these mistakes. Also read your application out loud or have a friend read it to you. Does it feel like your voice? Are there certain parts that don’t make sense? Hearing your writing is really helpful to understand how the application committee might see and read your application too.
The IDEA grant application process is quite easy and streamlined if your initial research plan is specific and thorough enough.
Also remember that there are other sources of funding out there besides the IDEA grant! For Honors in the Major, there is the Bess H. Ward Honors Thesis Award, which grants up to $750. Sometimes archives have funds for visiting researchers. It is important to put a lot of energy into your IDEA grant application, but also to have alternative options if you are not selected.
Beatrice received an IDEA grant to work on the role of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in the resettlement of refugees in Latin America during the 1930s and 40s, Jacob to conduct research on the development of businesses, especially the Lehman Brothers and Polaroid, in the 1930s and 40s. Due to the restrictions imposed by Covid 19, Jacob had to decline the grant in the end.