Our books

Become a Fan

« Teaching a course on the meaning of life | Main | Mastery Learning and Argument Mapping in the Classroom (An Interview with Javier Hidalgo) »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


In her book The Professor Is In, Karen Kelsky talks about grant-writing and gives a nice template for how to set it up. I won several grants with it in graduate school and have recommended it to many people.

Grant-writing is less about the “big idea” and the content of it than it is about the way you frame everything (in other words, it’s just like getting an article published!). There is a group of people who have money; you want that money. Your job is to convince them to give it to you. Most of the time the people who control the money will not have any idea what any of the people are talking about in their applications, but they will be able to notice when ideas or proposals sound interesting and compelling. The people who get the money are the ones who write proposals like that.


I've managed to get an NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) grant as well as some others, and while retroactively determining what made one's submission successful is basically impossible, one thing I tried to do was avoid jargon.

For the NEH grant, and I think many others, the committee evaluating is not made up of just philosophers. So it's important to identify the problem you're addressing in language that's interdisciplinarily accessible. If you can demonstrate that what you're doing is interesting to a group of non-specialists, I think you're partway there.

Then another piece is your results. It's not so much about whether it's a book or a series of articles, but what those publications will do. How do you hope to intervene in the existing conversation? Your "deliverables," to use the grant-writing jargon, are the publications, but the committee wants evidence that they will have some impact.

The OP says grants seem to go to people who "can justify [to] others that some (minor) issue needs years of pondering when in reality an efficient scholar could write an article or two on the same topic quite fast." If you can turn around a paper and don't need a grant, wonderful! But grants can give people funds to take a semester from teaching which will let you do research. And believe it or not, some people actually need to do research, translation, even social science experiments, and other time-requiring activities to do good philosophy.

And if you are aiming to intervene in a conversation, grant money can fund conferences and workshops where you start that process early. While perhaps solo armchair philosophizing makes sense for some people, many grant committees will want to see evidence that the grant writer is going to engage with other people throughout the process of writing, researching, and publishing. Having a concrete plan for how you'll contribute to the broader academic community is also a good idea.

While I'm not 100% on Karen Kelskey's work, I do think her grant writing template is a nice starting structure if you're stuck. But, of course, do pay attention to the specific grant call!


If writing & publishing papers is that easy ("All I have to do is to look for articles in the journals and write my own ideas in the same way."), then so are grant applications. All one has to do is to look for successful grant proposals and then write a proposal in the same way. At least I have learned much from studying other's grant proposals. Many people publish their proposals on their websites or Academia. Moreover, one can become a reviewer or a panel member.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Job-market reporting thread

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Job ads crowdsourcing thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory