How to apply for a research grant to fund your studies
Applying for a reasearch grant is the first step to postgraduate study. Source: Shutterstock

If you’re planning to study for your PhD, or even a Master’s degree, you’ll likely want to apply for a research grant to help fund your studies. But how exactly do you do this?

Knowing exactly what to include in your research proposal, who to submit it to and when to apply won’t come easy for most of us, even if they are essential to studying for your postgraduate qualification.

Fear not, however, we’ve got you covered.

Decide on your research proposal

If you want to apply for a research grant, you’re first going to need a fully formed research proposal. If you are currently in education looking to go onto further study, you can ask your current professor to help you with this. If not, don’t worry too much, you can still write it yourself.

The main thing a research funder wants to understand is the purpose and impact of your research. You need to convince them your research is worth investing into and they will get high ROI.

Finalising your proposal is the first step of applying for funding. Source: Shutterstock

This means you need a clear idea of the topic you are researching, an understanding of why you’re are studying it, and an estimate of the impact your research will have on society, the industry or the academic community.

Bear in mind, your funder will want to benefit from your research, so ensure you are choosing bodies within your field and that will see the value of your proposal.

Identify relevant bodies that might fund you

After fine-tuning your proposal to something you are genuinely passionate about, you can begin finding suitable research funders to make your study abroad dreams a reality – be wary of doing this step before finalising your proposal, or you may end up studying something that can be funded but you don’t genuinely enjoy.

Unlike with most university courses, where you study is likely to be determined where you can get funding. If you are committed to studying in a particular part of the world, only bother looking for funding bodies in these areas, but the more flexible you are, the more funding you can apply to.

Google is your friend when finding suitable funders. Source: Shutterstock

Most countries have research and development funds, so these can always be lucrative funders. Corporations in the field may also have a budget for research, and universities themselves can sometimes offer funding.

It’s also worth looking if governments, universities or businesses are advertising funded research, as the projects they may be investigating could overlap with yours.

Funding bodies will have established criteria on how to go about applying for a grant. This can be found on their website, and differ from body to body. A quick google of funding agencies in the area your in should bring up these pages. It’s worth taking time to read the different application criteria to see:

  • If your research fits in with their funding criteria
  • Your proposal meets their application guidelines.

The longer your list, the better for potential funders and thus, the better chance you have of receiving funding.

Submit your grant proposal

Once you have identified some potential funding bodies, you can begin submitting your proposal.

This involves tailoring your research plan to fit the investor you are writing to and making your research relevant to them.

Time is of the essence here, and you should spend as long as you need ensuring you have adequately met all the criteria they need. This might include budget, long-term and short-term impact, a progress timeline showing a which point you will complete key milestones and any added support you may need.

Some applications may be made online, while others may be written or require a face-to-face meeting.

To ensure you can start your research in a timely fashion, you should apply at least two months before you intend to begin your studies.

You can also follow your proposal up with an email to further explain your passion for contributing to the field. This will help you to stand out against other applicants and reinforce your commitment to your studies.

Wait for the response

Once you have formulated and submitted your proposal, you must then do the hardest part of all – wait for a decision. This can be nerve-wracking, especially if you applied online without a chance to speak to the funding bodies directly.

You are likely to hear back the same way you applied – however, some investors may prefer to speak on the phone to discuss the criteria of their funding and what is expected of you.

There is no objective timeframe as to how long you may be waiting to hear back, but it can be useful to check when the application closing date is, or when you said you would be starting your studies. This can provide a benchmark as to when you will hear, so you’re not unnecessarily panicking the entire time.

If you have any questions about student finance or postgraduate education, please email us at and we will do our best to help.

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