ACADEMIC YEAR RESEARCH GRANTS (AYURG)

AYURGs provide up to $1,000 to pay for your research expenses to do an independent academic or creative project, in all fields of study, under faculty supervision. The project must be connected to an independent study or thesis seminar for at least one quarter during the academic year. Independent research grants center around a research question you seek to answer through the proposed methodology; you should be involved in multiple aspects of the research process including data collection, analysis, and synthesis of results (regardless of what methodology is used to answer the proposed question). Many students conduct a portion of their projects over winter or spring break (for example, traveling to collect data), and they enroll in an independent study in the quarter afterwards to complete their project. You have until the end of the academic year to complete your project.

Since some AYURGs are connected to a thesis seminar, you should note that an AYURG proposal will not be the same as a thesis proposal. You will be writing for a new audience – the URG Review Committee. You can meet with an advisor to learn how to make these types of revisions. Applications center on a two-page, single-spaced research grant proposal (1″ margins, Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11), and proposals that do not meet these formatting expectations will not be considered by the review committee.  We realize that writing a grant proposal is a new experience, and we have many resources (details below) to help teach you this new skill.

Research expenses can be any costs associated with the research: lab materials, travel to archives or field sites, study participant compensation, or something else – you decide. If you travel internationally, you can request up to 50% of your airfare in addition to the $1000. The money may not be used toward wages for you, tuition, program fees, or expenses normally incurred during regular coursework. Grants may not be used for the purchase of “durable equipment” such as cameras over $100, or for the purchase of books or other materials available from libraries.

 COVID19 IMPACT

All grant proposals should indicate in their methodology section how current or potential COVID restrictions will be addressed.  Examples could include a remote option if in-person parts of the project become impossible.  The grant committee will not be able to approve any proposal without articulated COVID planning.  We have created a new resource to help you think through Research Methodologies and Potential COVID Considerations.

DEADLINES

Deadlines for the 2020-21 academic year are as follows:

  • Tuesday, October 13 (11:59 PM CST)
  • Tuesday, November 10 (11:59 PM CST)
  • Tuesday, January 19 (11:59 PM CST)
  • Tuesday, February 16 (11:59 PM CST)

Before you submit, please review the Academic Year URG Submission Checklist!

Eligibility
Student Eligibility

Eligible Applicants:

  • All current Northwestern University undergraduates (including SPS students working towards completion of an undergraduate degree and NUQ students)
  • Students who have not previously been awarded an AYURG through the Office of Undergraduate Research

If you already received an AYURG from the Office of Undergraduate Research, you may be eligible for a second grant through the Academic Year URG Advanced program.

Ineligible Applicants:

  • Undergraduates at other institutions
  • Northwestern students in advanced degree programs (including students who are in BS/MS programs who have completed the undergraduate degree requirements)
  • Seniors applying to conduct projects after graduation
Independent Study Requirement

To receive the AYURG, the student must take an independent study, honors thesis, or other capstone course during the academic year in which they receive the grant. It is not required that the student register for the course before submitting their proposal, but they should plan their course load to accommodate it. Students cannot retroactively apply for funding if they completed an independent study in a previous quarter.

Many students ask our office what it entails to complete a research independent study. Essentially, when you enroll in an independent study course, the time you would typically spend in class or doing homework will be spent actively working on your research project. Independent studies can occur in your major/minor (they often satisfy upper level elective requirements, and they can help you progress towards an honors thesis), or they can occur in a department more closely aligned with your faculty mentor’s area of study (if this is not the same as your major/minor). Many research projects are interdisciplinary and could work as independent studies in more than one department.

To enroll in an independent study, you need to look at what the department requirements are. Every department has their own ways of handling it– the course numbers vary as well as eligibility requirements (some are restricted to juniors or seniors), who can serve as the faculty “teacher” for the course (sometimes it has to be a faculty member affiliated with the department), and expectations for completing the course. If you want to know what it looks like for your department, we recommend googling “independent study” AND “northwestern” AND “department name”, and you should also talk to the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). Typically, enrollment in these kinds of courses requires approval from the DUS, and you need to submit paperwork to describe what kind of work you will be completing through the independent study.

Developing Your Application Package
Independent Research Projects

This program is for new, original research only. The development of new, original research ideas occur differently across fields. In some fields, the student is the sole intellectual driver of the project idea, whereas in other fields the development of the research question is more collaborative and the student may be working on a smaller, independent research question within a larger research effort towards a common goal. 

Group projects are allowed. Each additional member of a group provides you with an additional page to your proposal.  For example, a two person group is allowed a three page proposal.  However, you will need to explain why this project needs to be done with multiple people. Group members collaborate to create a single grant proposal that clearly articulates the different roles, responsibilities, and qualifications of each member.  Each group member submits the same proposal, and each person is eligible for a $1000 grant. We recommend that all groups work with an Office of Undergraduate Research advisor.

Choosing A Faculty Sponsor/Advisor

Identify your research interests and explore the existing research that has been done on the topic by talking with lots of faculty members. Many faculty have wide-ranging interests and skills, and you may find the ‘perfect’ advisor in an unexpected place. You may have a faculty sponsor from another academic institution, but you must request a guest netID from the Office of Undergraduate Research at least a week prior to the grant deadline for this to be logistically possible. 

Faculty members can help you explore your research interests and develop a good project. You will identify a faculty sponsor/advisor, and this person will help you develop your application materials and oversee your project if you are awarded the grant. It is expected that the faculty will serve as an expert in the field to help you develop project methodology and to help you determine the correct literature to review for the proposal/project development. 

If you find that a number of faculty members might be appropriate advisors for your project, carefully consider the specific contours and timeline of your project:

  • Can they help you with the aspects of the research that you believe will be especially difficult or problematic?
  • Will this faculty member be available to assist you throughout the duration of your project?
Drafting Your Proposal

The Office of Undergraduate Research does not expect any student to know how to write a grant! We meet with students in one-on-one advising appointments, where we regularly guide students through the process of writing a grant. We also have a lot of resources to help you get started. 

Proposal Basics

The writing required for a research proposal is not like other, more familiar, forms of writing. In particular, it does not work like an essay where you weave your ideas in and out of the different sections.  Grant proposals are very segmented; each section is its own little pod.  In general, you complete the section and never revisit the content in it – you simply move on to the next argument you have to make.

For this particular grant, there are four main sections that should be included within the two page limit. Our Proposal Writing page explains these sections in depth.

Formatting

Two pages, 1″ margins, single spaced (*GoogleDocs defaults to 1.15 spacing! You must change it manually!)

Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11 font

No headers, footers, or cover pages

Additional Resources

ANNOTATED SAMPLE GRANT PROPOSALS: This resource includes a description of common types of research methodologies, COVID considerations as they apply to specific methodologies, and a database of 25+ annotated sample grant proposals. We recommend you read annotated sample grants based on which methodology is most applicable to your project, not based on which sample grant is closest to your field of study.

THE ADVENTURES OF GRANT MAN WEBSERIES: This web series follows three students as they struggle through the process of creating a project connected to what they want to research— plus, you’ll get to meet the mysterious Grant Man, who seems to have all the answers (and a cowboy hat to boot).

LIBRARY RESOURCES: This page introduces you to helpful library resources for developing your project and your application. It includes a video overview on how to make the most of the library, links to subject librarian contact information, and books to help you get started.

Drafting Appendices

All AYURG applications will require a budget. The inclusion of other kinds of appendices listed below will depend on your particular project. Works cited and appendices do not count towards the two page grant limit. However, all components of your grant application will ultimately be uploaded to the application portal as a single PDF.

Budget

A budget is required for an AYURG (but not a SURG). You won’t have to turn in receipts (but keep them in case we ask). If applicable for your field of study, you can have your grant paid directly to your lab/department, so they can use it towards indicated expenses. You should include all expenses that are necessary and relevant for your research. Expenses might include travel costs (airfare, food, lodging), laboratory supplies (slides, chemicals, mice), compensation for interviewees or survey respondents, or photocopies. The money may not be used toward wages for you, tuition, program fees, or expenses normally incurred during regular coursework. Grants may not be used for the purchase of “durable equipment” such as cameras over $100, or for the purchase of books or other materials available from libraries.

For further guidelines including a budget template, see Creating a Budget.

Human Subjects (CITI training and IRB application)

Research involving any kind of interaction with living people (human subject research) requires a separate application for IRB approval. If you are unsure whether your project requires IRB approval or not, please reach out to the IRB office for a consultation. Only the IRB office can determine if you need their review (in other words, your faculty sponsor does not have the authority to determine whether IRB approval is needed).  You will also want to consider the ethical implications of your project, so please review these Principles of Ethical ResearchPlease see our Human Subject Research page for in depth information on this process.

You must have submitted your IRB application at the time of your AYURG application. You do not need full IRB approval to submit your AYURG application, but it must be in process.  Your IRB submission number is a required part of your AYURG application. If approved for funding, your award is conditional upon your forwarding to the Office of Undergraduate Research documentation from IRB showing their full approval. 

Travel

Research can be conducted wherever you’d like: on campus or almost anywhere around the country or the world. When you apply, you can request extra money (half your airfare) for international projects (not in your home country); please read up on travel restrictions and approval process for students who are interested in conducting research internationally. If you request funding for international travel, include screenshots of the average cost of roundtrip flights to your destination in an appendix.

Many students conduct their projects over winter break or spring break. Doing your project during a quarter or over the entire academic year is fine too. Including a specific travel itinerary and research agenda in an appendix is important to demonstrate the feasibility of your plan to the faculty review committee. 

Project-Affiliated Appendices

FIGURES: Figures are NOT required. Should you choose to include a figure or preliminary data, it should:

  1. Be referenced in the two page proposal itself. You need to signal to the audience that there is supplemental information that follows.
  2. Be complementary, but non-essential. First and foremost, you are evaluated based on the content within the require two pages. Figures should enhance your textual explanation, but not be critical to the audience’s understanding of your proposed work. 
  3. Include a figure title and figure legend to provide context for the audience. Be sure that other aspects of the figure are clearly labeled, like graph axes, scales, or key to symbols.
  4. Contain only information relevant to your proposal. Figures should not raise more questions than they answer. You may need to adapt figures to narrow the context of what you are trying to demonstrate to the audience, which will prevent you from needing to explain additional information not relevant to your particular project.
  5. Be cited if it is taken or adapted from another source.

PROOF OF SUPPORT: You need to demonstrate to the audience that your project is feasible. If you are relying on a collaboration, a partner organization, a key contact person, or specific subjects who have already agreed to interviews, you should include screenshots of your conversation as proof. If your project will not happen without AYURG funding (and you are worried about asking people to agree to a project that is not yet certain), you may indicate in your email that you are applying for funding to support your work, but proof of support is required for the application.

INTERVIEW/SURVEY QUESTIONS: If your methodology uses interview or survey questions, the questions MUST be included in an appendix. This demonstrates to the committee that the data you plan to collect will sufficiently allow you to answer your research question (and there is alignment between these two components). For example, if your research question is about X, it should follow that the questions you pose to your subjects are ALSO about X (and not about some unrelated topic Y).  

READING LISTS: If your methodology requires lots of reading (e.g. literary/composition analysis and some creative art projects), you should include a reading list to convince the committee that you have narrowed your focus to a specific starting place. However, you must do enough preliminary reading of material prior to grant submission to sufficiently argue the scholarly relevance of your proposed work in your background section.

ARCHIVAL COLLECTION PLAN: If your methodology requires collection of archival materials, you should include a list of what sort of content you plan to collect. This step is particularly important for proof of project feasibility when you are asking for funding to travel to the archive itself and only have a brief window of time for data collection.

Citing Scholarly Sources

Works cited formatting varies across disciplines, so you should use a citation format that is common in your field of study. If you are not certain what citation format is most common for your field, please leverage the Library’s Citation Style Guides and contact your Subject Librarian for additional guidance. 

We strongly recommend you use citation management software to help you with this process. The Library has instructions and tips for each of the following tools on their website, and they regularly schedule workshops to teach you how to best use these tools:

  • Zotero is a free, open source bibliographic manager. It works with the Firefox web browser or in a standalone version that works with other web browsers. Zotero is compatible with GoogleDocs.
  • EndNote is a software program designed to store and manipulate bibliographic information. It is free to all Northwestern students, faculty and staff and can be downloaded from NUIT
  • Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network.

 

Application Submission & Review Process
Using the Application Portal

Please read all application instructions prior to submission. The application portal can be a bit finicky, so we proactively try to address common student issues like uploading errors.  You will need your faculty sponsor’s netID to apply (and we provide instructions on how you can find this). We recommend you begin entering the information (other than your proposal upload) well in advance of the deadline, so you can familiarize yourself with the system and prevent a panicked midnight submission. 

Lastly, there is a brief required survey that finalizes your application submission. This survey will not impact your submission in any way (and in fact, the faculty review committee does not have access to this data). The Office of Undergraduate Research uses your survey responses for program evaluation and to advocate for funding.

Faculty Endorsement and Faculty Role

Your faculty sponsor/advisor must submit an online endorsement of your research grant proposal within 24 hours after the application deadline. Unendorsed projects will not be considered. Make sure you give your faculty sponsor enough warning of the deadline.  You should discuss your project with them ahead of time, and they should have a copy of your final proposal draft. Do not leave it to the day before to ask someone to give you an endorsement! Specific guidance for faculty sponsors can be found here.

URG sponsors agree to serve the following roles:

1. A URG sponsor should meet with you during the development of the project to help ensure you are reading the relevant literature and potentially meeting with other faculty with connections to the idea.  The sponsor will also help you develop a methodology that is both disciplinarily sound and feasible given the student’s skills and time frame.

2. A URG sponsor will enter an endorsement for the application within the online submission system.  The endorsement is not a formal letter of recommendation; instead, the sponsor will be asked to answer four questions related to their thoughts on 1) the project, 2) the student’s independent contribution and the faculty’s mentoring plans, 3) the student themselves, and 4) other potential funding sources.

3. A URG sponsor should be available as a resource to you during the grant period.  Research rarely works out according to plan, and we want you to have expert advice when you are grappling with the inevitable problems that will come up.  Specific arrangements should be decided by the student and faculty.

4. A URG sponsor will approve your two-page summary report, submitted after the completion of the project. The grant cannot be closed with this endorsement. The URG sponsor will receive an automatic email once you submit your report.

Application Evaluation

During the application process, you will indicate one of the following proposal categories: (1) Arts, Humanities, & Performance, (2) Social Sciences & Journalism, or (3) Natural Sciences & Engineering. Selecting a proposal category impacts which faculty review subcommittee most likely reads your proposal. If your proposal is at the interface of several fields (e.g. music composition relying strongly on computer science methods, or developing an app but evaluating user needs through social science methods), select the proposal category that best aligns with the methodology at the heart of the project such that faculty review committee experts can evaluate the approach and not just the output.

When the project is evaluated, it will be read by at least three faculty members (typically from the fields indicated by your proposal category) who serve on our faculty review committee. The committee looks for quality projects, and they can award as many grants as they want. We call it a merit-based, non-competitive process.

Decision Notification Process

For AYURGs, students receive notification of award approximately two weeks after the deadline. If you are not selected for funding, you will get explicit feedback from the faculty review committee about what your proposal was missing. If there is still a subsequent AYURG deadline, you are invited to revise your proposal and resubmit your application. The process is designed to help students learn from the experience, if they are not initially selected, rather than penalize them. For this reason, we strongly encourage you to apply early in the year to take advantage of this process should you need it!

  Frequently Asked Questions:

What percentage of proposals are funded?

About 50-60% of AYURG proposals receive funding as first-time applicants. If you are rejected, you will get explicit feedback from the faculty review committee about what your proposal was missing. If there is still a subsequent AYURG deadline, you are invited to revise and resubmit your proposal to address this feedback. Applications who are complete the revise and re-submit process have an even higher chance of success.

I got a grant. How do I get paid?
Can I change my project once I've started?

Change is a naturally occurring part of the research process; objectives and the means of obtaining them can shift.  If you need to significantly change your project, you should seek prior approval from the Office of Undergraduate Research and your faculty sponsor/advisor. Unapproved changes may result in a breech of the terms of the grant, including repayment of grant funds.  Check with the Office of Undergraduate Research with any questions.

I'm confused by the final report. What do I need to do?

Your audience is your faculty sponsor/advisor. They will offer the final endorsement required of this grant.  The idea is to paint a clear picture of your grant findings and your experience conducting research.  The report is two pages (no need to get into too much citation or referencing).

  • PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Please briefly describe your project.
  • PROJECT PROGRESS: If your actual project differed from what you initially proposed, please describe how.
  • PROJECT RESULTS: Please describe any key findings/results and what you expect to happen next with your project.
  • ACADEMIC/ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT: Please describe any skills or experiences gained that you feel have been important in your academic or artistic development.
  • PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT: Please describe any personal growth that you have experienced during the grant period.

More information can be found here: URG Final Reports

I've finished my research project. What are my options for publishing, presenting, or building on my findings?

The best person to answer this question is your faculty sponsor/advisor.  Fields can run very differently, so you want to talk to see what is best in your area.  However, here are some definite options:

Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition

Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium

Conference Travel Grants

Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal

Office of Fellowships