Advice on writing a successful funding application

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Making a funding application can seem daunting. What does your potential funder need to know about you and your project? What will make your application stand out from the crowd? Most importantly, how can you ensure that your application will secure funding for your research project?

Below some of our postgraduate students who have successfully applied for research project funding share their top tips for writing funding applications.

First things first…

Start early– funding applications may not be due in until later in the year, but it’s never too early to start working on writing yours!

‘My main advice would be to start working on your draft early. I went through many different versions and it took me a while to figure out what the application should look like.’

Oliver, German, Film and Television Studies

‘Start early, take your time and be patient.’

Jamie, Scottish, 17th century Scotland, religion and politics


Look for advice– approach potential supervisors now. Ask their advice on your proposal, and on your funding application. Don’t leave it until your application is in your funder’s hands, and hope for the best. Iron out any potential flaws in your application now by taking advice from an expert in your field.

‘Do not be afraid to seek the opportunity to reach your goal. Ask advice, talk to students past and present, talk to staff members and people outside of the academy, and most of all, believe in what you are proposing.’

Zanne, Scottish, Theology & Religious Studies

‘Get as much advice as possible from your peers. Lean heavily on your Masters supervisor or a scholar you have developed a working relationship with. The insight that they can provide is priceless and the strength of your application will be improved immensely from such discussions.’

Joe, Scottish, American Political History

‘Listen to your supervisor’s experience in this area!’

Clare, Scottish, Theology and Religious Studies


Clarity is important– a clear, succinct, well-organised proposal will inspire your funder with confidence in your project, and in you.

‘Make it obvious why your topic is valid for research, why you are the best person to conduct the research, and how your research is going to affect a wider audience beyond academia.’

Katharina, Austrian, Film Festivals (Film & TV)

‘Be clear. Don’t try to use language which might alienate others in your field. Most of all, be clear as to how your research could impact the public or the state of research in your field.’

Zanne, Scottish, Theology & Religious Studies

‘Keep your proposal simple. Remember it is being assessed by a wide range of academics across various disciplines, so do not assume specialised knowledge.’

Stephen, British, Film Studies

‘Try to make sure you answer all possible questions the committee might have – why you (skills/experience)? Why here (supervisors/facilities)? Why this research project (relevance/outcomes)?’

Hannah, British, Translation Studies

‘Remember your application is being read by those outside your subject area, so make it as clear as possible.’

Clare, Scottish, Theology and Religious Studies


Learn how to sell yourself Communicate your enthusiasm for your subject. Have confidence in your material, and use your application to highlight your positive qualities and your achievements.

‘Have confidence in your research and let that shine through in your proposal. Assert its significance and the bearing it may have on past and future scholarship.’

Jamie, Scottish, 18th Century Scottish History

‘Let your enthusiasm for your subject shine through. It’s infectious.’

Andrew, British, Medieval History ( Pope Leo IX )

‘Make it about yourself. It is easy to fill the word limit with a standard – almost robotic – application narrative. Instead, allow your own profile to shine through (or in marketing language, ensure you establish your own unique selling point early on).’

Joe Ryan-Hume, Scottish, American Political History


Consider the impact of your research carefully Your funder wants to know what return your project can bring beyond academia. Help them to see the potential in your work by attending to the ‘Research Impact’ section of your proposal.

‘Pay due attention to the application section on ‘public impact’. From what I can gather, the content of this section is not an afterthought in the evaluation process, but a central concern of funding bodies.’

Jamie, Scottish, 18th Century Scottish History

‘Considering the impact of your proposed research is crucial. This area can often be neglected in favour of focusing on the fundamental ideas that underpin your proposed thesis.’

Hannah, British, Histories of gender, violence and sexualities


If you don’t succeed, try again if your first application is unsuccessful, try not to be too

downhearted. Take the opportunity to check back in with your intended supervisor, take a fresh

look at your proposal together, and work out what steps you can take to make a successful

application during the next funding round.

‘If at first you don’t succeed try again. Focus on what is new about your research.’

Andrew, British, Medieval History (Pope Leo IX)

‘Try to have a back-up plan and do not be disheartened if your application is unsuccessful: it doesn’t mean that you can’t apply again next year.’

Jamie, Scottish, 17th century Scotland, religion and politics

Find out more about the research scholarships available at the Glasgow by visiting our website.

Here at the College of Arts, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for your 2017 applications!

Post Author: Heather Murphy

Heather works in the College of Arts Graduate School. She is responsible for the marketing of postgraduate programmes and works closely with PhD student interns on the College's social media.

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