Student Academic Grants and Awards

Carson Undergraduate Research Grants: FAQs

  1. A "research grant" sounds like something for scientists; what if I'm a painter, or a philosopher?
  2. The project is supposed to lead to a definite product, but what does "product" mean? Do I write a paper?
  3. How do I go about finding a grant sponsor?
  4. What is the sponsor's role?
  5. What if my sponsor isn't a Willamette faculty member?
  6. What if my research will cost more than the $3,000 maximum award?
  7. What are "personal expenses"? How do I determine how much to budget for it?
  8. My project involves interviewing and surveying people. Do I need approval, and how do I obtain it?
  9. What if I'm not an expert in the area of my grant proposal?
  10. What if I get turned down?

1. A "research grant" sounds like something for scientists; what if I'm a painter, or a philosopher?

The Carson Grants are intended to further intellectual development; almost any well thought out project that entails creativity, inquiry and exploration in pursuit of an idea will be considered for funding. Research, in this instance, is broadly conceived. Your project, however, must lead to an intellectual product: a paper, presentation, exhibit, performance, etc.

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2. The project is supposed to lead to a definite product, but what does "product" mean? Do I write a paper?

Past projects have led to public lectures and demonstrations, recitals and performances, art exhibits, video presentations, and yes, papers. Copies of papers, of artwork, and CD's are some of the final products on file in the Office of Student Academic Grants and Awards. You are also required to do a presentation or performance for the Willamette community as part of your Carson Grant.

Each year the National Conference on Undergraduate Research hosts hundreds of undergraduates from colleges and universities across the country, who present scholarly papers, stage poster presentations and art exhibits, and engage in theatrical and musical performances. The deadline to submit presentation proposals and abstracts is October 6. The Office of Student Academic Grants and Awards will pay the registration fees for Willamette students who present at the conference.

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3. How do I go about finding a grant sponsor?

Talk with your academic advisor and other faculty in the field of your project as a starting point. Your advisor may be a logical choice, but if your project is multidisciplinary or outside your major field, you will probably wish to consult other faculty or even professionals outside Willamette. Even if none becomes your sponsor, they will help you to refine and focus your ideas, and may suggest other, useful contacts and resources.

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4. What is the sponsor's role?

Sponsors are expected to take an active role in guiding students through the completion of the project. Once you have found your sponsor, work with him or her to develop your project, including framing and crafting the proposal.

If your project involves collaborative research, you may work closely with your sponsor throughout the project, or meet weekly to discuss the specific stages of research. In many cases, however, your sponsor will help you get started by directing you to resources, suggesting people to interview, and then turn you loose. Your sponsor should always be available, though, to provide you with additional guidance and final critiques.

In every case, your project is your own, designed and carried out by you. If you receive a Carson Grant, you are not to be a research assistant for your sponsor (and such proposals are not likely to receive funding).

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5. What if my sponsor isn't a Willamette faculty member?

While your sponsor could be a member of the CLA, Law, Education, or Atkinson faculty, he or she could also be faculty at another institution, or someone in business, government, or a social agency: anyone with expertise in the area of your research. In fact, outside sponsorship is a way to involve the community in Willamette's activities.

If you do have an outside sponsor, explain who the person is and the nature of their expertise as part of your application. Additionally, you should include a letter of support from a member of Willamette's faculty, who is acquainted with your project and your choice of sponsor. Outside sponsors receive the same compensation as faculty, and are expected to submit the same reports.

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6. What if my research will cost more than the $3,000 maximum award?

You should be mindful of this as you develop your project budget. Past recipients have sometimes combined their awards with funding from other sources. If your project depends on additional resources, the amount and source of the funds should be made explicit in your proposal.

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7. What are "personal expenses"? How do I determine how much to budget for it?

The personal stipend is what you pay yourself to do your research. You can use a personal stipend to cover living expenses while you conduct research, in lieu of job wages.

How much you budget for personal stipend depends on other factors: the cost of equipment or supplies necessary to do your research, possible travel expenses, whether you intend to pursue your project full-time, and if you have additional sources of income. Calculate your monthly expenses and go from there. Keep in mind that a maximum of $2,500 is allowed for personal expenses.

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8. My project involves interviewing and surveying people. Do I need approval, and how do I obtain it?

Any research that involves people or animals carries ethical responsibility. Whether in a laboratory setting, or with questionnaires or interviews, their welfare, rights and privacy must be respected and protected.

If your project is funded, you will need to apply for approval through the Institutional Review Board at Willamette, which reviews all research proposals involving human or animal subjects to ensure they adhere to ethical standards.

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9. What if I'm not an expert in the area of my grant proposal?

Even if your project is in your major field, you most likely will not have a great deal of experience in the specific area of your grant proposal. The Carson Grant's purpose is to foster such experience, and allow you to explore questions and ideas that pique your curiosity and encourage personal intellectual development.

The key to a successful proposal is to show that you have the intellectual capability and can demonstrate sufficient background knowledge to carry out the project.

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10. What if I get turned down?

Don't take it personally, and don't give up! Many grant recipients do not receive funding the first time. Competition for Carson Grants is strong, and many deserving projects cannot be funded.

If you applied and did not receive a grant as a sophomore, you can apply again as a junior. Use the opportunity to rethink, retool, and revise your proposal. Or, use your proposal as a basis for applying for outside grants.

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