RGSO Dissertation Support Competition

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Funding Available

Approximately 15-20 awards each semester of up to $2,000 each for research-related expenses OR $5,000 for release time. (note that students in humanities Ph.D. programs are welcome to apply for a release, which would be in addition to the release they already receive as part of the Humanities Initiative)


For support of research-related expenditures associated with a dissertation, such as:

  • travel to specialized locations/collections (e.g., archives, libraries, interview sites) (this should not be used for conference travel)
  • payments to subjects/informants
  • photocopying or microfilming costs at archives or libraries
  • phone and/or postage expenses necessary for the research (e.g., surveys)
  • lab or other expendable supplies unavailable through departmental resources
  • special software unavailable through university resources (e.g., foreign language word processing packages, specialized statistical packages)
  • specialized texts unavailable at Penn State or through inter-library loan
  • For release time from regular teaching assistantship responsibilities for one semester (Fall or Spring).

Funding will not be provided for purposes of a stipend, tuition payments, dependent support, or for typing or reproduction of the dissertation itself.


Candidate must have an approved dissertation proposal (i.e., must be ABD) by the end of the semester in which the application is made, and, normally, must be in residence.

Humanities students must take their humanities release before they are eligible for the RGSO Dissertation Competition Release. Those who have yet to take their humanities release are still eligible for the RGSO research funding.

Students who previously applied and did not win are encouraged to reapply.

Previous winners of release time may apply again for research funding, and previous winners of research funding may apply again for release time. Students may only win research funding once and release time once through this program.

Note:  Only students whose home department is in the College of the Liberal Arts are eligible to receive an award under this program.

Application Guidelines

The sections of the Dissertation Proposal application are as follows:


  • General Information - competition semester, purpose of support (research or release time), student name, email address, director of graduate studies
  • Dissertation Information - title and semester the proposal approved
  • Narrative - description of the thesis, accessible to non-specialist readers, limited to 1000 words
  • Work plan - 500 words or less
  • Research Expenses - (for those not applying for release time) an itemized budget is required
  • Funding from other sources
  • Proposed timing of requested expenditures
  • Listing of any past or pending financial support
  • Vita - limited to 500 words (approximately 2 single-spaced pages)

Please advise your director of graduate studies after you have submitted the electronic request so it may be reviewed.

Funding Decisions

A committee of the directors of graduate studies in the College will evaluate requests; funding decisions will be announced by the end of the semester.

Deadlines: September 30 and March 3

Special Note

As a condition of receiving a dissertation release, students must participate in the following spring Graduate Exhibition unless their dissertation research has already been presented at the Exhibition.

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