Global Religion Research Initiative

Global Religion Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships

The Global Religion Research Initiative (GRRI) of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society (CSRS) at the University of Notre Dame (IN, USA) will be awarding up to 24 one-year doctoral dissertation fellowships in the social sciences over four years to advance the study of global religion. Each fellowship will provide $28,000 ($23,000 in salary and $5,000 for travel and minor research funding). The next round of applications is for the 2020-2021 academic year. The Global Religion Research Initiative is funded by the Templeton Religion Trust of Nassau, Bahamas.

Fellowship Goals

These doctoral dissertation fellowships are intended to promote among promising, young North American scholars the social scientific study of contemporary religions around the globe, especially religions in the “global south,” beyond the North Atlantic world (i.e., not the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe). They also intend to help better integrate the study of religion into mainstream social sciences.

Fellowship Timing

The dissertation fellowships seek to support the “writing year” of graduate students’ dissertation work — not the earlier phase of project design or data collection and analysis (see the Project Launch program for research funding for new projects, nor dissertations near completion and defending, nor (actual or de facto) post-doctoral periods. The funding period for the Round 4 competition will be the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters. Applications must be ABD by the time funds are distributed. Please see the calendar on the About page for more details about the timing of the GRRI competitions.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligible applicants are graduate students (a) currently enrolled in good standing in U.S. and Canadian social science doctoral programs (b) who are one year away from the “writing year” of their dissertations (anticipated defense in spring or summer 2021) and (c) whose work fits the selection criteria listed below.

“Social sciences” here includes sociology, political science, anthropology, economics, and psychology; dissertations in religious studies departments are eligible if their methodologies are fundamentally social scientific. Prospective applicants in other departments (e.g., areas studies) should inquire with GRRI staff about their possible eligibility (at

All appropriate social science methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative, are eligible. (Quantitative studies must go beyond merely identifying statistically significant variables to naming, describing, and testing the causal mechanisms believed to explain those associations; ethnographic studies must include enough mixed-methods evidence to contextualize their findings).

Studies using traditional methods in the humanities — analyzing texts, telling purely historical narratives, interpretive studies of works of art and performance — are not eligible. Potentially fundable proposals may involve innovative interdisciplinary work with the natural sciences (e.g., psychology and neurology, anthropology and cognitive science) but at their heart must fundamentally speak to the mainstream of social sciences.

Please note that dissertation fellowship awards will be distributed to award recipients’ institutions. All funding will be awarded as salary and research supporting funding for fellowship recipients; no money will be paid as indirects or overhead, for tuition, fees, or for health insurance premiums to universities or colleges.

Selection Criteria

Global Religion Dissertation Fellowship proposals will be judged by a panel of expert reviewers. Successful proposals will involve dissertations that are:

  1. Focused on a contemporary religion or religions (or relatively recent cases, not on ancient, medieval, or early modern religions) in one of the following world regions:
    • Asia, including East, Southeast, and South Asia
    • The Middle East and Turkey
    • Eastern Europe
    • Africa
    • Latin America
    • The Caribbean
    • Pacific Islands
  2. Empirical, not purely theoretical
  3. Methodologically and analytically sound
  4. Well-grounded in and contributing to the development of important, discipline-appropriate theories and literatures
  5. Promising for producing the publication of a significant book and/or major journal articles
  6. Promising in their ability to address issues of importance within and influence and help integrate the study of religion into the mainstream of their respective disciplines

For a more elaborate list of evaluation criteria, click here. (Note: Depending on the volume of applications received for this fellowship, the GRRI may not be able to provide applicants specific ratings or feedback from the evaluation process.)

Application Requirements

Applications must include the following materials to be considered for funding:

  1. Online application: fill out and submit contact, applicant, and proposal information in the application portal
  2. Cover letter: two (2) pages (single spaced) briefly explaining the dissertation topic and research question(s), a project timeline outlining the plan for completion of the dissertation by spring/summer 2021, a brief budget narrative explaining how the (up to) $5,000 in travel and research support funding will be spent, why and how it fits this fellowship’s selection criteria, dissertation-committee faculty members, the dissertation publication strategy, expected dissertation defense date, and (post-graduate school) career plans or goals
  3. Curriculum vitae
  4. Writing sample (no specific length requirements)
  5. Official graduate school transcript
  6. Dissertation description or original dissertation proposal: include a concise, 6-10 page summary (exclusive of references, double-spaced) of the dissertation’s research question(s), scholarly significance, research design, data and methods, analytical approach, publication plan, etc. or else a 6-10 page version of the original dissertation proposal (if the dissertation work has gone according to plan)
  7. Proposed budget: download and complete the GRRI budget worksheet, and upload it with your online application.
  8. Confidential letters of recommendation: two (2), one from the dissertation chair and one from a second dissertation committee member — the letters must describe in specific terms (a) the dissertation’s quality, scholarly significance, and promise of influence; (b) the quality and promise of the doctoral student applicant; and (c) an explicit description of the stage of the dissertation in its development and progress. Letters of recommendation should be sent directly by their writers (not through the application portal) by email attachment to or as hard copy mailed to: Dr. Christian Smith, GRRI, 4060 Jenkins-Nanovic Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556, USA.
  9. Approval letter: A signed letter of approval from the applicant’s Research/Sponsored Projects Office indicating approval of the proposed funding, and agreement that the doctoral dissertation fellowship funding is exempt from indirect or overhead expenses at the applicant’s institution. (Sample approval letter can be viewed here.)

All application materials must be submitted in English. Applicants are responsible to submit all required materials by the deadline. Incomplete applications will not be evaluated for possible funding. Each researcher may not submit proposals to more than two GRRI programs in any given year.

Application Procedure

The application period is closed.

We will announce fellowship and grant recipients early in the Spring 2020 semester. Please contact with any questions about submitted applications.


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You’re already into
dissertation and you need a
year to
finish it.


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Not accepting proposals in 2019.


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Not accepting proposals in 2019.


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You want to collaborate
a colleague overseas
and need
to get rolling.


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You have an idea
for a
project but need some seed
to get it going.


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Not accepting proposals in 2019.