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Project Description Questions

All applicants must answer five project description questions.

Question 1: Describe the purpose of your research.  What will be the focus of your investigation? What is your main research question?  What other questions will you need to answer to address it? 

Please note: We will be evaluating your application in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.  You should formulate your research objectives clearly and carefully.  Find a focus that will allow you to address your questions through a range of different avenues. [Limit: 1000 words]

The single most important characteristic of a successful proposal is a well-developed research question, hypothesis, or research objective. You should follow these three major guidelines:

  1. Carefully formulate your research question, hypothesis, or objective.  Ask “why,” “how,” or “what” about an issue of significance to anthropology. Do not present a vast question as the object of investigation; instead, develop answerable questions (or testable hypotheses) in the context of the larger research topic.
  2. Do not present your research questions as if the answers were already known.  Demonstrate that the proposed research will answer (or test) the question/s (or hypothesis).
  3. Be realistic about what you can achieve.  Many applications fail because they claim their research will answer a wide variety of questions without convincing us that their investigation will answer any single one fully and carefully.


Question 2: How does your research draw inspiration from existing scholarship in anthropology and other disciplines? Whose findings will you be building on? Give specific examples of the various lines of work with which you are in dialogue and which you are seeking to advance. [Limit: 1000 words]

It is important to clearly demonstrate that you have a good knowledge of the anthropological literature, as well as other disciplinary literature, relevant to your topic. Be explicit in showing how your research will expand on previous work. Wenner-Gren prioritizes research that is theoretically driven, and Question 2 allows you discuss the broader conversations that have guided you in formulating your research questions. It is not enough to just cite literature in answer to this question. Please provide a clear and comprehensive discussion of the issues at stake and demonstrate how your work fits into current debates in the field.

Primatologists should note that to be competitive they should clearly demonstrate how their research is derived from and will contribute to anthropological debates dealing with humanity's cultural and/or biological origins, development, and/or modern variation. It is not sufficient to merely cite primatological literature and primatological debates in answer to this question.

Question 3A: Research methodology: Plan A.  What evidence will you need to collect to answer your research question? How will you go about collecting and analyzing this evidence?   Here, we are interested in the best-case scenario: a description of the research activities you will use if you are able to travel and meet with research participants and collaborators safely and ethically in person. [Limits: 1000 words]

Applicants are strongly advised to clearly and explicitly demonstrate that the evidence gathered and the analytical procedures proposed will realistically support the research goals expressed in Question 1.

Provide a timeline for your research. Demonstrate that you can complete your planned activities in the allotted time and with the available funds. Come up with a feasible research plan with clearly defined procedures.

If you are planning to conduct the research in phases, provide a timeline and explain why separate trips to the field are necessary. Please note that the Foundation does not fund trips home to consult with supervisors/colleagues, to carry out preliminary data analysis or to attend conferences, nor do we fund follow-up trips to the field to verify or augment data, etc.

If you have already received funds from other sources and are applying to Wenner-Gren for either top-up funds or funds to support subsequent phases of the research, you must provide a strong justification for your research.  It is not enough merely to say that you will use the additional funds to collect more data.  Explain clearly and completely why you are unable to achieve your research objectives with the funds already in hand.

The Foundation supports projects using all appropriate methods of data collection and analysis commonly employed in anthropology, including both qualitative and quantitative methods, laboratory, archival and/or museum research, and fieldwork involving archaeological, survey, or ethnographic techniques.

Question 3B: Research methodology: Plan B.  In addition to the plans laid out above, we need to know you have developed a strategy that will allow you to address your research questions should the pandemic continue or worsen.  If you are unable to travel or meet in person with research participants and collaborators, how will address your research questions?  What methods will you use to ensure that your research is safe and ethical should Covid-19 restrictions remain in place?  [Limit: 1000 words]

See above.  In addition to explaining your methods and strategies, please provide us with any information we might need to assess whether they will be ethical and safe in the context in which you plan to work.

Question 4: Why are you the right person to carry out this project?  We are interested in how you have prepared yourself for this research.  Describe your language competence, technical skills, previous research, and any other relevant experience.  Describe any work you have already done on this project and how this research relates to other research you have done.  You may be working with academic collaborators.  If so, please describe their role in this project and how it will relate to yours.  We are also interested in how you became committed to doing this work.  Please tell us about your background and your relationship to the community or communities affected by your work. [Limit: 1000 words]

In assessing your project, we will also pay close attention to your preparation. Do you have the required language skills and technical expertise needed for your project?  Who are your collaborators?  What will be their role?  Have you sought the advice of local scholars and/or arranged academic affiliations?   Have you carried out a pilot project? What results did it yield?  

We will also take into account your background.  How did you come to your project and why are the issues you plan to explore so important to you?  What connections do you have to the individuals and communities affected by your work? Why are you in a good position to navigate the ethical concerns raised by your research?  Do you have a network of local contacts?  How will you address any safety or access issues that arise?

Question 5: What contribution will your project make to anthropology? Please note that the Foundation's mission is to support innovative research and researchers.  We are interested in funding scholars who will do more than simply add to an existing body of knowledge.  Describe how your project will bring new insights to the field as a whole and help the discipline live up to its full potential. [Limit: 500 words]

The Wenner-Gren Foundation defines anthropology in its broadest terms as a discipline that advances knowledge about what it means to be human.  A successful application is one that emphasizes the proposed project's contribution to the broader field of anthropology. Be explicit about what your research will add to wider anthropological conversations and how, by funding your project, we will be building capacity in the discipline as a whole.


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