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Project Description Questions

Applicants must answer five project description questions.

Question 1: Describe your research question/hypothesis or research objective. That is, what will be the focus of your investigation? [approximately one page, single-spaced]

The formulation of a developed research question, hypothesis, or research objective is the single most important characteristic of a successful proposal. There are three major guidelines that applicants should follow:

  1. The research question, hypothesis, or objective should be narrowly focused and ask “why,” “how,” or “what” about an issue of significance to anthropology. Do not present a vast research topic as the object of investigation; instead, develop answerable questions (or testable hypotheses) in the context of the larger research topic.
  2. Research questions should not be presented as if the answer were already known. Applicants need to demonstrate that the proposed research will answer (or test) the question/s (or hypothesis).
  3. Applicants should also be realistic about what can be achieved. Many applications fail because they assert that the research will answer such a wide variety of questions that the investigation may not answer any single one fully and carefully.

Question 2: How does your research build on existing scholarship in anthropology and closely related disciplines? Give specific examples of this scholarship and its findings. [approximately one page, single-spaced]

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 of research. Be explicit in showing how your research will expand on previous findings. The foundation prioritizes work that is theoretically driven and question 2 allows you discuss the theoretical framework that has 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 and demonstrate how your work fits into current theoretical 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 3: What evidence will you need to collect to answer your research question? How will you go about collecting and analyzing this evidence? [approximately one page, single-spaced]

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.

All Applicants should provide a timeline for their research. Applicants should also demonstrate that the plan for conducting the research can be managed in the allotted time and with the available funds. A feasible research plan with clearly defined procedures is much better than one so broad that it seems impossible to accomplish within the limits of the time and funding available.

If the research is to be conducted in phases, applicants should provide a timeline and justify why separate trips to the field are necessary. Applicants should 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 does it fund follow-up trips to the field to verify or augment data, etc.

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 4: Describe your training and preparedness for this research (examples: language competence, technical skills, previous research, and any other relevant experience). Describe any work you have already done on this project, and/or how it relates to your prior research. If you are collaborating with other academic personnel describe their role/s in the project and the nature of the collaboration. [approximately one page, single-spaced]

In assessing a project the Foundation pays close attention to the researcher's preparation. Have the required language and/or other relevant skills been acquired? Have local contacts or academic affiliations been made? Has the applicant already carried out a pilot project? If so, what data/results are already available? Are there any safety or access issues involved with the fieldwork or other forms of data collection? If so, how will they be managed? What are the ethical issues involved with the research and how have these been addressed?

Question 5: The goal of the Wenner-Gren Foundation is to support original and innovative research in anthropology. What contribution does your project make to anthropological theory and to the discipline? [approximately half a page, single-spaced]

The Wenner-Gren Foundation defines anthropology in its broadest terms as a discipline that advances significant and innovative research about humanity's cultural and biological origins, development, and variation.

A successful application is one that emphasizes the contribution of the proposed research not only to the specific area of research being addressed but also to the broader field of anthropology. Applicants should be explicit about the potential contribution of their research to anthropological theory and debate in the broadest possible sense.


Return to Application Procedures page.