Graduate Research Fellowship - Frequently Asked Questions

These questions and answers will help you prepare your application for grant funds. Questions are broken into these six categories:

Before Beginning
Whom should I call with questions about the Graduate Research Fellowship Program?
For assistance with substantive issues related to NIJs Graduate Research Fellowship Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, send an email to

For assistance with substantive issues related to NIJs Graduate Research Fellowship Program in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, send an email to

For technical assistance with submitting an application, call the Customer Support Hot Line at (800) 518-4726.

Find out more about required forms and instructions for DOJ grants.

Successful applicants must agree to comply with additional requirements prior to receiving grant funding. Find out more about these requirements(pdf, 32 pages).
What is the Graduate Research Fellowship program?
The NIJ Ph.D. Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program provides awards for research on crime, violence, and other criminal justice-related topics to accredited universities that support graduate study leading to research-based doctoral degrees. NIJ invests in doctoral education by supporting universities that sponsor students who demonstrate the potential to successfully complete doctoral degree programs in disciplines relevant to the mission of NIJ (i.e., social and behavioral sciences, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Will a new solicitation be announced soon?
The GRF solicitation is posted once a year usually in the fall or early winter time. Potential applicants should register for updates on the website to be notified when the solicitation is released. Requirements of the solicitation will be provided at the time of release.
Who is eligible for a Graduate Research Fellowship award?
For the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the National Institute of Justice seeks applications from accredited universities in the United States who support doctoral students who have completed, or are near completion of, all Ph.D. degree requirements except the research, writing, and final defense of a dissertation. The institution must be fully accredited by one of the regional institutional accreditation commissions recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Universities are encouraged to sponsor doctoral students who are in the final stages of graduate study. Below are general guidelines for determining eligibility according to the program requirements criterion.

Although it is not necessary to have formally defended the dissertation prospectus at the time of application due date, the following must have occurred and be documented in the application:
  • The doctoral student must have completed all required course work.
  • The doctoral student must have passed qualifying comprehensive exams.
  • The doctoral student must be advanced to candidacy by the university.
By the award date, documentation must be provided indicating that the Ph.D. student's dissertation prospectus has been approved and successfully defended and the student has been advanced to candidacy by the university.

Failure to provide documentation of any of these requirements will disqualify an applicant.
Does a doctoral student's non-U.S. citizenship affect eligibility?
The official applicant is the university, not the student. Therefore, a Ph.D. student's foreign citizenship does not affect eligibility. Graduate Research Fellowship grant awards are made only to degree-granting educational institutions in the U.S. The institution of record must be fully accredited by one of the regional institutional accreditation commissions recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
What type of research does NIJ fund under the Graduate Research Fellowship Program?
Successful Graduate Research Fellowship applicants must demonstrate how their proposed dissertation research advances basic criminal justice knowledge, practice, and/or policy in the United States. Quantitative, qualitative, primary and secondary data analysis studies are encouraged. Special consideration will be given to applicants who use the most rigorous research methods applicable to their proposed research topic — such as experimental or randomized designs — to maximize the validity and reliability of findings.
Online Applications
How do I register so that I may apply?
The official applicant to the Graduate Research Fellowship Program is the sponsoring academic institution. Students must contact and seek the assistance of their university office of sponsored research or office of research, grants and contracts. Working with a qualified doctoral student (candidate) and his or her dissertation chair or advisor, the university or college office of sponsored research or research office must complete an application complete and submit all required accompanying forms, including:
  • Assurances.
  • Certifications.
  • Disclosures.
  • Privacy Certificate.
Find out more information about forms that must be submitted.
Can a university submit multiple applications for multiple Ph.D. candidates?
Who should be listed as the point of contact or principal investigator on the application?
If permitted by the university, the doctoral student should be listed as the Principal Investigator. If this is not allowed by the university, the student's dissertation chair should be listed as the PI with the student listed as key staff. The official representative for the sponsoring academic institution should be listed as the authorized representative.
What does the doctoral student need to provide their university or college?
The student must work with their university to complete an application and ensure all forms are submitted by the due date. Students must complete the program narrative section of the application packet and required appendices. They should then provide those electronic files to the sponsoring academic institution. Students should begin to coordinate with their advisor and their university early on to ensure that submissions occur before the due date.

In addition, students must work with their office of sponsored research to develop the application's budget, especially on items pertaining to salary, fringe and travel.
What information should the sponsoring academic institution provide?
The university must upload all documents, including required forms. We recommend that the number of application files uploaded on this Web site be limited in number. Each file should be labeled with what forms it contains (i.e., program narrative, appendices, required forms, and budget worksheet and budget narrative). Applicants are instructed to upload three separate file attachments in An example of acceptable organized attachments are:

File attachment 1: Program Narrative including the Abstract, Title Page, Table of Contents, Main Body, Appendixes (References, Data Archiving Strategy, List of Key Personnel, Resumes of Key Personnel, List of NIJ awards, Letters of Support, Timeline
- (one file)

File attachment 2: Budget Detail Worksheet, Budget Summary, and Budget Narrative
- (one file)

File attachment 3: Other required forms such as Protection of Human Subjects, Privacy Certificate, Geographic Area Worksheet, Assurances, Certifications, F&A Rate agreement
- (one file)
Should the start date be the date I submit my application?
No. The start date is the date you estimate that an award will be made.
About the Program Narrative
What should be included in the program narrative?
The program narrative is the student's dissertation prospectus, as approved by the student's committee. The narrative should include a title page, a study abstract, a table of contents, and the main body, which should include: purpose, goals, and objectives; review of relevant literature; research design and methods (a minimum 5-page description); analysis plan; implications for policy and practice; a dissemination strategy; and a bibliography or references.

The program narrative section must not exceed the specified page limit guidelines stated in the solicitation. Title page, abstract, table of contents, charts, figures, appendixes, and government forms do not count toward the specified page limit for the narrative section. NIJ will reject applications that do not comply with format requirements.
What should be in the appendices?
The application appendices should contain:
  • Bibliography/referenced.
  • Any tools/instruments, questionnaires, tables/charts/graphs, or maps pertaining to the proposed study.
  • List of names of the student's dissertation committee and their complete contact information to include: names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email.
  • Curriculum vitae, resumes or biographical sketches of student and his or her dissertation chair or advisor.
  • Dissertation chair or advisor's statement of support.
  • University statement of student progress in the current program of study.
  • A copy of the student's academic transcripts.
  • Project timeline and research calendar with expected milestones.
  • Human Subjects Protection Paperwork including Institutional Review Board (IRB) documentation and forms (see
  • Privacy Certificate (for further guidance go to
  • List of previous and current NIJ grants and contracts to applicant organization. Note: Applicant universities with a history of poor performance may not be considered for funding (i.e., failures to meet grant deadlines and reporting requirements or failure to comply with special conditions of awards).
  • Letters of cooperation/support or administrative agreements from organizations collaborating in the project, such as law enforcement and correctional agencies (if applicable).
  • List of other agencies, organizations, or funding sources to which you have submitted this proposal (if applicable).
About the Budget
What is the total amount available for this fellowship?
Successful applicants (i.e., accredited academic institutions universities in the U.S.) to the Social and Behavioral Sciences solicitation will be awarded a research grant up to $32,000 toward costs associated with the fellowship recipient's dissertation research.

Successful applicants (i.e., accredited academic institutions universities in the U.S.) to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics solicitation will be awarded a research grant up to $35,000 toward costs associated with the fellowship recipient's dissertation research.
Students do not receive awards directly. The academic institutions are ultimately responsibility for the administration of grant funds and for making periodic payments to the fellowship recipient. Also, please note that funds will not be paid in a lump sum, but rather disbursed over time as project costs are incurred or anticipated. In addition, the fellowship recipient is eligible for funding only during months of enrollment in a full-time program leading to the doctoral degree.
How much detail is required in the budget detail worksheet?
Students should work with their office of sponsored research to complete the budget detail worksheet and budget narrative.

The budget detail worksheet must be provided with an application and clearly show a breakdown of all costs associated with every allowable budget category. All proposed expenses must comply with the Office of Justice Programs' Financial Guide.

In addition, every budget category of expense listed in the Budget Detail Worksheet must be justified and explained in detail in a Budget Narrative. The narrative should be easy to follow and understand; be mathematically correct; and correspond with the information and figures on the Budget Detail Worksheet. The narrative should explain how costs were estimated and calculated. The narrative may include tables for clarification purposes and can be provided in a Word document.
What are allowable costs that can be included in my budget?
Graduate Research Fellowship grants primarily cover salary and fringe of the student (i.e., stipend). However, other allowable costs include study respondent incentives, recording or translation services, postage, telephone charges, printing/duplication costs, publication purchases, software/license and/or hardware purchases, travel expenditures and conference registration. Regardless of the expense, each category must show an itemized listing of expenses, how those expenditures were calculated, and justification must be provided for the expense.

Please note that the fellowship recipient is eligible for funding only during months of enrollment in a full-time program leading to a doctoral degree. In addition, the budget must be prorated according to the grant's anticipated start and end dates. The official grant end date must reflect the successful completion and defense of the student's dissertation with a copy of the student's dissertation submitted to NIJ no later than the grant's end date. Also, please be advised that any expenses incurred prior to 60 days of the grant's start date, cannot be reimbursed. For further explanation, see the Office of Justice Programs' Financial Guide.
Is there a cap on indirect costs?
Direct or indirect administrative expenses of the applicant university are not covered under the Graduate Research Fellowship Program.
What should be the grant's end date?
The end date of the grant must reflect the successful completion and submission of the student's dissertation to NIJ.
Required and Elective Documents
Can I submit an unofficial copy of my academic transcripts?
Applicants are encouraged to submit copies of their current academic transcript. The transcript should document current matriculation toward a doctoral degree. The submission of the transcripts is not required. Please see the current fiscal year solicitation for additional information on what an application should include.
Who should write the Statement of Progress letter?
Applicant universities are encouraged to submit a signed statement regarding the student's progress in the current doctoral program of study. This document is not required. If submitted, the statement of progress should not be submitted and/or signed by the doctoral student's dissertation on chair/advisor.
What should be in the advisor's letter?
The applicant's dissertation chair must submit a signed statement of support. This document is required. The letter of support should:
  • Evaluate the applicant's proposed project.
  • Describe the current status of the proposed work.
  • Outline any other outstanding work toward completion of the degree.
  • State the applicant's potential to successfully complete the dissertation.
The statement must also:
  • Describe the advisor's role in monitoring the project and present evidence of both the department's and the advisor's track record with respect to Ph.D. candidates' completion of their degrees.
  • Verify that the dissertation research has begun or will begin by the time of award.
  • Indicate that the student has the full support of the dissertation committee.
  • Verify that the advisor will review and approve all reports submitted by the student to NIJ.
About Selection and Awarding
How many awards does NIJ plan on funding?
The number of Graduate Research Fellowship awards depends upon the availability of funds and the number of high-quality applications. See past Graduate Research Fellowship recipients.
How does NIJ decide which Graduate Research Fellowship applications to fund?
Independent, external peer review panels evaluate all responsive Graduate Research Fellowship proposals. NIJ generally selects two categories of reviewers to serve on the external peer review panel. Panel members are chosen for their research and technical expertise (e.g., subject matter experts and methodologists with Ph.D.s) and/or their knowledge and experience as criminal justice practitioners or policymakers. Panel members read each proposal, assess the technical merits and policy relevance of the proposed research, and discuss their assessments before coming to a consensus. External peer review panelists are asked to base their reviews on criteria set forth in the solicitation. In addition, a NIJ internal peer review process takes place. The external peer review panel's consensus review and the recommendations of NIJ's subject matter experts and methodologists are then submitted to the NIJ Director, who has final authority to make awards.
When will I know if my application is selected for funding?
The application review process (including peer review, decision-making, and other considerations) take approximately 6 months or longer. Notices of award and nonaward are sent out at the same time to the official applicant (i.e., university or college).
If I receive an award, what are the reporting requirements?
Reporting requirements for the Graduate Research Fellowship Program include quarterly financial and semiannual progress reports throughout the life of the grant, a final progress report, and an official signed copy of the student's dissertation. 
If funded, can I work another job (part-time or full-time employment)?
NIJ does not prohibit Graduate Research Fellows from obtaining employment. However, students need to check with their university to determine what requirements the university has in place pertaining to employment while receiving grant funds.
Can I receive multiple awards/stipends?
Students can receive multiple awards/stipends. However, the student must provide full disclosure regarding supplemental funding and support (e.g., research/teaching assistantships, position held on advisor's grant/project, other private or government fellowships, grants, stipends, etc.)
What happens if I have already started my dissertation work prior to an award being made?
Doctoral students funded under a Graduate Research Fellowship award are eligible for funding during months of enrollment in a full-time doctoral program leading to a doctoral degree.
Can I reapply if I do not receive an award?
Yes. However, the student must submit a letter with their application indicating that the application is a resubmission and describe what changes were made to the application in response to former peer reviews.
Date Modified: September 25, 2012