Getting funding for a PhD can be a lot of work. The paperwork alone can be a minefield, ranging from simply tasks like spelling your name correctly to identifying exactly what it is you want to study and how exactly you are going to do it – something which is not always as easy as it sounds. There are two things I have discovered during this process;
(i) Sooner is better. You can never start drafting your application too soon. It will take longer than you think and you will possibly have several drafts before you are happy with it. If you are not sure where to start, start with the easy sections – your name, academic achievements to date etc. You will be suprised (a) how long this may take and (b) how much better you will feel once you have started the process. (ii) The granny test. Now is definitely a time for working together and calling in those favours. Bribe your flatmate, boyfriend, sister, granny, who ever you can find to sit and listen while you explain what it is you are trying to do – tea and biscuits helps in the case of grannies. If you can’t explain it to granny before she falls asleep you need to be more concise and to the point. Once you have got past the granny test try to find others applying for funding and/or others who previously received funding from the same body. Help each other out. Read each others applications. Explain your application to others. Doing this will help you clarify your thoughts. (iii) Get feedback When you have a solid working draft of your application approach your supervisor/proposed supervisor and ask him/her to have a read of the application. He/she may also be willing to suggest other academic staff who might be willing to read the application aswell. These people have been through the funding process on several occasions and therefore know what to look out for. They are a very valuable source of information.
Of course then when you get your funding they expect you to do some work, make some progress…and fill out a report to tell them all about it. Couple of things to remember here; (i) your initial application got you the funding – there must have been something worthwhile there. Refer back to this as you write your report. (ii) again getting together and discussing the process with other PhDers who are also writing reports may be helpful.
Here’s hoping we can keep them happy so we can keep getting the funding which keeps us happy.