Research Fellowship Application Packet

The application deadline for the 2021 AIIS Fellowship Competition is November 15, 2021

Applicants for fellowships should complete the following steps:

1. Download announcement flier, application instructions, and check list (found below) and read carefully.
2. Create a single pdf file that contains all of the items listed in the checklist (except for the recommendation letters) and for junior fellowship applicants, scans of your transcripts (if you cannot scan your transcripts you may mail the transcripts to the AIIS office in Chicago) APPLICATIONS MUST BE TYPED. MATERIALS THAT ARE HANDWRITTEN AND THEN SCANNED WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. We do not need a real signature on anything. Simply type in your name where a signature is requested. You can use the Pay Now button below to pay the $25 application fee.

3. Notify your three references that they should expect an email prompt to submit their letters of reference. You should forward them the reference letter form. You should fill out the top part of the reference form before sending it to them. We do not require a real signature–either yours or the recommender’s. The recommender needs to upload their recommendation letter as a SINGLE document so they should write their letter on the form or else append the letter to the form and create a single pdf file. It is the applicant’s responsibility to inform the recommender about the required procedure. Please note that recommenders may NOT email their letters directly to AIIS.
4: Register on our online portal and then log in to your portal account. The online portal will be open in July 2021.
5: Follow the application steps: choose your fellowship category, submit your  application and notify your references. Please refer to the application checklist. Make sure your application file name does not include any punctuation marks like commas or apostrophes. For instance–call your file “Sanjay application” and NOT “Sanjay’s application.” Please inform your letter writers as well.  Please note that there is NO final submit button. Once you upload your application onto the portal it has been submitted. You can go into your account and all items that have been successfully submitted will have green check marks. You can check to see if your recommendation letters are in and if they are not in, you can “remind” the referees to turn in the letters.

AIIS is pleased to offer the AIIS/Ashoka University Research and Teaching Fellowships. For more information click here

AIIS is offering a mentoring service to junior fellowship applicants who do not have faculty advisors with South Asia expertise at their home institutions.

The Research Fellowship Application Packet includes the following documents:

  • Research Fellowship Competition Announcement (PDF)
  • Research Fellowship Competition Instructions and Guidelines (PDF)
  • Applications (MS Word)/PDF)
  • Confidential Reference Form (MS Word)/PDF)
  • Affiliate Sponsor Form (MS Word/ PDF)
  • Reviewer Worksheet (MS Word/PDF)
  • Application Checklist (MS Word/PDF)
  • All or specific sections of the packet can be downloaded as Word documents or pdf files. Pdfs use Acrobat Reader software. A free copy of this software is available at the Abode website.

NOTE: To type on the pdf forms, you must save the documents on your hard drive. They can be opened using Adobe Acrobat (not the same as Acrobat Reader). Use the touch-up-text function to type on the forms.

Application Instructions and Guidelines

Please read all application materials carefully. All forms in the application packet must be completed and submitted electronically. Further below will be some helpful tips for preparing a successful application.


  • Applications that do not meet the requirements listed below will NOT be considered and the processing fee will not be returned.
  • Applicants for the 2021 fellowship competition will be notified of the selection committee’s decisions by the end of March 2022. 
  • Two full years must have elapsed between the completion of a previous AIIS fellowship and the current application deadline. This rule does NOT apply to recipients of AIIS language program fellowships.
  • Those fellows selected in the 2021 fellowship competition will be able to carry out their fellowships at a time of their choosing between September 1, 2022 and September 30, 2024; AIIS fellows may not hold another major grant that provides funds to support research conducted in India concurrently with the AIIS fellowship during this period. An AIIS fellow may not commence another fellowship to support research conducted in India until six months have elapsed from the end of their AIIS fellowship. An AIIS fellow cannot start their AIIS fellowship until six months have elapsed after the completion of any other fellowship that funded research on the same project conducted in India. These restrictions only apply to what is supported by an AIIS fellowship, i.e., travel to India and maintenance and research expenses in India while the fellow is conducting research in India, and do not apply to funds to be used as salary replacement, to support research in other countries, or to purchase equipment. These restrictions do not apply to small grants or other funding provided by the fellow’s own home institution.
  • Applications from scholars who are part of a collaborative project involving other scholars are welcome, though AIIS fellowships are granted to individuals not to teams. Amounts awarded to successful applicants who are members of group projects will be equivalent to fellowships awarded to scholars who submitted applications for individual projects.

Evaluation Criteria

The Selection Committee will assess each application on the following basis:

  • The project description
  • The candidate’s academic and/or professional record
  • The quality of references.

Members of the Selection Committee represent a number of different academic disciplines within the field of Indian Studies, so the applicant must explain the nature and significance of the project in terms intelligible to a non-specialist audience. Please avoid jargon and be as concise as possible. Applicants who are not affiliated with an AIIS member institution are WELCOME to apply.

Reviewer Worksheet

The Reviewer Worksheet provides basic identifying information about the proposed project. It is used in the review process to summarize the three primary areas of competitive review:

  • Project Description
  • Academic and/or Professional Record
  • Quality of References

The Reviewer Worksheet also enables the AIIS to summarize general information about the applicant pool and the range of subject matter submitted to it for consideration. Summary statements with this kind of information enable the Institute to solicit funds for its fellowship program. Applicants should select the discipline of their PROJECT and NOT necessarily their departmental affiliation.

Affiliation with an institution in India

The Indian Government requires all foreign scholars be associated with an Indian institution.

  • The Institute will arrange institutional affiliation for fellows.
  • Non-Indian citizens will need a research visa to do research in India. A certificate of affiliation from an Indian institution is required to obtain the research visa.
  • No fellowship funds will be released until AIIS has obtained a certificate of affiliation.

Please provide the names of three institutions with which you wish to be affiliated on the affiliate sponsor form. Please CAREFULLY read the information regarding affiliation on the affiliate sponsor form. The Institute will pursue affiliation on your behalf to expedite the project approval process.


  • Be sure to answer each question on the form. If all questions are not answered, the application may be rejected.
  • The application must be typed and all questions answered on the form itself. It is not acceptable to refer to appended material.
  • The application deadline for the 2021 AIIS Fellowship Competition is November 15.
  • Applications must be uploaded to the web platform following the instructions
  • It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all application materials, including letters of recommendation are received prior to the deadline. Late materials will not be considered.
  • Please save your completed application for your files  as you may need it for reference over the next two years.
  • For the question regarding current status or title, if you are a faculty member, please indicate whether you are tenured or untenured.
  • The Project Summary must be typed on both the Application for Fellowship and the Reviewer Worksheet.
  • Please consult the application checklist and create ONE pdf file to include all of the components of your application.

When naming your discipline choose the PROJECT discipline and not your departmental discipline, please choose one primary discipline from the following categories; if you want to add a secondary discipline you may indicate that by using the number 2: Anthropology Archaeology Architecture Art Behavioral Sciences Communications Cultural Studies Economics Education Environmental Studies Ethnomusicology Film/Photography Gender/Sexuality Studies Geography History History of Art/Architecture History of Science Linguistics Literature Medicine Natural Sciences Performance Studies Performing Arts Philosophy Political Science Public Health Religious Studies Sociology Technology Studies Urban Planning Please also include five short key phrases that would describe your project. For example for a project on agrarian social movements in the early twentieth century north India you could say: early twentieth-century history; agrarian movements in north India; agricultural workers’ rights movements; twentieth century social movements.

Supplemental Materials

Please refer to the Application Checklist when assembling your application and submit the checklist with your application materials to AIIS.

Project Statement

All applications must include a project statement fully describing proposed research. Be sure to clearly include:

  • Reasons for pursuing this research
  • The significance of your project and its relevance to other scholarship
  • Research methodology
  • Anticipated results of your study
  • Time-table for completing the project

If the completion of this project requires research outside India, or if you plan a departure from India during the time of award, please note in the timetable for completion. The project statement must conform to the following requirements:

  1. It must be no longer than six (6) pages, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, and printed in a type size no smaller than 12 points.
  2. The project statement must be clearly legible. Applications that do not conform to these specifications will not be read by the Committee or returned by the Institute.
  • Applicants who recently submitted an unsuccessful application for the same project are asked to include an additional, seventh, page to their project statement with a one or two paragraph description of how the new application differs from the previous one, and how the applicant incorporated the reviewer comments into the new application.
  • Attach a one to three-page bibliography related to your project. Please remember that your proposal will be read and evaluated by a committee representing India specialists with diverse disciplinary expertise.
  • A curriculum vitae of no more than two (2) pages must also be submitted. It should include major publications with the names of publishers and dates of publication. Citations for articles and monographs must be complete. Please identify clearly all publications resulting from prior AIIS-supported research with an asterisk.
  • Applicants for the Junior Research Fellowship must include official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended in the U.S. with their application.
  • Applicants for the Senior Performing and Creative Arts Fellowship must provide a web-based link to some significant sample of their work, e.g. high quality videotape for filmmakers, dancers and perhaps musicians; high quality audio tape (if not video) for musicians; and photographs or slides for visual artists. Video and audio recordings should be continuous, not excerpted, and at least 15 minutes, but preferably a half hour in length.  At the end of their project statement they should provide a full description of their work sample(s)—including date of the performance or recording, if there is an ensemble which person is the applicant and who the other participants are.
  • A scholar applying for a traditional AIIS senior research fellowship (short- or long-term, or Professional Development) who also wishes to be considered for a potential AIIS/Ashoka R&T Fellowship may simply include, at the end of the proposal narrative, a sentence to this effect.

Confidential References

Each applicant must secure three letters of recommendation. Referees should have sufficient knowledge about the applicant and the proposed project to assess the project as well as the applicant’s qualifications to carry it out. In the past, delinquent references have been the most serious problem in giving full consideration to an applicant’s proposal. The applicant is responsible for assuring timely submission of recommendations. Referees must submit their letters by uploading them onto the web platform after applicants have input their email addresses, which will generate a prompt providing a unique link so that the referee’s letter can go into the applicant’s file. The referee’s letter MUST be submitted as a single pdf document. Real signatures are not required, either for the applicant or the referee. It is strongly recommend that you request letters of recommendation as soon as you start working on the application. Applicants should fill out the top portion of the reference form and send them to their referees so the referees can use those forms for their letters. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that the letters are submitted properly.

Project information sheet

In order to obtain the certificate of affiliation, applicants must submit a two-page (maximum) project information sheet. This document should also be used for non-Indian citizens when it is time to obtain a research visa for India. The project information sheet should provide the following information:

  • where the applicant wishes to go
  • what the applicant wishes to do
  • materials to be reviewed
  • types of information to be collected.

The project information sheet should not be written in jargon. Applicants should avoid discussing theoretical frameworks, methodological issues, literature reviews, etc. Please remember that the document is to be reviewed by non-academics for the purposes of issuing a certificate of affiliation and, eventually, the research visa. The AIIS selection committee will not review the two-page information sheets. AIIS staff will review the project sheets and will advise applicants to make changes where needed.

Summary of Helpful Tips for Applicants to Prepare Successful Proposals

Your project statement is only six pages, double-spaced. You need to use that space to accomplish two main things and you must attend to both. In the past many projects have been unsuccessful because they have shortchanged the one or the other:

1)  You need to demonstrate to the committee why your project is important and interesting; you need to clearly explain how your project is situated in and contributes to existing scholarship; you need to clearly articulate your theoretical framework and the hypotheses and research questions that guide your project

2) You need to very clearly explain why you need to go to India to carry out your project and exactly what you will be doing while you are carrying out your project in India; you need to lay out and justify your methodology; you need to demonstrate to the committee that your methodology is appropriate to address your research goals; you need to demonstrate that your methodology is feasible and that you can accomplish your goals in the period of time you are requesting.

If you are, for instance planning on visiting archives to examine materials, you should explain what you hope to find and why you believe the materials you seek can be accessed at the particular archives you wish to visit. If you are planning on conducting interviews or participant observation, you need to clearly explain the basis for selecting your sample: for instance by gender, occupation, education level, etc. The basis for selecting the sample must be justified in terms of how you anticipate achieving your specific research goals.

You should discuss your language proficiency. If you lack sufficient language proficiency, you should discuss measures you will be taking, such as procuring the services of an interpreter.

Your application will be read by a committee composed of scholars in a variety of disciplines. You should therefore avoid discipline-specific jargon and undefined terms.

Your bibliography should not be an afterthought. The committee will be paying very close attention to your bibliography to ascertain that you are familiar with the existing scholarship in your field.

Your letters of recommendation should specifically address your project. Helpful letters will assure the committee that the project is an important one, that it is a significant contribution, and that you are qualified to carry out the project. You should choose recommenders who can speak knowledgeably about your project and your qualifications. This is far more important than selecting recommenders who may be prominent or well-known figures.