Mentoring Program for Junior Applicants

The American Institute of Indian Studies has initiated a mentoring opportunity for AIIS Junior Fellowship applicants who do not have advisors at their universities with South Asia expertise. The U.S. Director can assist applicants with general questions—including about formatting, etc.–but does not read proposal drafts.

If an applicant would like to use the mentoring opportunity for someone to read and comment on their proposal, they should send the proposal draft to the U.S. Director (, with verification that applicant does not have advisor at their university with South Asia expertise. U.S. Director will pair mentors and mentees as closely as possible by field and area of interest.

Both mentor and mentee will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement clause regarding the proposal and communications between mentor and mentee. Mentoring sessions via email or zoom must be conducted according to the AIIS sexual harassment policy, which can be accessed from:

Note: Mentors are not part of the selection committee, and the selection committee will not be told which applicants have sought mentorship.

For Junior Applicants who wish to avail themselves of the mentoring program:

Make sure to look at AIIS application guidelines and “Helpful Hints” (scroll down below) and also a sample successful Junior Fellowship proposal.

The proposal to be sent to the mentor should be complete and not only an outline or notes. The proposal should include: research question/thesis, relevance of your project to other scholarship, research methodology, anticipated results of your study; time-table for completing the project; and a bibliography.

In order to be guaranteed acceptance into this mentoring program, please submit request no later than twelve days before the fellowship competition application deadline.

Mentors have agreed to read two drafts, a preliminary one and a revised one based on mentor’s comments. The first draft submitted should not be an outline or notes. Mentees should review the helpful hints for proposals before submitting their first draft. Mentees are urged to honor this guideline and not ask for comments on further drafts.

Applicants will agree that they will not hold mentors responsible for the selection or rejection of their application. Every year there are many good applications that do not get funded due to limited number of fellowships available. All communications between mentors and applicants will be kept strictly confidential. If either mentor or mentee experiences any difficulty in the process, they should contact the U.S. Director directly.

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.