Some tips for applicants for Postdoctoral Fellowship Funding (from a Concordia Professor)

These suggestions are based on my experience on the SSHRC postdoc fellowship committee, as well as service on the doctoral fellowships committee.

1. Within Concordia: It is crucial that you involve your PhD advisers (from Concordia and elsewhere) in this application process. Solicit their help in formulating and editing your proposal. Expect to send them at
least four or five drafts before submitting the application to the granting agency—start early, so that there is ample time to get several rounds of feedback. In addition to improving the proposal itself, this process will allow the advisors to fill in gaps in your bibliography, and write support letters that reinforce the proposal’s content and your own description of your strengths. Remember that your committee wants you to succeed—you are their academic offspring. Your success in this application process is a reflection on them, so they should be grateful if you ask for their help.

2. The PDF host institution: It is important to realize that prestige and resources accrue to professors who attract PDFs to work with them, so once again, recognize your own value—you are doing your potential postdoc supervisor a favor by getting him/her involved with your application. The more familiar s/he is with your proposal, the stronger her/his letter of support will be. I have seen several otherwise excellent applications ruined by lukewarm letters from the proposed supervisor. Give them plenty of time to understand your proposal and offer feedback. Again, it is important that the letters of support from the host institution and supervisor reinforce what you say in your proposal.

3. Your statement: Your application will be read by members of an interdisciplinary committee that may not include any expert in your exact field. This leads to a tension that you need to confront. On the one hand, people from outside the field will enjoy your proposal and rate it well if they feel that they learned something by reading it. This means you really have to aim for accessibility. On the other hand, experts want to be sure that your proposal is original and important. If you take a strong theoretical position, make it clear that you are aware of other approaches and are willing to adopt insights from them—a good bibliography can help convince the committee that you are broadly educated and open-minded.
A note for recommenders: Because the committees can be quite diverse, it is important to explain in your letters how an applicant’s CV looks to insiders. For example, in my field, it is not unusual for a recent PhD to have no journal publications, and certain conference proceeding papers are more prestigious than some refereed journal articles. Also, in my field, multiple authors tend to be listed alphabetically. In these ways, linguistics is very different from psychology, which happens to be represented on the same SSHRC committee. Experimentalists and theoreticians in any given field will also have very different research records, typically. Advisors need to make the norms of their field’s subculture clear for the review committee.



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