Lyle Spencer Research Awards
Eligibility and Letter of Intent Overview

Eligibility and Restrictions

  • Principal Investigators (PIs) and Co-PIs applying for a research grant must have an earned doctorate in an academic discipline or professional field, or appropriate experience in an education research-related profession.
  • The PI must be affiliated with a college, university, school district, non-profit research facility, or non-profit cultural institution that is willing to serve as the fiscal agent if the grant is awarded. The Spencer Foundation does not award grants directly to individuals.
  • Proposals are accepted from the U.S. and internationally, however all proposals must be submitted in English and budgets must be proposed in U.S. Dollars.
  • PIs and Co-PIs may only hold one active research grant from the Spencer Foundation at a time. Simultaneous submissions to the Foundation from PIs and Co-PIs are discouraged due to this policy. (This restriction does not apply to the administering organization; organizations may submit as many proposals as they like as long as they are for different projects and have different research teams.

Letter of Intent Overview
The Lyle Spencer Research Awards program will have one application cycle per year. The LOI for the 2015-2016 cycle will be due by 4:00 pm Central Time, May 4, 2015. Final funding decisions for this cycle are expected in August 2016.

Detailed guidelines for submitting the LOI through Spencer's online application system will be available in early 2015. Below are two of the main elements researchers will be expected to prepare:

Letter of Intent Narrative (no more than 2000 words)

  1. “Why is this work worth doing?”  Describe the project by clearly articulating the importance of the proposed research and your ideas about why it should be undertaken. Use language that is appropriate for an educated lay audience. Your description should include the major research questions and a clear answer to the “so-what?” question—explaining how the study will make a meaningful advance in understanding education, noting especially how it will advance the aim of improving educational practice. To that end, you should situate your research questions in the existing literature and clearly explain what new knowledge you expect to gain by answering these questions. The first essential criterion of a successful LOI, therefore, is a project rationale and research questions that illuminate the importance of the end for which the research is conducted.
  2. “Can you really do it?” We seek to fund research that is not only important but for which there is a viable plan of action that your team is well-equipped to put into effect. Describe the methods you plan to use to answer your research questions, clearly specifying the sources of data you will draw on, the sample you will study, the data collection instruments you will employ, and the types of analyses you will conduct. (We recognize that not all disciplines and projects lend themselves to inclusion of all of these elements. If your proposed work does not align well with this structure, we welcome a clear statement of theory and methods that fits properly with the kind of project you envision.) Linking your research questions and research design should be a clearly explicated conceptual framework. Below we ask you to pinpoint how the research skills and technical capabilities of the investigative team align with the overall demands of the proposed work.


Research Team Biosketches
Each biosketch may not exceed 200 words and should identify elements in the researcher's scholarly background that have prepared them for the role that they will play in the work being proposed.

Click here for the Frequently Asked Questions page if you have questions about applying to the Lyle Spencer Research Awards program. If you don’t find your answer there, you may contact Annie Brinkman, Grants Manager, at or 312-274-6511.