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Collaborative Research for Versatile Scholars

If you are in a humanities Ph.D. program at Duke, you can expect to receive training from some of the best scholars in your discipline. Don’t forget, however, that a multitude of other resources exist at Duke that might enrich your scholarship and help shape it in innovative ways.

For a broad overview, start with these pieces by Ed Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisicplinary Studies and faculty PI of Versatile Humanists at Duke: “Taking the Full Measure of Duke” and “Cultivating Humanistic Versatility.”

This remainder of this page lists specific opportunities and resources of interest for humanities Ph.D. students: interdisciplinary research teams, Ph.D. Labs, interdisciplinary centers & institutes, joint degree opportunities, writing support, and finding funding.


Versatile humanists

Interdisciplinary research teams

Duke has received international recognition for its interdisciplinary research model, in which integrated teams of faculty, grad students and undergraduates apply knowledge from multiple disciplines to solve real-world problems.  Graduate students who serve as undergraduate mentors on these teams gain valuable leadership skills and project management experience.

  • Bass Connections: Over 200 faculty, 70 community partners, approximately 300 undergrads and 95 graduate students. Get involved!

Some of the teams with a more humanistic focus include:

  • Story+ : A summer program, co-sponsored by VH@Duke. Research teams bring academic research to life through dynamic storytelling.
  • Data+: A summer program, in which teams create data-driven solutions to real world problems.
  • D-SIGN (Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks): Internal grants awarded to graduate student groups to pursue an interdisciplinary project, training, or experience lasting up to a year.

Ph.D. labs

PhD labs provide graduate students an interdisciplinary, on campus community, in which they can benefit from sustained engagement on a shared topic of interest through practice, critique, and collaboration. Just a few examples here (see the Franklin Humanities Institute website for a more complete list):

Interdisciplinary Centers and Institutes

Increasingly in higher education, interdisciplinary centers and institutes (as opposed to discipline-specific academic departments) are where the most cutting-edge scholarship can happen. There are many of these at Duke, and it may not always be easy to see where or how Ph.D. students can plug in.  For this reason, please develop a comfort level with emailing faculty directors of any initiative that interests you and ask how you can get involved.  They will be delighted to hear from you!

Joint degree opportunities 

Here for a Ph.D.? Consider picking up a cross-disciplinary M.A. or certificate along the way (for no additional tuition—really!)  Take a look at current certificate opportunities here. Ph.D. students who wish to pursue an M.A. outside of their disciplines should consult current grad school policies, which include obtaining the approval of your Ph.D. program’s director of graduate study.

Writing Support

Who needs it? Everyone, even your dissertation adviser (who may not admit it).

  • An invaluable resource for any Duke writer is the Thompson Writing Program. Currently, graduate students can book one free consultation per week with a TWP consultant (an advanced Ph.D. student or Duke faculty member) to get feedback on writing projects.
  • VH@Duke actively supports PhD student writers through programming and building support networks. (Read about the inaugural VH@Duke Summer Writing Kickoff.) You may also schedule a VH@Duke advising session to talk through specific concerns or issues you may have about developing as an academic writer (dissertations, conference papers, funding applications, etc.).
Nora Nunn (English) participates in the 2017 Summer Writing Kickoff

Need funding for your research or travel?

Want to do something out of the box with your scholarship? Internal GSTE (Graduate Student Training Enhancement) grants fund graduate students who wish to extend beyond their core disciplinary training acquiring skills, knowledge, or training that will enhance their original research.

Want external funding?

Check out this user-friendly searchable database at Duke’s Office of Research Support. Through the advanced search option, you can search specifically for arts/humanities opportunities for grad students and postdocs.