TOEFL® Young Students Series Research Program: Research Grants for Graduate Students — 2016 Call for Proposals

Note: The deadline for the 2016 TOEFL YSS call for proposals has passed. The next call for proposals will be posted in January 2017.


The Research Grants for Graduate Students under the TOEFL® Young Students Series (YSS) are designed to support foundational research that promotes high-quality language assessment related to young English learners between the ages of 8 and 15. The YSS Research Grants for Graduate Students are offered to students enrolled in masters and doctoral programs in language testing, language education, applied linguistics or related fields. Priority for the Research Grants for Graduate Students will be given to foundational research related to young students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL).

Eligibility: Students enrolled in graduate (master's and doctoral) programs in institutions around the world in language testing, language education, applied linguistics, or related fields.

Amount of grant: Up to US $5,000

Research Topics

Potential research topics include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Theory of language development in young English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners
  2. Domain analysis of communication skills for young EFL learners
  3. English education and assessment practices for young EFL learners
  4. Policy related to the assessment of young EFL learners
  5. Language development patterns of young EFL learners (including meta-analyses and studies that analyze longitudinal data)
  6. Innovations in learning or assessment of young EFL learners
  7. The types of assessment or other evidence teachers use to inform the teaching and learning of young EFL learners
  8. Impact of large-scale standardized language assessments on young EFL learners, teachers, parents and society
  9. Cognitive and affective factors that influence language development in young EFL learners

Important Dates

March 31, 2016 Proposals due
May 20, 2016 Notifications sent to grant winners
July 2016 Tentative project start date (See FAQ #5 below)

Application and Proposal Process

Proposal materials must be submitted electronically via email to by 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on March 31, 2016.

Submissions must include the following documents:

  • 2 copies of the study proposal (1 blind copy, 1 non-blind copy; see detailed requirements below)
  • Principal investigator's CV
  • Letter of support from a faculty member familiar with the study plan and schedule
  • Letter of support from the applicant's university

Proposal Content Requirements

The non-blind copy of your proposal must include all of the following key components:

  • A cover page, which must include:
    • the name and affiliation of the principal investigator and any co-investigators
    • the email address and phone number of the principal investigator
    • the title of the project
    • identification of the research topic(s) addressed by the proposal
    • the date of submission
  • An abstract page, which must include:
    • the title of the project
    • a statement of the problem including a brief description of the project proposed and a brief discussion of the implications or utility of the anticipated outcomes (250 words maximum)
    • identification of the research topic(s) addressed by the proposal
  • The body of the proposal should be between 1,200 and 1,500 words and must include the following sections:
    • Rationale (statement of the problem or the issue and relevance to one or more of the research topics above)
    • Literature review (focused summary of related research)
    • Research questions (specific question(s) or research objectives to be addressed by the project)
    • Methodology (explanation of the proposed research methodology, including a description of the study context and participants; instruments to be used; data collection procedures; identification and coding of variables; and analyses)
    • Implications (a brief discussion of the implications or utility of anticipated or possible outcomes and relevance to practice or theory)
  • References
  • Budget (See our sample budget for needed specifications.)
  • Schedule (list of the major activities of the project and the period in which each will be conducted; please assume that the project will start in July 2016)

The blind copy of your proposal should be the same as the non-blind copy, except it must not include:

  1. the cover page
  2. the author(s)' identifying information (including names and affiliations) anywhere in the abstract page, body, references, budget and schedule

Proposal Format Requirements

Please follow the following format:

  • Microsoft Word® 2003 or later version (.doc or .docx)
  • Times New Roman font size 12
  • 8.5" x 11" (U.S. "Letter") page size
  • 1-inch (1.0") margins on all sides
  • Double (2.0) spaced
  • For page numbering, paragraph indentation, references, graphs and tables, please follow APA style (American Psychological Association, sixth edition)

Proposal Evaluation Process

Each proposal will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Relevance to the research topics identified above
  • Significance and innovativeness of the study
  • Feasibility and quality of the proposed research
  • Potential contribution to theory, research or practice
  • Qualifications of the Principal Investigator

Reporting Requirements and Payment Schedule

Grant funds are generally disbursed in 2 payments, aligned to study milestones. For each payment that is disbursed, ETS must receive an invoice that itemizes the relevant project deliverables for which grant funds are requested. A typical grant might receive a first payment near the beginning of the project to help defray the costs of data collection. The second payment is disbursed after the review of your final research report (Note: The review conducted at this stage to process the final payment does not guarantee publication as an ETS Research Report. See Dissemination Plan below for further information.) You may adjust the amounts of these payments in accordance with the needs of your project. To do this, please note the specific amounts you will need for specific purposes at specific dates in your budget and project schedule. See a sample project budget.

Dissemination Plan

Grantees are expected to submit a publishable draft as the final deliverable of the grant. After the final deliverable of the grant is approved, authors can publish their work either as an ETS Research Report or as an article in a professional journal. Please specify which publication venue you plan to pursue when you submit your final report, and be aware that manuscripts that will be submitted for publication as ETS research reports will have to pass a separate ETS technical review. Grantees who wish to present their work at a conference, please see FAQ #12 below.

Grant recipients are required to appropriately acknowledge the support of the TOEFL program when disseminating the results of funded work. The following standard disclaimer should be included in any publications including conference presentations:

This research was funded by Educational Testing Service (ETS) under a Committee of Examiners and TOEFL research grant. ETS does not discount or endorse the methodology, results, implications or opinions presented by the researcher(s).


If you have additional questions about the application process or the grant in general, please contact us at

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why am I required to submit a support letter from a faculty member?

To ensure that the research funded through these grants is of high quality, the Young Students Research Subcommittee requires a written statement of support from a faculty member who can comment on the applicant's research skills, and who is familiar with the plan, scope and schedule of the proposed study.

2. Why am I required to provide a signed document on behalf of my university?

Obtaining the written support of your university for conducting the study is important because we need to ensure that your university agrees to work with ETS to process the payment of the grant. Please use this template.

3. I am an international student studying in the United States. Can I apply for the grant?

Yes, but to make sure you will be able to perform the work associated with the project, you must first discuss potential involvement with your department and university. (Please see FAQ #2 above.)

4. I am studying in an institution outside of the United States. Can I apply for the grant?

The expected duration for each project is 12 months. However, in special cases, projects may continue beyond 12 months. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, and projects cannot exceed 24 months. If you intend for your study to last more than 12 months, please include an explanation in your proposal's schedule section.

5. When can the work on the project begin?

Please consider July 2016 as the tentative start date of the project. The actual start date will vary depending on the duration of the contract process involving your university and ETS.

6. How long can projects funded through the TOEFL YSS Research Grants for Graduate Students last?

The expected duration for each project is 12 months. However, individual projects may continue beyond the first 12 months. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, with the caveat that project duration cannot exceed 24 months. If you intend for your study to last more than 12 months, please include an explanation in your proposal’s schedule section.

7. If the project continues beyond the initially agreed-upon end date, will additional funding be available to researchers?

No additional funding will be made available for projects that have been supported through this grant.

8. My project involves payments to participants. Should I include these in my budget?

Yes, please include information about the payments to participants in your budget details. If your payments and other project expenses exceed the maximum award amount (US $5,000), please consider alternative funding resources to cover the difference.

9. I am interested in using the TOEFL Junior® or TOEFL® Primary tests for my research. Are there TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary research forms available to applicants?

The purpose of the TOEFL YSS Research Grants for Graduate Students is to promote foundational research, not to conduct research related specifically to ETS assessment products. Therefore, no research forms or public use data are available for these grants.

10. Can I use this research grant to support my dissertation research?

Yes, the study funded through the grant can be used to build your dissertation project.

11. Who will own the data and draft manuscript resulting from the project?

The grantees will own both the data and the manuscript.

12. Will I be allowed to present the research at conferences?

Yes, we encourage our grantees to present their work at professional conferences. Grantees are required to submit an abstract and presentation slides to ETS for review two weeks prior to the date on which it is to be submitted or presented. In addition, grantees are required to include the standard disclaimer statement in their presentations (see Dissemination Plan above)

13. How should I itemize the expenses that are listed in my budget?

For guidance on budgeting, please see the sample budget.

14. Can I request funds for computer software in the project budget?

Under normal circumstances, we do not provide funds for software purchases, as most universities already provide all necessary software.