View last year’s  winning entry and contest winner.


Our next award will be given in 2020. Please continue to check the website for updates on the deadline to submit contest entries!

Since 1997, ISP has been assisting social work faculty and students in learning about the formation, implementation, and evaluation of state-level policies.  As part of this effort, ISP has recognized the work of one social work Ph.D. student each year whose dissertation focuses on state-level social policy research..

Who is eligible? Any student currently enrolled in a social work Ph.D. program in the United States. All doctoral coursework and all comprehensive/oral/qualifying exams must be successfully completed by the application deadline.  The dissertation must be in progress and not yet completed at the time of application.

What should be the focus of the dissertation?  The dissertation must be a research study that addresses some aspect(s) of a state-level policy and its impact or implications for social work practice or clientele.  Any arena of practice is eligible, e.g., aging, mental health, disabilities, substance abuse, advocacy, health, etc.  Research outcomes or analyses will be broadly interpreted as long as there is a clear link to a state-level policy or legislative process. Examples include: (1) how a federal policy may affect state policies or programs; (2) how childhood poverty is associated with inadequate nutrition in New York; or (3) how stalking legislation with automatic police reporting affects levels of domestic violence in New Mexico.

What must be submitted?  

• A separate single cover sheet with the applicant’s name, address, phone, email, and title of the dissertation.

• Executive summary (2 pages maximum) of an approved dissertation prospectus. (Do not include your name on these pages). Prospectus is defined as a detailed, well-developed statement of proposed research, usually 30-60 pages in length, not a brief preliminary overview of a study.

• Personal statement (2 pages maximum) by the applicant indicating how s/he expects the research to influence state level policy(s) and social work practice and an estimate of the potential number of persons who are affected by this policy(s).(Do not include your name on these pages)

• A letter from the Ph.D. student’s dissertation chairperson attesting to the student’s enrollment status, successful completion of coursework and exam(s), certifying that the prospectus is approved and the expected date for completion of the dissertation.

• One copy of the dissertation to ISP upon its completion.

Where do I send my application? All applications will be submitted electronically.  You can also check the ISP website for last year’s winning submission!

What else do I need to know?  The application materials will be scored based on relevance to social work practice; use of an appropriate methodology; clarity and organization; and potential to influence state policy.