Thomas D. Sayles Research Grant

Sayles Student Research Grants are available to all Dartmouth students conducting research in ethics and working with a Dartmouth faculty advisor.  The Ethics Institute seeks to advance Dartmouth's unique teacher scholar model by providing graduate and undergraduate students funds to work on an ethics related research project under the supervision of a Dartmouth faculty advisor. Students develop and present their proposed project to the Ethics Institute as outlined below. Projects may take place either off-campus or in Hanover in compliance with Dartmouth College's travel guidelines during COVID 19. Research opportunities are not given academic credit. The Sayles Grant is available to students during all terms.


  • Applicant must submit a complete application to the Ethics Institute by the deadline.
  • A 3-5 page final report must be submitted evaluating the completed research in terms of its value and its impact on the student. Copies of any formal work resulting from the research period will be submitted with the final report or when completed.
  • A brief financial report must be submitted showing how funds were utilized.
  • The final report and financial report are due the third week of the term following the research.


Amount of award may vary. Award maximums are set at $2,500 per student for domestic research projects and $3,500 for projects that take place abroad. Grants are awarded on the basis of: the merits of the project and the strength of the proposal, a solid academic background and overall grade point average, and faculty recommendation and/or sponsor support for the project.

Application Information

  1. Apply for a Sayles Student Research Grant here.
  2. Confirm Dartmouth's sponsored travel policy here
  3. Decide on a research arrangement that fits your interests and, if off-campus, discuss these arrangements with a sponsor for that agency/ institution/ organization. Select a Dartmouth faculty member who is willing to act as your advisor in designing the research, in providing a sounding board during the research, and in evaluating your work.
  4. On the online application, upload a letter of support from your faculty advisor or have your faculty advisor send a letter of support to
  5. Provide an itemized detailed budget of expenses during the research period. Costs may include:
    • Travel (airfare, bus, subway, automobile (current rate per mile)
    • Rent (hotel accommodations)
    • Supplies & Equipment (e.g. fees for translators, coding interviews, long distance call related to research, rental equipment
  6. Costs may not include your time working in research.

Application Deadline

The sixth week of term preceding term of research.

For Fall Term '22: August 12, 2022

For Winter Term '23: November 15, 2022

For Spring Term '23: February 13, 2023

For Summer Term '23: May 10, 2023

Sample of recent grant recipients' work

Perceptions of the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare communication in a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of family caregivers

The grant supported a nationally-representative survey of family caregivers, and we were able to have a whole section on the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Introductory Bioethics Podcast for Students at the Geisel School of Medicine and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice

There is currently no introductory bioethics podcast available that is targeted to medical and health students. Micro-learning, through the form of a podcast, is becoming more widely used. In particular, podcasts allow students to listen to multiple points of view, follow along with the progression of a thought framework, and avoid reading more content on top of their schoolwork.

We hope to develop a health care ethics podcast meant to increase students' awareness about cases they may face within careers in the healthcare field. Allowing students to develop a framework that can be practiced and applied to real cases is crucial for enabling them to be prepared to face such challenges after graduation.

With each podcast episode, we hope to discuss case-based, practical, ethical issues through an analytical thought process. Through rigorous research and the involvement of expert ethicists, the podcast will cover both novel and classical ethics issues pertinent to health and wellbeing, encouraging listeners to understand that ethical deliberations underlie many of our daily decision-making. Listeners will then be equipped with the framework to address ethical issues in the healthcare field in an equitable fashion. Overall, this podcast seeks to fulfill the aim of the Ethics Institute as an innovative, accessible media: to foster the study and teaching of ethics.

National Survey of Caregivers

This research project was conducted by a PhD student at the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at Dartmouth College. The research analyzed the effects of recording technology on patients with neurodegenerative disease and how recording technology can be used as an aid for caregivers. Data was gathered on the unmet critical need to understand how caregivers interact with communication technology, their views on recording, and how caregivers might use technology to improve their ability to communicate and effectively prepare to meet the needs of patients.

Ethical Implications of Media Influence on Altering US Public Opinion

Undergrad student research on how media coverage of the recent demonstrations and violence perpetrated by both the protesters and the pro-China police in Hong Kong affects U.S. public opinion about China and foreign policy preferences towards both China and Hong Kong. Experiment, to be fielded in the U.S., respondents are randomly exposed to either neutral, pro-China, or pro-Hong Kong news about the ongoing demonstrations, and then asked questions about their attitudes and preferences for subsequent U.S. foreign policies.

The State of Social and Political Expression on College Campuses

"What explains variation in student willingness and truthfulness when discussing social and political topics on campus?" Research to determine if a large percentage of undergraduate students across the political spectrum are muting at least some of their beliefs on social or political issues and the reasons behind self-censorship. Some potential reasons include preventing others from being offended, nipping emotionally-exhausting conversations on sensitive issues, being uncomfortable sharing partially-developed thoughts on polarizing topics, or being unwilling to speak on issues in which one lacks personal experience.

Leading Lives and the Normative Significance of Narratives

There exists an intuitive connection between living and narrating—when we try to convey to others an understanding of ourselves, we do so by telling the story of our life. An important question ensuing this intuition, then, is whether this connection bears any normative significance upon us—whether narrative concerns matter to our decision-making and actions at all; to what extent can the question of what we should do be reduced to what promotes the narrative coherence of our life story. Some philosophers, like Galen Strawson and Bernard Williams, contended that narratives are without normative importance to us. For the majority of decisions in life, for instance, it is not the case that we consult our life stories up until then and infer what we should do in light of what ought to be done to promote a coherent life story. Rather, actions are often immediate responses to particular circumstances. The relevant considerations concern more immediate projects and ends, and the input/role of large-scale narrative considerations is obscure if not nonexistent. On the other hand, there are philosophers, including Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, who argued that we act precisely by pursuing and enacting coherence in the story we are leading. Narrative interests would therefore be decisive in guiding our actions. Indeed, when it comes to important decisions in life, such as career, marriage, and parenthood, the question in the end is always how the decision would impact and/or shed light on the story that our life would amount to (whether, for example, as the result of our choices, our life would become a story of redemption and improvement). 

How can we adjudicate between these two positions? Both intuitions seem real and important, and a satisfying account would need to incorporate both. In my project, I want to evaluate two proposals (one coming from each position) that have great promises in addressing this concern. Holding on to Strawson and Williams's position, the first proposal argues that the fact that we tend to refer back to our life stories at certain moments of decision needs not imply that life narrative is somehow indispensable to making decisions and taking actions. Rather, this may be explained in terms of social conventions: we are prescribed the norm of taking narrative considerations into view when it comes to certain moments of decisions, but it is still an open question whether it is inconceivable for us to decide and act in those moments without taking an interest in our life narratives. Another proposal, defending MacIntyre and Taylor's position, argues that the fact that we do not appeal to narrative concerns in each and every action is not sufficient to show that life narratives are irrelevant to ordinary decision making. Indeed, narrative considerations may play a reactive role insofar as it sets the boundaries for actions. It may delineate possible actions that would be considered out of bound in light of their disruption of our narrative coherence. Akin to laws or commandments, the demands of narrative coherence may not legislate positive content for what we ought to do from moment to moment. Nevertheless, it supervises and shapes all actions as it determines what ought not to be done. That narrative considerations do not surface in day-to-day actions would only mean that ordinarily our intentional activities do not threaten our narrative coherence.

I seek to take an interdisciplinary approach to evaluating the two proposals. Because this is mainly a question in contemporary philosophy of action and ethics, I will further delve into important discussions raised by David Velleman (in his book Self to Self as well as in his articles Narrative Explanations, The Self as Narrator, among others). I will also consider relevant chapters in Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue and Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self. Beyond (just) philosophy, I want to explore the intersection between philosophy and literary theory, where much theoretical work on narratives in literature has been done. This would encompass Paul Ricoeur's Time and Narrative, Walter Benjamin's Illuminations, and Aristotle's Poetics. Lastly, incorporating the empirical perspective, I seek to include readings in contemporary developmental psychology (works on autobiographical selfhood by Qi Wang) and conduct case studies on the nature of life stories (drawing from the life story database of NPR'S Story Corps). I intend to conduct all of the above through self-initiated reading clubs so that reading and thinking about narratives will not be an impersonal research project but a personal, reflective, and interactive experience.