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Library Research Awards 2024

Did you know that your research project could be worth $750?

American University’s Library seeks to promote and honor student research papers that reflect the best of the best among the thousands of papers submitted each year. Winners will be selected by teaching and library faculty and honored during a ceremony in April. Applications for the 2024 research awards are due on April 1st 2024.

All award winners, along with their friends and family, will be invited to join American University faculty and administrators on Bender Library’s 3rd floor to present their research and receive their awards at the ceremony. Food and drinks will be provided. The event will be hybrid to accommodate friends and family outside of the DMV. Award winners will be contacted about the ceremony after the winners have been determined.

Submit your Application or Faculty Recommendation Letter

W. Donald Bowles Award

Endowed by Professor Emeritus Bowles, papers submitted for this award should reflect his interest in wealth inequality, poverty, and other topics related to the consequences of economic disparities. Students may have explored these topics within a course in any subject area.

Eligibility: current undergraduate or graduate students

Award amounts*

  • 1st Place Graduate $750
  • 1st Place Undergraduate $750

*Funds may be taxable and may impact financial aid.

Best Writing Studies Paper Award

Given that all undergraduate students participate in the Writing Studies program during their first year at American University, this award seeks to highlight the best papers that blend the writing and research skills learned through the WRT 100, 101, and 106 courses.

Eligibility: papers submitted during a 2023 or 2024 Writing Studies course

Award amounts*

  • 1st Place $750
  • 2nd Place $500
  • 3rd Place $250

*Funds may be taxable and may impact financial aid.

Best Undergraduate Paper Award

Interesting research and high-quality writing are found across disciplines at American University. All undergraduate students are invited to submit their best research paper, from any class, on any subject, to be considered for this award.

Eligibility: current undergraduate students

Award amounts*

  • 1st Place $750
  • 2nd Place $500
  • 3rd Place $250

*Funds may be taxable and may impact financial aid.

  • Resource Usage: Substantial use of library resources and collections in any format, including but not limited to printed resources, databases, primary resources, and materials in all media.
  • Original Thought: Ability to locate, select, evaluate, and synthesize library resources and to use them in the creation of a project that shows originality and/or has the potential to lead to original research in the future.
  • Learning: Evidence of significant personal learning through the research process.
  • Research Habits: Development of a habit of research and inquiry that shows the likelihood of persisting in the future.
  • Quality: Mastery of content appropriate to class level, clear writing, and an overall high quality of presentation.
  • W. Donald Bowles Award: Undergraduate level papers demonstrate thoughtful approaches to the identification, description, and discussion of wealth inequality, poverty, and/or other topics related to the consequences of economic disparities, in addition to above criteria. Graduate-level papers demonstrate deep, original thought and research into wealth inequality, poverty, and/or other topics related to the consequences of economic disparities, in addition to above criteria.
  • Rubric: This document is the rubric that will be used to evaluate applications.

Submit your Application or Faculty Recommendation Letter

All applications for the 2024 award cycle are due by April 1, 2024.

Papers written by individual students from Spring 2023 – Spring 2024 are accepted for consideration. Students are able to submit up to one paper for each competition category. Only one award will be granted per individual no matter the number of categories entered.

Submissions are required to meet the following requirements:

All documents must be submitted as Microsoft Word or PDF files. Submissions are only accepted from individuals with individual work - no group work will be evaluated. Papers from study abroad courses taken for AU credit and supported by the faculty member who taught the course are eligible.


To apply, students must submit the following by April 1 using the submission form:

  1. Completed application with title of paper, title of course, semester the course was taken, name of professor, and email of professor. Upon submission, the professor will be notified of your submission.
  2. A brief reflective essay of up to 500 words describing library research strategies, and the application of library tools, instruction, and resources in completion of the project. Some questions you may wish to address can include but are not limited to:
    • How did you determine your topic?
    • What was your library research process?
    • What role did library research play throughout the research process?
    • How did you build or evaluate your list of sources?
    • Did you consult with a librarian or use a library subject guide and how did they influence your process?
    • Which databases did you employ, and how they did help you in your library research process?
    • Did you include books, journal articles, and/or other types of sources, and why?
    • Did you use materials from other libraries and why?
    • Did library instruction on how to find, evaluate, and use resources inform your library research process, and if so, how?
  3. A bibliography or other listing of sources consulted, if not already included in the paper.

Projects that are in formats other than papers are eligible if a significant research component is present.  For information about other project formats, please contact

Applicants must also solicit a letter of recommendation from the faculty member who taught the course for which the paper or project was prepared. Applicants must request the letter, and the professor must use the submission form to submit the letter. Applicants will be notified when letters of recommendation are submitted.

All winning research projects will be added to AU’s institutional repository. By submitting a project for review, applicants agree to having their project added to the institutional repository.


Applications must be accompanied by a letter of recommendation from the faculty member who taught the course for which the paper or project was prepared. Faculty must submit the letter through the submission form as a Word document or PDF, as well as the applicant’s name, email address, and semester the student was enrolled in the course. The applicant will be notified when the letter of recommendation is submitted.

Faculty will receive notification when an applicant submits an application listing them as the faculty member.

The following faculty members will be evaluating applications based on the criteria and rubric. The library wishes to thank all of the reviewers for their service!

W. Donald Bowles Award Committee Members

  • Katie Hut, University Library (chair)
  • Olivia Ivey, University Library
  • Tom Husted, CAS Economics (former colleague of W. Donald Bowles and family friend)
  • Stacey Snelling, CAS Health Studies

Best Writing Studies Paper Award Committee Members

  • Clarissa Ihssen, University Library (chair)
  • Alayne Mundt, University Library
  • Kelly Joyner, Writing Studies
  • Kate Wilson, Writing Studies

Best Undergraduate Paper Award Committee Members

  • Melissa Becher, University Library (chair)
  • Vicky Marchand, University Library
  • Cindy Bair van Dam, Writing Studies
  • Michael Clayton, Kogod Marketing

W. Donald Bowles Award

Undergraduate Winner

Tyler Godding

TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] Spending on Basic Assistance and State Poverty Rates

Professor Kimberley Cowell-Meyers

Graduate Winner

Amy Cross

Signaling Women's Entry into Male-Dominated Occupations: Evidence from the Gender Desegregation of the U.S. Army

Professor Mary Hansen

Best Writing Studies Paper Award

1st Place: Yvette Nau

A Systematic Reset: How TikTok is Changing the Path to Musical Fame

Professor Jeremy S. Wade

2nd Place: Natan Kimelman-Block

Chanting for Change: The Musical Origins of Revolutionary Change During the Arab Spring

Professor Glenn Moomau

3rd Place: Calista Schloessmann

No-Knock Warrants as Death Warrants: Threatening Constituent Lives

Professor Tod E. Jones

Best Undergraduate Paper Award

1st Place: Robby Jones

Conditioned Taste Avoidance and Conditioned Place Preference Induced by the Third Generation Synthetic Cathinone Eutylone in Female Sprague-Dawley Rats

Professor Anthony Riley

2nd Place: David Brostoff

Politics Among Realists: Morgenthau, Kissinger, and the Problem of Vietnam

Professor Gregory Aftandilian

3rd Place: Molly Loprete

Mixed Method Research Design: The Human Cost of Democratic Backsliding Using the Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Data

Professor Horace Bartilow

Watch presentations from the 2023 award winners here:

  • Rachel Boose, 2021 Writing Studies Award for “Looking to Civil Rights to Save the Planet.”
  • Niamh Burns: 2021 Library Undergraduate Research Award for “Astrophysical Contributions to the Great Filter: A Shakespearian Tragedy.”
  • Jonah Kaufman-Cohen: 2021 Library Undergraduate Research Award for, “They want not only to hand over the bricks but also to lay them in place themselves: Expectations and Experience of Women in the Labor Zionist Movement.”
  • Owen McCoy: 2021 Library Undergraduate Research Award for “The Impact of Government Type on Global Digital Activism Targets: A Comparison of Digital Activism in Authoritarian and Democratic Regimes.”

Faculty sponsors, Professors Kate Haulman, CAS - History, William T. Parsons, CAS - Physics, Kimberly Cowell-Myers, SPA and Kate Wilson, CAS - Literature.