Preparing a Conference Abstract: Criteria and Tips
Importance of getting your conference abstract right
Speaking at conferences is an excellent way of sharpening your working ideas and getting feedback on your research. However, before you even get to the stage of writing and presenting a paper, most conferences will request that you submit an application, either for presenting a paper or for a poster exhibition. What you are required to submit within your application can vary, but almost all calls for papers will ask for an abstract: a summary of what your paper (or poster) will be about.
A clearly written, engaging abstract will raise your chances of being accepted to present at the conference. So, it is worth investing the time to prepare this part of your submission well.
Criteria for a good conference abstract
Conference organisers are not likely to know anything about you or your research. They will only have your abstract to decide whether or not to accept your paper. A good abstract should therefore fulfil three key criteria:
- Outlining exactly what your paper is about and what it contributes to the conference
- Conveying why your paper will be valuable and interesting to other researchers
- Indicating how it will address the conference themes and objectives
Tips to begin developing your conference abstract
Conference papers are only about 15-20 minutes long and you will only have time to present one or two key elements or arguments from your research. It follows that the abstract should offer a summary of the paper that you intend to give at the conference, and not a summary of your entire research project. This may mean a lot of the detail that you would usually include in discussions about your research will be omitted – that’s okay. You only need to communicate what is necessary for the purposes of this paper.
Adhering to the conference theme
It is useful to read over the call for papers or information about the conference carefully while you write your abstract. Identify the specific themes, perspectives and approaches that will be covered in this conference, and tailor your abstract to address those themes. You stand a much better chance of being accepted to speak if your abstract fits the conference theme and/or addresses the issues that the conference sets out to explore.
Giving them what they want
- Prepare exactly what the application asks for. This includes respecting word limits (200-500 words) and submitting additional material as required. For example, some conferences may also ask for a short CV and/or a brief biography.
- Be clear and accurate in all the material you prepare and submit.
- Review your abstract and application a few times to ensure there are no errors and label files/attachments clearly.
Read second/final in series: Writing a Conference Abstract: Key Components
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