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10 tips for writing an effective conference abstract

We’ve already discussed how conference organizers can increase the likelihood of receiving high-quality submissions for their Call for Papers and Call for Abstracts. In this post, we address the other side of the table. Read on to find out ten tips to maximize the chances of your abstract being accepted by conference evaluators. 

  1. Firstly, make sure your title is concise and attention-grabbing. Research into the number of average citations per paper has found that titles with between 31 and 40 characters receive the most citations – this can also be a useful guide when writing your abstract heading. 
  2. Conferences are often centred around specific themes or topics. Keep this in mind while writing your abstract as it will impact whether or not reviewers decide to include your work. These themes are often quite broad so with some slight editing you should be able to align your abstract to the conference focus.
  3. Make sure your abstract answers the following questions:
    – What is the research question?
    – How did you answer this question?
    – What does your research add to the field?
    – What methods and results, both final or preliminary, will you be able to discuss at the conference?
  4. Stick to the word limit and make sure your language and sentence structure is as straightforward as possible. Before you submit, read your abstract out loud to make sure you don’t trip over any sentences.
  5. As a practice exercise, summarize your abstract into one sentence. This will help you reestablish the essence of your paper and ensure you’re not including unnecessary information in your submission.
  6. Don’t use too much field-specific jargon, especially when applying for interdisciplinary conferences. You should briefly explain the work you are citing – don’t just assume your reviewers are familiar with it, especially if the research is very new.
  7. Include keywords in your abstract as search engines will use these to locate the paper. You should ideally identify five to ten keywords that appear often in the paper or are closely associated with the content of the paper.
  8. Double-check the style and spacing guidelines. Although these are often standardized, some Call for Abstracts have very specific formatting guidelines.
  9. Before submitting, get your abstract proofread by a supervisor or colleague to remove any typos or errors. Additionally, ask them what their main takeaway from the abstract was to ensure you have been as clear as possible in your research.
  10. Submit your abstract early and often. Evaluators will often start reviewing submissions before the final due date, so getting your abstract in early could improve your chances of being accepted. Additionally, practice makes perfect. By going through the submission process at a number of conferences you’ll get better at crafting the optimal abstract.

Image credit: Green Chameleon

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