A Guide for Writing Conference Abstracts

writing abstracts

You have received the call for papers but you don’t want to send over just any old conference abstract. Writing conference abstracts shouldn’t be difficult, but they do need to stand out.

This quick guide will show you a few pointers on writing conference proposals that will get the attention they deserve.

What is a Conference Abstract?

A conference abstract is a fairly standardized style of writing used to describe the material you would like to present at a conference. To submit abstracts successfully, you should follow the guidelines and formatting styles set out for you, which will typically involve:

  • Keeping it clear and concise
  • Keeping it brief (usually no more than 250 -500 words)
  • Ensuring your abstract is grammatically correct
  • Maintaining a professional tone

When writing conference proposals, the goal is to reveal not just the paper you are proposing, but you should use some of the text to reveal a little about yourself.

Evaluators who are working through piles of conference abstracts will be looking for clues in the writing that will reveal some important traits about the writer, such as your experience and knowledge of the topic, your level of enthusiasm, and your professionalism.

When you take care with your abstract submission, you will stand a better chance of being selected to present your material.

Stay Compliant

It’s critical you follow all of the guidelines set out for you before you submit abstracts for consideration.

Calls for papers will almost always specify the word length and guidelines you must follow. Some will be more specific than others and may include instructions for font size, type of font, text justification, quote presentation, and whether you should include footnotes.

Evaluators are busy people, so follow these instructions closely. Any deviation will likely cause them to immediately disregard your submission.

If no abstract guidelines are forthcoming, follow best practices and keep your word count around 250 and no more than 500. When faced with piles of abstract submissions, abstract committees will always look more favorably on those that are brief and to the point.

Be Concise and to the Point

Only submit abstracts that are concise while ensuring you include all necessary information you need to. Use formal language and avoid flowery words and wordy sentences. Always use active voice and keep prepositional phrases to a minimum.

Respect the Evaluator’s Time

Always create your abstract submissions with the evaluator in mind and respect their time. Ensure your text adequately fits the call for papers and doesn’t exceed the word count. Triple check  you have included all the requested information, including:

  • Personal data
  • Keywords
  • Academic level/area of study

Start writing conference proposals early rather than last minute. It’s a relatively short piece of text, but attention to detail is essential for success, and you don’t want to rush it. Submissions that arrive after the deadline are very unlikely to get reviewed.

Maintain Your Focus

Good abstract submissions indicate how they can offer extra value to the conference. Discussing your expertise developed over an entire career can be challenging, so come up with a good angle that will highlight your strengths.

Consider discussing:

  • The problems and issues you will address
  • The research methods you use
  • The data you have collected and analyzed
  • The findings you will be discussing

When you can answer the above four questions succinctly, 250 to 500-words should be enough to show the evaluator the value you will deliver to attendees. Remember, start early, so you have enough time to go over your proposal a few times before the deadline.

Get Another Set of Eyes

When you are reading and re-reading a piece of text over and over you wrote yourself, it’s easy to miss obvious mistakes. You could reread your submission 20 times and not see the comma that should be a full stop or a grammatical error like you’re versus your.

Always have a second (and even third) pair of eyes go over your work. Other people are much more likely to spot mistakes you miss, especially if they have experience with submitting abstracts.

Check that the text flows smoothly. Read it out loud so you can hear where you might be stumbling over wordy sentences or awkward prose. If you are tripping over any sentences, you can guarantee the evaluator will have the same issues.

You will be tempted to use contractions due to word count limits, but you should avoid these as they are considered unprofessional or informal.

Check for repetition of claims. Inexperienced writers can often rephrase a claim using different words without knowing they are doing so. This is where another set of eyes can save abstract submissions from the rejected pile.

What Not to Include

Most pieces of text start with an introduction and end with a conclusion. However, writing conference proposals like this could leave you with very few words to get your point across without going over your word count.

Skip the introduction and get right into the meat of the subject. Discussing the material you will be covering will be an introduction enough. A conclusion summing up your abstract is also not necessary.

Other items you can leave out to keep your word count under control include references related to your research. The fact that evaluators are reaching out to shows that they trust you have these basics well in hand.

Avoid Overuse of Jargon

​Some industry-specific jargon may be necessary for your audience, but try to keep it out of your abstract submission as much as possible. There’s no guarantee the evaluator will understand the industry-specific terms, so try to get your point across in language they will understand.

Check Out Examples

Inexperience with article submissions can make you unsure about how to go about it. Fortunately, there are tons of examples you can review online to get an idea about how to structure your text when writing conference proposals. Regardless of your industry or academic expertise, there is sure to be a few samples you can use to help you make your next abstract proposal a successful one.