Before getting asked to present at a conference, organizers will put out a call for papers. However, before you get to the stage of writing and submitting your paper, you will be asked to send in an abstract for review.
An abstract is a summary of what your paper will be about. In essence, it’s is an application for a chance to appear at the conference and present your paper.
Event organizers will have a list of requirements for abstracts which can make writing an abstract a challenging task.
Your abstract is a sales tool to sell your ideas, so you shouldn’t submit lackluster work based on the assumption that competition for a presentation slot won’t be fierce. Event organizers would rather pass on a low-quality abstract than risk boring their audience.
Start your planning early, so you have multiple opportunities to proofread, edit, and finetune your abstract, so it has the best chance of getting you an invitation.
Use Plain English
You should not view your abstract as an opportunity to display your higher learning or academic accolades. Remember, conference organizers attempt to design events so they are as stimulating as they are informative.
Use plain language to describe your concepts. Avoid complicated sentences, dozens of references, and long words rarely used in everyday communication. They are searching for presenters who can keep the audience engaged with an entertaining presentation, so use your abstract to show that you can do that.
You should also keep in mind that the organizers may not know you or have experience in your field. Their only connection with you is through the abstract you send, and that’s what they will use to decide if you have a place in their conference.
Select Relevant Keywords
Keywords are critical for increasing the online exposure of your work after its published. Many requests for an abstract will stipulate you include keywords. Some won’t but will expect them anyway. Always include at least 5 or 10 keywords the search engines can use to locate your paper and show it on the search results page.
Use Previous Abstracts for Inspiration
You can find examples of abstracts online, or you might be able to access a conference book of abstracts if you cannot locate any relevant ones online. Review as many as you can and try to identify the features that made them successful.
Avoid Jargon and Filler Content
As we mentioned, your space is limited, so keep sentences short and cut out any unnecessary phrases. Also, avoid using industry jargon a reviewer may not be familiar with, which may be the case if the conference covers a range of industries or disciplines.
Another reason to start writing your abstract well before the deadline is that you will increase your chances of acceptance if you submit it early. As the deadline draws near, the number of submissions arriving on a reviewer’s desk will ramp up, which increases your chances of getting lost in the crowd.
Your paper will only have enough time to cover one or two key points of your research. The abstract should cover only those points and not the entire scope of your research. This means you may need to leave out a lot of detail, but it will help you convey only what is necessary for the paper you are submitting.
Conferences are often the first opportunity for new researchers to publish their work, making abstracts an excellent opportunity for learning and experience. Consider writing abstracts for every opportunity that comes along because your skills will improve with each one you submit.
Get a Second Set of Eyes
It’s difficult to critique your own work, especially when the page is still fresh. Ask someone else to go over your work for grammatical areas and wording. If you can’t get another set of eyes, walk away from the abstract for a couple of days and come back later. You will be able to review it more objectively and will be more likely to spot grammatical errors.
Abstract Formula for Success
The best abstracts follow a proven formula that will attract the reviewers’ attention and ensure they treat your submission more favorably.
#1 Abide By the Guidelines
Read over the abstract guidelines so you can deliver an accurate submission. Stick to the words count limit, and send in any additional material they request (such as a short biography or a CV). Keep your information accurate, clear, and concise.
#2 Title and Topic
The topic describes what your paper is about. You have maybe 10 or 12 words to describe what your paper is about
You will have 15 – 20 minutes to present your paper, which means you will need to limit the scope of your topic to one or two key points. Show the organizers how you intend to fit your presentation into the scope of the conference topics and create your abstract with that in mind.
#3 Show Why Your Audience will Care
Use your abstract to show reviewers why your audience will care about the topic you are presenting. Why is your research critical? Briefly go over the background of your topic and the challenges you faced.
#4 Identify the Problem
Much of your audience will be there to learn how to solve problems. Refer back to the call for papers and check for specific issues or challenges it plans to address. Your abstract should describe how your paper intends to approach the challenges or provide an answer to the issues.
This section will focus on the problem, how you developed solutions and your research scope.
#6 Projections and Conclusion
Did your analysis match your predictions? If so, how did they match up, and were there any discrepancies? Discuss how your research and its results will contribute to the industry. Will they have an impact or show other researchers that further research in this area will be pointless?
Your abstract should conclude with a brief summary of the content of your paper. Restate the value you will bring, and what their audience will get out of it.