Whether you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student, attending an academic conference is a positive way to explore new research in your area of expertise, to meet other researchers, and to present your own work. Showing your research at a conference allows other people in your field to provide feedback on your work, shedding light upon weaker and stronger aspects of your study. But before presenting in any conference, you must be accepted. Don’t panic if you have never applied to a conference or your abstract has been rejected in a couple of them, as in this entry we will share tips on the application process to give you a great chance of success.
Choosing the right conference
It may sound a bit obvious, but one of the reasons why papers get rejected from conferences is because they are not relevant to the conference topics. Therefore, you have to be aware of the topic of the conference which is relevant to the main subject of the field. To increase your chances of getting accepted, you will have to look for ways to connect your paper to the research line provided by the organisers. To do so, you will have to think how your investigation could be relevant to the topic and see if your preliminary findings can be somehow linked to conference topics in a broader sense. If you are still not sure whether the conference is suitable for your research, you can always use these four questions to dissipate any doubts:
- What type of conference is this, is it in my discipline/field?
- What session (s) does my research fit in?
- What information are they looking for?
- What information do they know/ not know?
Knowing your discipline
Once you have chosen a conference, you should start writing your abstract. Abstracts are used as filters to determine whether you get the chance to present your research. If you are not sure what an abstract is or you need to check how it is organised, I invite you to read one of our previous articles on how to write a well-structured abstract.
There are differences between writing an abstract for your dissertation and writing an abstract for applying to a conference. For the latter, you have to identify the connection of your research to the session or conference, and also analyse how much the audience understands your topic. Before you start organising your abstract, answer these questions:
Connection to the session and/or conference
- What information needs to be explicit to show the connection to the session/conference
- What information can be left implicit?
- What information needs to be explained to the audience?
Audience understandings of your topic
- Is it likely they will know your topic background (location of study, type of experiment, artefacts used and analyses, etc.)?
- Is it likely that they will understand/know your methodology?
- Do terms or phrases need to be explained and cited for your reviewer and/or audience?
Answering these questions will allow you to narrow down the information needed within your abstract.
Approved but also needs resubmission
Depending on the conference, you may be approved as long as you resubmit your abstract. This means that the reviewer has doubts about specific points of your writing, which he/she considers to be relevant for the understanding of your abstract. In general, reviewers’ comments tend to be explicit about the issues to address or how to fix them. Let’s see an example of a comment from an abstract approved which needed resubmission:
‘Original topic fitting the overall conference theme of power. Reference to journalistic work, however, should be better supported theoretically. The data set needs to be identified better-exactly which news texts were analysed and which are the ideological orientations of such publications?”
In this case, the reviewer is asking the researcher to provide a more specific definition of journalistic work which must be supported by theory. Additionally, the abstract must include specific information about the data, indicating the sources from where the results were obtained. If you want to make sure that your resubmission will be successful, you can always try to look for pieces of research published by your reviewer and see how he/she articulates the abstract section.
Try it yourself
Now that you know the basics of applying to a conference, try to put these tips into practice by looking for a conference you may like to participate in. It does not have to be this year or soon, just do it as a way to practice your application process and the abstract writing section. Good luck!