Tips to Write a Strong Abstract for a Conference Paper

An Abstract is a brief synopsis or summary of the most important points in a scientific paper. Abstracts have always played a crucial role in explaining your study quickly and succinctly to journal editors and researchers and prompting them to read further. Successful authors put substantial effort into crafting their abstracts, in a sense it is a marketing document for a full paper. The fact, the abstract appears first in a paper, it is generally the last part written. Only after the paper has been completed can the authors decide what should be in the abstract and what parts are supporting detail.

The first rule of Abstract writing is that it should engage the reader by telling him of her what your paper is about and why they should read it. Authors needs to make a clear statement of the topic of their papers and research question. Learning how to write an abstract for a conference is a matter of following a simple formula for success. Here are four useful tips about how to write a killer conference abstract from Dr. Helen Kara, an Associate Research Fellow at the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham:

  1. Make your abstract as fascinating and enticing as possible. Authors should take a little time to think through some key questions: What kinds of presentations is this conference most likely to attract? How can you make yours different? What are the fashionable areas in your field right now? Are you working in one of these areas? If so, how can you make your presentation different from others doing the same? If not, how can you make your presentation appealing?
  2. Write your abstract well. Engaging concepts in plain English, with a sprinkling of references for context, is much more appealing to conference organizers wading through sheaves of abstracts than complicated sentences with lots of long words, definitions of terms, and several dozen references. Conference organizers are not looking for evidence that you can do really clever writing (save that for your article abstracts), they are looking for evidence that you can give an entertaining presentation.
  3. Conference abstracts written in the future tense are off-putting for conference organizers, because they don’t make it clear that the potential presenter knows what they’ll be talking about. So Don’t write in the future tense if you can help it – and, if you must, specify clearly what you will do and when.
  4. Explain your research (its context, method and findings), and also give an explanation of what you intend to include in the presentation.

Why is the abstract so important? Well, because it is often the only section of a paper that is read and usually determines whether a reader downloads and reads the rest of the paper. Or, in the case of a conference paper, the abstract will determine whether it is accepted or not for presentation to colleagues. Conference organizers and journal editors and reviewers pay close attention to the abstract because it is a good predictor of the quality of the paper or talk. While writing an abstract, you will need to focus on one specific angle of your research and diligently follow all abstract style and formatting guidelines.

Take your time and stay focused! A good abstract is not written in just a few minutes. Even experienced researchers prefer to go over it several times. Think of a half-dozen phrases and keywords that may help attract people to read your publication.



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