October 6, 2021 | 8 min read
An "abstract" for an academic conference is a short summary of the scientific research you are involved in. While abstracts generally have a standard format and include more or less the same information and in a similar layout, each conference may have its unique requirements. It is, therefore, essential that you make yourself aware of that conference's specific requirements when planning to submit an abstract for a conference.
Abstracts are submitted to the conference organizers by or on behalf of one of the research authors. This person is called the "presenting author". The presenting author submits the abstract because they wish to present their work at the conference. The conference then has a committee that decides and selects the abstracts that most fit the topic and purpose of the conference. These chosen abstracts are then scheduled into the conference.
Presenting at a conference is a privilege; so typically, the presenter registration fees are not waived. On the contrary, many conferences will not review an abstract if the person who has submitted it is not registered to attend the conference or has not paid an abstract submission fee.
Conferences are essential academic activities pursued by researchers worldwide. They drive the advancement of knowledge through presentations and discussions among their participants. They also help researchers from different regions and backgrounds to connect, thereby enabling future research cooperation.
The Benefits of Presenting at an Academic Conference
Researchers who present their research at conferences open the door to multiple opportunities to advance their research. They receive direct feedback, new ideas, and advice from influential scientific community members and colleagues.
On both a personal and professional level, presenters receive attention from influential members of the community that can benefit them in the future. In addition to this, presenters gain the opportunity to build their reputation and to add colleagues, future employers, and future collaborators to their network.
Participating in an international conference can be expensive. To present at a conference, participants must have ways to fund their conference participation, including travel and accommodation expenses. Unfortunately, the conference organizers usually will not cover presenters' costs and will not even exempt presenters from the conference registration free. However, presenters can apply for grants from any academic institution they are affiliated with. Associations may also have funds to help members present in conferences. In addition, many organizations will generally fund conference participation for their employees.
To begin with, you need to prepare and submit an abstract of your research.
As mentioned above, a conference abstract is a limited-length outline of an oral presentation or poster that you intend to present at a conference.
Article abstracts are submitted alongside the full article or paper and are therefore evaluated alongside the full paper. In the case of academic journals, if the abstract is not perfect, but the editors liked the article, they can request that the author fix the abstract. However, this is not the case with a conference; a conference abstract is submitted by itself and judged by itself.
On the other hand, many conferences will accept poor abstracts because they need to fill slots to make their conference bigger. In a conference, the quality of your abstract as evaluated by the organizer will affect the type of presentation (live or poster) and the scheduling of the presentation provided to you.
Conference abstracts are processed and reviewed in several steps. These are listed below:
The secretariat is responsible for assigning the abstract for review by one or more reviewers. The secretariat or the Abstract Management System will select the reviewers based on the abstract topic and rules defined by the conference organizers and the conference chairperson.
In small conferences, the chairperson will review all the abstracts and decide how to include them in the conference agenda.
In other conferences, a group of reviewers (known as the scientific committee) will review and give a grade to each abstract. Each reviewer will grade each abstract independently. Depending on the specific conference, each reviewer may also suggest filing the abstract under a different conference topic, recommend the presentation type (poster or oral), or ask the author to revise the abstract (revise and resubmit).
Most conferences aks reviewers to review and grade abstracts based on similar criteria.
Conference organizers may have additional goals, so they may consider additional factors.
Writing a conference abstract is challenging since it is a limited-length text that needs to appeal to all the different groups of people involved in the conference. In addition, each group has somewhat other interests.
The main groups are the conference organizers, reviewers, and conference attendees. Organizers decide if the abstract is good enough before assigning it to the reviewers, and after the abstract is accepted, they choose when to schedule it. Reviewers score the abstract based on conference criteria such as fitting the conference topics and scientific significance. Attendees need to have an interest in attending the presentation after reading the abstract.
Before writing your abstract, check if a preliminary conference agenda has been published. There may be a list of sessions that you can aim to present and topics that get more time on the agenda.
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Remember to check the conference's abstract submissions guidelines.
Check for scientific committee members and chairpersons.
Check abstracts submitted to the conference over the last years can help get an idea of what is required in the abstract.
If previous year abstracts are not available online, ask your colleges if they have a copy of the conference abstracts book from previous years. Attempt to figure out what made each one work.
The title is one sentence that describes your research and presentation. It is probably the most important sentence in your abstract because:
A good title is a clear, easily understood, and attention-grabbing sentence that describes your research and highlights its importance. A good title attracts attendees to read the full abstract or attend the oral presentation.
The abstract body is the main part of the abstract and typically has 200 to 500 words.
An abstract body typically has four parts abbreviated as OMRC.
Let us have a look at the main parts of the abstract:
This part is typically two to four sentences and covers: background information, the reason for doing the research, the problems or questions the research aims to solve, and the overall topic of the research. It also outlines why your research is important and how difficult it is.
Typically, this part of the body will end with a sentence that describes the purpose of the research. For example, "The purpose of this study was to _____."
When doing the research, what research methods were used? How extensive was the investigation? Remember to explain who the participants are, what the researchers measured, and what tools they used. Was the research empirical or theoretical? What sources of information did the research rely on?
This section should not include what the researchers expected to find.
This section describes the research findings.
In the case that the research does not have results yet, you should describe the preliminary data or results with some statistical work. If you expect to have results before the conference, the abstract can include a note that a finalized version of the abstract will be updated at a later date before the conference.
This section explains the meaning of the findings, the importance of the findings, and their implications.
An abstract that does not include a conclusion or result section is called a descriptive abstract. If the abstract has a conclusion, it is called an informative abstract.
Participating in an international academic conference potentially brings multiple opportunities. Presenting at a conference adds a significant boost to these opportunities and can also help fund participation. Writing a good abstract is key to making this possible.