This post first appeared on Thesislink in May 2018, and has been updated.
If you’ve ever tried to write a conference abstract, you’ll know how intimidating the process can be. After all, the abstract is essentially your ‘audition’ to get into the conference; and, if it’s accepted, it will be your ‘advertisement’ in the conference programme. It has to achieve a lot, and in only around 200-300 words. The stakes are high.
A little bit of emotional upheaval is to be expected. In my experience, it goes something like this:
Even though it’s short, a conference abstract has to contain so much that fitting everything within the word limit is like trying to cram four days’ worth of conference outfits into your carry-on luggage.
However, you can make the process a little easier on yourself (at least for your first few abstracts) by following a loose ‘formula’. Of course, every conference is different – and please do read the submission guidelines for the conference that you’re targeting. But in general, abstract reviewers look for:
- contextual information about the state of existing knowledge in your niche area
- the purpose of your contribution (i.e. why you’re giving this talk / paper / poster)
- a description of your research project & methods
- an indication of your findings (or hypotheses, if you don’t have findings yet)
- the significance & implications of your research
So if you cover those five things, you are well on track. Here’s what your abstract might look like:
If you’d like to learn more about writing an abstract (and have a go) you can also come along to our Writing an Abstract for a Conference or Symposium workshop on Friday 26 March at 10am. In the workshop, we will cover lots of abstract-writing tips, and we will collaborate to produce a first draft of an abstract within 30 minutes. You can register for the workshop via elab.