Writing an abstract for a conference paper

When answering a call for papers a number of factors need to be kept in mind to ensure that your abstract has a good chance of being accepted.

1) Ensure that your ideas are well thought out and follow a logical, coherent flow.

  • State the issue to be discussed
  • Give a brief background to the issue
  • Brief description of what you are doing about it
  • Implications/outcomes: why is what you've done important?

2) Ensure that the abstract relates to the conference theme (for the Rushton Conference this can be anything related to language, literature, or culture).

  • In a 'real' and not contrived way: if it doesn't fit then don't submit
  • An interesting and catchy title helps: but make sure it's not too 'clever' or obscure

3) Ensure that the practical aspects of the abstract comply with requirements.

  • It meets or is under the specified word length
  • Is typed in the specified font type, size
  • Spacing and setting out are correct
  • If no guidelines are given then a standard format is usually: 200 to 250 words; Times New Roman, 12 pt font

4) Limit the number of references cited in the abstract.

  • Use only if essential to support your argument
  • Detailed references can be covered in the resulting presentation/paper

5) Look at past abstracts/conference papers.

  • Pick up the tone and style of that particular organization's conferences

6) Have someone read your abstract.

Example: A professor, colleague, or friend

7) Submit on or before the due date and in the required way.

  • Electronically, via e-mail, is usually preferred
  • Ensure computer compatibility of documents (especially in converting Macintosh to IBM formats)
  • Saving in 'Rich Text Format' in Word is better (*.rtf); usually .doc is fine; .docx can present compatibility issues

Ensure you include your name, title, organization and contact details, including phone, fax, street address, and email.

8) Finally, remember that your abstract serves two purposes.

  • To interest and intrigue the committee so they will select it
  • To introduce/outline your topic for the conference handbook so it needs to stand alone as a record of your presentation

Sample abstract

The following abstract is from a professional academic conference. It and others are posted on the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference site.

Image and Narrative Voice in Les Enfants Terribles and Journal d'un curé de campagne
Perry Donald Moon

Two of the most original French films of 1950, Melville's Les Enfants Terribles and Bresson's Journal d'un curé de campagne were adaptations of widely read novels. Although very different, each film bears the trace of its novelistic source in the form of voice-over narration. This paper will examine the use of narrative voice in these two films.

Long considered suspect in a medium that is supposed to relate stories primarily with images, voice-over narration has gained acceptance by recent film scholars. However, the venerable distinction between word and image remains virtually unquestioned. Drawing on the work of André Bazin and Mikhail Bakhtin, this paper will argue that narrative voice cannot, in fact, be separated from the images created by these two films. This paper will examine the image-making use of voice-over narration in each film. Through analysis of both spoken discourse and visual text, it will show how voice-over narration is used to create the image of the author in Les Enfants Terribles, while in Journal d'un curé de campagne narration is used create the image of the writer. Together these two films offer an interesting, and ironic, means to explore the distinction, articulated by Bakhtin, between the sacerdotal author and the writer, who attempts to make meaning that is not foreordained.