Writing a good conference abstract?

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In our October “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

What makes for a strong abstract when submitting to conferences and workshops?

A CFA has just opened for a prestigious and competitive workshop in my subfield. It’s much easier to get an understanding of what makes for a strong paper – simply read papers published in prestigious journals. But the kinds of elongated abstracts that you submit as workshop proposals don’t (to my knowledge) tend to be available online. So, how should you write the abstract? What should you include? How detailed should your summary of your arguments be? Can you focus on particular sections of the paper and gloss over others, or do you need to detail every step of the paper? Should you make any arguments in the abstract itself? And should you include citations and/or a bibliography?

All good questions! I think the answers probably depend a lot on the length of the abstract. Some conferences ask for 500 word abstracts, whereas others ask for ones that are significantly longer (1000 words). My guess is that what probably matters most is the “hook” (i.e. how interesting is your thesis), and whether it looks like you have promising looking arguments to back it up–but I realize this probably isn’t very helpful.

In any case, my sense is that including citations/partial bibliographies are pretty standard in these, as they show that you’ve actually done scholarship on the topic (rather than just written something up without knowing the background literature). 

But these are just some quick, off-the-cuff thoughts. It would be good to hear from people who organize conferences and judge abstracts: what do you think makes for a good abstract submission?

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More

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