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Writing an Abstract for BritGrad

By Sarah Stangeland

Originally posted: 6 March, 2019

Writing an abstract for a conference can be daunting. It’s tough trying to cram all of your hard work into a tiny paragraph! We definitely don’t want our Britgrad applicants to feel overwhelmed by the task so here’s some tips and tricks for getting started.

What is an Abstract?

A conference abstract is a brief description of your proposed paper. It will cover the general outline of your argument as well as discuss current scholarly work surrounding the subject.

Getting Started

If you are proposing an essay you’ve already written, a good idea is to review your introductory and concluding paragraphs. You can glean most of your key information from those sections and then fill in any gaps that are necessary for explaining your paper’s significance. If you haven’t already written the paper you are proposing, don’t feel overwhelmed! It isn’t necessary to have everything done yet. Simply outline your paper and have an understanding of the work that has already been done in the field of study. You should be familiar with current ideas and arguments, but don’t feel obligated to know everything at this stage in the paper writing process.

Abstract Formula

Here is a suggested outline for an academic conference abstract. Do not feel obligated to follow this exactly, but including all of this information in your abstract will ensure an improved sense of clarity.

  1. Address current research in the field

  2. Establish the specific works you will be discussing (both primary and secondary)

  3. Provide a clear argument

  4. Explain how your research fills a gap in current research, opposes popular views, or adds something new to the conversation

  5. Conclude your research

General Guidelines

Title your paper

A proposed presentation should certainly have a title. Since a conference is a less rigid academic environment, feel free to include some humour and personality in your title.

Have a clear sense of direction

To be perfectly honest, readers can be a bit lazy. Don’t give them an opportunity to lose interest in your proposed paper by submitting a confusing abstract. Make sure your submission is straightforward and avoids unnecessary words/phrases.

Be specific and avoid vague generalizations

You want your paper to stand out from the rest! You don’t have to include every single detail (especially since the word count is rather limiting), but make it clear that you understand your own presentation. If you don’t understand the concepts, the reader certainly will not understand your abstract. However, this doesn’t mean that every word has to be found in the thesaurus, you can be perfectly eloquent without overly ornate language.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

This cannot be emphasized enough; proofreading is of the utmost importance! Submitting an abstract full of errors will result in confusion and your reader might even think you don’t actually care about the conference you’re applying to. Double-check spelling, grammar, and the overall flow of the abstract before sending it. Reading your work aloud can be especially useful in this sort of circumstance.

Specified Guidelines

All Abstracts

Be aware that there is a 200 word maximum for all abstracts and that a single presentation cannot go past the 20 minute time limit. These rules are put into place to ensure fairness for all the conference participants.

Abstract for a Conference Panel

When proposing your panel, make sure the connecting theme is clear across everyone’s abstracts, and that this is reflected in the title of your panel.

Abstract for a Practical/Creative Project

In addition to the information listed above, clarify exactly what you will be accomplishing through your project. Explain what props will be necessary, how your audience will participate, etc.

Sending Your Abstract

Send the completed document to Include your abstract in an attachment, not the body of your email. Feel free to write a brief message that states your name, institution, and title of your paper. Once the registrar has received and filed your abstract, they will send a confirmation email. If you do not receive a confirmation email within seven working days, please contact BritGrad to ensure that your abstract was received.

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