Abstract - From Attending to Presenting at Conferences - Conference Proposals and Article Types

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

From Attending to Presenting at Conferences
Conference Proposals and Article Types

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Mary Renck Jalongo and Olivia N. Saracho

Writing for PublicationSpringer Texts in Education


4. From Attending to Presenting at Conferences

Mary Renck Jalongo1 and Olivia N. Saracho2

(1) Journal and Book Series Editor Springer, Indiana, PA, USA

(2) Teaching & Learning, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA


This chapter will guide the reader through the process of proposing a presentation at a major professional conference. An orientation to the different venues and categories of presentations is included. This chapter offers step-by-step instructions for generating a conference proposal as well as helpful templates for drafting a brief description of a conference session, a schedule for a workshop session, and a structure for conference proposal. The chapter concludes with a strategy for converting a successful conference presentation into a professional journal article.

A new doctoral student is waiting outside a faculty member’s office for an individual appointment to discuss a class assignment. As she stands in the hallway, she notices a bulletin board and announcements about several different professional meetings; a few of them are calls for proposals to make presentations. Later that week, a professor who is on the planning committee for a regional conference invites doctoral students to serve as volunteer peer reviewers of conference proposals. He suggests that, this year, the doctoral students gain practice in assessing the proposals using a rubric and next year, they will have some insider’s knowledge about how to prepare conference proposals of their own. Table 4.1 highlights the general criteria that they will use to evaluate conference proposals.

Table 4.1

General evaluation criteria for conference proposals

Does the proposal conform to the guidelines? Too often, conference proposals are prepared in haste and are disqualified from review because the authors failed to follow the rules. Always read the guidelines multiple times to ensure the proposal’s compliance with the entry rules

Is the session appropriate for the venue? There should be a clear match between what has been proposed, the overall mission of the organization, the category of presentation, and the specific conference theme

Is the proposal representative of effective scholarly writing? Proposals that are not well written do not bode well for an effective session. Awkwardly worded sentences, disorganized thinking, and careless mistakes will get the proposal rejected

Does the proposal have a clear focus? It is unrealistic to assume that a broad topic can be adequately addressed in a brief session. Conference presentations need a clear focus and an emphasis on what attendees would gain from investing their time in a particular session

Does the presentation hold promise for advancing thinking in the field? One major motivation for attending conferences is to update knowledge and skills. Proposals that seem dated in topic or in resources tend to be rejected

Does the proposal reflect audience awareness? Sessions that demonstrate a sincere desire to share expertise and information with fellow professionals in a respectful way are likely to be welcomed

At first, the students question their authority to judge others’ conference proposals. Submitting proposals themselves also seems out of reach; however, a look at last year’s conference program indicates that their institution is well represented by doctoral candidates and faculty. Most of the presentations are collaborative, so a discussion ensues about working with mentors and peers to fashion a successful conference proposal and ways to make an effective presentation. With guidance and support, practically all of the doctoral candidates emerge from their doctoral programs with several conference presentations on their curriculum vitae.

As this situation illustrates, writing in order to make a presentation at a professional conference frequently is one of the first scholarly achievements of graduate students. At the other end of the experiential spectrum, the most widely published researchers and well-known scholars frequently are the keynote presenters at major conferences. For scholars at all stages in between, the professional conference is a major venue for sharing expertise, disseminating research, and networking with peers.