Writing the Title and 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

Writing the Title and Abstract
From Attending to Presenting at Conferences
Conference Proposals and Article Types

When you write a title for a conference session think, first and foremost, about setting attendees’ expectations appropriately. The title should capture the essence of the session and attract the participants who stand to benefit the most. For example, I presented a session called “Writing the Practical Journal Article: A Workshop for Aspiring Authors”. This title made it clear the session was designed for less experienced academic authors (i.e., aspiring), that it would not focus on reporting research (i.e., practical journal article), and that it would be more interactive (i.e., workshop). As a result, nearly all of the participants were doctoral students and new higher education faculty members—exactly what I was seeking. In some ways, conference session titles are like billboards at the side of the road in that they need to catch the reader’s attention, and convey information in just a few words. Session titles should represent “truth in advertising” to avoid disappointment among prospective participants.

A good way to begin with writing the title for your session is by referring to a copy of a conference program from the previous year in hard copy or online. This will provide some sense of an appropriate title. In general, some guidelines are:

· Consider the audience and meeting theme

· Stress benefits and results

· Identify concerns, issues, trends

· Match carefully to your content

· Stimulate interest

· Make the session purpose clear

· Motivate attendance

· Avoid being cute, inventing forced acronyms, or generating cryptic titles that confuse the reader

Most major conferences publish a brief statement about the session suitable for publication in the program. This might be called a session description, brief description, or abstract. As with the title, these short pieces of writing need to be very carefully crafted and may take a surprising amount of time to write.

Activity 4.2: Session Descriptions in the Conference Program

Look online or browse through the print conference program of a professional organization. What do you notice about the session titles? What was the word limit on the abstracts? Now search, not based on content that interests you, but on how well written the titles and short descriptions are. Locate three good examples of session titles and descriptions to serve as examples for a session you would like to propose.

In many cases, the brief description or abstract will be a major determinant of the outcomes of a scholar’s effort to have a proposal accepted. Although it is a short piece of writing, it is important to craft the brief description carefully. First of all, if it is confusing or poorly written, the entire proposal is likely to be rejected. Second, the brief description is what appears in the conference program, so any flaws will be exceedingly public. Many times, a place to begin with presenting at professional conferences is the workshop that will be attended by practitioners as a form of professional development. Those who are new to making conference presentations may find the workshop less intimidating than presenting original research, for example. Use the information in Activity 4.3 to compose a brief description of a professional workshop.

Activity 4.3: “Formula” for a Brief Description of a Workshop

Try this strategy for drafting a session description: (1) Opening statement—Write a somewhat general (and fairly indisputable) statement about the situation; (2) Approach—your “take” on the issue, the focus/purpose, (3) Benefits—What will attendees do besides sit and listen? Begin each item in the list with a verb; list 3 or 4 main outcomes, (4) Resources—what will they will receive? (e.g., an annotated list of websites, a checklist, a synthesis of the research).