How to Write an Abstract

Overarching Considerations

1.  Do NOT exceed word count (usually 200 words).

2.  Ensure you have properly formatted your work according to instructions in Call for Papers (usually Microsoft Word).

3. Ensure your work is anonymous.  You can include your name and institutional affiliations in your cover letter.  The abstract itself will be judged by a panel that typically cannot know your identity.

4.  The deadline for receipt of submissions is key.   There have been times when a midnight deadline has been good, but stress filled.  Be kind to yourself.

5.  Attend to the technical and mechanical aspects of your writing.  Have someone proof read or copy edit your work.   Grammatical errors, spelling errors are not appropriate.

6. Think about your audience.   First, the conference panel followed by the audience members for the conference.  Is it a professional organization? Community-based?  Qualitative conference?

7.  For the complete abstract guidelines, go to

What to Include in an Abstract

1. Commence with a general statement about the nature of the paper.   (Often when we are writing especially if we are new to a form, we will move from the general to the specific and then back to the general – creating the context for our work.)

2. What are the objectives or goals of your paper.  Link these to some of the current issues in your field(s).

3. Provide a theoretical context related to the conference theme.

4. What questions will you be exploring?  Choose 1 or 2 questions to focus upon in the conference abstract – think again about the call for papers and how your work fits……

5. Conclusion – what does this add? Why is it significant?

6. References

Finally, remember to use a cover letter (in our case, the body of the email is sufficient) that thanks the committee for their time – they are usually volunteers and graduate students.

Allergy alert:   We request conference participants not to bring in any nut or soy products, and not to wear scented products.

Caption:   The heading contains 3 images.  From left: a presenter standing next to her academic poster, a presenter sitting at the front of a room reading her paper, a keynote  facing his audience.  These images were taken at the 2009 CDSSA Graduate Student Conference.