My Top 10 Abstract Writing tips


I was asked to pull together my tips on writing abstracts for some fellow education doctoral students at Staffordshire. I thought i’d share them on here as the may help other people as well. They are simply based on my own experience of submitting successfully to a number of conferences and reviewing for another so please don’t take them as definitive but maybe some points to consider. Id also recommend this post from Helen Kara.


  1. RTF( C) / Q – Read the #$%# Call! 
    1. What are the requirements for the submission?
    2. Is there a word limit?
    3. Are you allowed references?
    4. Is there an ECR / Postgrad check box – If so, check it!
    5. Is there a theme?


  1. Choose your stream wisely
    1. Some conferences / streams are more competitive than others.
    2. Is the stream what it says on the tin? Use past conference books.
    3. Relevance is one criteria – does your research fit with the stream?
  1. Check, check and check some more!
    1. Clarity is one of the criteria.
    2. Quality is linked to clarity. If it is written poorly what does that say about the research?
  1. Find a critical friend
    1. Even more useful if they are ‘divorced’ from your research.
    2. Be prepared to use their comments ‘critically’, not just reword what you have written their way.
  1. Make sure you’ve included the ‘so what?’ factor
    1. Significance is another consideration – what is the significance of your paper?
    2. This does not need to be huge but make sure it is clear why will your paper be of interest to delegates.
  2. Use past abstracts to help you with structure
    1. Some conferences have very different conventions and requirements.
    2. Don’t miss out on being accepted due to a technical error.
  1. Consider your audience – Both reviewer AND delegates
    1. Your abstract is not just for the conference book, it is your key to getting in.
    2. The audience may, or may not be experts in your method or subfield!!
  1. Submit SOMETHING!
    1. It is OK to talk about work in progress.
    2. That said, make sure your abstract has a focus, don’t just summarise your project.
  1. Did I mention checking?
    1. Spelling
    2. Syntax
    3. Grammar
    4. That pesky call (you did read that first, right?) and the submission requirements.

  2. Remember there is a DEADLINE!
    1. Submitting sometimes requires registering on a site and using specific tools – allow enough time!
    2. If you can get it in earlier, do. It often reduces stress for organisers and reviewers, especially in smaller conferences.

Good Luck and feel free to add extra tips in the comments below