Writing A Conference Proposal/Abstract

By Jan.13, 2011

Or, Taking Advantage of Local Opportunities and Resources

to Develop Educational Research Aspects of Your Career


One month after this posting, reviewers for the University of Salford’s Education in a Changing Environment 6th International Conference will begin reading abstracts from which we will shape the 6-8 July 2011 conference, and we want to see your proposal/abstract among the lot before us. One month. Consider this: by setting aside even one uninterrupted hour of each week until the 14 February deadline in order to focus your thinking, writing and revising energies, you will be able to craft an interesting and provocative abstract on some aspect of teaching and educational research that you find interesting, important, informative.



Working with this blog post, you’ll be able to:

1. Gain an overview of the ECE Conference

2. Gather a few basic reminders about composing effective abstracts

3. Generate feedback as you review your draft and/or engage in peer feedback

4. Get into editing mode with appropriate wordsmithing resources

5. Go on, and submit the darn thing

And, as my teaching mentor Cleo Martin would say, We have way more to say and write about with regard to our teaching that we know – just have a conversation with another colleague and you’re sure to generate ideas. And, from a Cleo article on feedback, I’m reminded to note that an abstract you write – like any other piece of writing – is “unique, never having existed before in the history of the world” and benefits more from making time to talk with real readers than from spending time to learn a set of formulas.


1. ECE Conference Overview: The Education in a Changing Environment 6th International Conference – sponsored by and hosted at the University of Salford from 6-8 July 2011 – will feature explorations and discussions of international best practice focused on Creativity and Engagement in Higher Education in higher education teaching and educational research.


Conference Themes:

  • Social Media: using social media to facilitate, engage, support or deliver learning
  • Learning, Teaching and Assessment: creative ways of facilitating learning, teaching and assessment and enabling engagement with students
  • Networking and Partnerships: addressing engagement and creativity with external partners including other universities, other countries, and a range of employers, including research in organisational learning, in community/social justice learning, and in work related learning.



Conference Abstracts/Proposals for Pecha Kucha, workshops, performances, demonstrations, posters and other modes of presenting your work (eg, dialogues featuring students, modeling of pedagogical approaches, works in progress panels or topical roundtables) – are due on 14 February 2011. Abstracts should include aims and outcomes of research/teaching and learning activity, note how the work addresses a theme of the conference, and be no more than 300 words. For more specific information on abstracts across these presentation modes, see the ECE Abstracts page.



2. Composing Abstracts: Way too many links out there about how to write an abstract. The one I’ll recommend here comes with high recommendations from consultants working with University of Minnesota students from across a range of disciplines – Abstracts. And I’ll add just two caveats: Skim through the resource collecting/reviewing overall ideas. Focus on two segments – Key Process Elements and If You Are Abstracting Your Own Writing.



3. Generating Feedback: This set of ideas is based on experience as a graduate writing consultant/coach and on research conducted by Barbara Kamler and Pat Thomson as reported in Driven to Abstraction: Doctoral Supervision and Writing Pedagogies” (2004); the bullet points listed below a slightly reworded versions of lists as they appear in the cited article:


Review/read the initial draft of your own/your peer’s abstract by looking at these features

• the purpose/catch/interest/clarity as expressed in the first line of each abstract

overall organization of the abstract as a summary report or an argument or some blend

• presence of the researcher and attention to how the researcher was represented in the text

• attention to and clarity about how the research is located in wider debates, issues, research

• the language used overall; mindfully determine whether to use active versus passive voice


Revise with what you’ve learned in mind. Then, and only then, return to the feedback seeking/providing mode with these questions (again, slightly reworded from the Kamler & Thomson article cited above):

What’s the research problem being addressed? If you and/or peers can’t name this clearly – or are at odds in naming this, time to talk through the differences.

How do I locate the significance of my work? More than name other researchers/teachers, focus on letting us know how and why your work adds to, enriches, extends the discussion.

What conversation am I in? Where am I standing to research this problem? Do attend to those others – the experts out there – who write about this topic, but don’t hide your own ideas, analysis, approaches behind or underneath or as an after thought to theirs.

What do I offer as an alternative to existing research? Your abstract needs to address readers’ “So, what’s important about this…” or “So, why did you bother with this…” or “So, now what can I do with this…” questions.

What is my argument? Do you say this? Once? Throughout the piece and in a way that builds readers’ understanding?


4. Get to the wordsmithing: In drafting you need to get ideas on paper, develop ideas as one leads to a next, and move around from one segment of the work to another as you work through ideas. At the editing stage – after you’ve made use of feedback on ideas, content, organization – do pay attention to wordsmithing. The follow three resources will help you in developing strategies for focusing on sentence level revision:



5. Go on, submit it




And if you want some feedback from us as you work on discovering your topic, linking it to the conference topics, or crafting your abstract at draft or revisions stages, you may certainly contact us:

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