How to Write an Abstract for a Conference

A top quality abstract will let people know what they can expect from the conference.

An abstract is a short overview that provides a summary of your research. The abstract is the first thing that anybody will see before exploring your academic work in full. For a research conference, your abstract will be used by event organizers and will be available to your audience before the conference begins. In every case, it is the one tool that provides that all-important first impression. A typical abstract for a conference will be around 200 to 300 words so it is crucial that you communicate your ideas clearly and concisely.

Explain briefly what you did as well as why you did it. You need to convince the person reading your abstract why he should attend the conference by showing why your research is relevant and is important to your field of study or to the wider world. Three to four sentences should be enough. You’re not telling the story of how you came up with your idea but trying to show why it matters.

Detail your approach by stating the method you used to get your results. This will differ with every study but you should mention to those who will be attending the conference how you explored your specific area. For example, in a scientific study you should explain how you collected and analysed your data. Alternatively, if your work is literary research, you should clarify the novels, plays or poems that you looked at and that will be looked at during the conference.

Specify your findings in three or four sentences. Think of this part as the hook with which you entice people with your valuable information. Provide only core details of your end results and leave the specific fine points for the conference proper. This informs people but also keeps them curious so they are more likely to be interested in your research.

Offer a conclusion to the abstract that reiterates the relevance of your work. Good research builds on the work of others and must be original. If your work challenges or supports existing theories, say so in the conclusion. Indicates the relevance of your research and explain what it means for the future of your field.

  • Find out the guidelines specific to your conference. Make sure that your abstract adheres to the correct rules regarding font style, line spacing and word count.
  • Present only the most necessary information, aiming for around 50 to 75 words for each section in a typical abstract. There is no room for over-descriptive writing.

Shaun Dooley began professional writing in 2009, when he had a short story published in "Shoestring" magazine. Dooley studies English and American literature at Keele University, England.