Written by Bilal Kadiri, King Khalid University

This article discusses my first ever experience of submitting an abstract for an International Conference. The abstract I submitted was entitled ‘Negotiation of Hybrid Identities in a BBC Sitcom: Muslim, British and Pakistani’ and was submitted for the Corpora and Discourse (CAD) International Conference, which is taking place in Lancaster University, UK from 22nd – 24th June 2018.

During my PhD studies, I had made a conscious decision of not adding to my workload by presenting at any conferences or submitting any journal articles. Additionally, I have yet to ever attend an academic conference, as it was not something that had previously ever interested me. Particularly as I had previously been in two minds whether to enter into academia on a full time basis.

Therefore, on a personal level, the compilation of a conference abstract paper was extremely challenging, as I had zero experience of academic conferences. This was coupled with me having very little knowledge of how a conference abstract should be structured.

In order to overcome this obstacle, I browsed multiple websites that provided some templates of conference abstracts, albeit most of them were for conferences unrelated to the social sciences. Thus, I decided to visit websites of past conferences that were related to the field of linguistics and browse through their conference proceedings or book of abstracts (where available).

After exhausting these two avenues, I came to the conclusion that in my opinion there was no definitive way of putting together a conference abstract, as the majority of abstracts that I had come across were significantly different in their layout from one another. However, many of them seemed to have some common components, even though these may have been incorporated into the abstract in different ways. The common components that I identified were sections outlining:

  • The (social) relevance of the study
  • Data/methodology
  • Position of the study in relation to the existing body of literature
  • Research questions / Outcome of the presentation

Once I had familiarised myself with the layout of the abstract, I had to decide on the topic of the paper. This was probably one of the most difficult aspects of the abstract, as I had the ability to choose from any part of my PhD thesis, as I had yet to publish or present any papers. Considering that the paper presentation consisted of a 20 minute talk, the chosen topic would need to have sufficient depth to cover the full twenty minutes, but also the topic could not be so vast that it would not be feasible to cover all the points within the time limit. Another important factor when choosing the topic, was to ensure that it fitted into the theme of the conference and fell into one of the areas of research specified in the conference’s ‘call for papers’.

I decided to put this article together, which documents my own personal experience, in the hope that it may in some way assist other research students or early-career academics who are going through a similar scenario. We find many times in academia, that some academics are hesitant to show any vulnerabilities or lack of experience they may have, as they believe that this may in some way diminish their standing in the eyes of their peers. However, regardless of what stage we may currently be at in our respective careers, we will always be continuously enhancing upon or learning new skills and knowledge.

I would greatly appreciate the feedback of individuals who are sitting on programming committees for such conferences and try to ascertain from them what criteria they employ when accepting abstracts for a conference.

A copy of my finalised abstract that was accepted for presentation at the CAD conference can be found here: https://bit.ly/2qJKM5D 

If you would like the opportunity to write a blog article documenting a similar experience – either submitting your first abstract or presenting at your first academic conference, then please contact me directly: bilal@allaboutcorpora.com