Join us
Orange welcome sign that reads Royal Geographical Society with IBG.

Become a member and discover where geography can take you.

Join us

With a huge amount of calls for papers coming out, here are my Top 10 Tips for writing a conference abstract. This article was written by Dr Phil Emmerson for the RGS-IBG's Postgraduate Forum. 


1. Think about what aspect of your research you would like to present.

It is impossible to give a full overview of your PhD topic in one presentation so decide which aspect you would like to present. This may be a chapter (or part of one), your theoretical work, or just something that you find interesting within your work. In general, it is best to try and say one thing really well rather than many things in a rushed way.

2. Make a list of all sessions you could present in.

Often conferences will have a number of sessions that fit your research topic. Rather than rushing in to one of them, take some time to gather up all of the sessions that would work and choose which fit the best for what you want to present.

3. Check session scopes carefully and pick the best one.

Have a look through all the sessions in more detail. Some will ask for specific theory or empirical foci which don’t fit with what you want to say. Rather than trying to mould your work to fit a session, choose a session that fits your work.

4. If you have questions, contact the organisers.

People who organise sessions are usually really great people. Don’t be afraid to email them and ask questions. Double check that the answers aren’t already in the information provided first however.

5. Take note of deadlines.

There is nothing worse than missing a deadline. Take note of when the abstract has to be sent, when you might need to register for the conference by and any other important details. Write them somewhere visible so you don’t forget them.

6. Pay attention to the word limit.

Having organised sessions, there is nothing more annoying than someone with a great idea who can’t stick to an abstract word limit. Check and double check the word limit and make sure you are close, but not over it.

7. Be clear and specific enough…

When writing your abstract, make sure your idea and its context is clear and specific enough. Also make sure it is clear why and how it fits into your chosen session. You can often use wording from the call for papers to make this point more apparent.

8. … but leave some room for manoeuvre.

Postgraduate work in particular has much scope to change. Don’t tie your abstract too closely around an idea or theory that you may not use. Usually session organisers are really flexible with presentations that don’t exactly match an abstract but it’s better to leave some wiggle room for if your scope or ideas shift slightly.

9. Think of a snappy title.

Conference titles don’t have to be as serious as paper ones so leave a little room to play. Choose a title that conveys the message but will also encourage people to come and see your talk.

10. Don’t panic if it takes the organisers a while to get in touch.

After the deadline it may take the organisers a few days or even weeks tofind the time to go through abstracts and choose the papers they want to accept. Be patient and definitely don’t startharassing them the next day to ask if you have been accepted.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Written by: @PhilEmmerson