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How to Write a Really Great Presentation Abstract

Whether this is your first abstract submission or you just need a refresher on best practices when writing a conference abstract, these tips are for you..

An abstract for a presentation should include most the following sections. Sometimes they will only be a sentence each since abstracts are typically short (250 words):

  • What (the focus): Clearly explain your idea or question your work addresses (i.e. how to recruit participants in a retirement community, a new perspective on the concept of “participant” in citizen science, a strategy for taking results to local government agencies).
  • Why (the purpose): Explain why your focus is important (i.e. older people in retirement communities are often left out of citizen science; participants in citizen science are often marginalized as “just” data collectors; taking data to local governments is rarely successful in changing policy, etc.)
  • How (the methods): Describe how you collected information/data to answer your question. Your methods might be quantitative (producing a number-based result, such as a count of participants before and after your intervention), or qualitative (producing or documenting information that is not metric-based such as surveys or interviews to document opinions, or motivations behind a person’s action) or both.
  • Results: Share your results — the information you collected. What does the data say? (e.g. Retirement community members respond best to in-person workshops; participants described their participation in the following ways, 6 out of 10 attempts to influence a local government resulted in policy changes ).
  • Conclusion : State your conclusion(s) by relating your data to your original question. Discuss the connections between your results and the problem (retirement communities are a wonderful resource for new participants; when we broaden the definition of “participant” the way participants describe their relationship to science changes; involvement of a credentialed scientist increases the likelihood of success of evidence being taken seriously by local governments.). If your project is still ‘in progress’ and you don’t yet have solid conclusions, use this space to discuss what you know at the moment (i.e. lessons learned so far, emerging trends, etc).

Here is a sample abstract submitted to a previous conference as an example:

Giving participants feedback about the data they help to collect can be a critical (and sometimes ignored) part of a healthy citizen science cycle. One study on participant motivations in citizen science projects noted “When scientists were not cognizant of providing periodic feedback to their volunteers, volunteers felt peripheral, became demotivated, and tended to forgo future work on those projects” (Rotman et al, 2012). In that same study, the authors indicated that scientists tended to overlook the importance of feedback to volunteers, missing their critical interest in the science and the value to participants when their contributions were recognized. Prioritizing feedback for volunteers adds value to a project, but can be daunting for project staff. This speed talk will cover 3 different kinds of visual feedback that can be utilized to keep participants in-the-loop. We’ll cover strengths and weaknesses of each visualization and point people to tools available on the Web to help create powerful visualizations. Rotman, D., Preece, J., Hammock, J., Procita, K., Hansen, D., Parr, C., et al. (2012). Dynamic changes in motivation in collaborative citizen-science projects. the ACM 2012 conference (pp. 217–226). New York, New York, USA: ACM. doi:10.1145/2145204.2145238

📊   Data Ethics  – Refers to trustworthy data practices for citizen science.

Get involved » Join the Data Ethics Topic Room on CSA Connect!

📰   Publication Ethics  – Refers to the best practice in the ethics of scholarly publishing.

Get involved » Join the Publication Ethics Topic Room on CSA Connect!

⚖️  Social Justice Ethics  – Refers to fair and just relations between the individual and society as measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges. Social justice also encompasses inclusiveness and diversity.

Get involved » Join the Social Justice Topic Room on CSA Connect!

👤   Human Subject Ethics  – Refers to rules of conduct in any research involving humans including biomedical research, social studies. Note that this goes beyond human subject ethics regulations as much of what goes on isn’t covered.

Get involved » Join the Human Subject Ethics Topic Room on CSA Connect!

🍃  Biodiversity & Environmental Ethics – Refers to the improvement of the dynamics between humans and the myriad of species that combine to create the biosphere, which will ultimately benefit both humans and non-humans alike [UNESCO 2011 white paper on Ethics and Biodiversity ]. This is a kind of ethics that is advancing rapidly in light of the current global crisis as many stakeholders know how critical biodiversity is to the human species (e.g., public health, women’s rights, social and environmental justice).

⚠ UNESCO also affirms that respect for biological diversity implies respect for societal and cultural diversity, as both elements are intimately interconnected and fundamental to global well-being and peace. ( Source ).

Get involved » Join the Biodiversity & Environmental Ethics Topic Room on CSA Connect!

🤝  Community Partnership Ethics – Refers to rules of engagement and respect of community members directly or directly involved or affected by any research study/project.

Get involved » Join the Community Partnership Ethics Topic Room on CSA Connect!

Tips for Writing an Excellent Conference Abstract

By Kathy Van Dusen, MSN, RN, CEN, CPEN, NHDP-BC Apr 05, 2022

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Have you ever attended a nursing conference and thought to yourself that someday you would love to present a session at this conference? Perhaps you submitted an abstract that didn’t get accepted. Have you read a call for abstracts and wished you knew how to write an excellent abstract? Maybe you are ready to take your professional growth to the next level by presenting at a national conference. Following are some tips to help you write an excellent conference abstract.

The road to an outstanding abstract begins with carefully reviewing the submission guidelines for the conference.

Before You Begin

  • Read the directions carefully and often.
  • Understand the format, length and content expected.
  • Seek a mentor who has experience writing abstracts.
  • Allow yourself enough time to prepare a first-rate submission; waiting until the last minute rarely results in quality content.
  • Make sure there is evidence to support your topic, and provide current references.

Selecting a Topic

Let’s start at the beginning of your submission with the topic of your abstract. Consider the audience who attends the conference, and think of clinical or professional practice topics that would be meaningful and valuable to them. Timely and relevant topics with fresh ideas and takeaways are a great way to start, and they include:

  • New research or clinical guidelines
  • Topics that highlight your area of expertise
  • Topics that are relevant to conference attendees
  • Subjects that apply to current practice challenges or workplace concerns
  • Narrowing your topic to focus on key information that will fit in the time allotted

Abstract Titles

The title is the first thing abstract scorers and conference attendees will see, so it is worth spending some time trying a few variations to see what conveys the main point of your abstract and entices the audience to read further:

  • Keep the title clear and concise; be certain it accurately reflects your presentation.
  • Catchy titles grab the reader’s attention, yet describe the subject well.
  • A title with 12 or fewer words is optimal.

Abstract Content

Plan your abstract thoroughly before writing it. A high-quality abstract addresses the problem or question, the evidence and the solutions. It is important to give an overview of what you intend to include in the presentation. Abstracts should be concise but also informative. Sentences should be short to convey the needed information and free of words or phrases that do not add value. Keep your audience in mind as you prepare your abstract. How much background information you provide on a topic will depend on the conference. It is a good idea to explain how you plan to engage the audience with your teaching methods, such as case studies, polling or audience participation.

  • After the title, the first sentence should be a hook that grabs the reader’s attention and entices them to continue reading.
  • The second sentence should be a focused problem statement supported by evidence.
  • The next few sentences provide the solution to the problem.
  • The conclusion should reiterate the purpose of your presentation in one or two sentences.

Learning Objectives

If the conference abstract requires learning objectives, start each one with an action verb. Action verbs are words such as apply, demonstrate, explain, identify, outline and analyze. Refrain from using nonaction verbs and phrases such as understand, recognize, be able to, and become familiar with. Learning objectives must be congruent with the purpose, session description/summary and abstract text. For a list of action verbs, refer to a Bloom’s Taxonomy chart .

Editing Your Abstract

Editing is an important part of the abstract submission process. The editing phase will help you see the abstract as a whole and remove unnecessary words or phrases that do not provide value:

  • The final draft should be clear and easy to read and understand.
  • Your language should be professional and adhere to abstract guidelines.
  • Writing in the present tense is preferred.
  • If there is more than one author, each author should review and edit the draft.
  • Ask a colleague who is a good editor to critique your work.
  • Reread your abstract and compare it with the abstract guidelines.
  • Great content that is written poorly will not be accepted.
  • Prevent typographical errors by writing your submission as a Word document first, and copy and paste it into the submission platform after you check spelling and grammar.
  • Follow word and character count instructions, abstract style and formatting guidelines.
  • Do not try to bend the rules to fit your needs; authors who do not follow the guidelines are more likely to have their submission rejected.
  • After you finish writing your abstract, put it aside and return later with a fresh mind before submitting it.

Grammar Tips

  • Avoid ampersands (&) and abbreviations such as, etc.
  • Parenthetical remarks (however relevant they may seem) are rarely necessary.
  • It is usually incorrect to split an infinitive. An infinitive consists of the word “to” and the simple form of a verb (e.g., to go, to read).
  • Examples: “To suddenly go” and “to quickly read” are examples of split infinitives, because the adverbs (suddenly and quickly) split (break up) the infinitives to go and to read.
  • Contractions are not used in scholarly writing. Using contractions in academic writing is usually not encouraged, because it can make your writing sound informal.
  • I’m = I am
  • They’re = They are
  • I’d = I had
  • She’s = She is
  • How’s = How is
  • Avoid quotations.
  • Do not be redundant or use more words than necessary.
  • Use an active voice.

National Teaching Institute (NTI) Submissions

We invite you to participate in AACN’s mission to advance, promote and distribute information through education, research and science. The API (Advanced Practice Institute) and NTI volunteer committees review and score every abstract submitted for NTI. Abstracts are reviewed for relevance of content, quality of writing and expression of ideas. At NTI there are four session times to choose from. Your abstract should demonstrate that you have enough content to cover the selected time frame.

Session Types for NTI

  • Mastery: 2.5 hours of content
  • Concurrent: 60- or 75-minute sessions
  • Preconference half-day: 3 hours of content
  • Preconference full-day: 6 hours of content

Links for NTI Submissions

  • Submit an abstract for NTI
  • Read the Live Abstract Guidelines before submitting your abstract

Putting time and effort into writing an excellent abstract is the gateway to a podium presentation. It’s time to kickstart your professional growth and confidently submit a conference abstract.

For what conference will you submit an abstract?

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This is an excellent blog with very sound advice. It has great content for nurses who are wanting to submit an abstract but feel they do not know whe ... re to start and so they never take the opportunity to do it. Read More


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How to Write an Abstract for a Conference: The Ultimate Guide

How to Write an Abstract for a Conference: The Ultimate Guide

Are you thinking about attending a conference? If so, you will likely be asked to submit an abstract beforehand. An abstract is an ultra-brief summary of your proposed presentation; it should be no longer than 300 words and contain just the key points of your speech. A conference abstract is also known as a registration prospectus, an information document or a proposal. It is effectively a pitch document that explains why your speech would be of value to the audience at that particular conference – and why they need to hear it from you rather than anyone else! Creating an effective abstract is not always easy, and if this is the first time you have been asked to write one it can feel like quite a challenge. However, don’t panic! This blog post covers everything you need to know about how to write an abstract for a conference – read on to get started now!

How to Write an Abstract for a Conference

What Exactly is an Abstract?

As we have already mentioned, an abstract is a super-brief summary of your proposed presentation. An abstract is used in several different fields and industries, but it’s most often found in the worlds of research, academia and business. An abstract allows the reader to get a quick overview of the main points of a longer document, such as a research paper, a dissertation or a business plan. It’s therefore a useful tool for helping people to get up to speed with your work quickly. Abstracts are also used to summarize conference presentations. A conference abstract is effectively a pitch document that explains why your speech would be of value to the audience at that particular conference – and why they need to hear it from you rather than anyone else!

Why is an abstract important?

Conference organizers need to be able to effectively communicate what the event is about, who should attend and what each speaker will be talking about. This can often be challenging when there are hundreds of different speakers and presentations on a wide range of topics. By creating an abstract, you’re helping the event organizers by providing them with a concise overview of your speech. This is useful because it allows the organizers to quickly and easily communicate the key points of your presentation to the rest of the conference team and conference attendees. Conference abstracts are, therefore, essential for pitching your speech to the organizer – and hopefully securing a place on the conference schedule!

Write an Abstract

How to write an effective abstract?

If you have ever read the abstracts for research papers, you’ll know that they can vary significantly in quality. Some are written in a very engaging, straightforward style that’s easy to understand, whereas others can be overly complex and difficult to comprehend. You want your abstract to be engaging and easy for your readers to understand, so we recommend keeping the following points in mind when you’re writing yours: 

– Keep it brief. An abstract should be no longer than 300 words. 

– Keep it relevant. An abstract is not a replacement for your actual presentation, so don’t include any information that isn’t relevant to the topic of your speech. 

– Keep it accurate. Make sure that everything you include in your abstract is correct – if you get something wrong, you could have to correct it during your presentation! 

– Keep it interesting. Your abstract should be engaging and exciting to read. 

– Keep it professional. Even though it’s a short piece of writing, your abstract should be written professionally and engagingly.

  Final words

As you can see, creating an abstract can be challenging, mainly if this is the first time you have been asked to write one. However, by following the tips and suggestions in this blog post, you should be able to create an effective, engaging and easy-to-understand abstract. With a little preparation, you should be able to create a compelling abstract that will help you get your foot on the conference speaking circuit!

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Twelve tips to write an abstract for a conference: advice for young and experienced investigators

Doze dicas para escrever um resumo para uma conferência: conselhos para investigadores iniciantes e experientes, juliana carvalho ferreira.

1 . Methods in Epidemiologic, Clinical, and Operations Research-MECOR-program, American Thoracic Society/Asociación Latinoamericana del Tórax, Montevideo, Uruguay.

2 . Divisão de Pneumologia, Instituto do Coração, Hospital das Clínicas, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo (SP) Brasil.

Cecilia Maria Patino

3 . Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

As we have returned from the successful XXXIX Brazilian Thoracic Society Conference in Goiânia, Brazil-where more than 600 abstracts have been presented-and prepare for the American Thoracic Society International Conference deadline for submitting abstracts by November this year, we would like to emphasize the importance of presenting high-quality scientific abstracts at such conferences.

Presenting clinical research results in the form of abstracts in national and international meetings is common and expected among clinical researchers in academic and nonacademic settings, giving researchers the opportunity to present their work in person, network with researchers working in the same field, receive feedback from peers, and publish their results as abstracts in conference proceedings.

Writing abstracts that are clear and informative, following both the conference and internationally endorsed reporting guidelines, is very important for various reasons: abstracts are used by conference program committees to select the best suited ones for oral presentations; abstracts are usually available online prior to the conference and attendees can select which presentations they will attend; abstracts are usually published and, therefore, may be cited by other authors on their peer-reviewed publications; and finally, health care professionals may base medical decisions on results of studies that have been published only as a conference abstract. Therefore, in order to guide investigators how to write high quality conference abstracts, we have developed 12 tips for young and experienced investigators:

  • Identify and carefully follow specific guidelines suggested by the conference. Usually an abstract contains the following: title, background/introduction, objectives, methods, results, and conclusion; however, this format varies across conferences. Pay close attention to information such as word limit and how the abstract should be structured.
  • Follow internationally endorsed reporting guidelines specifically developed for conference abstracts. The E nhancing the QUA lity and T ransparency O f health R esearch (EQUATOR) Network is an international initiative that seeks to improve the quality of published health research globally by developing reporting guidelines for several types of study designs. 1 Many reporting guidelines have extensions focusing specifically on abstracts. 2 Read them before starting to write your abstract.
  • Think carefully about the title because this is what readers look at first. Compose a clear, objective title and, whenever possible, include the study design. You can make it attractive, but avoid trying to be too clever (especially for beginners).
  • Do not waste words on the introduction . Be brief and straight to the point. Save space here, so you can provide more details in the methods and results sections, which are novel and particular to your study.
  • Clearly state the objectives of the study . The objective derives from your research question and should clearly align with results and conclusion.
  • Make sure that the methods section is detailed enough -but not too technical-and include the study design, setting, study participants, and eligibility criteria. You should also include a description of the important variables of the study, such as the exposure, intervention, predictors, and outcome, as well as the analytic approach used to answer the research question.
  • Be precise and specific when writing the results . Report the number of participants that were included the analysis, and, most importantly, always report the results that actually answer your research question (e.g., the difference between groups with a measure of precision such as an SD or 95% CI) and never just a p value.
  • Be realistic in the conclusion . Mention the impact of your study, but avoid speculating beyond what your results show; you can also mention future directions in the area of study, but avoid the overused “more studies are needed…”
  • Perform a careful spell and language check , especially if you are not writing in your native language.
  • Avoid or minimize abbreviations . Readers can feel frustrated when they have to go back to remember what an abbreviation stands for (e.g., EQUATOR in this paper).
  • Get feedback from your coauthors, mentor, and colleagues outside your team. The goal is to use their help to identify unclear sentences and missing or inaccurate information, as well as to make sure that the writing is high quality. They can also help you to make sure that the title, objectives, methods, results, and conclusion are all aligned with the research question.
  • Do NOT wait until the last minute to write and proofread the content. Writing and reviewing the abstract for quality always takes more time than you initially thought it would. Moreover, glitches in the submission process are always possible, so you want to give yourself time to contact the conference staff for help, if necessary.

Enago Academy

Important Tips for Writing an Effective Conference Abstract

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Academic conferences are an important part of graduate work. They offer researchers an opportunity to present their work and network with other researchers. So, how does a researcher get invited to present their work at an academic conference ? The first step is to write and submit an abstract of your research paper .

The purpose of a conference abstract is to summarize the main points of your paper that you will present in the academic conference. In it, you need to convince conference organizers that you have something important and valuable to add to the conference. Therefore, it needs to be focused and clear in explaining your topic and the main points of research that you will share with the audience.

The Main Points of a Conference Abstract

There are some general formulas for creating a conference abstract .

Formula : topic + title + motivation + problem statement + approach + results + conclusions = conference abstract

Here are the main points that you need to include.

The title needs to grab people’s attention. Most importantly, it needs to state your topic clearly and develop interest. This will give organizers an idea of how your paper fits the focus of the conference.

Problem Statement

You should state the specific problem that you are trying to solve.

The abstract needs to illustrate the purpose of your work. This is the point that will help the conference organizer determine whether or not to include your paper in a conference session.

You have a problem before you: What approach did you take towards solving the problem? You can include how you organized this study and the research that you used.

Important Things to Know When Developing Your Abstract

Do your research on the conference.

You need to know the deadline for abstract submissions. And, you should submit your abstract as early as possible.

Do some research on the conference to see what the focus is and how your topic fits. This includes looking at the range of sessions that will be at the conference. This will help you see which specific session would be the best fit for your paper.

Select Your Keywords Carefully

Keywords play a vital role in increasing the discoverability of your article. Use the keywords that most appropriately reflect the content of your article.

Once you are clear on the topic of the conference, you can tailor your abstract to fit specific sessions.

An important part of keeping your focus is knowing the word limit for the abstract. Most word limits are around 250-300 words. So, be concise.

Use Example Abstracts as a Guide

Looking at examples of abstracts is always a big help. Look at general examples of abstracts and examples of abstracts in your field. Take notes to understand the main points that make an abstract effective.

Avoid Fillers and Jargon

As stated earlier, abstracts are supposed to be concise, yet informative. Avoid using words or phrases that do not add any specific value to your research. Keep the sentences short and crisp to convey just as much information as needed.

Edit with a Fresh Mind

After you write your abstract, step away from it. Then, look it over with a fresh mind. This will help you edit it to improve its effectiveness. In addition, you can also take the help of professional editing services that offer quick deliveries.

Remain Focused and Establish Your Ideas

The main point of an abstract is to catch the attention of the conference organizers. So, you need to be focused in developing the importance of your work. You want to establish the importance of your ideas in as little as 250-300 words.

Have you attended a conference as a student? What experiences do you have with conference abstracts? Please share your ideas in the comments. You can also visit our  Q&A forum for frequently asked questions related to different aspects of research writing, presenting, and publishing answered by our team that comprises subject-matter experts, eminent researchers, and publication experts.

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January 27th, 2015

How to write a killer conference abstract: the first step towards an engaging presentation..

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Helen Kara responds to our previously published guide to writing abstracts and elaborates specifically on the differences for conference abstracts. She offers tips for writing an enticing abstract for conference organisers and an engaging conference presentation. Written grammar is different from spoken grammar. Remember that conference organisers are trying to create as interesting and stimulating an event as they can, and variety is crucial.

Enjoying this blogpost? 📨 Sign up to our  mailing list  and receive all the latest LSE Impact Blog news direct to your inbox.

The Impact blog has an  ‘essential ‘how-to’ guide to writing good abstracts’ . While this post makes some excellent points, its title and first sentence don’t differentiate between article and conference abstracts. The standfirst talks about article abstracts, but then the first sentence is, ‘Abstracts tend to be rather casually written, perhaps at the beginning of writing when authors don’t yet really know what they want to say, or perhaps as a rushed afterthought just before submission to a journal or a conference.’ This, coming so soon after the title, gives the impression that the post is about both article and conference abstracts.

I think there are some fundamental differences between the two. For example:

  • Article abstracts are presented to journal editors along with the article concerned. Conference abstracts are presented alone to conference organisers. This means that journal editors or peer reviewers can say e.g. ‘great article but the abstract needs work’, while a poor abstract submitted to a conference organiser is very unlikely to be accepted.
  • Articles are typically 4,000-8,000 words long. Conference presentation slots usually allow 20 minutes so, given that – for good listening comprehension – presenters should speak at around 125 words per minute, a conference presentation should be around 2,500 words long.
  • Articles are written to be read from the page, while conference presentations are presented in person. Written grammar is different from spoken grammar, and there is nothing so tedious for a conference audience than the old-skool approach of reading your written presentation from the page. Fewer people do this now – but still, too many. It’s unethical to bore people! You need to engage your audience, and conference organisers will like to know how you intend to hold their interest.

Image credit:  allanfernancato  ( Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain )

The competition for getting a conference abstract accepted is rarely as fierce as the competition for getting an article accepted. Some conferences don’t even receive as many abstracts as they have presentation slots. But even then, they’re more likely to re-arrange their programme than to accept a poor quality abstract. And you can’t take it for granted that your abstract won’t face much competition. I’ve recently read over 90 abstracts submitted for the  Creative Research Methods conference in May  – for 24 presentation slots. As a result, I have four useful tips to share with you about how to write a killer conference abstract.

First , your conference abstract is a sales tool: you are selling your ideas, first to the conference organisers, and then to the conference delegates. You need to make your abstract as fascinating and enticing as possible. And that means making it different. So take a little time to think through some key questions:

  • What kinds of presentations is this conference most likely to attract? How can you make yours different?
  • What are the fashionable areas in your field right now? Are you working in one of these areas? If so, how can you make your presentation different from others doing the same? If not, how can you make your presentation appealing?

There may be clues in the call for papers, so study this carefully. For example, we knew that the  Creative Research Methods conference , like all general methods conferences, was likely to receive a majority of abstracts covering data collection methods. So we stated up front, in the call for papers, that we knew this was likely, and encouraged potential presenters to offer creative methods of planning research, reviewing literature, analysing data, writing research, and so on. Even so, around three-quarters of the abstracts we received focused on data collection. This meant that each of those abstracts was less likely to be accepted than an abstract focusing on a different aspect of the research process, because we wanted to offer delegates a good balance of presentations.

Currently fashionable areas in the field of research methods include research using social media and autoethnography/ embodiment. We received quite a few abstracts addressing these, but again, in the interests of balance, were only likely to accept one (at most) in each area. Remember that conference organisers are trying to create as interesting and stimulating an event as they can, and variety is crucial.

Second , write your abstract well. Unless your abstract is for a highly academic and theoretical conference, wear your learning lightly. Engaging concepts in plain English, with a sprinkling of references for context, is much more appealing to conference organisers wading through sheaves of abstracts than complicated sentences with lots of long words, definitions of terms, and several dozen references. Conference organisers are not looking for evidence that you can do really clever writing (save that for your article abstracts), they are looking for evidence that you can give an entertaining presentation.

Third , conference abstracts written in the future tense are off-putting for conference organisers, because they don’t make it clear that the potential presenter knows what they’ll be talking about. I was surprised by how many potential presenters did this. If your presentation will include information about work you’ll be doing in between the call for papers and the conference itself (which is entirely reasonable as this can be a period of six months or more), then make that clear. So, for example, don’t say, ‘This presentation will cover the problems I encounter when I analyse data with homeless young people, and how I solve those problems’, say, ‘I will be analysing data with homeless young people over the next three months, and in the following three months I will prepare a presentation about the problems we encountered while doing this and how we tackled those problems’.

Fourth , of course you need to tell conference organisers about your research: its context, method, and findings. It will also help enormously if you can take a sentence or three to explain what you intend to include in the presentation itself. So, perhaps something like, ‘I will briefly outline the process of participatory data analysis we developed, supported by slides. I will then show a two-minute video which will illustrate both the process in action and some of the problems encountered. After that, again using slides, I will outline each of the problems and how we tackled them in practice.’ This will give conference organisers some confidence that you can actually put together and deliver an engaging presentation.

So, to summarise, to maximise your chances of success when submitting conference abstracts:

  • Make your abstract fascinating, enticing, and different.
  • Write your abstract well, using plain English wherever possible.
  • Don’t write in the future tense if you can help it – and, if you must, specify clearly what you will do and when.
  • Explain your research, and also give an explanation of what you intend to include in the presentation.

While that won’t guarantee success, it will massively increase your chances. Best of luck!

This post originally appeared on the author’s personal blog and is reposted with permission.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our  Comments Policy  if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the Author

Dr Helen Kara has been an independent social researcher in social care and health since 1999, and is an Associate Research Fellow at the Third Sector Research Centre , University of Birmingham. She is on the Board of the UK’s Social Research Association , with lead responsibility for research ethics. She also teaches research methods to practitioners and students, and writes on research methods. Helen is the author of Research and Evaluation for Busy Practitioners (2012) and Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences (April 2015) , both published by Policy Press . She did her first degree in Social Psychology at the LSE.

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About the author

write an abstract for a presentation

Dr Helen Kara has been an independent researcher since 1999 and also teaches research methods and ethics. She is not, and never has been, an academic, though she has learned to speak the language. In 2015 Helen was the first fully independent researcher to be conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, University of Manchester. She has written widely on research methods and ethics, including Research Ethics in the Real World: Euro-Western and Indigenous Perspectives (2018, Policy Press).


Personally, I’d rather not see reading a presentation written off so easily, for three off the cuff reasons:

1) Reading can be done really well, especially if the paper was written to be read.

2) It seems to be well suited to certain kinds of qualitative studies, particularly those that are narrative driven.

3) It seems to require a different kind of focus or concentration — one that requires more intensive listening (as opposed to following an outline driven presentation that’s supplemented with visuals, i.e., slides).

Admittedly, I’ve read some papers before, and writing them to be read can be a rewarding process, too. I had to pay attention to details differently: structure, tone, story, etc. It can be an insightful process, especially for works in progress.

Sean, thanks for your comment, which I think is a really useful addition to the discussion. I’ve sat through so many turgid not-written-to-be-read presentations that it never occurred to me they could be done well until I heard your thoughts. What you say makes a great deal of sense to me, particularly with presentations that are consciously ‘written to be read’ out loud. I think where they can get tedious is where a paper written for the page is read out loud instead, because for me that really doesn’t work. But I love to listen to stories, and I think of some of the quality storytelling that is broadcast on radio, and of audiobooks that work well (again, in my experience, they don’t all), and I do entirely see your point.

Helen, I appreciate your encouraging me remark on such a minor part of your post(!), which I enjoyed reading and will share. And thank you for the reply and the exchange on Twitter.

Very much enjoyed your post Helen. And your subsequent comments Sean. On the subject of the reading of a presentation. I agree that some people can write a paper specifically to be read and this can be done well. But I would think that this is a dying art. Perhaps in the humanities it might survive longer. Reading through the rest of your post I love the advice. I’m presenting at my first LIS conference next month and had I read your post first I probably would have written it differently. Advice for the future for me.

Martin – and Sean – thank you so much for your kind comments. Maybe there are steps we can take to keep the art alive; advocates for it, such as Sean, will no doubt help. And, Martin, if you’re presenting next month, you must have done perfectly well all by yourself! Congratulations on the acceptance, and best of luck for the presentation.

Great article! Obvious at it may seem, a point zero may be added before the other four: which _are_ your ideas?

A scientific writing coach told me she often runs a little exercise with her students. She tells them to put away their (journal) abstract and then asks them to summarize the bottom line in three statements. After some thinking, the students come up with an answer. Then the coach tells the students to reach for the abstract, read it and look for the bottom line they just summarised. Very often, they find that their own main observations and/or conclusions are not clearly expressed in the abstract.

PS I love the line “It’s unethical to bore people!” 🙂

Thanks for your comment, Olle – that’s a great point. I think something happens to us when we’re writing, in which we become so clear about what we want to say that we think we’ve said it even when we haven’t. Your friend’s exercise sounds like a great trick for finding out when we’ve done that. And thanks for the compliments, too!

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Thank you very much for the tips, they are really helpful. I have actually been accepted to present a PuchaKucha presentation in an educational interdisciplinary conference at my university. my presentation would be about the challenges faced by women in my country. So, it would be just a review of the literature. from what I’ve been reading, conferences are about new research and your new ideas… Is what I’m doing wrong??? that’s my first conference I’ll be speaking in and I’m afraid to ruin it!!! I will be really grateful about any advice ^_^

First of all: you’re not going to ruin the conference, even if you think you made a bad presentation. You should always remember that people are not very concerned about you–they are mostly concerned about themselves. Take comfort in that thought!

Here are some notes: • If it is a Pecha Kucha night, you stand in front of a mixed audience. Remember that scientists understand layman’s stuff, but laymen don’t understand scientists stuff. • Pecha Kucha is also very VISUAL! Remember that you can’t control the flow of slides – they change every 20 seconds. • Make your main messages clear. You can use either one of these templates.

A. Which are the THREE most important observations, conclusions, implications or messages from your study?

B. Inform them! (LOGOS) Engage them! (PATHOS) Make an impression! (ETHOS)

C. What do you do as a scientist/is a study about? What problem(s) do you address? How is your research different? Why should I care?

Good luck and remember to focus on (1) the audience, (2) your mission, (3) your stuff and (4) yourself, in that order.

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I don’t know whether it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else encountering problems with your site. It appears as if some of the text in your content are running off the screen. Can someone else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them as well? This could be a issue with my browser because I’ve had this happen before. Thank you

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Thank you Dr Kara for the great guide on creating killer abstracts for conferences. I am preparing to write an abstract for my first conference presentation and this has been educative and insightful. ‘ I choose to be ethical and not bore my audience’.

Thank you Judy for your kind comment. I wish you luck with your abstract and your presentation. Helen

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Dear Dr. Helen Kara, Can there be an abstract for a topic presentation? I need to present a topic in a conference.I searched in the net and couldnt find anything like an abstract for a topic presentation but only found abstract for article presentation. Urgent.Help!

Dear Rekha Sthapit, I think it would be the same – but if in doubt, you could ask the conference organisers to clarify what they mean by ‘topic presentation’. Good luck!

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How to Write a Conference Abstract

What is a conference abstract, why submit a conference abstract.

  • Finding Conferences
  • Abstract Preparation
  • How to Write a Scientific or Research Abstract
  • How to Write a Case Report Abstract
  • How to Write a Quality Improvement Project Abstract
  • Writing Tips
  • Reasons for Rejection

A conference abstract is a short proposal you write when you want to have a chance to share your research at a conference. For medical conferences, presenters usually either give a podium presentation (just talking in front of an audience about their research) or they present a poster. 

Here are some of the benefits of submitting a conference abstract:

  • It's a good addition to your CV and resume
  • It may be published in the conference proceedings
  • It could be a basis for future publication
  • Garners recognition from colleagues online and through social media
  • Helps you make connections through networking at the conference
  • Helps you meet potential employers at the conference
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  • Last Updated: Feb 14, 2024 8:15 AM
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Tips for Writing Conference Paper Abstracts

So you want to answer the Call for Papers? This is a general guide for crafting stand-out conference paper abstracts. It includes recommendations for the content and presentation of the abstract, as well as examples of the best abstracts submitted to the 2012-2013 abstract selection committee for the ninth annual North Carolina State University graduate student history conference.

Typically, an abstract describes the topic you would like to present at the conference, highlighting your argument, evidence and contribution to the historical literature. It is usually restricted to 250-500 words. The word limit can be challenging: some graduate students do not fret over the short limit and hastily write and submit an abstract at the last minute, which often hurts their chances of being accepted; other students try to condense the Next Great American Novel into 250 words, which can be equally damning. Graduate students who approach the abstract early, plan accordingly, and carefully edit are the ones most often invited to present their research. For those who are intimidated by the project, don’t be – the abstract is a fairly standardized form of writing. Follow the basic guidelines below and avoid common pitfalls and you will greatly improve your abstract.

Diligently follow all abstract style and formatting guidelines. Most CFPs will specify page or word length, and perhaps some layout or style guidelines. Some CFPs, however, will list very specific restrictions, including font, font size, spacing, text justification, margins, how to present quotes, how to present authors and works, whether to include footnotes or not. Make sure that you strictly adhere to all guidelines, including submission instructions. If a CFP does not provide abstract style and formatting guidelines, it is generally appropriate to stay around 250 words – abstract committees read a lot of these things and do not look fondly on comparatively long abstracts. Make sure that you orient your abstract topic to address any specific CFP themes, time periods, methods, and/or buzzwords.

With a 250-500 word limit, write only what is necessary, avoiding wordiness. Use active voice and pay attention to excessive prepositional phrasing.

Plan your abstract carefully before writing it. A good abstract will address the following questions:  What is the historical question or problem? Contextualize your topic. What is your thesis/argument? It should be original. What is your evidence? State forthrightly that you are using primary source material. How does your paper fit into the historiography? What's going on in the field of study and how does your paper contribute to it? Why does it matter? We know the topic is important to you, why should it be important to the abstract selection committee?

You should be as specific as possible, avoiding overly broad or overreaching statements and claims. And that’s it: don’t get sidetracked by writing too much narrative or over explaining. Say what you need to say and nothing more.

Keep your audience in mind. How much background you give on a topic will depend on the conference. Is the conference a general humanities conference, a general graduate student history conference, or something more specific like a 1960s social revolutions conference? Your pitch should be suited to the specificity of the conference: the more specific the topic, the less broad background you need to give and vice versa.

Revise and edit your abstract to ensure that its final presentation is error free. The editing phase is also the best time to see your abstract as a whole and chip away at unnecessary words or phrases. The final draft should be linear and clear and it should read smoothly. If you are tripping over something while reading, the abstract selection committee will as well. Ask another graduate student to read your abstract to ensure its clarity or attend a Graduate Student Writing Group meeting.

Your language should be professional and your style should adhere to academic standards. Contractions may be appealing because of the word limits, but they should be avoided. If citation guidelines are not specifically given, it is appropriate to use the author’s name and title of work (in either italics or quotation marks) within the text rather than use footnotes or in-text citations.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Misusing questions.

While one question, if really good, may be posed in your abstract, you should avoid writing more than one (maybe two, if really really good). If you do pose a question or two, make sure that you either answer it or address why the question matters to your conference paper – unless you are posing an obvious rhetorical question, you should never just let a question hang there. Too many questions takes up too much space and leaves less room for you to develop your argument, methods, evidence, historiography, etc. Often times, posing too many questions leaves the abstract committee wondering if you are going to address one or all in your paper and if you even know the answers to them. Remember, you are not expected to have already written your conference paper, but you are expected to have done enough research that you are prepared to write about a specific topic that you can adequately cover in 15-20 minutes. Prove that you have done so.

Extraneous Jargon and Over-the-Top Phrasing

Language that helps you be as specific as possible in presenting your argument is great but don’t get your readers bogged down in jargon. They will be reading a lot of abstracts and will not want to wade through the unnecessary language. Keep it simple.

Repetition of Claims

When students repeat claims, they often don’t realize they are doing so. Sometimes this happens because students are not yet clear on their argument. Think about it some more and then write. Other times, students write carelessly and do not proofread. Make sure each sentence is unique and that it contributes to the flow of your abstract.

Writing too Broadly about a Topic

The abstract committee does not need to be reminded of the grand sweep of history in order to contextualize your topic. Place your topic specifically within the historiography.

The samples below represent the five highest scoring samples submitted to the selection committee for the ninth annual graduate student history conference, 2012-2013. Two of the samples below were subsequently selected for publication in the NC State Graduate Journal of History . Outstanding papers presented at the graduate student history conference are recommended for publication by panel commentators. Papers go through a peer review process before publication.

Sample 1: “Asserting Rights, Reclaiming Space: District of Marshpee v. Phineas Fish, 1833-1843”

From May of 1833 to March of 1834, the Mashpee Wampancag tribe of Cape Cod Massachusetts waged an aggressive campaign to gain political and religious autonomy from the state. In March of 1834, the Massachusetts legislature passed an act disbanding the white guardians appointed to conduct affairs for the Mashpee tribe and incorporated Mashpee as an Indian district. The Mashpee tribe's fight to restore self-government and control over land and resources represents a significant "recover of Native space." Equally significant is what happened once that space was recovered.

The topic of this paper addresses an understudied and essential period in the history of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. Despite a growing body of literature on the Mashpee, scholars largely neglect the period between 1834 and 1869. This paper looks as the Mashpee tribe's campaign to dismiss Harvard appointed minister Phineas Fish; the fight to regain the parsonage he occupied, its resources, and the community meetinghouse. This paper will argue the tribe asserted its power within the political and physical landscape to reclaim their meetinghouse and the parsonage land. Ultimately, this assertion contributed to shaping, strengthening, and remaking Mashpee community identity. This study examines legislative reports, petitions, letters, and legal documents to construct a narrative of Native agency in the antebellum period. [Note: This is part of my larger thesis project (in progress0 "Mashpee Wampanoag Government Formation and the Evolving Community Identity in the District of Marshpee, 1834-1849."]

Note: This paper, entitled " Testing Rights in Contested Space: The District of Marshpee versus Reverend Phineas Fish, 1833-1839 " was subsequently selected for publication in the NC State Graduate Journal of History .

Sample 2: “Private Paths to Public Places: Local Actors and the Creation of National Parklands in the American South”

This paper explores the connections between private individuals, government entities, and non-governmental organizations in the creation of parklands throughout the American South. While current historiography primarily credits the federal government with the creation of parks and protection of natural wonders, an investigation of parklands in the Southern United States reveals a reoccurring connection between private initiative and park creation. Secondary literature occasionally reflects the importance of local and non-government sources for the preservation of land, yet these works still emphasize the importance of a national bureaucracy setting the tone fore the parks movement. Some works, including Jacoby's Crimes Against Nature examine local actors, but focus on opposition to the imposition of new rules governing land in the face of some outside threat. In spite of scholarly recognition of non-government agencies and local initiative, the importance of local individuals in the creation of parklands remains and understudies aspect of American environmental history. Several examples in the American South raise concerns about the traditional narrative pitting governmental hegemony against local resistance. This paper argues for widespread, sustained interest in both nature preservation and in creating spaces for public recreation at the local level, and finds that the "private path to public parks" merits further investigation.

Note: This paper, entitled " Private Paths to Public Parks in the American South " was subsequently selected for publication in the NC State Graduate Journal of History .

Sample 3: Untitled

Previous generations of English Historians have produced a rich literature about the Levellers and their role in the English Civil Wars (1642-1649), primarily focused on the Putney Debates and their contributions to Anglophone legal and political thought. Typically, their push to extend the franchise and espousal of a theory of popular sovereignty has been central to accounts of Civil War radicalism. Other revisionist accounts depict them as a fragmented sect of millenarian radicals whose religious bent marginalized and possibility that they could make lasting contributions to English politics or society. This paper seeks to locate a Leveller theory of religious toleration, while explaining how their conception of political activity overlapped their religious ideas. Rather than focusing on John Lilburne, often taken as the public face of the Leveller movement, this paper will focus on the equally interesting and far more consistent thinker, William Walwyn. Surveying his personal background, published writings, popular involvement in the Leveller movement, and attacks launched by his critics, I hope to suggest that Walwyn's unique contribution to Anglophone political thought was his defense of religious pluralism in the face of violent sectarians who sought to wield control of the Church of England. Although the Levellers were ultimately suppressed, Walwyn's commitment to a tolerant society and a secular state should not be minimized but rather recognized as part of a larger debate about Church-State relations across early modern Europe. Ultimately this paper aims to contribute to the rich historiography of religious toleration and popular politics more broadly.

Sample 4: “Establishing a National Memory of Citizen Slaughter: A Case Study of the First Memory Site to Mass Murder in United States History - Edmond, Oklahoma, 1986-1989”

Since 1989, memory sites to events of mass murder have not only proliferated rapidly--they have become the normative expectation within American society. For the vast majority of American history, however, events commonly labeled as "mass murder" have resulted in no permanent memory sites and the sites of perpetration themselves have traditionally been either obliterated or rectified so that both the community and the nation could forget the tragedy and move on. This all changed on May 29, 1989 when the community of Edmond, Oklahoma officially dedicated the "Golden Ribbon" memorial to the thirteen people killed in the infamous "post office shooting" of 1986. In this paper I investigate the case of Edmond in order to understand why it became the first memory site of this kind in United States history. I argue that the small town of Edmond's unique political abnormalities on the day of the shooting, coupled with the near total community involvement established ideal conditions for the emergence of this unique type of memory site. I also conduct a historiography of the usage of "the ribbon" in order to illustrate how it has become the symbol of memories of violence and death in American society in the late 20th century. Lastly, I illustrate how the notable lack of communication between people involved in the Edmond and Oklahoma City cases after the 1995 Murrah Federal Building bombing--despite the close geographic and temporal proximity of these cases--illustrates this routinely isolated nature of commemorating mass murder and starkly renders the surprising number of aesthetic similarities that these memory sites share.

Sample 5: “Roman Urns and Sarcophagi: The Quest for Postmortem Identity during the Pax Romana”

"If you want to know who I am, the answer is ash and burnt embers;" thus read an anonymous early Roman's burial inscription. The Romans dealt with death in a variety of ways which incorporated a range of cultural conventions and beliefs--or non-beliefs as in the case of the "ash and embers." By the turn of the first century of this era, the Romans practiced cremation almost exclusively--as the laconic eloquence of the anonymous Roman also succinctly explained. Cremation vanished by the third century, replaced by the practice of the distant past by the fifth century. Burial first began to take hold in the western Roman Empire during the early second century, with the appearance of finely-crafted sarcophagi, but elites from the Roman world did not discuss the practices of cremation and burial in detail. Therefore archaeological evidence, primarily in form of burial vessels such as urns and sarcophagi represented the only place to turn to investigate the transitional to inhumation in the Roman world. This paper analyzed a small corpus of such vessels in order to identify symbolic elements which demarcate individual identities in death, comparing the patterns of these symbols to the fragments of text available relating to death in the Roman world. The analysis concluded that the transition to inhumantion was a movement caused by an increased desire on the part of Romans to preserve identity in death during and following the Pax Romana.

Selection of Papers

In general, the program committee evaluates the abstracts on the following basis:

  • Intervention in the Historiography: Does the abstract ask new historical questions? Does the proposal provide new insights on familiar topics?
  • Clarity of Presentation: Does the abstract clearly define the topic, scope, and methodologies?
  • Argument: Does the abstract clearly lay out the historical argument?
  • Style: Is the abstract free of grammatical errors, major spelling mistakes, or other problems that suggest the presenter may not be prepared to deliver a polished paper?

While the co-president of the HGSA organizes and facilitates the abstract selection committee each year and may change the selection process and methods, this rubric still represents a general guide for what a committee looks for when selecting conference participants. Selection is not a science, however: great abstracts are often not accepted because of panel design. It is unlikely, however, that poor abstracts will be selected to fill out panels.

Additional Resources

  • Writing Academic Proposals: Conferences, Articles, and Books
  • Guidelines for Writing Effective Abstracts for Conference Paper Presentations
  • How to Write a Paper or Conference Proposal Abstract

The professional networking site for ASCO's worldwide oncology community

ASCO Connection

The professional networking site for asco's worldwide oncology community, search form, presentation tips for first-time abstract presenters.

Apr 28, 2020

Dr. Moustafa headshot

By Muhamad Alhaj Moustafa, MD

The ASCO Annual Meeting is the largest educational and scientific conference in oncology. In 2019, ASCO attracted more than 42,000 attendees from all over the world. The fundamental goal of such a scientific meeting is to share knowledge and accelerate scientific advances. Investigators use different types of presentations as methods to disseminate and share their valuable work with others in the field. This is an important aspect of promoting their scientific careers. These presentations are important to communicate findings and connect with others in the field with similar interests. During these meetings, your research work has the potential to get the highest attention and visibility. This is a great opportunity to get feedback on your work and to build future collaborations and valuable connections.

I attended my first ASCO Annual Meeting as a post-doctoral fellow in 2015. I remember being so excited about my abstract acceptance but also stressed out about presenting at such a large-scale meeting. I had to read a lot of articles and seek advice from mentors on how to prepare the perfect presentation and how to connect with and impress the audience.

Now, having presented multiple times and in different formats and meetings, I have come to the conclusion that presentation skills are highly valued tools that can promote your work and help you achieve prominence in your field. Thus, it is important to train yourself and master these skills. Here are some tips that I have learned from my experience, particularly for first-time presenters.

Understand Your Audience

Knowing who your audiences are and what they are looking for in your presentation is of utmost importance. It will help you determine the appropriate scope and depth of content you should provide.

In general or large audience sessions, including poster presentations, you have to presume that most of your audience members are not experts in the topic you are presenting (although some are). Thus, you have to give a concise and easy-to-understand background of your topic before you go into details of your work. That way you will connect with a larger portion of your audience.

In smaller sessions, where the room is filled with experts in a certain field, you can assume that you don’t have to give a lot of details about the basic background. Focus more on your research question, methodology, and the importance of the results.

Prepare for the Right Presentation Type

Just as you must tailor your presentation to your audience, you must also tailor it to the type of session where you will be presenting. These are the main types of sessions at which you might be invited to present your abstract at a future ASCO Annual Meeting or similar conference:

Oral abstract presentation

High-quality abstracts are selected for Oral Abstract Sessions. These sessions typically attract audiences with special interest in the topic you are presenting. The typical presentation time is 10 to 12 minutes. Two or three presentations are given back to back, followed by a presentation by a discussant of the abstracts, then a Q&A session.

Usually, you will need to prepare PowerPoint slides to help you walk the audience through the presentation. These slides are not meant for you or the audience to read from. The best PowerPoint slides are ones with simple high-resolution figures and tables that help you illustrate the concepts that you are presenting. Refrain from using busy and over-filled slides with more than three to four lines of text.

Tip: Create a story! A good narrative starts with a captivating introduction. Once you’ve hooked your audience, they will be ready and attentive to learn more about your research. Make sure your first slide and your first words are engaging.

Through your presentation, you have to convey to your audience the primary research question and why it is important to answer (background) , what you did to find your answer (methodology) , and the interesting findings you expected or did not expect to find (results) . Lastly, you have to showcase the importance of your findings and how they add to the current knowledge with emphasis on the next steps you are planning to take (conclusion) . You are the storyteller of your work and it is your presentation that makes the content more compelling and exciting to the audience.

Presenting your research is essentially an act of performance, and therefore preparation is crucial for your success. Try to start practicing early by videotaping yourself and/or by presenting to your mentors and colleagues. Constructive feedback is key to improving your performance.

Poster presentation 

Many abstracts are selected for poster presentations, where abstracts are displayed in poster format. The advantage of a poster presentation is that you have more time to interact with your audience and get their feedback, compared to a 15-minute oral abstract presentation. This will also give you the chance to mingle with more people who are interested in your research and possibly build some contacts.

To gain all the benefits of this format of presentation, you have to start with building an attention-grabbing poster that is easy to read. Keep in mind that most people don’t have time to read the whole poster. Avoid filling the board with small text that is difficult to follow; use bullet points rather than long paragraphs. High-quality figures might be all you need to convey your message.

Building a good poster for the first time can be difficult and time-consuming. Initiate the process a few weeks prior to the presentation and review your poster multiple times with your mentors.

First impressions really count in poster presentations. You should be prepared with a quick 1- to 2-minute talk-through presentation that highlights the significance of your work. This can be used to engage in conversations with people who are interested in your poster.

During your presentation time, try to stand next to your poster for the entirety of the session and do not block the view of your poster by standing in front of it. Be welcoming, give appropriate time to each interested individual, and avoid ignoring visitors who are standing and waiting for you.

You can support your poster presentation by using handouts. Handouts will help individuals remember you and your research, and also give them a way to contact you should they have further questions. Handouts typically include:

  • Abstract title and number
  • Your name and affiliation (include your email if you are interested in people contacting you regarding your project)
  • Key information from your abstract
  • Any supporting material that is not included in the poster
  • A scannable QR code to help people locate your abstract online

Poster discussion presentation

Select posters will be chosen for Poster Discussion Sessions, where abstract authors will be participating as panel members. These sessions are followed by networking sessions with discussants and authors. In this hybrid type of presentation, you will have the chance to talk to your audience and answer their questions in similar fashion to Oral Abstract Sessions. Prepare yourself to highlight the important points of your research and to answer audience questions.

Be the Expert on Your Abstract

Many presenters, especially in their first few presentations, may demonstrate lack of confidence because they believe that their audience knows more than they do. This increases stress levels and can impair your performance.

Good preparation and sufficient practice are the keys to tackle this issue. You need to make sure that you know and understand all the key points, figures, and tables you are presenting and their implication on the current knowledge. Along with your mentor, prepare a list of possible questions the audience is likely to ask and practice how you will answer them. You may not yet be an expert in your field, but you can and should be the expert on the abstract you are presenting.

Although it is rare, be prepared for negative comments. Do not be defensive in the face of criticism. Your knowledge of your work will help you answer critiques in a professional way. It is very important to welcome feedback with open mind. Always remember that every piece of feedback, whether negative or positive, is a great opportunity to learn, improve your work, and understand different perspectives on a particular topic.

Finally, always keep in mind that the people who have listened to your lecture or visited your poster could potentially be future employers, colleagues, or collaborators. Be polite, professional, and gracious.

Dr. Alhaj Moustafa is a hematology/oncology fellow and assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Florida. He is a member of the ASCO Trainee Council and Publishing Research Group. Follow him on Twitter @AlhajMoustafa .

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How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

Published on February 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 18, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

How to Write an Abstract

An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a thesis ,  dissertation or research paper ). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about.

Although the structure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, your abstract should describe the purpose of your work, the methods you’ve used, and the conclusions you’ve drawn.

One common way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. This stands for:

  • Introduction

Abstracts are usually around 100–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the relevant requirements.

In a dissertation or thesis , include the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

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Table of contents

Abstract example, when to write an abstract, step 1: introduction, step 2: methods, step 3: results, step 4: discussion, tips for writing an abstract, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about abstracts.

Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed.

This paper examines the role of silent movies as a mode of shared experience in the US during the early twentieth century. At this time, high immigration rates resulted in a significant percentage of non-English-speaking citizens. These immigrants faced numerous economic and social obstacles, including exclusion from public entertainment and modes of discourse (newspapers, theater, radio).

Incorporating evidence from reviews, personal correspondence, and diaries, this study demonstrates that silent films were an affordable and inclusive source of entertainment. It argues for the accessible economic and representational nature of early cinema. These concerns are particularly evident in the low price of admission and in the democratic nature of the actors’ exaggerated gestures, which allowed the plots and action to be easily grasped by a diverse audience despite language barriers.

Keywords: silent movies, immigration, public discourse, entertainment, early cinema, language barriers.

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You will almost always have to include an abstract when:

  • Completing a thesis or dissertation
  • Submitting a research paper to an academic journal
  • Writing a book or research proposal
  • Applying for research grants

It’s easiest to write your abstract last, right before the proofreading stage, because it’s a summary of the work you’ve already done. Your abstract should:

  • Be a self-contained text, not an excerpt from your paper
  • Be fully understandable on its own
  • Reflect the structure of your larger work

Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. What practical or theoretical problem does the research respond to, or what research question did you aim to answer?

You can include some brief context on the social or academic relevance of your dissertation topic , but don’t go into detailed background information. If your abstract uses specialized terms that would be unfamiliar to the average academic reader or that have various different meanings, give a concise definition.

After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research. Use verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyze,” or “evaluate” to describe exactly what you set out to do.

This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense  but should never refer to the future, as the research is already complete.

  • This study will investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • This study investigates the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.

Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward description of what you did in one or two sentences. It is usually written in the past simple tense, as it refers to completed actions.

  • Structured interviews will be conducted with 25 participants.
  • Structured interviews were conducted with 25 participants.

Don’t evaluate validity or obstacles here — the goal is not to give an account of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, but to give the reader a quick insight into the overall approach and procedures you used.

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Next, summarize the main research results . This part of the abstract can be in the present or past simple tense.

  • Our analysis has shown a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis showed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.

Depending on how long and complex your research is, you may not be able to include all results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.

Finally, you should discuss the main conclusions of your research : what is your answer to the problem or question? The reader should finish with a clear understanding of the central point that your research has proved or argued. Conclusions are usually written in the present simple tense.

  • We concluded that coffee consumption increases productivity.
  • We conclude that coffee consumption increases productivity.

If there are important limitations to your research (for example, related to your sample size or methods), you should mention them briefly in the abstract. This allows the reader to accurately assess the credibility and generalizability of your research.

If your aim was to solve a practical problem, your discussion might include recommendations for implementation. If relevant, you can briefly make suggestions for further research.

If your paper will be published, you might have to add a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reference the most important elements of the research to help potential readers find your paper during their own literature searches.

Be aware that some publication manuals, such as APA Style , have specific formatting requirements for these keywords.

It can be a real challenge to condense your whole work into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started.

Read other abstracts

The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review —try using them as a framework for structure and style.

You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases .

Reverse outline

Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. For longer works, you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining.

For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft one to two sentences that summarize the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops.

Write clearly and concisely

A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point.

To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:

  • Avoid passive sentences: Passive constructions are often unnecessarily long. You can easily make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.
  • Avoid long sentences: Substitute longer expressions for concise expressions or single words (e.g., “In order to” for “To”).
  • Avoid obscure jargon: The abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic.
  • Avoid repetition and filler words: Replace nouns with pronouns when possible and eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Avoid detailed descriptions: An abstract is not expected to provide detailed definitions, background information, or discussions of other scholars’ work. Instead, include this information in the body of your thesis or paper.

If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, you can get help from expert editors with Scribbr’s professional proofreading services or use the paraphrasing tool .

Check your formatting

If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format .

Checklist: Abstract

The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one page.

The abstract appears after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents .

I have clearly stated my research problem and objectives.

I have briefly described my methodology .

I have summarized the most important results .

I have stated my main conclusions .

I have mentioned any important limitations and recommendations.

The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.

You've written a great abstract! Use the other checklists to continue improving your thesis or dissertation.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis , dissertation or research paper .

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

The abstract appears on its own page in the thesis or dissertation , after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

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McCombes, S. (2023, July 18). How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 25, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/abstract/

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Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:

  • an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;
  • an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
  • and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.

It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.

If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

The Contents of an Abstract

Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:

  • the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
  • the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
  • what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
  • the main reason(s) , the exigency, the rationale , the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
  • your research and/or analytical methods
  • your main findings , results , or arguments
  • the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.

Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

When to Write Your Abstract

Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.

Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract

The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.

The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.

The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).

Sample Abstract 1

From the social sciences.

Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses

Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

Sample Abstract 2

From the humanities.

Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications

Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

Sample Abstract/Summary 3

From the sciences.

Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells

Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study

Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.

Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.

“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.

METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.

RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.

CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)

Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:

write an abstract for a presentation

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Navigating Your First Abstract Presentation: A Trainee’s Guide

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write an abstract for a presentation

Congratulations on your first abstract presentation at Digestive Disease Week ® (DDW). Embarking on presenting an abstract for the first time at a distinguished conference like DDW marks a significant milestone in any trainee’s academic journey. This momentous occasion is your platform to disseminate your hard work, forge connections with peers and experts, and establish a foundation for forthcoming opportunities. Let’s delve into the essentials — I’ve compiled five tips for a successful presentation that apply whether your work is accepted as a poster or an oral presentation.

1. Craft Your Elevator Pitch: Compose a concise, compelling elevator pitch that succinctly introduces both your research and yourself. This will be an asset during your presentation and be especially helpful for networking opportunities throughout DDW.

2. Master Your Material: Your abstract’s acceptance signals its significance to the field; your task now is to articulate this significance with clarity and conviction. Immerse yourself in every facet of your study, from the methods to the outcomes and their broader implications. Be ready to answer questions from other attendees and to explain the impetus behind your research question, as well as the details of your findings.

3. Hone Your Presentation Skills: A great presentation is characterized not solely by its content but also by its delivery. Rehearse your presentation diligently, giving special attention to tone, tempo and non-verbal cues. Practicing in front of a colleague or videotaping yourself might provide insight into potential areas of improvement. There will also be a sign up available on-site for 15-minute practice sessions in the Speaker Headquarters.

4. Employ Visual Aids: If you’re giving an oral presentation, steer clear of overburdening your slides or posters with text, as this can detract from your presentation. Use bullet points to underscore crucial information and integrate graphics or charts to convey complicated data. DDW also recommends using the official DDW 2024 PowerPoint slide template .

5. Solicit and Heed Feedback: Post-presentation, actively request feedback and prompt questions. Embracing constructive criticism and maintaining an open mindset is integral to your evolution as a researcher and presenter. Reviewing this feedback will enable you to discern your strengths and areas to improve. Furthermore, this process will bolster your engagement with your audience and offer an invaluable opportunity to polish your research before contemplating journal submission.

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How to Write an Abstract for Presentation at a Scientific Meeting


  • 1 Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and Respiratory Care Services, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina. [email protected].
  • PMID: 37193598
  • PMCID: PMC10589105 (available on 2024-11-01 )
  • DOI: 10.4187/respcare.11101

Presenting research at scientific meetings is an important part of the dissemination of research findings. Abstracts are an abbreviated form of a research study presented at a meeting of a professional society. Common elements include background, methods, results, and conclusions. Each section should be carefully written to maximize the chances of acceptance. This paper will cover how to write an abstract for a presentation at a scientific meeting and common mistakes that authors make when writing abstracts.

Keywords: abstract; national meeting; research; research methodology; respiratory care.

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How to Write an Abstract For a Poster Presentation Application

Matthieu Chartier, PhD.

Published on 15 Aug 2023

Attending a conference is a great achievement for a young researcher. Besides presenting your research to your peers, networking with researchers of other institutions and building future collaborations are other benefits.

Above all, it allows you to question your research and improve it based on the feedback you receive. As Sönke Ahrens wrote in How To Take Smart Notes "an idea kept private is as good as one you never had".

The poster presentation is one way to present your research at a conference. Contrary to some beliefs, poster presenters aren't the ones relegated to oral presentation and poster sessions are far from second zone presentations; Poster presentations favor natural interactions with peers and can lead to very valuable talks.

The application process

The abstract submitted during the application process is not the same as the poster abstract. The abstract submission is usually longer and you have to respect several points when writing it:

  • Use the template provided by the conference organization (if applicable);
  • Specify the abstract title, list author names, co-authors and the institutions in the banner;
  • Use sub-headings to show out the structure of your abstract (if authorized);
  • Respect the maximum word count (usually about a 300 word limit) and do not exceed one page;
  • Exclude figures or graphs, keep them for your poster;
  • Minimize the number of citations/references.
  • Respect the submission deadline.

The 3 components of an abstract for a conference application

Most poster abstract submissions follow the classical IMRaD structure, also called the hourglass structure. 

To make your abstract more memorable and impactful, you can try the Russian doll structure. Contrary to IMRaD, which has a more linear progression of ideas, the Russian doll structure emphasizes the WHY and WHAT. It unravels the research narrative layer by layer, capturing the reader’s attention more effectively.

Your abstract should be something the reviewer wants to open in order to discover the different layers of your research down to its core (like opening a Russian doll or peeling an onion). Then, it should be wrapped up elegantly with the outcomes (see figure below)  like dressing the same Russian doll.

Hence, to design the best Russian doll, I recommend Jean-Luc Doumont's structure as detailed in his book Trees, Maps and Theorems that I adapted in 3 main components:

1. Background. The first component answers to the WHY and details the motivations of your research at different levels:

  • Context : Why now? Describe the big picture, the current situation.
  • Need : Why is it relevant to the reader? Describe the research question.
  • Tasks : Why do we have to do this way? Review the studies related to your research question and emphasize the gap between the need and what was done.

2. Core . The center component answer to the HOW and consists in describing the objective of your research and its method:

  • Objective : How did I focus on the need? Detail the purpose of your study.
  • Methods : How did I proceed? Describe briefly the workflow (study population, softwares, tools, process, models, etc.)

3. Outcomes . The final component answers to the WHAT and details the take-aways of your research at different levels:

  • Findings : What resulted from my method? Describe the main results (only).
  • Meanings : What do the research findings mean to the reader? Discuss your results by linking them to your objective and research question.
  • Perspectives : What should be the next steps? Propose further studies that could improve, complement or challenge yours.

It's worth noting that this structure emphasizes the WHY and the WHAT more than the HOW. It is the secret of great scientific storytelling .

The illustration below provides a clearer understanding of the logical flow among the three components and their respective layers. Note that, if authorized, sub-headings can be used for each section mentioned above.

Poster Abstract Logical flow

4 tips to help get your abstract qualified

Here are some tips to give yourself the best chance of success for having your poster abstract accepted:

  • Start by answering questions . It is very hard for the human brain to create something totally from scratch. Hence, allow the questions detailed above to guide you in creating the first path to explore.
  • Write first, then edit . Do not try to do both at the same time. You won't get the final version of your abstract after your first try. Be patient, and "let your text die" before editing it with a fresh new point of view.
  • "Kill your darlings'' . Not everything is necessary in the abstract. In Stephen Sondheim's words , West Side Story composer, "you have to throw out good stuff to get the best stuff". You will be amazed at just how surprising and efficient this tip is.
  • Steal like an artist . As suggested by Austin Kleon's book title , get inspiration from others by reading other abstracts. It can be very helpful if you struggle finding punchy phrasing or transitions. I'm not referring to plagiarism, only getting good ideas about form (and not content) that can be adapted and used in your abstract.

When you get accepted, it's time to design your poster board and prepare your pitch. Pick your favorite graphics software and bring your abstract to life with figures, tables, and colors. We have written an article on how to make a scientific poster , do not hesitate to take a look.

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