How to write an abstract for a conference?
We understand that writing an abstract for a scientific meeting can be intimidating, especially if you lack extensive experience. However, fear not; we have compiled guidelines to help you structure your thoughts and prepare for your next abstract submission. Keep in mind that while an abstract should be brief, it should not oversimplify your research. Primarily, prioritize clarity and conciseness. Writing an abstract for a conference requires preparing a little in advance.
Specific note for the VCWAP: your abstract should also be understantable by a wide range of specialists (paleontologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, etc.). To achieve this, avoid using specialized jargon, unless you provide the definition, while maintaining scientific rigour.
Before writing your abstract
Take time to read the conference’s purpose and guidelines. Each event can have its own format or templates. Make sure your research fits the scope of the conference or scientific meeting you are submitting your work.
You have designed your project or done your research: you are ready to present your work. By submitting an abstract, you have the opportunity to present your project/methodology, or your results, even preliminary ones.
Who are the co-authors?
All individuals who have made substantial contributions to the project or study should be listed as co-authors, regardless of their gender or level of experience (e.g. master’s or doctoral student, senior lab member, engineer, professor or project principal investigator PI). A co-author is accountable for the presented data and must consent to be included in the list of authors. Contributions can encompass various aspects such as conceptualization, data curation, formal analysis, supervision, funding acquisition, and writing (see https://credit.niso.org/).
Don’t forget to double-check each author’s affiliation(s). It is important to inform your co-authors that you will present this collaborative work at a conference. We also recommend that you have them reread your abstract to make changes if necessary.
Specific note for the VCWAP: whilst the first author and main researcher of the study must be an early-career woman researcher, men are of course accepted as co-authors!
Overall organization of an abstract
Specific note for the VCWAP: please use the downloadable template. The template uses specific text formats for the title, authors and body text. By using it, you will help organizers save a huge amount of time (and they thank you in advance).
Opt for concise sentences. Don’t forget you usually are provided with a very strict limited space to write. Provide clear summaries of the problem at hand, the study’s purpose/objectives, the materials and methods employed, and the primary results in a succinct manner. You do not have to present all your results: choose the most relevant. Offer a limited discussion with a focus on the potential implications of the findings, tying them back to the core context and issue. Below is a suggested abstract structure:
Title should be short and precise (it’s the title that first hooks the reader). It must not contain any abbreviations.
Specific note for the VCWAP: the body of the abstract must be a minimum of 250 words. For the maximum length, everything must fit on a single page of the template provided. If you use abbreviations, they must be explained in brackets the first time they are used.
- The main problematic/issue that will be discussed with reference to time period, location and context. Briefly explain the main research question the study seeks to address.
Materials and methods
- Specify the type of materials (for example: which species are studied), the number of specimens under study
- Indicate the methodologies applied that should be understandable by the reader/audience.
- Summarize key findings or outcomes of research
- Briefly state the implications of your study, referring back to the main context/problematic presented at the beginning of your abstract in the introduction
- You can indicate the limitations of your study
- You can mention perspectives arising from the key findings of your study
- Avoid broad terms and instead try to target a specific aspect of your study (for example: a specific methodology, the time period or the site under study). Think about what terms you would use to search for papers related to your topic.
- Keywords complete the information presented in the abstract/title. Avoid overlapping words in your title and keywords.
We are not done yet! Before submitting
Thoroughly proofread and edit your abstract as many times as necessary. Before final submission, consider seeking feedback from peers and, if applicable, revisions from your co-authors. Respect the deadline and submit on time.
After submitting, you might have to wait a few weeks before receiving feedback from the Conference organization team. Upon receiving feedback, ensure that there are no required revisions or modifications. Promptly address any requested changes and prepare for your presentation or poster.
The following links were used to compile this document. While we’ve used these as a starting point, there are of course many other excellent resources available online! Don’t hesitate to consult them :