"How-To": Strategies for Writing and Presenting
This page is a resource for any potential conference participants—community members, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members—who would like more information about best practices for writing and presenting. These resources are intended to give you information about all parts of the conference process, from writing your proposal to delivering your work.
Helpful How-To's for Writing a Conference Proposal
Before you start writing your proposal, you may want to consider some pre-writing steps.
Re-read the Call for Papers. You will want to carefully read the Call for Papers to identify the purpose and potential topics for the conference. What are some key words or themes from the list of possible topics? How can you use, expand on, or complicate some of those ideas?
Consider your audience. There are two major audiences to consider when writing a conference proposal. You primary audience is the reviewers. They will be the ones who actually read the proposal and decide whether to accept or reject it. Your secondary audience is the people who will attend the conference and (potentially) attend your session. Although they won't see your proposal, you do want to consider how your presentation will relate to the CARR participants.
Writing the Proposal
Though no two conference proposals will be exactly the same, there are common elements that most proposals share. Consider these steps when drafting your proposal:
1. Identify a problem/need/research gap. Begin by identifying the importance of your presentation topic. This could be a particular problem (such as a current event, a topic being debated in your field, or a social issue), a need (such as social action), or research gap (something that people have not discussed in-depth). You will want to briefly contextualize the issue, although you don't need to spend too much time elaborating on this part.
Example: "Food politics have become a controversial issue as pesticides become more common, foods are increasingly recalled for safety reasons, factory farming violates environmental regulations, and people become more invested in local foods. Though regulations have become stricter in particular areas of NY, many farms—such as […]—still violate environmental regulations. Because of this neglect, we need to […]."
2. State your contribution, including specific material/evidence and your argument. After identifying a particular problem, need, or research gap, you should discuss what you plan to present at the conference. This discussion should give a clear idea of what your presentation will do to contribute to a solution, better understanding, or complication of the issue at hand. Consider a brief outline that highlights the main points you want to get across. Though this may sound strange, you don't want to be too general or too detailed here. Provide details so we know that you have a concrete idea, but you don't need to have your entire presentation planned at this point. We just need the highlights (maybe more depending on how much space you have left in your word count).
Example: "My project addresses the issue of environmental regulation with special attention to […]. Specifically, I plan to look at current regulations to show […]. I will discuss current environmental cases in contrast with local community actions in order to highlight the importance of community awareness and involvement […]. Ultimately, I argue that…"
3. State the larger significance of your project. Finally, even though you don't need to know your conclusion at this point, you will need to conclude your proposal. It is important to discuss how your presentation is going to contribute to your specific topic and to the larger topic in general. Remember to consider your audience here: You want the significance of your project to be important to the largest group of people possible.
Example: "In conclusion, this presentation, by taking a close look at […] will expand on/explore/complicate the often ignored issue of environmental regulation in […]. By showing [this evidence], I hope to […]."
Checking the Details
Once you've written a draft of your proposal, it's time to consider some of the more technical details before submitting.
Review the deadline and word count. Be sure to submit your proposal on time; the CARR deadline is February 15, 2012. Also, check the word count: 250 words for individual proposals (this includes poster presentations) and 750 words for panel proposals.
State your ideas clearly. Because a proposal is such a brief piece of writing, the proposal should be direct, avoid wordiness, and use concrete and specific language.
Use your own words. Even though it is a good idea to look at the language in the Call for Papers, you don't want to get bogged down in jargon or buzzwords. Emphasize your own ideas, not the work of others. If you want to quote or paraphrase, do so sparingly.
Proofread. A proposal should be persuasive, so it should say exactly what you want it to say. Ask someone to read your proposal (such as a writing center consultant!). If your reader cannot immediately understand a sentence, rewrite it.
For more information about writing conference proposals, including tips and sample proposals, please visit the following resources:
- Clarement Graduate University's Writing Center's "Conference Paper Guide" provides detailed tips for the whole conference paper process, starting with writing a proposal and ending with delivering your presentation.
- Jennifer Sano-Franchini from GradHacker's "Writing the Academic Conference Proposal" provides some solid tips (with examples!) for writing your proposal. The suggestions in the comments are also helpful.
- The OWL at Purdue's "Writing Academic Proposals" offers tips for beginning the writing process, structuring your proposal, and some common mistakes of proposals.