Al ingresar a la universidad los y las estudiantes se enfrentan al desafío de leer, escribir y comunicarse oralmente según las convenciones y modos de pensar que son propios de las diferentes disciplinas. ¿Te has enfrentado ya a leer un capítulo de libro teórico, a escribir un informe de laboratorio o a preparar una defensa de examen oral?. Pues bien, en estos recursos encontrarás herramientas para enfrentar estos y otros desafíos similares.

Conference Abstract

What is a conference abstract?

It’s a brief text that circulates in academic conferences or similar events. Authors write abstracts to apply for a spot in the conference; this abstract is then assessed by a committee that decides which scholars will be allowed to present. This kind of abstract is a bit different from research or thesis abstracts, as it does not preclude or refer to another (longer, more detailed) text. It is a freestanding piece of writing that will be the sole reference of your application.

What is the purpose of the conference abstract?

It represents the research you have conducted lately or one you are on the process of doing. It is considered a complete different genre, since it works as an independent text, including five standard parts: introduction, purpose, methods, results and conclusion.

Why is the conference abstract important?

If your abstract presents your research in an interesting, engaging way, you may be admitted into the academic event you applied to. As you may know by now, academic events are extremely important for people who wish to do academic work.

On the way to the conference:

Participating in a conference is a great opportunity for meeting and networking with fellow researchers, as well as getting feedback on your work. Conference abstracts are the key to access these academic events. Let’s see, then, how to write an effective abstract for an academic conference.


Activate your prior knowledge

  • Have you applied to a conference with an abstract before? What strategies have worked for you?
  • In your experience, what is the word limit for a conference abstract? How easy or difficult is it for you to meet this limit?
  • In your experience, what are the most important things to include in a conference abstract?
  • Do the conference abstracts in your field pass through a blind selection process?


“What I think first is how to get straight to the point and avoid presenting a lot of arguments in the abstract. I try to keep in mind this is only for calling their attention, and to introduce my study. When I write an abstract for this purpose, I feel I have to prove my hypothesis in a short form, and that helps me to focus”

PhD student
University of California, Merced – Former Master student program, University of Chile


Planning, drafting, revising

Writing is a complex process that includes different activities, strategies and moments. Some people start by brainstorming before writing, while others prefer to start writing right away. What strategies work better? Here are some ideas to help you face the process of writing a conference abstract in English.

Writing Tip

Double-check the spelling of words in an English dictionary before submitting. Also, decide on using American or British English spelling. There are differences between them – in spelling and meaning!

Check the call for papers

Before writing, check the call for papers and see if there are any guidelines about the abstract you want to submit. Two key elements are the word limit and the keywords you need to include. Also, take into account the theme of the event. Your abstract should demonstrate that your work fits within the main topics of the conference.

Be clear about the purpose of your work

Remember that your main purpose is to be selected for the conference. Show that your work is a contribution to the field and how: does it show a new perspective to a well-studied topic? Does it reinforce similar studies? Does it propose a completely new perspective to an area of study? Don’t forget to show how rigorous your work is, theoretically and methodologically speaking.

Revise your writing

Consider time to revise your writing. Ideally, you should wait at least a couple of hours (and preferably a couple of days) before going over your abstract to check for any mistakes. Some prefer revising right away, but this may be problematic as what you wrote is still fresh in your thoughts, and you may inadvertently “fix” mistakes in your mind. If you leave your abstract alone for a while, problems will be more apparent and easier for you to address.

Revise your writing

Consider time to revise your writing. Ideally, you should wait at least a couple of hours (and preferably a couple of days) before going over your abstract to check for any mistakes. Some prefer revising right away, but this may be problematic as what you wrote is still fresh in your thoughts, and you may inadvertently “fix” mistakes in your mind. If you leave your abstract alone for a while, problems will be more apparent and easier for you to fix.


“When writing a conference abstract, the first aspect I pay attention to is the instructions for the abstract, choosing an interesting title, highlighting the most important aspects of my work, and the possible applications for the findings of my study.”

Medicine School, University of Chile



Even though there are variations in different disciplines, conference abstracts generally follow the same five-part structure: introduction, purpose, methods, results, and conclusions. How each part looks depends on the preferences of your field, so you need to keep this in mind to make your writing clear and attractive.

Writing Tip

The title of your conference abstract is key. It has to be attractive, presenting the main idea of your study creatively, but not too long, so you need to be precise. Remember this is the first thing the selection committee will read.

What do you know about the topic?

Present the topic of your research. You should emphasize the relevance of the topic you are working on and how it is necessary to keep researching certain areas. Then, your work can be framed as a welcome addition to what is known in this area.

Questions to help you draft

  • How can you emphasize the relevance of the topic?
  • How can you show the contributions of the study?
  • How can you highlight the need for further research on the topic?

What is your study about?

Describe your research in terms of its purpose or study design. For the former, you can declare your main purpose: “the purpose of this research was…” or “this study aims to…”, for example. You could also emphasize your study design: “this is a longitudinal study that compares…”, “this correlational study describes how…”

Questions to help you draft

  • How can you present the topic of your study clearly?
  • What is the purpose of your study?
  • What is your study design?

How was your study conducted?

Describe the methods and procedures you followed. In an abstract, you don’t need to go on many details, but it is important to include the main methodological decisions you made. For example, you can note your sample size, the type of participants, the context of the study, or your data collection and analysis procedures. The general methodological orientation (quantitative or qualitative) or particular kinds of study design (single case study, experimental study, among others) also can be mentioned here.

Writing Tip

Since the number of words is limited, the use of simple tenses could help you to reduce your final amount. Present simple or past simple have specific uses. Go to the “In-depth” section for more details.

Questions to help you draft

  • What methodological aspect do you consider relevant to understand your research?
  • Should you describe your sample size or sampling procedures?
  • Should you mention the analysis procedures?

What were your findings?

You should include results whenever possible. If you are not at this stage yet, you could mention your preliminary results or your hypotheses. This guarantees to the organization committee that your research is in an advanced stage and it shows what you could actually present in the conference. You can include main and secondary results. For example: “the study shows a relationship between teaching methods and learning results. Specifically, it was observed that learning by problem solving is associate with a higher learning results than other learning types”. Remember to include only the main findings and to mind the word limit for your abstract.

Questions to help you draft

  • Which findings do you find more relevant?
  • Which of your findings do you think best answer your research question?
  • Which of your findings do you consider a contribution to your field of study?

What do your findings mean?

Give an interpretation of your results. You can explain what they mean, what their implications or practical applications are. For example, in the area of engineering, we could find a conclusion such as: “The trails performed show that the instrument is useful for the prediction and study of the high traffic zones of the city”.

Questions to help you draft

  • What do your results mean?
  • How are these findings important?
  • What would be an attractive phrase to conclude your abstract?


Remember: your goal is to be selected to present at the conference. Keep in mind what kind of event you’re applying to and, if at all possible, meet with someone who has been to one before. You may also ask a more experienced researcher for help, so he or she can give you some feedback before submitting on what to improve on your abstract to make it more attractive to the committee.

Let’s go over some examples of conference abstracts. Pay attention to the extension, organization and keywords.

Let’s check the structure of the thesis abstract in the following example!

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Example 1

In this first example there is a review of the format discussed previously. Let’s see how the five-part structure manifests in this text.

This abstract was presented by Alexandra Bowman in 2013 to participate in the Annual National Conference of the AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society).

Using a GIS Site Suitability Analysis to Locate Springs in Mantle Units of Ophiolite

GIS is a powerful tool that can be used to locate springs sourced in ophiolites. The unique features associated with these springs include a reducing subsurface environment reacting at low temperatures producing high pH, Ca-rich formation fluids with high dissolved hydrogen and methane. Because of their unique chemical characteristics, these areas are often associated with microbes and are thought to be similar to the features that enabled life to evolve on Earth.

Locating and sampling these springs could offer a deeper look into Earth’s deep biosphere and the history of life on Earth. Springs have traditionally been located using expensive and time consuming field techniques. Field work can be dangerous. The goal of this study was to develop a model that could locate these unique geological features without first going into the field,thus saving time, money and reducing the risks associated with remote field localities. A GIS site suitability analysis works by overlaying existing geo-referenced data into a computer program and adding the different data sets after assigning a numerical value to the important fields. For this project, I used surface and ground water maps, geologic maps, a soil map, and a fault map for four counties in Northern California. The model has demonstrated that it is possible to use this time of model and apply it to a complex geologic area to produce a usable field map for future field work.

As you can see, the results were left out of this abstract. Maybe the author didn’t consider them as relevant, or perhaps they could not fit them into the word limit. You may have to make similar decisions while writing your own abstracts: can you include all five parts? How can you deal with the word limit while giving each section enough space?

Here you will find a second abstract submitted for the same conference.

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Let’s take a look to the instructions before seeing the actual abstract:

  1. Abstracts must include sufficient information for reviewers to judge the nature and significance of the topic, the adequacy of the investigative strategy, the nature of the results, and the conclusions. The abstract should summarize the substantive results of the work and not merely list topics to be discussed.

  2. An abstract is an outline/brief summary of your paper and your whole project. It should have an intro, body and conclusion. It is a well-developed paragraph, should be exact in wording, and must be understandable to a wide audience. Abstracts should be no more than 250 words, formatted in Microsoft Word, and single-spaced, using size 12 Times New Roman font.

  3. Abstracts highlight major points of your research and explain why your work is important;what your purpose was, how you went about your project, what you learned, and what you concluded.

  4. If your title includes scientific notation, Greek letters, bold, italics, or other special characters/symbols, do make sure they appear correctly.

  5. List all additional undergraduate co-authors, whether they are or are not presenting, if applicable.

  6. List additional faculty mentors, if applicable

Now, let’s see how well the author followed the instructions. Let´s check out the abstract itself!

Example 2

Researcher: Rita Asgeirsson

Presentation Title: An Analysis of Yukon Delta Salmon Management

Research focus: Fisheries management related to Bering Sea fisheries and Yukon River salmon populations.

School: Western Washington University

Student Level: Masters

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation


An Analysis of Yukon Delta Salmon Management

The broad range of Pacific Alaskan salmon has resulted in the creation of a complex and multi-organizational system of management that includes the state of Alaska, various federal departments, a Congressionally-mandated fishery council, and a number of commercial and non-governmental fish organizations. In the Bering Sea salmon are caught by the commercial groundfish fleet as by-catch. On the Yukon River salmon are commercially and traditionally harvested for both economic and cultural sustenance by the Yup’ik residents of the Yukon Delta. Declining salmon populations has driven scientific research which considers the effects of Bering Sea salmon by-catch.

My research findings indicate that Bering Sea fisheries occur where juvenile salmon mature, directly impacting Yukon River salmon populations. Further, the research reflects that although Yukon salmon populations have plummeted, a recent effort was made to open the northern Bering Sea, which includes the Yukon River coastal shelf, to deep-sea commercial fishing.

By researching the relationship of policy to cultural salmon dependence, it becomes evident that Alaskan salmon-tribes are excluded from salmon management and decision-making. Legal research reflects that three basic federal Indian concepts –inherent rights, Indian Country, and tribal right of occupancy – emerge as potential foundations that may allow Alaskan salmon-tribes to begin sharing legal responsibility over salmon.

Yukon River salmon are an international and anadromous species that require multi-organizational management. My research reflects that current management favors the Bering Sea commercial fishing industry, despite data indicating Bering Sea fisheries impact Yukon salmon populations and an overall downward trend in Yukon salmon population.

(Quantity of words, including the title: 257)

Remember to follow the instructions closely. Not doing so could mean you are not accepted into the conference – reviewers will take into account your understanding of the guidelines, as it shows how well you can adapt to standards. Do read the instructions or guidelines even if you find them to be common sense or too obvious. Common sense is not always as common as we think! Stick to the instructions, and challenge yourself by fitting your work into the given format.


Let’s take a look at an abstract from a different field: history. This abstract is part of a series of samples provided by the Department of History at the NC State University.

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Example 3

Eklund, Chris (2013) Private Paths to Public Places: Local Actors and the Creation of National Parklands in the American South. NC State Graduate Journal of History. Vol. 1.

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.



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