Falling into Abstract Season

For most people, Fall means the temperature is dropping, the leaves are changing colors, and it is time to breakout the sweatshirts and boots. However, for English majors it is abstract season. This means students are spending hours writing, editing, and staring into computer screens in hopes that their work will be accepted to a conference. As if writing an acceptable piece was not hard enough, the dreaded abstract must be written and submitted. While some conferences allow both the abstract and the paper to be sent in, many only ask for the abstract. This is why it is so important to have an abstract that can stand alone. Do not worry the English Department has a Solution!

Dr. Lauren Shoemaker to the rescue!

On October 11th, Dr. Shoemaker presented an Abstract 101 workshop where she went over how to write abstracts and what the conference judges look for in an abstract. An experienced conference presenter herself, she was able to give those in attendance a well-rounded outlook into what conferences are all about. The bulk of her presentation dealt with personal examples of abstracts where she gave the student’s time to read and analyze. One of the most important things to remember is to “mirror/mimic the language used in the call for papers for your abstract.” Other things that must appear in the abstract are:

  • Context: make your paper relevant to the conference or panel (historical, theoretical, etc.).
  • Thesis: Specific argument about your text.
  • Analysis Expected: What you are going to look at/examine.
  • Stakes/Take-Away: What is it the benefit of your paper.

These five things that Dr. Shoemaker taught will help make your abstract stronger and more likely to be considered.

She also showed us how to find conferences that fit our interests and ability. There are hundreds of available conferences, it is important to choose ones that we will have a good chance of being accepted. We like to think we’re all that and a bag of chips, but don’t submit to a graduate or doctorate conference if you’re an undergrad. You must find your place that will make you shine, as well as challenge you.

Dr. Shoemaker’s presentation was a huge help in preparing for conferences this year. Now, submit, submit, submit!

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