My first year of research at Aberystwyth University has officially come to a close as I have now completed my registration for the second year. The first year consisted of my undertaking two research training modules:
- Research Skills and Personal Development – which consisted of a variety of short lectures on topics considered relevant to the modern researcher. Two assignments were part of the process. I know that some of the postgrads found it very useful but I had covered most of the subjects before as part of my undergrad and MA studies.
- Ways of Reading – consisted of a 2-day series of lectures. The assignment was a single essay on a topic of our choice. Although, again, I had covered much of the material that was presented this module did have the benefit of being pertinent to my particular research interests.
For the rest of the year I attended workshops and conferences that were extremely helpful in clarifying just how I was going to approach my research topic. The rest of the time was spent transcribing a Middle English chronicle and translating a selection of Anglo-Norman material.
Now I have to work on a more detailed analysis of the material that I have collected and as part of this analysis I now have to start thinking about the conferences I wish to attend and the papers that I wish to share with the wider academic community.
Conference papers are an essential element within the PhD process as it gives the researcher an opportunity to test out theories and approaches in a relatively friendly environment. The questions posed by an audience of your peers can be enlightening whether you can answer them or not. Questions and answer sessions allow you to examine the strengths and weaknesses of your research, and often open up new ways of looking at your material.
But the first hurdle to overcome is having your paper accepted by a conference in the first place. Acceptance into a conference is dependent upon the abstract that you send in to the conference organisers. This abstract not only has to encapsulate your paper, but it also has to be interesting enough to sell itself to the organisers. Not an easy task in abstracts of 200-500 words.
I am now in the process of writing my first selection of abstracts for a number of very interesting conferences, but I am finding this to be a difficult task. This is despite having completed a research training skills assignment which basically analysed a selection of abstracts in order to decipher what makes a successful abstract.
Abstracts take practise and a lot of thought. Each one has to be tailored to suit the individual conference theme. But for conferences in general the following basic rules apply:
- Ensure that the conference you are considering is appropriate for your work.
- Check if the conference provide examples of what they wish to see – not all do.
- If guidelines are given – follow them.
- Write the abstract.
- Have your supervisor check it over and listen to their advice.
- Double-check the abstract submission guidelines and deadline.
- Don’t write under the minimum word limit.
- Don’t go over the maximum word limit.
- Submit the abstract on time.
Once I have been accepted to give a paper I will go through the process that I took and share it here. I’m not going to share my ideas on conference abstract writing before then, after all I’ve no idea if my approach will work – yet.