A Conference Glossary
by Veronika Schuchter
An abstract is a short summary of your paper that you send to the conference organisers to ‘apply’ to present your paper at their conference. It is written in response to a Call for Papers (CFP) and usually 250-300 words in length. You should include the title of your proposed paper, your name, affiliation, email address, the actual abstract and a short bionote.
This is the process of sending in your abstract. This might be as simple as sending an email to the address mentioned on the CFP; when you do, make sure to send a proper email and don’t just send a blank message with attachment (yes, people really do this). Address the organisers, tell them politely that you are attaching your abstract for their consideration, thank them and goodbye! Sometimes organisers require a different process (such as uploading your document on a website) – read the instructions on the CFP or conference website carefully.
This is a little section in which you say something about yourself and your research (status, institution, research interests) etc. This helps the organisers to get to know you a little, and once you’re presenting your paper, the panel chair can introduce you to the audience. Golden rule: if you are asked to provide a ‘short’ bionote, don’t attach your CV but try to keep it short and sweet (2-3 sentences are usually sufficient).
These are breaks inbetween sessions and keynotes. Coffee breaks tend to be included in your conference fee, sometimes lunch is too (always check), and are a great opportunity to get to know participants. Don’t be shy and chat to as many people as possible!
call for papers (cfp/CFP)
A CFP is a request for papers to be submitted by the academic community to participate in/contribute to a conference; it includes the conference theme, date, location and a more detailed description of the conference theme, proposed sub-themes for paper proposals, and instructions on how and when to submit abstracts.
The (lead) conference organiser.
Conferences cost money; there are rooms, catering, programmes to be printed and travel costs for keynotes and readings by authors. This is why participants are asked to contribute to these expenses. There are usually reduced conference fees for PhD students and sometimes even some competitive travel grants – it’s definitely worth checking the CFP or website.
Every conference is centred around a particular theme or topic bringing together scholars with similar research interests.
For academic events spreading over several days, there is usually the opportunity to participate in the conference dinner. The conference organisers will have chosen a suitable venue; you will have to sign up in advance (usually when you register for the conference) and it tends NOT to be included in the conference fee. If you can spare the few extra quid, conference dinners can be a great opportunity to get to talk to (more senior) colleagues and authors in a more informal environment since this is when people tend to let their hair down a little. Do have some wine/beer but don’t get completely smashed (it’s happened), this is a professional engagement after all and you’re trying to build your profile as a young scholar and want to be remembered for the paper you gave, not your drunken escapades.
There may be an opportunity to publish the material you presented at the conference. It is up to the conference organisers; they might edit a special journal issue, publish an edited collection or simply put together some online output. Talk to your supervisor: they can best advise whether it’s worth contributing.
An informal get-together the night before the official conference opening; a good opportunity to get to know people ahead of the conference if you happen to arrive early.
An extension of the original deadline for the submission of abstracts; this means you’re still welcome to send in your abstracts until the new deadline has passed.
A keynote is a longer lecture usually given by a respected and experienced scholar in the field of the conference theme and also functions to bring all participants together during the conference (when the group is split up because of parallel sessions).
The group of people organising the conference.
Conferences are structured around a system of panels and sessions. Since at bigger events there are more papers than there is time, organisers create thematic panels and several panels can run parallel under the heading of a thematic session. This means that you will have to decide in advance which panel you are interested in. Panels usually last for 90 minutes and consist of a panel chair and three presenters who have twenty minutes each to deliver their papers with an additional 30 minutes for questions from the audience.
The panel chair is responsible for introducing the speakers, making sure that they stay within their speaking time (!!!) and lead the discussion after each paper has been delivered.
Some conferences (though relatively few in literary studies) offer PhD students space to present their findings/research in form of posters.
Once your abstract has been accepted, the conference organisers will ask you to officially register for the conference and pay the conference fee in advance (this will be in the weeks/months before the conference). This will help them to already cover some of their expenses, as well as calculating the number of participants who will really turn up for the actual event. There should be a reduced rate for PhD students and you can usually ask for a receipt or confirmation to hand in to your institution should they reimburse some of your costs.
This is a date set by the organisers until which you can send in your abstract to participate in the conference; there tends to be at least one extension but try and get your abstract submitted in time.
This includes usually smaller, one-day events. They tend to be smaller in scale, fewer participants and no parallel sessions. This means they are very focused on one topic and can be a great opportunity for younger scholars since it’s a little less stressful than bigger events that span over several days.