Writing an Abstract: Things to Keep in Mind

It’s abstract season, although, with the myriad of conferences to attend in the water industry, this may feel like a year-round occurrence. Every call for abstracts is a little different. In our call for abstracts, we include a link to a presentation about best practices. These tips are tried and true, but here are a few we thought were worth adding.

Read the Instructions

Nothing is more challenging for a reviewer than an abstract gone awry. This may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised the number of submissions that overlook the details. We’re particular in how we ask for submissions because we want everyone’s work to start from the same place. Abstract requirements, which may seem like moot details, ensure we don’t create any unintended bias. Electronic submissions make this less of an issue but accidents do happen—like the inadvertent ALL CAPS snafu. There’s no guarantee the reviewer will see ALL CAPS as your unabashed excitement versus your lack of attention to detail.

Remember Your Audience

Writing for your audience is the critical ingredient to effective communication. The organizers want to present a conference that creates value for attendees. Make sure you answer any questions asked for in the abstract. If there is an overarching theme to the event, be sure to include language that demonstrates your alignment to that theme. Remember, you’ve been a conference attendee too. Think about the best and worst presentations you’ve seen. What were the defining characteristics of each type? Can you convey the positive traits through your abstract? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re writing for the reviewer. They want to see a story and a solution that will resonate with attendees and one they can learn from. State the problem and outcomes, but focus your energy on what makes your approach different. Don’t be afraid to let your passion for the project shine through. Time is our most valuable resource. Why is your presentation worthy of the attendees’ time?

Less is More

Event organizers give word count limits as a maximum but many of us view them as a goal. There’s no extra credit for reaching the word count limit. If you can say what you need to with less, do it. Use bullets for key requirements. Use sentences to tell the story and to let the unique approach and excitement behind your topic shine through.

“What I think I heard you say is……”

Have two people review your abstract—one from the industry and one from outside the industry. The industry peer can catch grammar and perform a technical review. They can ensure you’ve addressed the key requirements. The person from outside the industry can help you determine if you have a story worth telling. Have them read the abstract and then ask the following questions: How was your approach different? What stood out most to them? What can someone learn from this presentation? If they can’t answer these questions or their answers don’t align with what you were trying to convey, try again. Explain to them what you were trying to convey and then rewrite based on their feedback. This practice helps identify clarity and focus. Don’t make the reviewer guess. Tell them why your project is worthy.

Tell us your story here

Share this post:

Comments on "Writing an Abstract: Things to Keep in Mind"

Comments 0-0 of 0

Please login to comment