Writing an Abstract for CAST 2008

As the call for papers for CAST 2008 has been posted and submissions and emails have been coming in – I thought I would use my blog to share thoughts about submitting proposals. And I wanted to answer a question I’ve seen multiple times in email – what is an abstract?

I’m writing this as a matter of opinion and from my view as a program co-chair for the conference.

An abstract is a description explaining the presentation you intend to create. One page or two to three full paragraphs should be sufficient. If it takes you more than a page to describe what you’re going to present then you’re either not being clear or you’ve picked too large of a topic.

A long abstract can also indicate that you’ve started writing the paper and haven’t written an abstract about the paper/presentation. Or it might mean you haven’t determined the main point or what angle or perspective of the topic you want to focus on. For selection purposes, we only need an abstract so save details for your final paper.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you draft an abstract:

• From what point of view do you intend to present?

• What message do you want to share with the audience?

• Your submission should be based on a direct experience. So what about the experience do you want to share? What worked, what didn’t?

• What about your experience is unique, interesting and/or helpful to share with other people?

If your abstract is accepted, you’ll have a couple of months to develop the paper and create a presentation. This year, the CAST program committee has reviewers who will give you feedback as you work towards completion.

Titles are important – and sometimes overlooked during the submission process – but I suggest creating a good short title. A good title is short, accurate and interesting. Short is a couple of words – if your title is longer, it will likely get referred to by a short title as a means of referring to your submission during the review process. Accurate means the title matches the presentation you intend to build. Remember that at conferences, attendees will have to choose which class they want to attend and your title will factor into their decision. Interesting is subjective – of course – but having a short title that points out what’s unique or practical about your presentation helps both the review committee and later the audience.

If you’re on the edge about submitting, I hope you will.

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