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Writing and submitting a Conference Proceedings paper

You can benefit a lot from attending symposia and conferences – virtual or in-person – and presenting your work in such forums. It is a great way to share preliminary findings, receive valuable feedback from experts and peers, network with other researchers and forge important connections. With that in mind, let’s look at what you need to do if you are presenting at a conference.

Conference proceedings paper explained

A paper in conference proceedings is based on a talk or poster presented at an academic symposium or conference. Some academic conferences publish just the abstracts of the papers presented at the conference, while most provide the full papers. Conference proceedings, therefore, are a compilation of papers presented at the conference and published in-house by the conference organiser(s).

Conference paper vs. journal article

Conference papers differ from journal articles in that they are considered ‘working papers’ or papers on research at a preliminary stage. They are not typically peer reviewed. In some fields, a ‘soft’ peer review is performed. In engineering disciplines, though, the papers undergo thorough peer review and can be considered primary papers. 

Process for submitting and publishing a conference paper

a. Identifying a suitable conference

  • Choose a conference relevant to your work.
  • Prioritise international conferences over local ones for a broader reach and to establish new and interesting connections. That said, beware of predatory conferences that advertise exotic locations only to exploit you (by way of money). (Learn more here: Avoiding Predatory Academic Conferences)
  • Ensure that the timelines (abstract submission deadline, paper submission deadline and conference dates) and submission requirements are suitable to you and that you can meet them efficiently.

b. Doing the groundwork

  • Submit the abstract, along with a catchy title. The abstract provides the organisers with an overview of the topic and a summary of your results. Unlike a regular journal article, you need to prepare the abstract before your presentation and full paper are ready.
  • Once your abstract is accepted and your attendance is confirmed, start arranging for travel funding (if this is an in-person international conference). You might be asked to pay a registration fee at this stage.
  • Prepare the oral presentation according to the given time limit (usually 20−30 minutes). Aim to make a good impression through your talking points and slides.

c. Writing and submitting the paper

  • Start the outline of your paper while you are preparing the oral presentation.
  • The general structure of a conference proceedings paper is similar to that of a regular paper: IntroductionMaterials and methods ⇒ ResultsDiscussion
  • However, these sections are shorter and mirror the oral presentation.
  • Follow the formatting conventions provided by the conference organisers.
  • Avoid too much detail; the emphasis should be on your findings.
  • Submit the paper before the given deadline. 

Ethical considerations when writing a conference paper

  • It is tempting to attend many conferences at various exotic locations and increase the count of one’s papers. However, multiple submissions of the same paper to several conferences is a big no-no.
  • Similarly, you cannot submit the identical article to a journal. Some overlap between your final journal article and your conference paper is inevitable (30% being acceptable) because the latter reports early findings of your study.
  • When you submit a full paper to a journal based on one that has been published/is being considered for publication in conference proceedings, remember to declare this in the cover letter.

End note

Conferences are a vital component of your journey as a researcher. Make the most of these platforms, but be sure to partition your publications wisely across conference proceedings and regular articles in an ethical manner.


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