How to Write an Abstract for a Conference

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By Brant Wilkerson-New
June 12, 2024


Are you preparing to write and submit a paper or conference presentation? One of the key factors in your submission will be the abstract – a concise summary of your research that will help organizers decide if your work is a good fit, and just as importantly, builds interest for attendees.

In this post, we’ll share a few tips on writing a great abstract that will not only help earn your entry for a conference. 

Grabbing Attention from the Start

Your abstract’s opening sentence is your chance to hook the reader and make them want to learn more, so it’s worth your time to perfect it! Starting with a shocking statistic, bold statement, or deep question related to your work is often the best approach. For example:

  • “Every year, 8-12 million tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans, threatening marine life and our beautiful beaches.”
  • “Can augmented reality revolutionize the way we treat anxiety disorders?”
  • “Recent studies suggest that the key to longevity may lie not in our genes, but in our relationships.”


By immediately grabbing the reader’s concern or piquing their curiosity, you’ll increase the likelihood they’ll stick around to find out what insights your research provides. 

Clearly State Your Question and Objectives

After you nail the opener, clearly and concisely state your main hypothesis or question that your research will address. What are you trying to solve? What knowledge gap are you looking to fill? Clearly articulating this from the start will set the stage and help the reader understand the impact and purpose of your study.

Describe Your Methodology

Give a quick explanation of your research methods. Did you run experiments, conduct surveys, or analyze existing data? Which variables did you measure, and how did you go about it? Providing look at your methodology lends credibility to your work and helps the reader understand how your study was conducted.

Highlight Your Key Findings

What were the most important results of your research? Was there a big surprise? Summarize your key findings with clarity and efficiency, using statistics and numbers where appropriate to emphasize the significance of your conclusions. Remember, the goal is to maximize impact in minimal space. 

Explain the Significance

What does it all mean? Why does this matter, and how will your findings advance your field of study or impact the world? Look for practical applications, policy implications or other ways your work can connect to the real world and how it might help people in their daily lives.

Use Clear, Concise Language

Avoid using industry jargon and technical terms that might be unfamiliar for an academic audience. Keep it simple and be direct in communicating, using short sentence and avoiding digressions. Make every word matter! 

Follow Formatting Guidelines

Never assume how a submission should be formatted. Some conferences have specific formatting requirements like font type or size, word count or other visual styling guidelines. Deviating from them could result in your abstract being rejected, regardless of its content. 

Get Feedback

Before submitting an abstract, ask a colleague or mentor in your field to review your work and give feedback. Even world’s greatest writers need an editor, and a set of fresh eyes can catch mistakes, ambiguous phrasing, or other areas that can be improved. 


Proofread your abstract, then proofread it again. (Then maybe one last time, for good measure.) Just a few small grammatical errors or typo could undermine the quality of excellent research and have your work tossed aside. A clean abstract keeps the reader’s focus on your work while conveying professionalism and attention to detail.

Make a Strong First Impression

First impressions matter! Your abstract’s title will be the first thing that readers see and help them decide whether they want to learn more. Choose something succinct that conveys the main focus of your research. Generic phrases like “An investigation …” or “A study…” should be avoided in favor of keywords that truly connect to your work.

Read it Aloud

When you read your abstract aloud, you might discover that it sounds a little different than what you intended on the page. Ensure it flows smoothly from one point to the next, and avoids any awkward phrasing that might confuse your audience. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While crafting conference abstracts, be on the lookout for these common stumbling blocks that can undermine your submission:

Lack of Specificity

Vague or overly broad statements can make your abstract feel unfocused and unsupported. Be specific about your research question, methods, and findings. Use concrete examples and data points to illustrate your points.

Overstating Your Conclusions

As excited as you might be about your research, don’t overdo it. When making any claims in your abstract, be sure they can be 100 percent supported by your data and avoid making any assumption – even if you’re 98 percent sure. That 2 percent exists for a reason, and it could ultimately undermine your credibility.

Failing to Provide Context

You never know who your research will ultimately reach, so never assume the reader is familiar with the topic you’ve researched. Always provide a little background to give a novice reader proper context, but at the same time, don’t get so far into the details that it distracts from your key points.

Neglecting the “So What?”

Volumes of the most important research ever completed will be overlooked unless you explain why it should matter to your readers. What are the big-picture implications? How will this change peoples’ lives? Will it revolutionize the way we look at something? Failing to address the “so what?” is a missed opportunity to drive home the importance of your work.

Overusing Jargon or Technical Language

While it’s important to use precise language and demonstrate your expertise, an abstract laden with jargon or technical terms can be off-putting to a general academic audience. Strive for a balance between accuracy and accessibility in your language choices.

Exceeding Word Count Limits

Organizers set word count limits for a reason – to ensure that abstracts are concise and focused. Exceeding these limits can result in your abstract being automatically rejected or truncated in an awkward way. Be ruthless in cutting unnecessary words or details to stay within the specified range.

By being mindful of these common pitfalls, you can craft an abstract that effectively communicates the value and significance of your research to a conference audience.

Making Your Abstract Visually Appealing

Content is king, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the visual presentation of your abstract. A well-formatted abstract means an easy-to-read abstract, which makes for a great first impression and allows your audience to focus on the substance of your work.

Use Headings and Subheadings

Use heading and subheadings to break up your abstract and help guide your reader through the content and scan for key points. Headings like “Introduction,” “Methods,” “Results,” and “Conclusions” will suffice, but you can include others, too.

Utilize White Space

White space is your friend! Creating spacing between your paragraphs and comfortable margins will make life easier for readers, as large blocks of text can be intimidating. The use of white space will allow a reader’s eye to gravitate toward words or phrases they’re interested in.

Choose the Right Font

This isn’t the spot to risk it with your font choice; stick with a standard, sans-serif font like Arial, Calibri, or Helvetica in 11- or 12-point size. Decorative or script fonts add no value to your abstract and only stand to distract from your work.

Use Bullets and Numbers

When possible, use bullet points or numbered lists to help highlight key points. Not only are they easy to digest, but lists help break up dense blocks of text and direct readers to important details.


Don’t be afraid to use formatting to get your point across. It’s completely acceptable to use bold, italics, or underlines to highlight key words or phrases in your abstract, so long as you don’t overdo it. If everything is emphasized, then nothing is emphasized.

Incorporate Visuals

Some conferences might allow you to include visual elements like tables, graphs, or images in your abstract. If you absolutely should take advantage of the opportunity – so long as the visuals are clear, legible, and directly related to your research.

If you stick to these tips, you’ll end up with a great abstract that is not only informative and compelling but also aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. Most importantly, it’ll ensure your submission stands out and increase its chances of being accepted and well-received by your target audience.


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