15 top tips for revising journal articles

Great tips on responding to reviewer feedback and revising your article here. By Deborah Luxton.

This Sociological Life

  1. Take a deep breath. No-one likes to have their precious writing critiqued, and it can be very easy to feel defensive and annoyed. But remember a condition of academic writing is that we expose ourselves to critique. We must learn to accept this and realise how the review process can help us.
  2. Feel gratitude for the work performed on your behalf by the reviewers and editors. Although you may not like some of their feedback, nearly all (and yes, there are some nasty exceptions) have reviewed your work in the spirit of academic generosity and have taken precious time from their own work to do this. If they have performed the review constructively, they deserve your thanks and appreciation.
  3. See the revision process as a way to make your work the best it can be, and a challenge to push yourself to improve it.
  4. If the editor has given you…

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A call for papers for Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work: The renaissance of radical social work? Trans-Tasman perspectives

Social Work Research in New Zealand

Social workers on both sides of the Tasman Sea are working hard to address the unrelenting tide of policies that aim to reduce the role of a welfare system  necessary to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all people. Hardly a day goes by without a threat to public health, social housing, income maintenance and  essential social services. Aided by social media connections New Zealand and Australian social workers and researchers are recognising the common battles we face. Its is thus timely to create opportunities for  sharing trans-Tasman  ideas on radical social work and critical social policy perspectives.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work journal is seeking contributions to a special issue on critical and radical perspectives in social work and social policy in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia to be published in 2017. The special issue will be edited by  editorial collective members Liz Beddoe, Neil Ballantyne and  a guest…

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The art and science of publishing: From becoming a peer reviewer to being a guest editor

Liz Beddoe and Carole Adamson

Beginning career academics face the challenge of learning many new skills. That we will know certain arcane things is often taken for granted. One day an email will arrive asking you to anonymously review an article.

You have been chosen because the editor has seen your recent article based on your masters or PhD research. What does it mean to conduct a peer review? What do you do about conflicts of interest? What if it doesn’t cite your own work and should? How much should you write? How can you distinguish minor from major revisions? What does reject and resubmit mean? And a little further on there may be opportunities to put together a team to guest edit an issue of a journal around your research interests. What might be involved in editorial processes?

This workshop was held at the 2015 symposium of ANZSWWER at RMIT in Melbourne 3-4 September.

Our workshop offered provide guidance and encouragement to any participants wanting to know more about these dimensions of academic life. The presenters are frequent peer reviewers and have several different kinds of editorial experiences. You can see the slides here.
ANZSWWER Workshop Adamson & Beddoe 2015

Liz Beddoe is on several editorial boards, is a co-editor of Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education and is a member of the newly formed editorial collective for Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Review
Carole Adamson is a reviewer for many journals and has edited guest issues of journals, most recently on “Disaster-informed curriculum for social work and welfare education” for Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education

Both Carole and Liz are members of the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work in The Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

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Writing articles from your thesis

Writing articles from your thesis makes sense in so many ways: sharing findings, contributing to social work scholarship, ethical responsibility to your participants and other stakeholders. But a thesis can seem unwieldy when considering writing a 6000 word journal article.
See previous post on why you should strongly consider writing an article from your thesis.

But a thesis can seem unwieldy when considering writing a 6000 word journal article.Here’s a presentation  with tips, help with planning and some suggestions about the submission and reviewing process.

Presentation slides from a writing workshop here: Beddoe Publishing from your thesis


Writing an article from coursework eg. from a literature essay

Soule, D. P., Whiteley, L., & McIntosh, S. (Eds.). (2007). Publishing in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Downloadable online resource here 

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How to do a good peer review

The blinded peer review process is the bedrock of journal publishing ensuring holding the line about what is acceptable for publishing and what is not. There is an increasing demand for academics to publish quality papers and for editors to select only high quality manuscripts. Authors generally accept that a good peer review process will help improve their paper. Reviewers generally enjoy reading other academics work but also the opportunity to help someone else, knowing that they may receive help with their papers in the future. However, few reviewers are provided with any training or mentoring on how to undertake a review. Most reviewers learn how to review by assessing articles

A very helpful post by Hugh McLaughlin, Professor of Social Work, Manchester Metropolitan University and Editor–in–Chief, Social Work Education: The International Journal. here on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog read here

Open peer review is an unfamiliar experience for many academics, with the added transparency acting as something of a shock to the system. Cristina Costa argues that the change could facilitate a welcome shift away from ‘peer view as monologue’ towards a more dialogical approach.

The tradition in the academic publishing world is for peer review to be double blind- that is neither the author nor the reviewers know who the other parties are. This is intended to assure honest quality reviews but as above it can lead to unhelpful reviews. Christina Costa talks about experiencing an open review process.

Read here

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How to write a book review

So you want to start writing- take  the plunge and think about 2014 being the year that you write your first book review. Here are some tips I have gleaned along the way as a reviewer. And for those readers who are experienced reviewers, please leave a comment if you think I have left something out or you have a different strategy to share.

Most journals include short reviews of new books likely to be of broad interest to their readership. These reviews serve several aims: to promote the work of authors, to boost sales and to inform readers of new work in their field. Publishers provide the books gratis to journals. Some journals advertise the books received and available for review – as does our local journal Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work – if you’d like to review a text you contact the editor. The book becomes your property when a publishable review is submitted.  Some journals commission reviews to ensure that the reviewer has the appropriate mix of skills / knowledge to write a thoughtful and fair review. The latter in my view does generally produce better results. I feel that reviews should be of a consistent standard and meet basic writing conventions. As an author there is nothing worse than a cursory or inaccurate review of your work, where one might question the credentials of the reviewer.

IMG_4327 - Copy (225x300)

Book reviewing adds to your kete of skills

If you are keen to write and see your name in print, undertaking book reviews is an excellent place to start. Practitioners, supervisors and practice teachers, teaching fellows and tutors are well-placed to review social work books  and reflect the needs of busy people who want to stay up-to-date. And reviewing enables you to update your bookshelf free. If the journal commissions reviews rather than advertises available books, email the editor with your brief CV and areas of interest and offer your services.
So what follows are some suggestions for writing a great review:

  • Read the book! This is the bit often taken for granted. I have read reviews where it seems the author may not have read the book, or at least not thoroughly.
  • When starting to read, consider this- you volunteered or agreed to take on this review. What attracted you to the title? The content – or was it that the author’s previous work was known and appreciated.  What are your expectations in approaching this work?
  • I suggest if you are a very busy person with many things to read that you take a planned approach to the reading. If you have the luxury of time and read fast you may be able to read the book in a day and have strong impressions easily able to be composed into a review. If you are like most people you will read the book in chunks – a chapter or two today and then you may not get back to it for a few days or even weeks.  So take good notes that summarise content very briefly and record your impressions.
  • Remember it’s not fiction so there is no need to worry about spoilers. So my approach is to read the first chapter, which should clearly set out the author’s or editor’s intentions and goals. Then I read the last chapter, especially if it is a summary or ‘way forward’ chapter. Reading these sections will enable you to clearly frame your review abut the work as a whole.
  • Stick to the word limit if provided. Most book reviews are in the 600-1000 word range as the journal will have a word ‘budget’ and if you write over it may be sent back. Ask for guidelines and if these are not available look at previous reviews for the structure and length. Most reviews are headed up with the title, the author or editor names exactly  as they appear on the front cover, the publisher and place of publication, year of publication, ISBN number, number of pages and price in the place of publication of the review.
  • An authored book– focus your review  on the main themes and the extent to which the author has met their aims – does a ‘handbook’ provide good coverage of a subject, well referenced showing depth of knowledge? Does a theoretical work elucidate the main ideas clearly and with strong accessible arguments?
  • An edited book – my approach to reviewing an edited book is typically to consider the collection as a whole. The editors will have set out their aims for the book and chosen contributors to align with their intentions. Does it work?  Is there a coherent thematic structure to the book? Does each contribution add something new to build the reader’s knowledge? When reviewing an edited book  you can’t mention each individual chapter, as much as you would like to. My strategy is generally to discuss the overall aims of the book as provided by the editor(s) introduction and then explore one or two chapters from each section. If there are no sections I will choose chapters to highlight themes or type of contribution. Whatever you decide it is a courtesy to all the contributors to explain the rationale for your choices.

Being critical

A review covers content but editors will expect you to comment on readability, style and an evaluation of the work’s relevance and interest to the journal’s readership.  A book review is scholarly writing but your opinion and impressions are valid and useful to other potential readers. Be generous in your praise and fair in your criticism. If there are flaws or omissions say so.

You are writing for the journal’s readership and so of you think the book is of limited interest say so. In social work there is a never-ending river of books published in the UK written specifically for local social work degree programmes. Some are so closely tied to local requirements they should be called reading guides not books.  Most US textbooks appear to have been written by authors and contributors who appear to have never read anything written by anyone other than another  North American. We can’t claim status as an international profession and ignore the world beyond our own borders. Remember publishers and authors are trying to sell their expensive  books to you and your colleagues so challenge them to be less parochial!  I am always hugely entertained by reviewers of my work who worry about the NZ context of my research and writing as if this might be an impediment. Especially since they are reviewing for journals which purport to be of ‘international’ standing’ but contain mainly local (e.g. UK) content which until recently might have failed to acknowledge any country or cultural context at all, often even within the UK. So note the omissions of international, cultural or gender perspectives if you ascertain such weaknesses,  and note the potential limitations for a local readership of a work which prescribes practice in a narrowly defined context.

That said, if you are being critical, always run your own check of your assertions before you submit. If you say not mentioning X or Y is a terrible omission be very careful that you are right! And of course each work will have some merits and in noting these be generous. For example, some of the  text book types I have mentioned above contain excellent learning exercises which can easily be adapted to your own context if you are teaching or supervising.

Writing conventions

Follow basic academic writing conventions: if you quote, use quotation marks and ensure the page number is given. Reference authors after the first mention by their surname only unless there are several contributors with the same name. If it is an edited book the author of each chapter must be acknowledged if discussed or quoted. This includes chapters by the editors.  Each chapter in an edited book is an individual work with its intellectual property belonging to the author, not the editors.   Failure to attribute authorship correctly suggests an inadequate review and the editor should send it back for correction. You do not need to mention every chapter however.

The chapters in an edited book need not be referenced at the end but any other works should be cited correctly including prior work of the editors or contributors. Try not to use too many references. Your review should focus on the work in hand and is not really an opportunity for you to demonstrate your own breadth of reading. An exception to this advice is where you are writing a longer review of several works on a theme or in a genre e.g. if you have been asked to review three new research methods texts published around the same time.

Finally, edit to the word length if necessary, proof-read your writing, check your assertions, make sure you have spelled the author’s or editor’s name correctly throughout, check that you have provided all the information and submit to the editor. One last teeny thing, the editor will normally allow a few months for a review, try to keep to this.  I cannot honestly say that I have always been reliable myself in this matter, as finding time to read and review a whole book is not always easy, but after a few years the review may be of less use.

Here’s a blog post about writing a review you might also find useful

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Why publish from your MSW Thesis?

I want to start with a quote from the work of Lorraine Muller PhD, an Indigenous Australian researcher who explains the importance of sharing the knowledge you have gained through conducting research.

Circular learning reflects the responsibility to knowledge. Knowledge and responsibility are inseparable; custodians of knowledge have an obligation to ensure that knowledge is respected, nurtured, and shared where appropriate. Sharing knowledge on the basics of our theory is part of my responsibility for having that knowledge shared with me. As interviews progressed, I shared the collective knowledge from previous discussions, fulfilling my obligation as both teacher and learner. (Muller, 2014, p.101)

So why I believe is it important to present your MSW (and other) research and to write for publication:

  • To share developments with wider audience
  •  To receive feedback and incorporate this feedback into further research
  • To contribute to local and global literature in social work
  • To have impact on policy and practice
  • To honour the commitment that you probably made in your proposal and ethics applications to disseminate the results
  • Because it is an ethical obligation to voice the experiences of those who participated in your research

Getting started A note about authorship: Your supervisor(s)’ job is done when you have had a successful examination of your thesis. However, in some disciplines it is expected that you will publish at least one article with them as co-authors. If you haven’t already had this discussion, now is a good time.
A good place to start on preparing an article for publication is to re-read your thesis: what were the main findings/themes. You may find it helpful to make your own concept map or diagram to show these themes and how they relate to each other. Write a working title from each of these for possible articles. What about your literature review- what insights did you gain from this? Could the review of the literature be useful to practitioners and other researchers?

Choosing journals:
• Make a list of all the journals that you could publish in
• Rank them as meeting your needs
• Look at their impact factor- the higher it is the more papers they will likely reject
• Balance speed of publication and quality
• Consult your supervisors about your ideas
• Read recent editorial and articles in your target journal
• Read the guidelines for authors
Don’t forget to search for recent publications on your topic, the subject will have developed while you were having those post-thesis weekends off!

The next task is to write an abstract and keywords. Most journals will just require a standard format and set the length for an abstract. This may be quite short-100-200 words. At this stage it is useful to examine the guidelines of the journal you are considering writing for as they have different formats. The Journal of Social Work for example requires the following format:
Summary: about 200 words- describe the problem, the study, the main findings and what specifically this paper will address.
Findings: one or two very clear concise sentences describing the findings or results of your research.
Applications: One or two sentences explaining what the implications of your findings for practice or policy.

For a working draft, make the abstract 150 words –you can reduce it later. An abstract should contain the following:
1. An introductory sentence that describes the phenomenon or problem you are considering
2. Its implications /effects
3. A sentence or two saying what you studied and how (e.g. method)
4. One or two sentences saying what your findings were
5. One last sentence explaining the implications of your findings, with some recommendations/suggested further research

Let’s get writing
First off, consider who you are writing for?
Is it an audience of disciplinary peers? Or an interdisciplinary journal?
Why is your work relevant to them?
What are the key ideas or findings you wish to communicate?
How can you cover what you want to but stay within the word limit?

Structuring a Research Article
Choose a title that contains key words that will enable your work to be found by search engines.
Introduction –introduce the topic and background. Be clear about your research question and aims.
It is important to condense your literature review. This is difficult when you spent so long gathering, reading and synthesizing. Cite enough to support your arguments but not to make your text unreadable. Readers will know you read a great deal to get your degree!
Methods section- many articles provide too little information about the design of the study and the research methods. Explain why you chose to design the study the way you did in order to answer the research question. Don’t forget to discuss ethical issues and informed consent if relevant. Explain briefly that you gained ethical approval from an appropriate body. Explain your method of analysis. Journals increasingly require more detail than “I undertook thematic analysis”.
Think about data-display: for qualitative studies there are less hard and fast rules. Check the style of the target journal. You may develop one or two figures and you can also think about using tables for display some thematic material or models. Quantitative data-display is bound by more rules and conventions and the journal style may be quite strict especially with regard to the formatting of tables. Before you add too much text in tables check whether this will count towards the word limit.
The discussion section is where you can write about the implications of your findings and in this section you are expected to return to the literature, explaining where your work confirms previous research and/or where you believe it contributes new insights. When you have drafted this section, go back and look at the findings you have presented and ask whether you have substantiated any claims you are making. You may wish to briefly comment on any limitations and areas that you believe require further exploration.
Finally, a short conclusion should include the main “take-home” points: what do you want the reader to remember?

Submission– Print drafts and revise- I would expect to do at least 2-3 drafts before submitting.
Follow the rules in the guidelines exactly e.g. how to submit the manuscript; separate files for figures and tables; the article should be anonymous for peer review (write Author, 2013 for any of your own publications). Follow the referencing style exactly; do not give the editor a reason to reject you outright. Proof–read your article, read it aloud for sense, bribe a colleague, family member to read through….. Finally check that all the in text citations are in the references and remove any references that aren’t cited in the text.

Submit, relax and wait for the peer reviews.

See also this short  guide

And another useful resource:


Writing an article from coursework eg. from a literature essay

Soule, D. P., Whiteley, L., & McIntosh, S. (Eds.). (2007). Publishing in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Downloadable online resource 
Muller, L. (2014). Indigenous Australian social health theory: Decolonisation, healing, reclaiming wellbeing. In Beddoe, L. & Maidment, J. Social Work Practice for Promoting Health and Wellbeing: Critical issues (pp. 99-110). London: Routledge [to be published early 2014]

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Ok maybe I will write it up for the journal!

“Much of the advocacy task of social work is in translating events and action and needs into the right language for the audience. So it’s all about making those connections. With writing, I struggled with the tension between using the article to reflect on what I had done, and the critical gaze of an unknown audience. First the editor and anonymous “peer reviews,” then the reader. In the end, the recipe gives the mechanism for getting past the hurdle of the editor and gatekeeper. The reader is almost incidental as a silent supervisory audience…there for reflection in the space of a published work”. (Maidment & Milner, 2008, pp.1-2)

Social workers are often reluctant to consider writing up and submitting an article to a journal. You may lack confidence that your findings are worthy of publication or that what you have to say is not interesting to anyone else. Or you may lack confidence in your ability to write well enough.

Writing can be a very ‘stretching’ experience. Writing for a journal requires you to move beyond your own perceptions, experiences, and hunches. Things you think everyone knows may require support from other published authors. A reviewer who had read an article on supervision that I had submitted wrote: “you state that ‘traditional accounts of supervision focus on three main functional elements’. References from the literature need to be provided to illustrate this”. I’m so immersed in teaching and writing supervision that I forgot that not every reader will know what I mean. You will learn more about your field than you might expect as you find a source for that piece of practice wisdom that you thought was simply understood by all. Undertaking this journey is part of professional growth and development.

Writing up research for journals is easier if you have written your formal research report. You will be able to’ cut and paste’ a lot of what is needed into the article. You will need to reduce the article to comply with the word length guide provided by the journal. Contributor guidelines are usually in the back of each issue or you will find them on the journal’s website. Read these before you start writing to save time reformatting or reducing your text later.

Structuring your article
• A good clear abstract with the main points
• Introduction: Why you chose to do the research, what was the main question?
• Literature review or other studies examined
• Methodology- how you carried out the study
• Describe your findings or results
• Discussion of your findings including significance and implications
• Any limitations and /or further research questions

Here’s a quick checklist to help you prepare an article for a journal:

Read a few articles in a recent issue to see what the journal is covering
Read the editorials for any comment on what the journal is looking for.
There is usually statement at the front of the journal about the journal’s scope and aims
Follow the journal’s style guidelines (usually at the back in hard copy or look for Author/Submission Guidelines on the journal webpage)
Check the word length (are the references included in the count?) and stick to it
Check the style of referencing and in-text citation and use this style consistently
(e.g. APA or Harvard- there is plenty of free help online with referencing )
Check whether you can use footnotes or endnotes and whether they count.
Write plain English
Provide a short glossary of terms or words from other languages
Bibliographic style books can be found in libraries and on line
If you really feel stuck ask for help from a colleague who has published
Write a good draft and ask a colleague to peer review it for you: ask them to be honest!
Check and recheck before you submit it

Maidment, J., & Milner, V. (2008). Conversations about writing: The journey from practitioner to writer. Families in Society 88(4), 1-6.

Other resources:

Crescentini, A., & Mainardi, G. (2009). Qualitative research articles: Guidelines, suggestions and needs. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21(5), 431 – 439

Healy, K., & Mulholland, J. (2012). Writing skills for social workers (2nd ed.). London: Sage.

Heron, G., & Murray, R. (2004). The place of writing in social work: Bridging the theory-practice divide. Journal of Social Work, 4(2), 199-214

Waldman, J. (2005) Using evaluative research to support practitioners and service users in undertaking reflective writing for public dissemination. British Journal of Social Work 35 , pp. 957-981

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‘Doing a poster presentation at a conference’

Conferences almost always have more abstracts submitted than can be successfully fitted into a programme. The programme is determined by the number of rooms available for concurrent session. The ‘scientific’ or “academic’ committee will often rank submissions if they feel there will be more “yes” decisions than can be accommodated. You may be offered a poster slot if your abstract is good, but not quite as highly ranked, or it could be that you submitted two, one for presentation and one as a poster. If you submit an abstract for a poster it still needs to be strong- the same guidelines apply as in the post on abstracts on this blog.

Focus on the key message you want to get across to your intended audience. Who is the intended audience? Be sure you write for that audience and ensure language, concepts and ideas can be understood by your audience. Remember the four or five key sentences for a good abstract and work out how you can communicate those concepts in the visual medium. All the text on the poster should be clear and concise: use short sentences, bullet points and avoid jargon, abbreviations and acronyms. Use colour and photos or graphics to attract the eye of conference participants.

You may be assigned a slot to speak to your poster, usually only 5 minutes, and in this case there will be a chair. Your task as the presenter is to manage challenging questions; and to expand on the messages in your poster. Prepare a 1-2 page handout. Have your business cards ready and have some available in an envelope pinned to the board for when you’re unavailable.

Handouts: Your presentation should include references but if you provide this on a hand-out you are not cluttering up the poster. Add your name, institution and e-mail address. Handouts or outlines may help the audience follow the presentation. You may wish to distribute them before the presentation when the content is dense and mainly text. Take a plastic pocket that can be attached to the poster board.

Production: you can use PowerPoint™ to produce your poster. The layout menu will guide you through this. Space doesn’t allow details here but essentially you produce two slides with content edge to edge, that a commercial printer can produce as large as you want, full colour etc. Getting these printed can be expensive so do ask for a quote! Posters can be produced on card or fabric. Remember to take pins or 2-sided tape.

Layout: All posters must have a title, along with an abstract, findings, key ‘take away’ points, and important references. Posters should also have sections which outline the problem, methods, discussion and results of your research. To get started map out how you will fit these sections in and work out how you will direct readers to the sections in logical order. Use letters, numbers or arrows to indicate the correct direction to your audience. Decide the main headers, text boxes, diagrams, data displays and photos and start designing.

Appearance: Keep it simple. Plain, light colour backgrounds allow for high contrast with text. Highlight developments, trends and comparisons with simple graphs and diagrams but avoid too many numbers, words or complex visuals. The use of colour improves the appearance and readability of your poster. The software easily allows you to develop theme colours. The golden rule is that lettering should be able to be read from a distance of 1.5metres and the title from 3 metres. Use bold thick font for titles, headings and subheadings to enhance readability. A poster is not the vehicle to present the detail from your research or project. The simplest posters are often the most successful. Test your design and text layout and ‘sense’ on friends or colleagues before you send to the printer. Many large format posters can be safely carried in cardboard cylinders and cloth posters can be folded up in your luggage.

Use the following guidelines for text size.
– Poster Title 96 – 180 point
– Author 20 – 36 point
– Headings (Abstract, Conclusions etc) 48 – 84 point
– Subheadings 24 – 36 point
– Body Text 14 – 20 point

And don’t forget to carefully read the instructions provided by the conference organisers and check the programme for the time your poster is to be displayed. at large conferences you may be assigned a day and your poster will need to be removed on time.
Free On-line Resources: Any problems just type “How do I make a poster in PowerPoint” In Google and you will find many easy resources.

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How to write a great conference abstract and get picked!

An academic abstract can be likened to a miniature work of art. It is an academic promo for a larger academic production. Within the confines of only a few hundred words, a clearly written abstract affords a bird’s-eye view and summary of work that may have taken many hundreds of hours and many thousands of dollars to construct (Jens Hansen).

There are three reasons to write a good abstract when hoping to present at a conference: (1) you want the conference programme committee to pick you! (2) Delegates will read your abstract among many others and your abstract needs to attract them to come to hear your paper. (3) The title and abstract may remain on a website which means that people may be able to find out about your work long after the conference.

An abstract is a brief (word limits are usually 100-250 words) strong and clear statement describing a larger paper to follow. Your title should be clear and contain the key words of your topic. Bearing in mind that you may only have 10-20 minutes to present, you will need a clear structure. A good way to start is to jot down the 3-4 key ideas you want to communicate in the presentation. This generates the major elements of your abstract. A good abstract may only need about four or five sentences to be effective:
• an introductory sentence that describes the phenomenon or problem you are considering;
• a sentence or two saying what you studied and how;
• one saying what your findings were;
• one last sentence explaining the implications of your findings, with some recommendations and/or suggesting further research.

If your paper is reporting research it should be complete, or if ‘in progress’ you would generally need to be reporting a completed section of the study or a fully evaluated pilot. If it is a conceptual paper it will address an issue that cannot be answered simply by finding more data and will present arguments that will be grounded in literature and broadly accepted knowledge.

Some basic rules: use the template if it is provided; follow the format; keep to word limits. Use colons to join phrases without extra words. If your abstract is long and rambling the committee may assume your presentation will be too and the session chair will might have to give you the ‘red card’ whether you have finished or not! If they ask you to link to one of the conference themes, be sure to do it. If the conference committee is overwhelmed with abstracts, those that even look like they are ‘off topic’, too long or don’t follow the guidelines may be rejected without even being read. Use references very sparingly in an abstract, generally only to refer to highly relevant published work or to indicate the influence of a significant theorist. You may wish to show your familiarity with the research and literature pertinent to your topic but remember, your main purpose is to get your own ideas across.
Read it again and again and ideally have a colleague check it. Does it make sense and give a clear indication of what you plan to present? Is the focus very clear from the title and the first sentence?

Update#1 : here’s another resource from Pat Thomson’s excellent academic writing blog Patter. This one is about how important the thesis abstract is.  Read here.

Update#2 : writing an abstract for a journal article is similar but there are a few other things to think about. Here’s a good short blog post from the LSE Impact blog with some good advice about keywords.

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