Top 10 tips for abstract submissions!

Having experienced both success and failure with abstract submissions, I want to share my personal ‘top 10 tips’ for submission to health-related conferences (as that is where I have personal experience)

  1. Read the guidelines once, twice and thrice – reviewers have hundreds of abstracts to sift through and they will be looking for quick ‘discards’
  2. Consider the key themes for the conference this particular year, and ensure your findings fit into one of these and tailor the abstract to demonstrate this
  3. Make the title succinct and informative – the title could even be your highlight finding e.g. Smoking tobacco is associated with lung cancer: A case-control study in England
  4. Be concise and think of the ‘Elevator Pitch’ to help you.  What is known on this topic?…What are you adding? And if you are able…What is the main (potential) implication of your research?
  5. Be clear about the method you have used (reference if you need to).  A reviewer will be very cautious to accept an abstract with where the method is ‘a slice of cheese in a big mac’.  The method must be convincing regardless of the finding.
  6. Don’t conclude something that is out of line with your findings – for example, the study finds that 1 in 10 people in the UK don’t apply sun-screen on sunny days in comparison to 1 in 5 people in France.  A false conclusion would be to say ‘People in the UK are at increased risk of skin cancer compared with people in France’.
  7. Many abstract get published and therefore do not submit data that you would not feel confident in having published.  Abstract submissions are not an opportunity to submit preliminary data that you are not confident in, but which you intend on analysing properly for a full-paper submission.
  8. Ensure your abstract is identifiable for other researchers – when somebody else is conducting a systematic literature search on a topic related to your work, then you want them to be able to easily find your work. Use key words/terms which allow your abstract to be placed into subject headings that do justice to your research!
  9. Some conferences allow you to submit an abstract for consideration that has been presented elsewhere previously, whilst others do not. There is nothing to stop you disseminating your work widely where it is permitted by the conference organisers.
  10. Oral presentations are more limited in acceptance than poster presentations, therefore consider whether your work is more suitable for a poster or oral presentation. Some work is too complex for a poster, whilst other work could easily be communicated effectively on an A1 poster.  Conferences will differ in their requirements– some will want you to specify the type of presentation you wish to give, others might not.  If you apply for an oral presentation, you might be offered a poster presentation due to competition for space in the conference programme.  This is still excellent and something to be very proud of, and will also be published if the conference published accepted abstracts!

Finally…Good Luck (and pick a conference somewhere sunny!)

Nikesh

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