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WorldCUR-BCUR 2023 - Abstract Writing

How to write an Abstract

Both WorldCUR & BCUR are interdisciplinary conferences, it is important that you write your abstract in a way that your audience, comprised of students and researchers from any discipline or area, will understand.

Using clear language, avoiding subject specific jargon, and emphasising the context of your project will allow the full impact of your research to be understood by those outside of your subject area and will also encourage delegates to attend your presentation at the conference itself.

Writing an abstract for an interdisciplinary and international audience will be different to an abstract you might write for a journal that focuses on a very narrow subject area but writing in this way is an increasingly valuable skill for a career in academia and beyond. Writing an abstract that is accessible to those outside of your own discipline allows those who are not subject specialists to engage with your work: from potential funding panels, to employers, to the general public. Your research should also be situated in a global context with careful choice of vocabulary to be globally inclusive. It might have a local focus, but your abstract should demonstrate its relevance to a global context.

Remember the style and presentation of your abstract needs to be designed for your intended audience to ensure effective and successful communication.

Where do I start?

For WorldCUR-BCUR 2023 abstract submission process, you will be asked to provide concise answers to four key questions about your research—Why? What? So What? Now What?—before using these responses to put together your final abstract. But how might you go about answering these questions?

WhyThe WHY: Why are you researching this topic?

This question asks you to think about why you are researching a specific topic and what makes it important. Consider what type of contextual information would be needed for an undergraduate in a different discipline to understand your study. This may require you to locate it within a particular research field and outline what is known in the academic literature about the issue to date. If there is a research problem or a gap in knowledge or literature that has motivated your work, you should describe it here. You should think deeply about what your specific research question is and outline it.

In other words, use this introductory section to provide your reader with the context of your research, where it fits within the existing academic literature, and identify the question your research is addressing. Put simply, provide a rationale for why your project is worthwhile.

We suggest you answer this question in approximately 75 words.

What The WHAT: How did you research this topic, and what did you discover?

Your answer to this question describes the research that you’ve undertaken. What did you do and how did you do it? If you were one member of a larger research group, what was your contribution to the project? Did you employ a particular methodology or analyse data using a theoretical framework of some kind? Make sure that the reader understands what specific materials you’ve examined during the course of your research (for example, literature, pre-existing survey data, scientific specimens). Here, you can also outline any research tools used in your study (for example, software, equipment, analysis techniques). Importantly, your answer to this question also reports the results of your research. Describe the research findings you discovered in undertaking your research project and what you will discuss at the conference (you want to ‘hook’ the audience in, without giving everything away). Were you able to answer your research questions, and did you discover any incidental, but important, findings?

In other words, use this section to tell the reader what you did, how you did it and what you discovered.

We suggest you answer this question in approximately 75 words.

SO WhatThe SO WHAT: What do your findings mean, and why do they matter?

You’ve reported the results of your research study in answer to the previous question. Now you need to tell the reader what these findings mean and why they matter. How do they make a significant contribution to knowledge in your field? How might they impact wider society? It’s here that you can provide answers to your research questions, if you have used them.

In other words, use this section to communicate your overall argument and why this research is significant to the reader. This is the ‘aha!’ moment, when the reader comes to understand the true value of your research.

We suggest you answer this question in approximately 50 words.

Now What The NOW WHAT: What comes next?

Finally, think about the future implications and relevance of your research. What comes next? Have your discoveries opened new lines of research enquiry? How might others—in or outside your discipline—respond to your research and progress it? Are you planning on developing further studies in this area, or translating it into practice in some way? Is there a group of people who could benefit from your research? Mention your plans: are you considering founding a startup, or will you communicate your findings to practitioners in your field, for example?

In other words, use this concluding section to share the potential future applications of your research with the reader. Leave them in no doubt of the relevance of your project.

We suggest you answer this question in approximately 50 words.

How do I use these answers to create an abstract?

Now that you have responses to these four key questions, you can start to build a 250-word abstract. First of all, try compiling all the answers together in one paragraph in the order that you answered them. How does that look? It may not produce the perfect abstract but it’s a great template to work from. Think about the clarity of your abstract and its function as a concise but complete summary of your project. It must make sense to other students not familiar with your work, and often outside your discipline.

Consider the following as you edit your abstract:

Is anything missing that was integral to your project? Perhaps there’s an aspect of your research that didn’t fit neatly into your four answers. You can now add any important elements that were missed.

Has the combination of your four responses produced some repetition? If so, streamline your abstract and remove any extraneous material.

Do you need some transitional phrases between your answers to the questions? Think about how you might guide the reader through the abstract and your research process. Abstracts should inform but they can also be enjoyable for your audience to read. Add transitional words, phrases, or sentences to clearly connect the different aspects of your project.

How accessible is your abstract to an interdisciplinary audience? Subject-specific language is used in all disciplines, however, at an interdisciplinary conference, it’s important that your work is accessible to all. Reduce the use of jargon where you can and ask friends outside your field to check your abstract for intelligibility.

Don’t forget about your title! Titles are important. At the conference, a great title will attract audience members to your presentation and increase their engagement with your research. And, beyond the conference, a good title enhances the discoverability of your research online, increasing your chances of being cited by other scholars. Make sure your title reflects your project accurately and includes key words that can help others discover your research.

What do I do if I haven’t completed the research when I come to write my abstract?

Firstly, don’t worry. Many students who present at WorldCUR-BCUR 2023 have yet to complete their research project when they submit their abstracts. This shouldn’t stop you from applying to take part, as long as you expect to complete your research in good time for the conference in April. Use the guidance above and, where the abstract requires you to outline your research methods, you can instead indicate the materials you plan to study and the approach you intend to use. In the sections on your research findings and conclusions, you can indicate the current direction of your study or any starting hypotheses.

Note that you will also have an opportunity to revise your abstract before the publication of the conference programme, in order to update any findings or conclusions.

How to write an abstract

Abstract guidance in PDF form

Illustrative Examples of AbstractsLink opens in a new window

Each example addresses answers to the 4 key questions What? Why? So What? Now What? and shows the tone of language to connect with an international and interdisciplinary audience.

Forms of presentation

We are actively seeking diverse forms of presentation and encourage all abstracts to creatively find the medium to convey their message.

Illustrative ideas can be found here.Link opens in a new window

Presentation Guidance

CUR guidanceLink opens in a new window on how to give a good research presentation

Study Matters PodcastLink opens in a new window on the benefits of presenting at UG conference, in addition to hints & tips for presentation skills. Transcript & ResourcesLink opens in a new window

Abstract Writing Workshops

Sign-up is CLOSED for Abstract Writing Workshop for WorldCUR-BCUR 2023 held on Teams.

We will guide you through the abstract writing process, including the 4 questions What? Why? So What? Now What?

How to frame your language for an international and interdisciplinary audience.

Discuss the importance of your title and different Forms of Presentation to engage with your audience.