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Hi,

I posted this over on the writing/presenting boards, and proflorax kindly responded, suggesting I should ask over here. Several of my Profs suggested I submit proposal abstracts for conferences. I know that MLA in any of its forms/subsections is prestigious, but I found a call for papers (from the U Penn site) at a conference in Scotland with University of Aberdeen that says its organized with the intention to lead to a publication of its proceedings. I have the perfect paper to fit this conference (not that I would necessarily get it ;)  ), but would I ever need to worry that I could get a conference like this and it would actually look bad on my c.v.? I looked up the contact: she is a professor there with an interest in the topic of the conference. Hopefully, that is good.  I am so new to all of this, and I have not been able to receive any advice from my old profs. since I graduated in December. I am trying to do everything possible to strengthen my apps for Ph.d. programs, and I'd hate for my ignorance to hurt my chances. I know I need to get out there and start doing conferences, but I feel like a fish out of water. Thanks in advance for any thoughts!

 

 

 

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If the conference is a good fit for your interests (and it seems to be), no real reason not to submit. There are very few conferences that would be detrimental (and these are mostly bc they are considered pseudo-academic ie not tied to a reputable program or society). To my limited knowledge, this is not one of them. However, do keep in mind that will not damaging, a low level conference may not do as much work for you on your cv as you may hope.

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I'm sure it's fine-- it sounds like a good conference in your area of interest in what is (as far as I know) a reputable school. I can't think of a reason that a conference would be detrimental unless you're trying to pass off a palm-reading seminar as an academic conference. Obviously some conferences look better than others, but I think that PhD programs are looking for attempts at professionalization and a conference in a topic you're interested in at a reputable university seems to fit the bill. Also, if you have any interest in applying to Aberdeen, it's a good opportunity for you to meet the faculty and inquire about the department.

 

Good luck with it!

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One quick thing from personal experience: can you afford the trip overseas? (I'm assuming you're in the U.S.) In my undergrad, I foolishly took a trip overseas on my own dime only to realize that I could have found better, more cost-effective ways to present my work. And there wasn't much chance I would do PhD work in that country, so it was unlikely I'd make good connections... With that said, though, this particular conference did result in a publication, which is no small thing. I would say to apply and sort out the details when you're accepted.

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Thanks everyone!  I submitted my proposal, but I'm second guessing how I wrote it now that I have found some more info online about writing effective proposals.  I didn't really explain why there was a need for my topic or how my research fit into the genereal academic disussion.  It was supposed to be 200 words or less, so I just sent a succint summary of my thesis and how I proved it. Oh well, I guess it was a good learning experience.  I will endeavor to write more effective proposals in the future!

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If the conference is a good fit for your interests (and it seems to be), no real reason not to submit. There are very few conferences that would be detrimental (and these are mostly bc they are considered pseudo-academic ie not tied to a reputable program or society). To my limited knowledge, this is not one of them. However, do keep in mind that will not damaging, a low level conference may not do as much work for you on your cv as you may hope.

Who determines whether a specific conference is "low level". I live in Egypt and I can only afford to participate in conferences here. Does this mean that my participation would not do me any good in my application, since we're a 3rd world country after all? I guess only Cairo University is known for some in the US.  

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Rose Egypt, I believe that unless you're applying to PhDs with an MA, conference participation isn't necessarily an expectation, even if you are applying with an MA, I don't think it'll hurt applicants if they haven't had anything accepted just yet. It can't hurt to show that you're serious about your work with this kind of experience, but I wouldn't worry about the relative prestige of conferences at this point. However, to answer your question, a professional or graduate conference at an accredited university (with full departmental support: tenured faculty involved, if not running it / participating) is the basic standard. From there, prestige increases based on whether it is graduate or professional, the host institution, the reputations of the presenters / panelists, whether it is institution-bound as opposed to regional, and better yet, national, or international in scope. See comparisons:

 

Nice to have: paper in your field of interest presented at an interdepartmental / interdisciplinary graduate conference held by a department at your own institution

Very nice to have: paper in your field of interest presented at a graduate conference at a top-ranked R1 which is not your home institution, and that also has a specialist / dedicated department in your field of interest

Highly impressive (as a PhD applicant with BA or MA): paper in your field of interest presented at a regional or national professional conference: e.g. NEMLA, MLA, etc.

 

I think we need to be careful with presenting at "societal" conferences, e.g. "The (insert author name here) Society," etc. Some are really well renowned, attached to amazing institutions and run by reputable scholars, but others are tin-pot, and there's not much use in using up a great paper where it won't get you noticed (unless you desperately want the practice).

 

As for the international thing, well, I'm an international who is in her second grad program in the U.S., and I think it's probably true that if anything, adcoms would like to see a name they recognise. I don't, however, think the location is a real problem provided the conference falls roughly into one of the criteria above. If the conferences are undergrad conferences, they're also indications of your seriousness and commitment, but are obviously regarded less highly in terms of academic rigour.

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Folks, I have something to ask you about conferences and publications; which of the following do you consider legal/appropriate/ acceptable:

1) Present a paper in a conference then submit the same paper for a journal?

2) Present a paper in a conference then submit the same paper but written in my native language to a journal or periodical?

I also don't know if all conferences publish the presented papers or only a selection? If a conference states that they publish participating papers, should I consider this a conference presentation And a publication? I'm sorry for all these questions but I'm really confused about these stuff.

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It's totally fine to present a paper and then publish it (I don't see why language in which it is published would make a difference). This is generally the order in which you do things, because the conference gives you a chance to get feedback and revise your paper before submitting for publication.

In my experience, only rather small conferences publish proceedings, and you can pretty much always opt out of them. FYI publishing an article in conference proceedings is not as big of an accomplishment as getting an article published in a journal in your field. Partially, this is because most conference proceedings are not peer-reviewed. So you want to be careful not to waste an excellent article on conf proceedings if it is good enough to make it into a major journal in your field (or really, any peer-reviewed publication is better than one that is not).

ETA: if you present a paper at a conference and then publish it in conference proceedings, it counts as both a presentation and a publication.

Edited by AurantiacaStella
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Cross-posted in Applications 2014

 

Conference papers are often the basis for articles that will eventually make it to publication. It's my impression that they are "testing grounds" for ideas, and the expectation is that you will use the feedback from the conference to revise, expand, and deepen those ideas. As far as I'm aware, unless a journal specifies that a conference paper is acceptable, conference papers and articles are very different beasts, not least because of time, depth and tone (one may be written as an oral presentation whereas the other probably shouldn't be).

 

Your second question is mainly answered by my response to the first. Provided that you don't submit the conference paper to different journals in both English and your native language (which counts as self-plagiarism if accepted and published), you'll be fine. Furthermore, a conference should be upfront with you about what it intends to do with participating papers, and yes, if you present it and it subsequently appears in a journal, I do think it counts as both a presentation and a publication, although you should seek advice from an advisor on how best to represent that on a CV. It may be that the simple fact of the publication voids the need to list it as a presentation paper. Best to check.

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Do you think being a moderator at a conference looks good? Is it worth the drive/money if it's 5 hours away and like $250. I'm thinking at the very least I could do some networking. (btw, I've already finished my MA and am about to start my PhD in the fall). 

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Do it if you're really interested in the conference itself and can comfortably afford both the time and the money it'll cost, otherwise personally I would pass. It's not that it doesn't look good - all the experience you can get looks good - but it seems a little out of the way, and once you're in your program all kinds of opportunities will likely present themselves, many of which you might be able to get some funding for.

 

Plus, with all the great stuff you'll be doing in the future, a moderator credit probably won't make it onto your resume when it's time to send that bad boy out!

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bunny--

 

It does look good to be a moderator at a conference, but that credit is just one of many things that you can put on your resume.  Unless this particular conference will bring you some fantastic, unduplicatable networking opportunities or a similar reward, skip it.  You will do better to have your own work accepted to a conference.  That being said, if you are interested in moderating a panel for a conference, I would suggest that you contact the folks who put on the graduate English or interdisciplinary conference at your institution.  As someone who one helped plan such a conference, I can tell you that conference planners love it when people volunteer to help out.  Anything that we can't find enough volunteers to help with (checking people into the conference, moderating panels, reading submissions, etc.) is something that we have to do ourselves, so we often welcome emails and/or in-person offers of help.  ;-)

 

If you feel that you must help out at a conference for another institution, then for the sake of your car and your wallet, choose an institution close to yours with a cheap entry fee.

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First of all, I appreciate the feedback I have received so far!  I am so grateful to have a place to vent (and obsess) about my questions!  So, I have another question....If it doesn't state otherwise in the guidelines, can I submit the same abstract to more than one conference at a time?  For example, the PAMLA and the SAMLA both have cfp deadlines on April 15th.  I have set aside money in my budget to do a conference (hopefully before Ph.d. apps are due), so would it be ok to send abstracts to both conferences to increase my odds of presenting?  Also, I know it is better to present a paper in a non-graduate setting, but the SAMLA conference has a special graduate student session that perfectly aligns with my research: I graduated with my M.A. in December, and I am applying to Ph.d. programs now, do you think I would be eligible to be considered a grad student?).  Thanks in advance for any thoughts.  Hopefully, we can keep this thread going to thoroughly hash out our issues with conferences :P

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First of all, I appreciate the feedback I have received so far!  I am so grateful to have a place to vent (and obsess) about my questions!  So, I have another question....If it doesn't state otherwise in the guidelines, can I submit the same abstract to more than one conference at a time?  

I would suggest no-- with a caveat. Essentially, you don't want to get into both conferences with the same exact abstract; your CV will look fishy if you list the same title (or very similar) at different conferences.  Some conferences even ask you to verify that you haven't submitted that same abstract to another conference (HERA comes to mind).

 

That being said, a conference paper ends up being about seven pages, and most seminar papers end up are 20 pages. You can split up a paper into multiple conference presentations; they will have a similar theme, but still cover different material. For example, I divided my MA thesis into a few different presentations by the time I was done with it. The chapter in which I discussed Gwendolyn Brooks, I presented at a conference about poetry at UC Santa Cruz. The chapter in which I discuss pop culture, I presented at a different conference. And so forth. 

 

PAMLA was my first professional conference as a grad student. It had a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere! On my panel, there was an independent scholar, me (a 1st year MA student), and a professor, so they really are open to inviting various experience levels to speak. 

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Thanks Proflorax, I guess I had intuitively done what you suggested--split some of my papers to use as proposals for different conferences. It's good to here your confirmation of this as a good way to go.  Here's hoping I get to list at least one good conference on my c.v. before I turn in my apps!

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depends on the length of the presentations. most are 12 to 15 minutes, maybe 20. 1 page double-spaced usually averages to 2 minutes spoken, so you just do the math from there.

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Is there a minimum page number for a conference paper? Does it affect the possibility of having it published by the conference later if it's too short or too long?

 

Usually each presenter has 15-20 minutes to give their presentation. If you read your paper aloud (like most of the folks in English do), each page should take about 2 minutes to read depending on your reading speed. That would make each paper anywhere between 7 to 10 pages long. In some conferences, you might be restricted to less time (I'm thinking of the Sigma Tau Delta Convention that restricted every paper submission to 2,000 words, so for that I had 6 pages). In another research conference, the presentation time was short (10 minutes) but the paper had to be at least 10-15 pages long if you wanted it published in the proceedings. I don't know about general conference proceedings, but you might be able to look at the requirements on some of their websites. Just check out the regional conferences like PAMLA, and there should probably be guidelines for conference proceedings. You can always contact the conference organizers too if it's not available on the website. They're more than happy to answer your questions.

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So, basically a presenter would read the whole paper? I was thinking that I'd have to make a specific abstract or summary to read it in the conference, in addition to the full paper. That would be easier I guess, since I so much hate writing abstracts. I'm glad that I had my first abstract accepted at a conference in a respected Egyptian university, although I'm a little worried cuz it's their 1st conference in the field of English. Anyway, better than nothing. 

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You write an abstract (or proposal if you haven't written the paper yet) for the conference presenters so they can decide whether they think your paper would fit in their conference or not. You typically just read the paper you wrote for a course, thesis, fun, etc. during your presentation if that's the general practice at that conference. So if you present at a research conference or something, presenters would probably prepare a talk and a powerpoint to make it easier for the audience to follow their research. All of the conferences that I've attended that were dominated by English majors or catered to the Humanities all (except maybe one or two) had presenters that read their paper aloud.

 

In that case you think: "Oh, well, I'll just submit a paper I wrote for a class and read it as it is during my session!" Please don't read a paper without trying to cater it to listeners. Remember: no one will get a chance to see your paper. You will only get a chance to state your thesis once. Make it obvious. Saying things like "In this paper, I argue" or "I plan to" is good authorial manners. Signposting is key if you want people to ask you questions. I have a short attention span, so if I sit in on a session and I'm not captured within the first couple of minutes, I zone out and think about something else. And this is especially true when you're doing research on a book or author that the audience might be unfamiliar with. Try to make it as easy as possible for them to follow your argument so they can ask offer good feedback.

 

I also found that if you tell people it's your first time presenting or that you're presenting your thesis that's in progress and you would like some feedback that people feel more obliged to offer you feedback. Academics generally want to help other academics especially new budding scholars, so take advantage of that.

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Wow ! Thanks a lot for that. So many good tips. I feel scared since it's my first time and I'm not good At ALL  at mingling with new people. I like it more when people come and talk with me. What makes it worse is that even if I get a conversation started, I never keep it going. I guess I'll have to work on that sooner or later.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a question about submitting a conference proposal that I'm hoping someone(s) on here can help me with. (This is my first time submitting, so I have no idea what I'm doing.)

The instructions say to submit a 300-word proposal to the committee members via email by such-and-such a date. My question, which I realize is a trivial one, is how, exactly, one would generally submit a proposal by email. In other words, should it be written in the form of a letter addressed to the committee members (Dear So-and-So, etc.) and just stick the 300-word-ish proposal in the body of the letter, or should the proposal itself be sent as an attachment with just a short message in the email (Dear So-and-So, My name is Such-and-Such, I am writing regarding __ conference, please see attachment, etc.). And if it should be sent as an attachment, how should that be formatted (name, date, etc.).

Any help/advice on any of this would be great!

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