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Revising a Paper for Conference/Publication


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I recently had a seminar paper accepted to a conference based on a 250-word abstract. I'm now working on revising the full paper so that it's more suited to be delivered as a conference presentation. Additionally, I'm hoping to revise my undergraduate thesis over Christmas break so that I can submit it to a journal. As a first-year grad student, it's my first time attempting either of these things, so I wanted to ask if those with more experience have any advice. Beyond the list of specific requirements given on conference/journal submissions pages, what should I keep in mind as I revise seminar papers so that they better adhere to conference/journal conventions?

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I am guessing based on your interests that you are in a Literature program. I have a feeling that standards for conference presentations vary sufficiently across our fields that I should not attempt to give advice on this one. The only thing I will say is to make sure you give at least one practice talk before the actual talk. 

Regrading a journal submission, have you chosen the journal? That usually helps set the tone and the structure. Read the guide to authors on the journal's webpage and look at some recent papers that have been published. Two things that usually need to change between a thesis and a journal paper is the amount of background you give and the general tone of the paper. Understand what you have contributed and put it in the right context of other relevant work in your area. Framing your ideas correctly and giving credit to others where it's due are crucial. As with the conference presentation, have an advisor read and comment on your paper at least once before you submit, and expect to have lots of comments and several rounds of revisions before you're ready to submit. On the flip side of that, once you are happy with the paper, don't try to make it perfect -- there is no such thing. At some point you just have to let it go and see what the reviewers think. 

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6 hours ago, erosanddust said:

I recently had a seminar paper accepted to a conference based on a 250-word abstract. I'm now working on revising the full paper so that it's more suited to be delivered as a conference presentation. Additionally, I'm hoping to revise my undergraduate thesis over Christmas break so that I can submit it to a journal. As a first-year grad student, it's my first time attempting either of these things, so I wanted to ask if those with more experience have any advice. Beyond the list of specific requirements given on conference/journal submissions pages, what should I keep in mind as I revise seminar papers so that they better adhere to conference/journal conventions?

For the publication, talk to your adviser. Seriously. There are so many nuances here that any advice beyond the banal given here will be wrong.

For the conference, the advice I have is banal, but common sense is apparently not common. So: methods that convey information well in a text do not always (or even usually) convey information well in a lecture.

  • Do not simply edit an existing paper down. Rewrite it from scratch.
  • Write shorter, clearer sentences. 
  • Under no circumstances should you give an extended quotation in another language (Middle English scholars, I'm looking at you). Translate everything.
  • If a term in a foreign (i.e. not modern English) is important, give it and its translation and always refer to them as a pair, e.g. "Pietas, that is, piety, is a key virtue for Aeneas, and that pietas or piety is...".
  • Always use proper names and avoid him/her/they, even when it reads as a bit clunky on the page.
  • State your thesis, clearly, within your first 250 words.
  • Find out your time limit and respect it. It is strictly impossible to get more than 2,500-3,000 words into 20 minutes at a decent reading pace, unless perhaps you write like you're talking about up goer five.
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For a conference presentation, practice, practice, practice. Seriously. And don't just read from your paper. It's boring and everyone hates it. There are some fields where this is acceptable but, in general, it's bad form to do this. So don't. In your delivery, you want to seem like you aren't reading from a script or reciting from memory even while you are. This isn't the easiest thing to pull off but, when you do, it's awesome and people will compliment you on it. 

When you're actually presenting, bring your presentation in multiple file formats  (PowerPoint, KeyNote, PDF) and on different devices (saved to the cloud, on a thumb drive, etc.) in case there are issues with the computer, the internet, etc. in the room you're presenting in. Wear clothing you're comfortable in. Try not to wave your hands around too much as it's distracting. 

The turning a conference paper into a journal submission has already been covered but, in general, they have a different style and tone because when is for oral delivery while the other is written. Reading recently published papers in that particular journal and mimicking their structure is never a bad idea.

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  • 4 months later...
Guest joshw4288
On November 24, 2015 at 11:24 PM, rising_star said:

For a conference presentation, practice, practice, practice. Seriously. And don't just read from your paper. It's boring and everyone hates it. There are some fields where this is acceptable but, in general, it's bad form to do this. So don't. In your delivery, you want to seem like you aren't reading from a script or reciting from memory even while you are. This isn't the easiest thing to pull off but, when you do, it's awesome and people will compliment you on it. 

When you're actually presenting, bring your presentation in multiple file formats  (PowerPoint, KeyNote, PDF) and on different devices (saved to the cloud, on a thumb drive, etc.) in case there are issues with the computer, the internet, etc. in the room you're presenting in. Wear clothing you're comfortable in. Try not to wave your hands around too much as it's distracting. 

The turning a conference paper into a journal submission has already been covered but, in general, they have a different style and tone because when is for oral delivery while the other is written. Reading recently published papers in that particular journal and mimicking their structure is never a bad idea.

Please, whatever you do, do not read from your paper. I am in an interdisciplinary program and find that the historians always read directly from their paper. It is boring and unnatural. Audiences want to see you present, not read. 

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6 minutes ago, joshw4288 said:

Please, whatever you do, do not read from your paper. I am in an interdisciplinary program and find that the historians always read directly from their paper. It is boring and unnatural.

Only if you do it wrong.

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