Writing a Conference Proposal

RR graphic - no words.jpgWriting a Conference Proposal

The following module will provide a resource for writing proposals for academic conferences.

Learning Objectives

  •  Explain the common guidelines that should be followed when preparing and submitting a proposal.
  •  Describe the appropriate content of a proposal and the tips for creating an effective representation of your work.


Your research is complete and you have selected one or more conferences at which you would like to present your findings.  Now it is time to create an effective and professional proposal that will ensure you are selected to present at the conference.  Following is a list of guidelines that you should consider as you begin preparing your proposal.

  • The submission process and proposal requirements may vary among conferences, but they will be submitted online and are relatively short in length.  Be sure to follow the instructions carefully!
  • The majority of proposals are submitted via email.  Be sure to follow all email etiquette rules and be professional in your correspondence.  Include a subject in the subject line, use an appropriate salutation and closing and so forth.  It may be helpful to include a short paragraph regarding your scholarly background and why you have chosen to submit a proposal to that specific conference.
  • Your proposal should be a Word document or a PDF.  It should have double or 1.5 spacing and the font should be easy to read. 
  • Be sure to include the pertinent information at the top of the proposal - your information, the conference title and date, and the title of the proposal.
  • Proofread carefully and perhaps ask others in your field to read and evaluate it for you.  The proposal represents you and your work and it is critical that it is done professionally and free of typos, spelling errors or grammatical issues.

While it is important to make a good impression by following the above guidelines, the content of the proposal will be the most critical aspect.  Because the proposal lengths are short, it is important to be concise in your text but provide the readers with information necessary to evaluate your proposal.  This can be a balancing act and even though the text is short, it may take some practice and time to do this effectively.  The key aspects of the content of a typical proposal are included below:

  • Create a descriptive title.  Conference attendees will often choose their sessions based on the title and they do not want to be misled.   It should be specific enough to provide them with a good idea of your topic.
  • Outline the topic and field of research in general such that you can position your research in relationship to what has been done in the field.  It is important you do not simply summarize your research.
  • Once you have set the stage, outline your research.  You should describe your research question, your overall methodology and your conclusions.  Remember that you will need to be concise in this section.  It is tempting to provide more detail than necessary at this stage.
  • Discuss the broad significance of the research and the results. How does your research impact the field of study?  How does it contribute to the debates or questions in the field?
  • Know the literature related to your topic.  Know what has already be been done in the field and how your research fits into that.  It is not necessary to go into detail regarding all the research on the topic that has been done before you, but it is important to be certain that your research has something new to contribute.
  • Be focused in your proposal. Presentations have time limits and you may not be able to present your entire paper.  Narrowing it down to a manageable topic that fits the time frame will make it more likely for your proposal to be selected and for you to have a professional and effective presentation.

Creating a Great Conference Proposal - For more information on how to create an effective proposal for a conference, view the following YouTube video:


Suggested Readings:

  •  Day, R. A. (1998). How to write and publish scientific papers.
  •  Devlin A. (2006)  Research Methods.  Thompson Wadsworth.
  •  Miracle, V. A., & King, K. C. (1994). Presenting research: Effective paper presentations and impressive poster presentations. Applied Nursing Research, 7(3), 147-151.

Resource Links

Writing a Conference Paper - This resource discusses the different types of papers that may be required or useful when presenting research at a conference.  It also provides detailed tips on how to write an abstract or proposal for a conference.

How to Write an Abstract for Conference Paper - The following link provides a list of 12 points that are considered when abstracts are selected for conferences that may assist you in writing a quality abstract.

Sample Conference Proposals - To view three different samples of conference proposals, follow this link:

Conference Proposals and Presentations - This link offers advice on how to write a successful proposal to present your research findings at a conference.

Writing a Successful Conference Proposal - The following resources provides a comprehensive set of guidelines for writing a successful conference proposal.

Submitting the Conference Proposal - This resource offers suggestions for writing and submitting a proposal to a conference.

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