Conference Papers and Presentations
Eric I., former Writing Center tutor
Please keep in mind that these are only general guidelines; always defer to your professor's specifications for a given assignment. If you have any questions about the content represented here, please contact the Writing Centers so that we can address them for you.A conference paper is simply a paper written for and presented at an academic conference. Sometimes the conference paper may have not originally been written for a conference at all; instead, it may have been written for a journal, some other publication, or for a class. “Conference paper” and “conference presentation” are generally synonymous—they often refer to the same thing: the “text” contains the ideas a person is presenting at an academic conference. Often, presenters at academic conferences literally read their paper aloud to the audience. Other times, presenters develop the ideas from a paper into a presentation that may include pictures, video, and sound—with tools like PowerPoint, a slideshow, or an overhead projector.
Like academic writing for course assignments in college, conference papers have a central thesis or purpose. If a presenter is not arguing a specific point in a conference paper, that presenter’s purpose might be to share findings or other insights from research. The content of a conference presentation should be relevant, timely, and significant for the field or discipline in which the conference is situated—for example, a conference paper for a physics conference should respond to some current or important issue related to physics.
When working on a conference paper, you should keep the following points in mind:
Writing the Conference PaperApproach the conference paper similarly to the way you would approach a research paper or any persuasive, academic writing. You are either trying to convince an audience that your position or ideas about a particular topic are correct or that you have important findings and information to report about relevant research.
Your paper should follow a logical organization—you can go from the small details to the big picture or in reverse. You can talk through your research, beginning with the hypothesis, the research methods, the findings, and ending with your conclusion. You can use a narrative to discuss your ideas as well. The point here is that your presentation is organized in a way that will allow your audience to follow along. Here’s an example outline of this structure:
The same advice follows if you are making a conference presentation that includes audio and visuals—you can’t randomly throw words, pictures, and sounds together and hope that it makes sense. Audio and visuals need to be organized in a way that complements the ideas and points that you discuss.