How to write a conference paper

Writing a strong conference paper can be a demanding task that requires significant time and resources. But before delving into that, it is necessary to know exactly what a conference paper is. A conference paper is an article presented at a conference. Like journal articles, conference papers (or sometimes only their abstracts) are usually peer-reviewed (by two or more referees) before being accepted for presentation at a conference venue.

This implies that a rejected paper will not make it to a conference. For this reason, it is very necessary to know how to write a conference paper that will scale all hurdles and thus get selected for presentation. The presentation is usually oral and can include visuals and software such as PowerPoint.  

For easier access to a larger audience, conference papers are sometimes later published in conference proceedings. A conference proceeding is a collection of papers published in an academic conference or workshop. In other words, it is a written compilation of papers presented by researchers to other researchers and the public at a conference. Conference proceedings are usually made available to the public in printed and electronic volumes, either before the conference is about to begin or just after it ends.

What is the ideal conference paper format?

Even though they tend to have a broad identical framework, conference paper formats can vary from one conference to another. However, some common sections you are likely to see in a typical conference paper include:

  • an abstract,
  • a title,
  • an introduction,
  • objectives,
  • a methods section,
  • results/findings,
  • discussion of findings,
  • conclusion/recommendations,
  • acknowledgments, and
  • references.

Some will also include subheadings such as problem statement, literature review, and funding footnote. The time allocated for oral presentation can vary as well but usually is not more than 30 minutes.

Importance of conferences

Attending conferences can be beneficial, especially for student researchers who are just getting started with their studies and aren’t quite ready to publish yet. Not only will a conference enable you to acquire new knowledge/insight, but it’s also an opportunity to network with other participants, including potential employers.

For paper presenters, it is an opportunity to get feedback on your research, for example by discussing with, asking, and taking questions from the audience. This can help you think of new ways to tinker with your paper for publication in a journal.

Below are some other reasons that make conferences useful.

  • They help publicize research efforts
  • They create avenues for cross-fertilization of ideas
  • They help add rigor to research
  • They are an opportunity to impress potential employers
  • They enrich your curriculum vitae
  • They are a salient consideration for many teaching positions
  • They encourage tourism

Tips for writing a strong conference paper

Study the conference organizer’s guidelines

The very first step to take before you start to write your conference paper is to check the conventions and paper submission guidelines of the conference organizer. Take note of the prescribed citation style or any other writing requirements and write accordingly.

Not adhering to such rules can lead to the rejection of your paper, even if it is of a very high standard. To get a clearer picture, you may also want to look at sample papers of previous proceedings of the conference you will be participating in.

Research the topic exhaustively

Conducting a thorough investigation of the selected topic should be another important consideration before you start to write your conference paper. This is because, when conducted efficiently, it helps provide the researcher with in-depth knowledge about all aspects of the topic, especially the research problem. It will also help in the formulation of the paper’s research questions, hypothesis, thesis statement, as well as the most suitable research methods to use, amongst other benefits. Needless to remind you that your investigation should be multi-dimensional rather than reliant on one source, e.g., the internet.

In a nutshell, a thorough investigation of your topic should not be taken for granted because it will help you to start and complete your conference paper in the strongest possible manner.

Plan your paper

Remember that you will be presenting your conference paper before an audience. So, it is vital to plan it carefully in terms of organization and format, according to the officially provided guidelines. Moreover, every presenter usually has just about 30 minutes or less to present his or her paper, so be sure to take this into cognizance as you plan. However, this limited oral presentation time does not necessarily imply that your paper should be very short because your presentation does not have to include every word in your paper but rather its key aspects.

How strong is your grammar?

At the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, the expectation is that your grammar (and reasoning ability) should be fairly sophisticated or polished enough for rigorous and complex work. If this is not the case, it is recommended that you try as much as you can to learn the rudiments of correct grammar (both written and spoken). Without a sound mastery of your writing language, you are bound to struggle in terms of writing a conference paper or other academic papers.

Craft a strong introduction

The Introduction is one of the most important parts of any writing and it’s no different in the case of a conference paper. The introduction sets the overall tone for the paper and can be presented in many ways. It can be kept short and simple with only a small description of the introductory contents or it can be long and elaborative.

Whether short or long, the introduction should be easy to understand and devoid of complex language or vocabulary. Note that some technical jargon peculiar to the topic or discipline should be an exception to this language use prescription and should be used whenever and wherever necessary. Being the first part of the paper, the introduction must be crafted in such a way as to attract and keep the reader.

Help the audience by including some examples

Even academic conference papers could use some examples, especially when a live audience is involved. Examples tend to make understanding easier for audiences, particularly those who are not well versed in the topic being presented. This is in contrast to abstract, complex reasoning that is often confusing.


Though conference papers have a broad identical framework, their format can vary from one conference to another. Like all other academic papers, it is not an easy task to write a conference paper. But if you stick to the conference organizer’s guidelines, conduct in-depth research, have a good mastery of English language, plan your paper well and adopt other measures mentioned above, you should be on your way to constructing a credible conference paper.

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