Presenting at AASP: Tips for maximizing your chance of acceptance
Whether you are a first-time submitter or a seasoned professional, when we submit an abstract for the conference our intent is that it will be accepted. Although we try to maximize the number of presenters at each conference, the reality is that not all abstracts submitted are accepted. Sometimes it is a matter of space, but sometimes it is because the abstract does not clearly convey the purpose of the research, or the study is simply not ready to be submitted. The Executive Board recognizes the importance of members presenting – for both professional and economic reasons, presenting at conferences is critical. This article is intended to maximize your chance of having your abstract accepted. What follows are tips and strategies I’ve learned from being on all sides of the submission process: As a submitter, a reviewer, and now as program chair. I present the process as a series of steps, beginning with the decision of whether to submit, and ending with your notification.
- Before beginning to write, ask yourself if the project is ready for submission. Most importantly, has data been collected and analyzed? A sure way to get rejected is the phrase, “results will be discussed…” Reviewers will see through an abstract that tries to fake having findings, and this is clearly unethical. It is better to wait and submit next year. Also, understand that by submitting an abstract you are committing to attending the conference. This means you have to plan nearly a year ahead – so consider your circumstances before continuing with your submission. Students, be sure to consult with your advisor before beginning the process – they will likely have valuable input.
- The next decision is the most appropriate format for your topic. Recognize that each format has specific requirements. For example, workshops MUST include learning objectives and techniques to engage participants. If your topic is not intended to be hands-on, then a better format might be the colloquia/symposia. All formats have equal value – there is not one that is “better” than another. A point to consider is that historically posters have the highest acceptance rate, workshops the lowest.
- Carefully read the instructions for the on-line submission process, and follow all the steps. It is amazing how many abstracts we receive with incomplete information (coauthor names and affiliations, for example).
- Choose a title that is brief but representative of the subject matter. The APA publication manual (5th ed, 2001) states that a title “should summarize the main idea of the paper simply and, if possible, with style” (p. 10). Remember, this is what most people will look at when deciding what program to attend. It is fine to be clever, but balance that with practicality.
- The abstract itself should be a comprehensive summary of the study/report/project/technique you wish to present. Again, the guidelines in the APA publication manual are helpful here. All abstracts must include reference to the theoretical or conceptual basis for the topic area, as well as how this information may be of value to others – e.g., athletes, coaches, exercisers, consultants, parents. In short, it should “extend theory and research into the field” (from the AASP website). Note that this criterion applies to all submissions, from “pure” research studies to “pure” application. As an applied association, we expect all of our conference offerings to forge the connection between theory/research and practice.
- In addition to a format, each abstract must be associated with a theme. Carefully select your theme, as this is the criteria we use to assign abstracts to reviewers. Each reviewer completes an expertise profile, and then is assigned abstracts in areas consistent with their areas of expertise. A good match between reviewer and abstract helps both parties, so choose your theme wisely, and avoid the “other” category if at all possible. You can always put a note in the comments section if you are unsure of a theme – but again, we’d rather it be your choice rather than ours, so do make a decision before submitting.
- Before submitting, carefully proofread your abstract. Typographical errors detract from your content, and can leave the reviewer wondering how careful the author is/has been in other domains. If English is your second language, it is wise to get a native speaker to review your abstract. There is nothing more frustrating to a reviewer than reading an abstract you believe has great promise but you simply can’t tell from the written text. Recognize that in general, your submitted abstract is what will appear in the final conference proceedings – it is not AASP’s responsibility to proofread and edit your abstract.
- Once you submit, the process goes like this: Each abstract is assigned to 3 reviewers by theme. The process is blind, and reviewers know the format that has been requested (particularly important for workshops). Once that process is complete, then the work of compiling the conference program begins. We select based on the average score from reviewers, but also strive for balance in the program (between the 3 focus areas and across research and application). Remember, your requested format is exactly that – requested, not required. Typically, we reassign many lectures to posters, and sometimes reassign colloquia and workshops as well. When your letter arrives, check your acceptance status first, THEN check the format and date of your presentation. If there are any problems, contact the program chair (me) as soon as possible. The more you wait, the harder it is for us to do anything about it.
I hope these tips are helpful. Presenting at AASP should be viewed as a privilege and a responsibility, and should be approached with the same care you put into any other professional duty. The program is only as good as the submissions received, so good abstracts are critical for a good conference program. I look forward to reading your future submissions.