How to Write an Abstract

Writing an abstract is hard work — distilling your academic work and big ideas into 250 words doesn’t leave much space for nuance. It’s a skill that takes practice… but how do you even get started?

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Since our Call for Papers deadline is quickly approaching (more information here), we wanted to share our Top 5 Tips and Tricks for writing a successful abstract, that we hope you’ll be able to use whether you’re submitting to MEMS Fest for the first time or the fourth. 

  1. Topic and Purpose: while these are two separate things, they go hand in hand. What are you writing about and why? What makes it interesting or worth exploring?
  2. Problem and Argument: what question are you asking? What problem are you investigating? What is your main argument?
  3. Context: what else has been written about this topic or question? How does your research work alongside or within the existing critical field?
  4. Broad Conclusions: what does your research and the angle from which you’re exploring it begin to contribute? What conclusions are you drawing so far?
  5. Be Clear and Concise: remember, you only have 250 words to work with! Your abstract isn’t your paper, so don’t worry about covering every single detail at this stage.

Some conferences also ask for key words or a biography when you submit an abstract. At MEMS Fest, we don’t require them, but you’re welcome to include a few short sentences about you and your work if you like. Do make sure to include your name and the title of your paper, so that we know who you are.

We understand that everyone’s research can take different forms, so please don’t let these guidelines restrict you. We welcome your own personal style and encourage you to simply use these Top Tips as a platform for sparking your application structure.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t worry! We want to hear about your research and why it’s exciting. The MEMS Fest committee is made up of postgraduate students just like you. We’re all quite friendly and can’t wait to read what you submit. Happy writing!


MEMS Fest 2018 Call for Papers

We are delighted to share this year’s Call for Papers. The committee will accept submissions of individual paper and group panel proposals, of up to 250 and 700 words respectively.

Abstracts can be submitted by email until 23 March.

For more information, please see our dedicated CfP page, which you can find here.

More Workshops Announced

GIS-Mapping with Justin Colson – An introduction to the digital technique of GIS (geographic information system) Mapping, which enables people to more easily see, analyse and understand patterns and relationships within spatial topographies.

A Taste of Medieval Life: Ale and Bread – Find out what ale and bread might have tasted like with Phil Slavin and Stuart Morrison. This workshop will also discuss the process of food production and culture of consumption for everyday people.

Investigating Iconology – Understanding and interpreting visual images with Emily Guerry. A session focused on the skills and techniques used to identify and analyse iconography, vital for researchers of the medieval and early modern periods looking to increase their visual literacy.

Special Collections – Josie Caplehorne will explain the processes and challenges involved in cataloguing some of the most beautiful, unique and culturally significant books from Rochester Cathedral Library.

A-Z of Manuscripts – Learn the basics of palaeography and codicology with Ryan Perry and Steve Werronen. A palaeography and codicology workshop, designed to demonstrate how to analyse the material details of medieval manuscripts, including methods of recognising scripts and deciphering how a manuscript was compiled.

Workshop Announcement – Elizabethan Clothing Painting

We are delighted to announce that Melissa White will be running a workshop where you will have the chance to make your own mini version of an Elizabethan cloth painting like that she designed for Bayleaf, the 15th-century hall at the Weald and Downland Museum.

Melissa White BAYLEAF in situ (10)
Photo by kind permission of Melissa White


Bayleaf cloth at Melissa's studio (10)
Photo by kind permission of Melissa White

We’re really looking forward to having a go!

Find out more about Melissa’s work on her blog and in a recent article in the Financial Times.