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Month: March 2019

How to Conference: Writing the Paper Proposal 4

Odds and Ends: The Art of the Title

I’ll admit upfront: historically, I’ve been an awful title writer. I literally have a published paper called “Trans-cult-ural Fandom: Desire, Technology, and the Transformation of Fan Subjectivities in the Japanese Female Fandom of Hong Kong Stars” – a mostly good article that will probably never get much traction because any potential readers have long since lost interest halfway through the title.

Do not be me.

How to Conference: Writing the Paper Proposal 3

Where no one has gone before?

When you’re trying to make an argument for the importance and significance of your proposed paper, it’s tempting – so very tempting – to claim that what you’re doing has never been done before. If you find yourself writing words to that effect, stop, go to Google Scholar, and do a search for as many keywords related to your idea as you can think of.

I am NOT kidding about this.

How to Conference: Writing the Paper Proposal 2

I had a professor in graduate school – a Big Name, highly respected in the field, and also a very nice man – who came to every department colloquium, every job talk, and frequently asked the same question at the end of every presentation:

“So what?”

It sounds terrifying, but he really wasn’t asking for the sake of being a jerk. Rather, he was holding the speaker to the bare minimum of what must be communicated in a presentation; why should anyone care about this?

How to Conference: Writing the Paper Proposal 1

The idea of presenting at a conference can feel intimidating and nerve-wracking when you’re first getting started, but with a little demystification conferencing can become something to look forward to as well. In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about how to write your proposal, the differences between paper and panel proposals, how to present your paper effectively, and how to negotiate conferences themselves (especially if you suffer from anxiety). As I work in media studies, that’s the field to which these posts are targeted; that said, a lot of what I include here holds true for many other kinds of humanities conferences.

Writing the Paper Proposal 1: The ‘Elevator Pitch’

Conference presentations in media typically run from fifteen to twenty minutes; so, imagine the pain of hearing, “In this presentation, I will…” at the fourteen-minute point of a paper (true story!). With very few exceptions, a conference presentation is not an essay, and treating it as such – complete with intricate prose and complex sentence/paragraph structure, exhaustive literature review, and so on – does little more than secure your place in the annals of bad conference papers that scholars use as cautionary tales. We all want our presentations to be memorable, of course, but usually more for our brilliant ideas than inept preparation.