Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

Submitting a conference abstract

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 17 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:s264
  1. Nicholas F S Watson, clinical research fellow
  1. Department of Surgery, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH nicholas.watson{at}

Choose the conference carefully

  • Is your work appropriate to the meeting? Does it fit in with the conference theme? If abstracts are published, check examples from previous years. Ask a colleague who has attended the conference before

  • Use the internet. Most conferences allow online submission

  • Check the abstract deadline. This may be up to six months ahead

  • Ensure you will be available to attend and present if selected. Arrange study leave early

  • If your work is “in progress,” but will be finished before the conference, find out whether “late breaking” abstracts are accepted

  • Check whether you are eligible for a reduced registration fee or a bursary to cover travel expenses.

When preparing the abstract

  • Read the instructions for authors. Check any word limit and use the correct font size. Abstracts that don't fit the required format are rejected without being read

  • The title is crucial and should “sell” your abstract. It must attract and interest the review committee. Consider leaving this until last, when you have a clearer idea of what you want to convey. Avoid lengthy titles, and don't put off “non-experts” by using jargon. About 10-15 words (one or two sentences) should suffice

  • If there are multiple authors, keep personal details concise. If the reviewing process is meant to be “blind,” ensure that you can't be identified from the text

  • The body of the abstract should be fully self contained. Cite sufficient data to support your conclusions

  • Don't use the future tense

  • Avoid referring to information that is not part of the study

  • If space allows, one or two references allow the reader to find out more about your field

  • Once the abstract is submitted you will not be allowed to make changes. Get someone to proof read for you

  • Note any reference number for correspondence with the organisers. Don't pester them for a decision—the review process may take several months.

Good luck. ■

View Abstract