A conference abstract (Ukr. òåçè äîïîâ³ä³) is a short account of an oral presentation proposed to the organizers of a conference. It is a widespread and important genre that plays a significant role in promoting new knowledge within scientific communities, both national and international.
Nowadays, Ukrainian scholars often try to submit abstracts to international conferences. For many of our academics, the conference abstract is a kind of a "pass" to the world research communities that provides, if accepted, various opportunities for professional contacts and communication.
The abstracts submitted for international and major national conferences are usually reviewed (sometimes blind-reviewed, i.e. considered without seeing the names of the authors) by conference committees. Conference abstracts, therefore, participate in the competition for acceptance and need to impress reviewing committees; that is why they may be written in a somewhat promotional, self-advertising manner. A dominant feature of conference abstracts is so-called "interestingness" created by the novelty of a topic and its presentation in an interesting for the potential audience way.
Conference abstracts have certain textual characteristics. They are usually of one-page length (200-300 words) and consist of three paragraphs on average. Sometimes there may be 2-5 pages depending on the requirements suggested by the conference committee, the journal traditions, the topic itself, the price for publication etc.
The conference abstract tends to have such basic steps (although certain deviations from this structure are quite possible). These steps, which may be realized by certain strategies (given below in parenthesis), are as follows:
1. Outlining the research field (by reference to established knowledge/importance claim/previous research).
2. Justifying a particular research/study (by indicating a gap in the previous research/by counter-claiming/by question-posing/by continuing a tradition).
3. Introducing the paper to be presented at the conference.
4. Summarizing the paper (by giving its brief overview).
5. Highlighting its outcome/results (by indicating the most important results or their possible applications and/or implications).
The first, the second, and the third steps of the conference abstract are, in fact, identical to the three initial steps of the research paper Introduction. The fourth step is a brief overview of the conference paper structured with the help of meta-textual phrases. The final step – Highlighting the outcome – often only indicates the most important results and their possible applications and implications. Most typically, the first and the second steps are realized in the initial paragraph of a text, while the following introduces and summarizes the paper, and the concluding one highlights the outcome.
As the fist three parts of the conference abstract are similar to the first three steps of the research paper Introductions, you may use the appropriate useful phrases given in the previous lectures for writing your conference abstracts. Also, meta-textual patterns, which realize Step 3 in the research paper Introduction, can be used in the Summarizing the paper part of the conference abstract. Below are useful phrases which realize Step 5 of the conference abstract:
Finally, … implications will be drawn from the results obtained.
The paper closes with several suggestions on …
The paper implies a number of practical recommendations to …
The paper will conclude by …
As a final point, a conclusion involving … will be offered.
ENGLISH ACADEMIC WRITING
The Nature of Writing
English is now considered to be the world language of science, technology, and education. The knowledge of English allows professionals and researches to get access to the latest information in their fields and to effectively communicate with their colleagues throughout the world.
As far as our course is called "English Academic Writing" our task is to learn the way academic papers are produced. Writing is a complex process that requires a number of various skills. As research shows, its nature may be treated differently in different cultures and educational systems.
There exists an opinion that being able to write is a special talent. However, you can develop your writing abilities by following certain strategies and practicing various patterns.
As most Ukrainians (and not necessarily academics) know, our educational system is based primarily upon the non-written forms of knowledge acquisition, control, and evaluation. The only place in Ukraine where writing is explicitly taught is secondary school. There writing is viewed as a kind of verbal art that is assumed to be mastered in its 3 aspects – orthographic, grammatical, and stylistic. Teaching composition is traditionally a prerogative of the teachers of Ukrainian literature. Much emphasis is laid upon reading and producing grammatically and stylistically correct texts which have to evoke a certain aesthetic impression. At the same time structuring of the text, parameters of written communication, the context of situation, the purpose and message of the text are usually left unaddressed.
The attitudes toward writing and its teaching differ across cultures and educational systems. For example, in the United States writing has become a compulsory subject in all colleges. Such classes focus exclusively on composing and other writing skills rather than on the study of literature or the English language. The theoretical framework for such courses has been derived from the classical rhetoric that exists, according to Aristotle, to persuade. This phenomenon is understood differently in Anglo-American and Ukrainian authors.
Recent research has demonstrated that there exist certain differences in the organization and the ways of argumentation in academic writing of different languages and cultures. Such investigations have focused on the comparison of English and other languages, usually with a practical aim: to help non-native speakers to master the conventions of Anglo-American academic writing. For example, Chinese authors prefer indirect criticism, while English writers usually do not hide their attitudes. Finns pay less attention to the general organization and structure of their texts than Anglo-Americans. Ukrainian authors tend to avoid self-advertising, "eye-catching" features in their research papers. However, the writing style of one language and culture is neither better nor worse that the writing style of another language and culture: it is simply different.
The features characteristic of academic writing and relatively prominent in Anglo-American research texts are as follows:
1) intensive use of logical connectors (words like "therefore" or "however");
2) high degree of formal text structuring (i.e., division of the text into sections and subsections with appropriate headings);
3) tendency to cite and to include into the lists of reference the most recent publications in the field;
4) frequent occurrence of the phrases which provide reference to the text itself (e.g., "This paper discusses…");
5) tendency to follow a certain pattern of textual organization (e.g., problem-solution).
As for the Ukrainian scholars trying to write academic prose in English, they are to follow such useful strategies:
1) "lift" useful expressions from authentic English papers, combine them, add some of your own and use them in your writing;
2) pay attention to the organization and language of English papers in the leading journals in your discipline;
3) learn how the key parts of the academic text are typically organized and structured;
4) rely on assistance of your colleagues (working or studying in your discipline) – native speakers of English;
5) be always eager to rewrite and revise believing that the best way of mastering or improving writing (and not only in English) is to write as much as possible.
In general, such pieces of advice can be given to a writer of academic texts:
- use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation;
- write in an objective, neutral manner;
- accurately use the terminology of your discipline;
- ensure that your language is rich enough;
- write in an academic style, avoid colloquial language, jargon, and slang;
- arrange your ideas in a strict logical order;
- pay special attention to the introduction of your text;
- incorporate visual support (tables, diagrams, graphs) for your ideas;
- cite leading papers in your field;
- think of the general presentation (chapters, subchapters, paragraphs, etc.) of your text;
- pay special attention to the conclusion of your text.
Learning writing in the majority of cases is learning genres, that is developing knowledge of the rules of organization and the structure of integral texts. You must have already met this word, which originally came from French and has the meaning of "a kind of".
Genre is an event of communication, it is aimed at achieving certain communicative purposes. At the same time, genre may also be defined as a type of a written or oral text with a recognizable set of relatively stable features.
The most widely spread genres of English academic texts are as follows: summary, abstract, review, conference abstract, research paper, grant proposal.
English Academic Style and Language
The style of English academic writing is formal. Its main characteristics are the absence of conversational features and the use of an appropriate academic vocabulary. Developing a command of formal style is extremely important for non-native speakers wishing to master the conventions of English academic discourse.
Formal academic English will normally avoid:
The research won't be continued until appropriate funding is secured
The research will not be continued until the appropriate funding is secured.
2. Interjections and hesitation fillers (i.e. um, well, you know, etc.):
Well, we will now consider the influence of sex hormones on stress response
We will now consider the influence of sex hormones on stress response
3. Addressing the reader directly:
You can see the data in Table 3
The data can be seen in Table 3
4. Phrasal verbs (although not always):
Researchers have found out that many mental illnesses are based on molecular defects
Researchers have discovered that many mental illnesses are based on molecular defects
5. Direct questions (although not always):
What can be done to improve the state of our economy?
We now need to consider what can be done to improve the state of our economy.
6. Adverbs in initial or final positions (the middle position is preferable):
Then it will be shown how teachers can utilize this method
It will then be shown how teachers can utilize this method
This work relies on previous research heavily
This work heavily relies on previous research
7. Inappropriate negative forms (formal expressions of quantity):
not any no
not much little
not many few
not enough insufficient
too much excessive
a lot considerably
a lot of many
The investigation didn't yield any new results
The investigation yielded no new results
The book doesn't raise many important issues
The book raises few important issues
The government won't do much to support universities in the near future
The government will do little to support universities in the near future
There are a lot of reasons for adopting this policy, but not many governments have chosen to do so because they do not have enough resources to implement it
There are many reasons for adopting this policy, but few governments have chosen to do so because there are insufficient resources to implement it
8. Short (contracted) forms of the words or slang:
This booklet describes the requirements and content of the university graduation exams
This booklet describes the requirements and content of the university graduation examinations
9. Figures at the beginning of the sentence:
97 people visited the museum last week
Ninety-seven people visited the museum last week
Last week 97 people visited the museum
Traditionally, academic writing tends to avoid personal pronouns and shows preference toward impersonal style. At the same time, there is a tendency now to use an I-perspective in English academic writing, mostly in humanities.
Using I, however, may seem somewhat unusual or awkward to Ukrainian writers. It may thus be recommended, at least for beginners, to maintain impersonal style and to avoid the first person pronoun I. This does not mean, however, that I should never be used.
An important feature of English academic written discourse is a cautious manner of writing, that is the avoidance of too definite statements or conclusions. The purpose of such strategy is to be accurate and to protect the author from being criticized for possible errors or invalid claims. Cautious writing also allows for other opinions or points of view. The main linguistic ways of doing this are as follows:
1. By using adjectives that express probability (in all examples below the statements gradually weaken in strength):
Dinosaurs died out due to sudden climatic changes
It is certain
It is likely
It is probable
It is possible
It is unlikely
that dinosaurs died out due to sudden climatic changes
2. By using there is construction with the word possibility:
a strong possibility
a definite possibility
a slight possibility
that dinosaurs died out due to sudden climatic changes
3. By using adverbs that express certainty and probability:
4. By using statements of shared knowledge, assumptions, and beliefs:
It is generally agreed
It is widely accepted
It is now generally recognized
that dinosaurs died out due to sudden climatic changes
5. By using modal verbs:
Continuum thermodynamics of solids, fluids, and mixtures forms a powerful tool for many unsolved problems
Continuum thermodynamics of solids, fluids, and mixtures may form a powerful tool for many unsolved problems
Continuum thermodynamics of solids, fluids, and mixtures could form a powerful tool for many unsolved problems
There are different conventions for different genres of academic writing (books, articles, conference papers) and different academic disciplines (such as humanities, social sciences or engineering). However, some principles are the same for any piece of academic writing, whether it is a journal article on molecular biology or a conference paper on English literature. The main features of academic writing are:
Although you may sometimes give your own opinions, excessive subjectivity is counter-productive. Opinions should not be confused with facts, but should follow logically front them. This means that the way you express opinions is important, e.g. “It can be concluded that …” is generally better than “In my opinion”, since the latter implies that it is only your opinion.
This goes hand in hand with objectivity. Although academic writing is not quite as formal as it used to be, you need to avoid slang and language which is too conversational.