Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society, one more time: From research to conference paper, Part I

While I was playing catch-up a few months back, I wrote a concluding post for a research paper I wrote in my first year. I said then that I might turn it into an article, or do something else with it, and that I’d let you, my lovely readers, know if that happened. Well, I have. My paper was accepted to a conference being convened by the Society for the History of Women in the Americas (SHAW) based at St. Mary’s University (London). It’s being held at the University of Oxford in July. I’m very excited (full disclosure: while I am of course honored and happy to be presenting my paper, everyone tells me Oxford is just like Hogwarts, so at least half of my excitement might come from that). The original research paper was 37 pages, including footnotes. The average conference presentation is 15-20 minutes. This is about 10 pages of double-spaced text. So, I obviously have quite a bit of pruning to do. I also want to work on presenting, lecture style, which I’m not very good at and makes me very nervous to do (in the humanities, it’s fairly typical for people to read straight from their papers. Sometimes this is good, as it can make for a fairly clear and well-organized presentation, and sometimes this is bad, lending itself towards robotic and monotonous speech and complex sentences that are difficult for the listener to understand–and often difficult for the presenter to read).

Since conference presentation is one of the skills we need to develop as graduate students, and will use throughout our careers, I thought I’d provide a little insight into what my process is like for doing this. Over the next eight weeks, I’ll be doing a three-part series, Part I being this post, which covers the general plan, how I actually went about turning my research paper into a conference presentation (Part II), and how the conference itself and my presentation at it all went (Part III).

To the task at hand then: Part I – The General Plan

Conference date: 6 July 2017
Time until conference: about 7 weeks
Goals: 1) turn 37 pages to 10 (if I truly was going to Hogwarts, I could obviously do this by magic; since I’m not, it’ll have to be the magic of elbow grease and time — much less exciting, and a heck of a lot more work) 2) make an engaging presentation that is designed to be presented as a lecture rather than read

Week 1: Re-read the paper in its entirety twice, first without any comments, and second with the aim of coming up with specific revision tasks (for those following my series on turning a research paper into a journal article following Laura Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks, this is how she suggests getting started in that process as well).

Weeks 2-5: Revise paper based on revision tasks set in Week 1. I’ll be devoting about three days of my 15-minute daily writing in each of these weeks to revision. [Side note — I’m really liking these today, apparently — I was going to link “15-minute daily writing” to one of my #12weekstojournalarticle posts, but realized I never explained this. In order to get into a good writing habit, Belcher suggests spending a minimum of 15 minutes, and a maximum of 1 hour, writing per day. Since I’m really quite busy with research, I budget 15 minutes per day on average, but sometimes do a bit longer, depending on tasks and motivation] I will also undertake a review of the recent literature produced since writing my paper all the way back in 2014.

Week 6: Create PowerPoint based on revised paper. Begin practicing presentation (my aim is to devote about an hour, two or three times during this week, to practicing the presentation)

Week 7: Make all final edits and adjustments to PowerPoint and presentation.

Thursday, 6 July: Be amazing and give stellar presentation. Also, secretly pretend I’m at Hogwarts.

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When you have a conference to present at, what’s your process?