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David Thorstad

Still learning to do this myself, but here are a few things that have worked for me recently.

(1) If at all possible, get some experience refereeing conference abstracts. Some things are much clearer from the other side of the table.

(2) Tell them enough about the argument of the paper that they know roughly what the main argument is. Many people only tell you what their view is, and then you don't have enough information to make a decision on the paper.

(3) Help them to see why this paper is a fit for this specific conference, if fit is unclear. I reject a surprisingly large number of excellent papers on grounds of fit.

(4) Write several drafts. It never occurred to me that I could write multiple drafts of an abstract. It turns out that this helps.

(5) Help them to feel safe in the idea that you know what you are talking about, have actually written the paper and can give a good talk. Conference organizers are regularly burned along some or all of these dimensions and will often take a safe bet over a potentially excellent paper if they don't want to play with fire.

(6) If possible, do 2-3 minutes of research into who is likely to be reading your abstract and who is likely to be attending the conference. You need to write differently for different audiences.

(7) Take a minute or two to think whether there are any obvious reasons why the organizers might be hesitant about accepting your paper, and write the abstract in a way that corrects for them. For example, if you use a lot of math but the audience is nontechnical, write the abstract in a way that shows you can communicate your results to a nontechnical audience.

Bill Vanderburgh

Look at the past programs of the conference to which you are applying. You'll at least see what they have looked for in the past!

Vitus Angermeier

(1) Do say what you will show/proof/present in the paper. Abstracts that only describe the topic are frequent and frequently rejected.
(2) To make it a fit: After finishing the abstract, compare its content with the title of the conference/panel and with the call for papers. Remove any discrepancies from your abstract before submitting.
(3) Invest enough time in proofreading. Ask someone to check it before submission.

Henry Lara-Steidel

1. Do be clear on what your argument is about, why it matters, and how it fits on the current literature, etc. That is, read on how to write abstracts, and don’t forget the basics.
2. Get feedback on your abstract just like you would on any paper or anything you do work related. It’s not an afterthought; it’s an important part of your work and career.

UK Postdoc

Something important that I don't think has been mentioned above: try to give some evidence that you can deliver on your promise. Because an abstract is so short you can usually only *claim* that you will argue/show/prove something, but the person reading your abstract needs to have some reason for thinking you can actually do this. This could for example consist of references to various pieces of the puzzle that are already out there in the literature, or a brief explanation of the general approach, or a novel distinction you draw to clarify an issue, or the statement of a key intermediate lemma you will defend in order to arrive at the main claim.

Paul Carron

Ideally, you have already written a draft of the paper, or at least a previous paper that this one is building on. Then you can more easily state your driving question, your conclusion/contribution to the lit, and then briefly state the main points in the argument that will generate that conclusion. And you should definitely cite relevant literature as this gives the reviewer some confidence that you know what you are doing...

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