By Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Emmett Macfarlane
CPSA 2018 Programme Co-Chairs
Today’s blog comes to you from the Co-Chairs of the 2018 CPSA annual conference, to be held in Regina Saskatchewan, Wednesday, May 30th to Friday, June 1st, 2018. The call for papers can be found in both English and French. How do you respond to a call for papers, and what are some tips for writing a great proposal?
There are rules for submitting proposals for each of the various formats of presented work at the conference (single papers, multi-paper panels, roundtables, poster, graduate student three-minute thesis competition (3MT), etc.). These rules are laid out in some detail in the online calls for proposals. Take the time to read, and follow the instructions.
Get to the point
The goal of presenting work at a conference is to move the conversation forward on a project, in a research area, on a theory. Very early in the proposal, you must directly state three things: 1) the research question or objective, 2) why this question/objective is important or compelling, and 3) how your proposed contribution to the conference answers the research question and makes a contribution to knowledge. Immersed in a research area, the answers to some of these points may seem self-evident to you, but they are not to outsiders, so be clear and direct about the importance of the question and your contribution to advancing the field.
Don’t stress too much about conclusions
While it is important that what you present at CPSA reflects your proposal, your research may take you in unanticipated directions. Do not worry ‘having the answers’ in your proposal – you may not have completed the research yet, and that is ok!
Write in clear, concise, and open language
Use clear, plain language, and avoid jargon and acronyms. You cannot assume the person evaluating your submission knows all the “inside baseball” language typical of your particular research area. Moreover, section heads and program chairs – who together build the conference program – receive a high volume of proposals, and thus do not have a lot of time to devote to any one proposal. Make their jobs easy by being as clear and direct as possible in your proposal.
Link your proposal to the conference theme or Congress theme, if applicable
We choose themes for a reason, because we think they capture something important happening in the field or in the real word, and CPSA’s 2018 theme does both, focussing on “Politics in Uncertain Times”. Our theme is inspired by the destabilizing activities of countries like Russia and North Korea; the unpredictability of important figures like US President Donald Trump; uncertainty surrounding significant policy and social issues like climate change, free trade, colonialism, and inequality; and the rising threat to liberal democracy posed by increasing populism, nativism, and support for authoritarian leaders. How can we explain or understand these phenomena? What prescriptions might be possible to combat them? What role might Canada play in confronting these issues, and in what ways is Canada vulnerable to their effects? Panels and papers addressing these questions are particularly welcome. In addition, the 2018 theme of the Congress of the Social Science and Humanities is “Gathering Diversities”, a theme which complements our CPSA conference theme nicely.