The two most common papers written in academia are conference papers and journal articles. This blog post looks at 4 key differences between both and suggests 3 things to do when transforming a conference paper into a journal article.
A conference paper is written with a specific purpose in mind: to get accepted at a conference and to disseminate research in progress. The acceptance of the paper is based on the content and quality of the abstract. The submission guidelines for the abstract are straightforward and usually entail a word limit and a clear argument. Furthermore, the problem, methods and contribution should be stated in a precise and convincing way. If the abstract meets these criteria chances are high that it will be accepted to the conference. This review process is less intense in comparison to the submission of a journal article.
There are 4 key differences between a conference paper and a journal article:
1. The conference paper is written with a specific audience in mind which is most likely different from the audience targeted by a journal. A conference audience can be quite narrow – a subset of those attending the event. However, a journal article often needs to appeal to a wider audience. Politics, for instance, places a premium on generalisable insights that speak across boundaries in the field and expects articles to speak to as wide an audience as possible.
2. A conference paper also differs from a journal article as the former is often work in progress whereas the latter should disseminate the conclusions from (a part of) a project.
3. Furthermore, the language and tone of voice in a conference paper tends to be more informal than in a journal article. Since the paper is verbally presented at a conference the quality of the written language is not so much of an issue, contrary to a journal article.
4. The same applies to the clarity of the arguments. If the arguments are not immediately clear to the conference audience, the presenter can clarify them in the question and answer session after the presentation. This is not possible for a journal article. Furthermore, the presenter has the luxury to focus on certain parts of the paper. This is not the case with journal articles as they need to be written in a clear manner and all sections should be equally developed.
Does this mean that one cannot submit a conference paper to a journal? Not really. What follows are 3 suggestions that can help scholars to turn their conference paper into a journal article.
1. The most important thing is to follow the submission guidelines of the journal. It also helps to write the conference paper in the same structure as you would write the journal article. This will save you time whilst transforming the paper into an article and it will help you stay focussed. A journal article can be divided into three main parts:
a. Title, Abstract, Keywords
b. Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion
c. Acknowledgements, About the Author, References, Annexes
2. Use the presentation of your paper as an opportunity to present those parts of the paper that you think need more work. Welcome all types of feedback but only incorporate those points that make sense to you. Remember, not all feedback that is given is valid or equally important. Whilst revising the paper check the main literature in the field to make sure that you are aware of new work that has been published during the time you wrote the conference paper and revised it into a journal article. Incorporating the latest work will strengthen your argument/paper and it shows your engagement with the field.
3. Last, but not the least, conference organisers often give presenters the opportunity to meet editors from different journals who give in-depth feedback on their paper. This feedback is very important as it helps the authors to revise their paper so that it is ready for submission. At Politics, for example, it is a tradition that our editors provide feedback to a small group of scholars who present their work at the annual British International Studies Association (BISA) Conference in the United Kingdom.