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Undergraduate Conference Student Preparation
In an effort to promote the 2021 PSA Undergraduate Conference to our students, the Department of Politics at the University of York ran two events this term.
There are, of course, a range of reasons why we are so keen to promote the Conference and to help our students with their proposals and submissions. As well as all the reasons that many will already be familiar with in their own academic conference attendance, such as the chance to develop one’s work, and to network, the PSA Undergraduate Conference is a great opportunity for students who are starting off in their work as political scientists to create a deeper sense of engagement with the field (as well as gain important presentation skills).
To promote the Undergraduate Conference, earlier this term I hosted a “Pitch Event” to present to our students why they should be considering submitting a proposal to the PSA. This event was promoted through the usual channels of email, departmental social media, and by members of staff to students they felt might be keen.
The event, hosted on Zoom, tried to do a few things to promote attendance:
- Detail what the PSA is and what it does
- Suggested why students should be interested in attending a conference, including the benefits that they could gain from attendance (many thanks to Pavlos Vasilopoulos for coming and presenting for this part of the event!)
- Go over the Conference details, including the theme, the timeline, submission procedure etc.
- Share experience of students who had previously attended
- Take questions and answers that students might have
I was really pleased to see such a strong turnout for this event. We were lucky to have two students, Clemmie and Stanley, who had presented at the 2019 PSA Undergraduate Conference, come to share their invaluable experience and to answer questions.
This event was followed up three weeks later by our second event, the abstract-writing workshop. Again, held on Zoom, this session had a far more informal and less presentational approach, where students with an idea of a protentional submission could come and, over the course of the hour, turn that idea into an abstract. In this event, I ran through how to tailor an abstract so it best fits within the Conference’s theme and then how to write the abstract itself.
For the abstract-writing portion of the session, I presented four questions to students:
- What is the problem you address?
- What method(s) do you use to research this problem?
- What data will you be able to produce or process?
- What (intermediary) findings will you be able to discuss?
We then took these questions one at a time as writing prompts (I also wrote a conference abstract in this session to help demonstrate the process). In response to each of these questions we would then mute the Zoom call for five to ten minutes and then return to share what we had written.
This format gave students a chance both to actually end the session with a draft proposal and also to have a chance to discuss their work with others and get useful feedback. Plus, it also meant that I had a chance to finish an abstract I had been meaning to get done for a while!
I am hoping that this approach will mean that there are quite a few York students who are going to submit abstracts to the 2021 PSA Undergraduate Conference and are looking forward to the possibility of presenting their work. In the course of the two sessions, I was so impressed by the breadth and quality of proposed projects and I am really looking forward to seeing what comes of these proposals. I would thoroughly recommend that, if there is the possibility, other Departments also encourage their students to submit proposals for what I am sure will be a great conference.
Dr. Jeremy F. G. Moulton is an Associate Lecturer and the Learning Community Officer in the Department of Politics at the University of York. Find him on twitter via @jfgmoulton