The Faculty of Management Studies of the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka recently concluded an international workshop on “How to write an impactful extended abstract”, in affiliation with SAGE Publishing, India. The program was conducted as a part of the fourth Management Undergraduates’ Research Session (MURS 2022).
Prof. Dewasiri N. Jayantha from the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka was the facilitator of the session. Addressing the session, Prof. Dewasiridiscussed a winning formula for a conference publication emphasizing what to focus on, how to differentiate, and tips for the extended abstract structure and the cover letter. He stressed that “there is no magic and luck in scientific publications. All your hard work would pave the way toward top-tier publications.”
Initially, Prof. Dewasiri defined what an extended abstract is and its components. Accordingly, he stated that an extended abstract is a short version of a manuscript that can be considered a mini paper, which does not contain a literature review and future direction in most instances as in a full research paper. He also highlighted the necessity of spending some valuable time developing the abstract as it is the advertisement of the final product that should be sellable to the right audience.
He explained the strategies to be followed for writing and submitting successful extended abstracts. Accordingly, the use of Porter’s generic strategies such as differentiation and focus, the use of blue ocean strategies through continuous innovations, and white ocean strategies through competitor collaborations were some of the strategies discussed in the session. Besides, the professor emphasized that researchers should not submit “Fabstracts”, meaning research that has not even started as it is unethical particularly if you are requesting an oral presentation as well as extended abstracts or research that has already been submitted elsewhere, it can be either a journal or a conference, and it is unethical. Moreover, researchers should ensure that they will have the resources to attend.
Prof. Dewasiri shared his knowledge on how to achieve a competitive advantage in the industry. He claimed that the strategy is to enhance the focus and differentiation together to increase the decisive competitive advantages for a specific research paper.
Prof. Dewasiri explained the ways and means of using each strategy in publishing at a top-tier conference under two main headings.
How to differentiate
It is possible to differentiate a manuscript from the previous studies to create the originality or contribution of the research. For instance, a researcher can proceed with contextual differentiation and methodological differentiation (innovation) and the findings from previous studies. In addition to that, it is possible to gain the first-mover advantage if the researcher applies differentiation, focus, and innovation together in a single study which will pave the way towards achieving definitive competitive advantages for a top-tier publication.
Moreover, differentiation can be made through collaboration, and it can be done with peer researchers for a synergistic effort.Through collaborations, the researcher can improve your study based on different expertise; some researchers are quantitative experts, some are qualitative, some are mixed methods experts, and some are experts in their respective disciplines. If you can collaborate for a common goal of a top-tier publication, that will provide a definitive competitive advantage in achieving the same.
What to focus on
According to Prof. Dewasiri, a researcher should focus on several factors when conducting research and writing an extended abstract. He stressed that it is required to focus on a suitable conference since there are specific and unique guidelines for each conference and thus, the authors need to focus on one particular conference to reduce the time required for a revision in a later stage.
However, a suitable conference for a researcher can be identified by considering the aims and scope of the conference. If that suitsthe researcher’s study, thenthe researcher should check on the hosting institution and their collaborative partners, their reputation, website, and original contact details as there are ample fake/predatory conferences worldwide. In addition to that, the researcher can focus on the published articles from the previous editions of the conference when selecting the best conference for the manuscript.
Besides, Prof. Dewasiri elaborated on the necessity of focusing on the study’s quality rather than the number of publications in a year while stressing the following points.
• Authors have to see whether the manuscripts follow a scientific approach instead of a nonsense approach. Editors see whether the manuscripts focus on recent and contextual literature to differentiate them from other studies on the same phenomenon.
• Authors have to re-check whether the extended abstract follow the submission guidelines.
• Authors must check whether the manuscripts have a clear focus emphasizing originality and implications to the practice/society.
• If all answers are “yes,” you can submit your extended abstract to a conference; otherwise, you have to revise the study further.
Simultaneously, he stressed the importance of focusing on the right audience. Identifying the right audience is essential because they are the researchers’ customers and readers, and who will cite you. Professor mentioned that there are likely to be three audiences for the abstract, so the single abstract may have to satisfy multiple audiences, each with their own purpose for reading the abstract. Accordingly, the first group is the conference organisers.
They are interested in reading the abstract to determine, first, whether the researcher will be accepted into the conference, and second, whether the presentation warrants an oral or poster presentation. The second group is the conference-goers. They may see the abstract in the conference volume or online. This group reads the abstract to determine whether they are interested in attending the researcher’s talk. Thus, the abstract is an advertisement for your research. The third group is the online audience.
Many conference abstracts are bound in a volume or posted online for perhaps years after the conference ends. The researchers will receive invitations from accredited journals if they have done a good advertisement. Balancing these three audiences with a single abstract can be challenging yet it is worthy.
Next, Prof. Dewasiri emphasised what not to focus on. He stated that the researchers should not focus on predatory/fake/clone conferences that harm academic integrity and reputation. He pointed out that the researchers may choose such predatory or fake conferences due to a lack of knowledge and quick publications.
However, Prof. Dewasiri suggested a simple plan for researchers to steer clear of predatory conferences that involve “doing your homework” to ensure the hosting institution’s credibility in the session as mentioned below.
• Conference invitations sent by unsolicited email (i.e., spam)
• A poorly made website (e.g., grammar and spelling errors)
• No reliable contact information provided
• A no-refund policy for registration fees
• The conference is not listed on the website of an academic society or publisher that is claimed as a sponsor
• Overly broad scope (to attract as many attendees as possible)
• The organizer organises numerous conferences in many different fields held at the same time in the same or nearby venues (to maximise revenue)
• The conference has never been held before
• Too little time between the submission deadline and the conference for proper peer review
By following the above process, researchers can avoid predatory conferences; the decision to submit should be based on extensive discussions with the co-authors and experts in the field.
In the second phase of the workshop, Prof. Dewasiri discussed the proper structure to be followed when writing an extended abstract. He conducted the discussion under seven headings. He posited that an extended abstract consists of the title, author details, keywords, and the main text. The main text includes an introduction, results and discussion, conclusions and implications, and references.
Developing the title
Developing the title is an opportunity to gain readers’ attention. Hence, authors should spend some valuable time developing an eye-catching and meaningful title. It is required to keep the title more informative and concise. Further, Prof. Dewasiri advised researchers not to use technical jargon and abbreviations when developing the title. Moreover, researchers were instructed to convert their findings into layman’s language where everyone can understand what it is all about. Further, the researchers should discuss with their supervisors, and colleagues, and make collaborations if they add value to the research.
Highlighting the importance of keywords, Prof. Dewasiri stated that it is required to spend more time and attention on keywords as they are the labels of the manuscript which increase readability and attract more citations to the abstract. He emphasized that the keywords should be from the abstract itself, puttingoneself into the researcher’s shoes, and avoidingjargon, it is not all about single words, researchers can even put phrases.
This section of the abstract helps the researcher to convince the reader of the importance of the work and for that, it is necessary to describe the research gaps emphasizingthe research problem. If there are existing articles addressing the same question, the researcher has to emphasize its main limitations, while highlighting what the researcher is going to achieve. Even, the researcher can differentiate the study from the previous studies. Here, the rationale should be discussed in comparison to the recently conducted studies to derive originality. Sharing professor’s experience, he stated that editors hate references irrelevant to the work, or inappropriate judgments on the researchers’ achievements.
In addition, he highlighted some pitfalls of the introduction. First, most of the articles received for the conferences are with lengthy introductions, sometimes more than the word limit. Thus, the professor stressed that the introduction should be limited to 300-400 words based on the submission guidelines. Second, there are introductions with too many subheadings such as problem statement, objectives, research questions, significance, and so on. The researchers should avoid too many subheadings if there are no special cases. The professor emphasized that the introduction is not a history lesson; the researcher has to keep readers’ interest from the beginning of the research. Another pitfall is that some researchers tend to have a mixed bag of introductions with results, discussion, and conclusions thrown in for good measure. Therefore, he stated to keep sections separated to ensure the manuscript flows logically from one section to the next.
The methods section
Professor posited that this section should be a brief description of what and how did the researcher conduct the research.He stressed that, even though it is given in the summary form, the readers should be able to reproduce the research by employing the same approach. Within this section, the researcher should not enlighten on border terms such as research philosophies like ontology and epistemology but have to highlight the method followed, the sample size and technique, the data collection procedure, and how the researcher overcame the biases if any. If the researcher has a methodological innovation in the study, the researcher can elaborate more about it emphasising why it is appropriate, what did you do, and so on.However, there is a limitation of the word count for this section as well, it can be 200-300 words depending on the conference.
The results and discussion
According to the explanation of Prof. Dewasiri, the researchers should only present the representative result with relevant discussion, and it should be in summary form. Moreover, he stressed the importance of not hiding resultsto save them for another paper as it will lose evidence to support the conclusion and it will hinder the value and contribution of the study. He added that the discussion is devoted to explaining what the results mean.This is one of the most important sections of the extended abstract, here the researcher has the chance to sell the data. Furthermore, when writing this section, it is required to use subheadings as per the objectives or research questions or hypotheses to keep results of the same type together, so then the readers can read it as a clear and easy-to-understand story.
Moreover, the professor highlighted,that in this section the researcher has to compare the findings with the previous studies, and if there are disagreements he advised not to ignore those studies but to confront them and convince the reader that you are correct or better to explain the difference and why it is since that will help the researcher to derive some form of originality in the research. He stated the word limit for this section lies between 400 to 500 words in most of the conferences.
Conclusion and Implications
Prof. Dewasiri emphasised that the conclusion section is to conclude the findings in a meaningful manner and urged not to repeat the same thing. In this section, it is required to mention how the researcher’s work advances the field from the present state of knowledge and practice. He said it is necessary to have a clear scientific justification for the workand indicate possible applications and extensions. In addition, the researcher has to emphasise the implications to the practitioners, society, or policymakers. Professor also stated here, that the researcher can highlight the value of the research to the other stakeholders which are complementary.
As it is stated by Prof. Dewasiri, most of the researchers do mistakes in the references section and it can be identified in four major ways.
1. The authors include full references which are not included as in-text citations in the body of the text.
2. The authors miss full references of some of the in-text citations.
3. The authors submit the papers with incomplete references, most of the time we can see references without volume numbers, issue numbers, or page numbers if it is a journal.
4. Not adhering to the particular referencing style preferred by the conference.
Prof. Dewasiri further explained that authors should avoid excessive self-citations in their articles if there are no extentions to the provious studies. He requested the audience to get rid of these mistakes if they really want to publish in a top-tier conference.
The cover letter can be considered a job application letter; this is the place where you can “sell” your work. Here you have to highlight why did you submit the manuscript to the respective conference mentioning what would make the manuscript special. However, editors will not reject a manuscript only because the cover letter is bad, but a good cover letter may accelerate the editorial process of your paper.
Prof. Dewasiri concluded the workshop by highlighting the importance of the application of the above-discussed strategies together it is possible to have a ticket for a conference and he highlighted the importance of maintaining ethics and research standards for a better scientific community.
Dewasiri N. Jayantha is a professor attached to the Department of Accountancy and Finance, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka.He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Finance from the University of Colombo, MS.c in Applied Finance and a Postgraduate Diploma from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, BA (Hons) in Business from the Glyndwr University, UK. He has been awarded for research excellence several times, including the University of Michigan International Mixed Methods Scholarship Award, Grand Winner of the IIARI Luminary Award (2021) in Asia for Research Excellence, Grand Winner of the Deans Award for Research Excellence at the Faculty of Management Studies, the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka for 2021, Best Reviewer Award from the FIIB Business Review, and several best paper awards at the conferences. He is currently serving as the Co-Editors-in-Chief of the South Asian Journal of Marketing published by Emerald Publishing, Senior Associate Editor of the FIIB Business Review published by Sage Publishing, Managing Editor of the Asian Journal of Finance, and South Asian Journal of Tourism and Hospitality published by the Faculty of Management Studies. He also serves as the Honorary Secretary of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing. Recently, he has been accredited as a Fellow Chartered Manager (FCMI CMgr) by the Chartered Institute of Management, UK.Considering his valuable contribution to research and academia, Emerald Publishing, UK has appointed him as the Brand Ambassador for its South Asian region for 2022-2023.
About MURS – 2022
Faculty of Management Studies of the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka organises the MURS 2022 in collaboration with Young Scientists’ Forum and SAGE Publications India, foreseeing the theme “Fostering Agility: Confronting the Uncertainty”. Individuals, organisations and economies are grappling with dynamic changes in the uncertain micro and macro environment. Hence, the key to confront the uncertainty successfully is to ensure and continually level up agility at all levels.
Accordingly, FMS dedicates fourth MURS to research and discussions on management strategies and practices associated with fostering agility at multiple levels in different contexts. The conference will provide an opportunity for management undergraduates and other young scientists, local and international, to share their research experiences with a wider community.
It will encourage undergraduates to examine global, regional, and local trends in their research fields while identifying links among multiple disciplines in a highly uncertain environment. The conference will also benefit all other undergraduates and conference participants to sharpen their research capacity by interacting and networking with experienced researchers, reviewers, industry experts and young researchers around the globe.
FMS is striding to witness the MURS 2022 on November 18, 2022 via the virtual mode. The forum will be graced by two renowned keynote speakers: Professor Ajantha S. Dharmasiri and Vivek Mehra. Thus, the conference will create an excellent opportunity for the participants to enhance their skills and competencies from the prominent personalities of management. This workshop is conducted as a pre-workshop of the MURS 2022 in enlightening the young scholars on “how to write an extended abstract for your research.” The organising committee invites young scientists around the globe to participate in MURS 2022 and experience an intellectually stimulating research culture.