- Writing and Presenting an Abstract

Writing your Abstract

The following resources include an information sheet and template and some highly-developed modules on writing abstracts from the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA).


Please use the ESS Abstract Template to help structure your submission. There is also a precise and very useful method for constructing an abstract which aims to make this task much easier. It involves recognising that abstracts commonly contain four parts:

  1. The WHY: Why did you undertake this study? What is the rationale? What problem are you attempting to better understand?
  2. The HOW: How did you go about doing this study? What methods/methodology did you employ?
  3. The WHAT: What did you discover? What where your results?
  4. The SO WHAT: Why is this relevant? How might it improve practice or relate to other situations?

As an example, see this abstract from a recent journal article. Observe the WHY, HOW, WHAT and SO WHAT.

This article reports on a qualitative study which explored online student engagement experiences in a higher education institution. There are very few studies providing in-depth perspectives on the engagement experiences of online students. The project adopted a case study approach, following 24 online students over one academic year. The setting for the study was an undergraduate online Humanities programme at Dublin City University. The research question for the study was: What themes are central to online student engagement experiences? Data was collected from participant-generated learning portfolios and semi-structured interviews and analysed following a data-led thematic approach. The five central themes that make up the study’s findings highlight key issues of students’ sense of community, their support networks, balancing study with life, confidence, and their learning approaches. The findings of this study indicate that successful online student engagement was influenced by a number of psychosocial factors such as peer community, an engaging online teacher, and confidence and by structural factors such as lifeload and course design. One limitation of the study is that it is a relatively small, qualitative study, its findings provide insights into how online degrees can support online students to achieve successful and engaging learning experiences.

Farrell, O., Brunton, J. A balancing act: a window into online student engagement experiences. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 17, 25 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-020-00199-x

Presenting your Abstract

All of our academics are experienced presenters but fitting a solid piece of research into a 7-minute time-slot is hard. The following tips are based on lessons learned from the best past presenters and are offered as a rule of thumb, to assist you in creating an effective short presentation.


  • Seven minutes does not allow for much detail: please focus on the few important points you want to make
  • Design your slides so they are logical and uncluttered. Read Universal Design practice guide
  • As a rule of thumb, one (or less!) slide per minute is all you can cover
  • Please send your slides to the LTO at least two business days before the Conference, to be incorporated into the master slide deck to ensure the smooth running of the Conference.

Plan your time

  • Practise your presentation with a timer
  • If there are co-authors, practise presenting together
  • The timer will be clearly visible to you as you present on the day and the timekeeper will sound a bell one minute before the end of the time-slot. Please keep an eye on the timer so that you can judge your pace and stop on time. It is very uncomfortable for the audience and unfair to other speakers if you go on over time.


  • In keeping with the collegial atmosphere of the event, please stay to hear your colleagues present
  • Engage with other presentations/presenters by writing down the questions you would like to ask them during the Question Panel.

Examples of Educator Scholar Presentations