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Writing Academic Papers for AACE Conferences:
General Notes on Preparing ED-MEDIA Conference Papers
These notes, compiled and summarized from a recent ED-MEDIA Conference presentation by Carmel McNaught and Sam Rebelsky, are written to assist new and experienced authors with the preparation of their conference papers prior to submission through the Proposal Submission Guide & Form.
> 1. The nature of a conference paper vs. a journal article
> 2. Why are conference papers refereed?
> 3. Criteria commonly used for refereeing and therefore a valuable guide to writing
> 4. Role of the literature.
> 5. Structure of the paper
1. The nature of a conference paper vs. a journal article
A journal article should contain the reporting of an essentially complete piece of work. A conference paper could be more appropriate for several reasons, such as:
• The work is new.
• It is one completed component of a larger project.
• Whether it is best as a Brief Paper or a Full Paper is likely to depend on the degree of significance and the degree of completeness of the work.
• Note that a Poster might be the most appropriate presentation mode to use for quite new work needing feedback.
• Have a look at
2. Why are conference papers refereed?
• To improve the quality of your paper
• To gain government or institutional ‘brownie points’
• To improve the quality of the conference for attendees, so that the program has the best selection possible
3. Criteria commonly used for refereeing and therefore a valuable guide to writing
• Relevance – to the conference topics and to the area of education in general. The ideas in the work need to be usable by others.
• Quality of work – showing some originality (Is it worthwhile for colleagues to read this paper?), well planned, context well explained, etc.
• Scholarly – showing an awareness of good practice. For example, in papers which are reports on actual projects, it is essential to include some evidence of reflection and evaluation. The work also should be grounded in relevant literature (see below).
• Style of presentation – must to be written in a suitable academic style and in clear and accessible English. Diagrams and tables should be used appropriately.
4. Role of the literature.
This should assist the story of the paper. A few points here:
• Full and complete citations are important. Citations indicate that you understand the relationship of your work to other peoples’ work, that you are not just ‘reinventing the wheel’. They also assist readers who wish to find other relevant work in your area.
• Long lists of references may be appropriate in a theoretical paper. A smaller number of references to key principles may be all that is needed in a more practical paper. Referees (most anyway) are not fooled by long lists of unnecessary references.
• Being quite clear about the use of terms is vital. A vague reference to being constructivist is not acceptable (this is a very common problem). Unpacking the principles on which your work is based is crucial.
• Meticulous attention to referencing is essential. Full and complete referencing is an integral part of academic writing. AACE expects that all authors will adhere to this principle. All cases of alleged plagiarism will be investigated thoroughly. The ED-MEDIA proceedings are internationally recognised sources of valuable literature and AACE will do as much as possible to protect the integrity of its publications.
5. Structure of the paper
• Look at past conference proceedings. ED-MEDIA proceedings are available on CD-Rom and as well as in the AACE Digital Library. If you have access to a previous ED-MEDIA program, you might like to examine the papers that were given ‘Best Paper’ awards.
• Be clear and accurate about the title. Catchy is OK, but with clear meaning. The title is what will determine whether many colleagues attend a conference session.
• Plan the papers with clear headings.
• Use clear and concise English. Avoid the use of unnecessary ‘jargon’. It is acceptable to write in the first person when describing work that the author(s) have actually done.
• Work out carefully what diagrams are useful. Be careful about using screen dumps. Make sure they are a) interpretable and readable, and b) add value to the paper.
• Make sure the opening sentences of your Abstract and your first section are not identical. Your Abstract should be a succinct summary of the whole paper and not just an introduction.
• Do not submit a paper which promises that ‘data will be collected and analysed before the conference’. A referee cannot evaluate the value or quality of the work not yet done.
• Read any guidelines carefully and adhere to them – length, formatting, etc. Please note that very short papers will be automatically rejected. It is also inappropriate to submit something that is clearly a long chapter from a recent thesis; it will almost certainly be rejected. The paper submitted mustbe an essentially complete Full or Brief paper.
• Always provide attributions where the work of others has been used. If you alter it, use ‘after’, e.g. (Figure x. Title. After McNaught, 2001).
• Give complete references. In particular, note that online references need to have the date of accession of the URL recorded. There are many online sites that give guidance on APA style. Check that any you use are current. University libraries often have nice guides, e.g.
• Use a spell checker!
• Use a grammar checker. You don’t have to accept all the suggestions, but they are often correct.
• For authors with relatively little experience, the peer review of a few colleagues is invaluable.
Presenting Papers at AACE Conferences:
General Notes on Preparing for an ED-MEDIA Presentation
Structuring a presentation
• First of all be very clear about what you want to achieve with the presentation. What is the main thing you hope to accomplish in this short time slot?
• What to foreground: The key idea that is included in your abstract should be the main focus. Please say something new. People want to feel they have learnt something from your presentation.
• What to background, e.g. generic theoretical ideas on constructivism. Only what is new about your theoretical views should be included.
• Try to break the habit of following the exact sequence of the paper. The end section will probably be left out if you do. One way to avoid this is to take your presentation and run through it backwards. Reversing the order might improve the presentation!
• Use of examples. A sandwich mode can be useful where you have your example or demonstration in the middle. Please don’t leave all the interesting stuff to the end when you may run out of time.
• Think about how to involve your audience while you are planning the presentation.
• Planning your timing is ESSENTIAL. Note where you need to be after five minutes, after 10 minutes. Write these markers down on your PowerPoint thumbnails. Note that a rough rule is that each slide takes two or three minutes to cover and so a 20-minute talk should have less than ten slides.
• Rehearsal is strongly recommended so that you have an idea about how realistic your timing markers are.
Use of PowerPoint
• You do not have to use PowerPoint. Many people do but there are other ways to give an excellent presentation. The key is to have a carefully planned, structured and engaging session.
• If you use PowerPoint many experts use a sans seraph font (e.g. Arial). Be strategic with the use of bold.
• Preparing PowerPoint is not like preparing overhead transparencies. It is vital that you plan your PowerPoint slides for readability. Look at the default ppt templates to get an idea of appropriate font sizes.
• Images, diagrams, tables and pie charts can provide excellent summaries of key points. Make sure they are clear and not cluttered. Remember that a picture can be worth 1,000 words!
• Avoid fancy transitions, such as parts of the slide flying in from the sides, etc. These are usually just annoying distractions.
• Keep the amount of text as small as possible. Use keywords and short sentences. Three to five bullet items per slide is a rough guide. The audience should be listening to you rather than reading the slides.
• Use a spell checker.
• Check your PowerPoint in a teaching room. Look at it from the back of the room.
• Consider the readability of the colors used.
• Consider the juxtaposition of colors. Use colors sparingly.
• Some of your listeners may be color-blind and may not be able distinguish red from green and neither of these colors from brown and gray.
• Remember the colors projected on the screen may differ from the colors on your own computer.
Use of the Web and multimedia demonstrations
• Be very focused and get straight to the part of the resource you want to demonstrate. Demonstrations can take an undue amount of time if you are not careful.
• Consider the readability of pages very carefully. Again, check your web pages and/or multimedia demonstration in a teaching room. Look at it from the back of the room.
• Make sure that all plug-ins that might be needed are available. Make a list.
• Check out all possible requirements for sound. Make a list.
• Remember the colors projected on the screen may differ from the colors on your own computer.
Practicing your presentation
• If this is your first presentation (and even if it is not) it is important to PRACTICE. It is often useful to get someone in your home institution to listen to you.
• Make a checklist of the points in the section on ‘Delivering a presentation’ and see if you can master them during your practice sessions.
Delivering a presentation
• Be organized: arrive early and check the equipment again.
• The opening section is critical: engage the audience with your introduction.
• Read your audience; look for signs that you are being understood.
• Maintain eye contact with the audience. Talk to the audience, not to the slides.
• Keep your movements and body language relaxed. Smile.
• Avoid distracting mannerisms such as pacing or obvious pointing.
• Project your voice, so that it can be heard. Speak slowly and clearly. Use variety in your voice.
• Use the podium to hold your hands if you are nervous. Do NOT use a infra-red pointer unless you can be extremely steady-handed.
• Avoid reading notes; an occasional glance is all that you should need.
Handling the questions at the end
• Anticipate questions that might be asked.
• Actively try to get questions from the audience.
• If you don’t know the answer, compliment the questioner and say so
• Keep answers short and focused.
• Thank the audience at the end!
• [Congratulate yourself!]