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Research for International Students

The ways research is conceived, approved, conducted, and reported in the U.S. may differ from how it is done in other countries. This guide describes those processes and some of the context for them.

Submission Process

Time and space limit the number of people who can present at a conference. The number of people that want to present is usually much higher than that limit. Conferences will ask people who want to present to submit a proposal. A proposal is a brief descriptions of what you want to present. Conferences use the descriptions to decide which presentations to have.

The call for proposals will tell you useful information about the conference. It will tell you the conference's theme. It will tell you about the types of sessions at that conference. It will tell you what the conference organizers want to know in your proposal. It will also let tell you when you will find out if your proposal is accepted or not.

Some conferences use crowd-sourcing to decide which proposals to accept. The conference organizers know who might attend the conference. The organizers share the submitted proposals with those people. Those people vote on their favorite proposals. All proposals submitted by the deadline are shared with people who are likely to attend the conference. Those people vote on their favorite proposals. The organizers accept the proposals that get the most votes.

Other conferences have a committee that decides which proposals to accept. The people on the committee rate the proposals. The committee uses those ratings to decide which which proposals to accept. The committee's discussions are confidential.

Wait to create your presentation until your proposal is accepted. If your proposal is not accepted, you can consider submitting it elsewhere. A different conference might make a different decision. You can also revise your proposal and try submitting it to the same conference again in the future.

Conference Abstract

Many conferences will publish the brief descriptions of the presentations they accept. You will have a chance to edit the description you submitted.

These descriptions are now called conference abstracts. In the sciences, a conference abstract has the same format as the abstract for a research paper. Conference abstracts for social sciences conferences also use that format.


In a poster presentation, you share brief information about your project in the actual poster. You then have conversations with attendees about your poster. You can share additional information. Attendees can ask questions and share their thoughts with you.

The poster is a visual record of your research. It usually includes charts, graphs, or images related to your topic.  

  • In science disciplines, posters tend to quickly summarize your methods, your results, and some conclusions. The poster's size limits what you can share. Be succinct and share just a few important things.
  • In literature, humanities, and education, posters tend to primarily use pictures. 

The event where you present your poster will usually have guidelines about the size of your poster and what to put on it.

MCPHS's Media Production Services can help you create your poster. Explore the Poster Production guide for tips.

Presentations, Talks, and Panel Presentations

In a presentation, talk, or panel presentation, you verbally share your research with other people. You can make your presentation interactive or purely informative. You can be creative in how you share the information. Storytelling, pictures, and activities are all fine to include. People often use slides during presentations, talks, and panel presentations but slides are usually not required. After your presentation, attendees will have a chance to ask questions and to share their thoughts with you.

The length of time, setting, and audience will affect how you decide to present your project.

Panel presentations are short series of presentations on a similar topic. You will present on your project and other panelists will present on their projects.

If you give a paper presentation, you will also be expected to write a paper about your project. It will be published in the conference proceedings.

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