Symposium Decisions 2019 edition

Planning a symposium or conference can be a lot of fun. But, there’s also the downside, and that is, having to tell people no.

Having done a few events, I try to make sure that I am being as kind as possible even with “no” decisions so this post is a way to explain what the difference between an accept and not is when it comes to the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine Symposium.

As I’ve written before at this same time back in 2017, the biggest problem this year is the same as in 2017. The proposals didn’t do what John Swales calls CARS—creating a research space, which he talks about in Chapter 8 **And once you start to understand Swales CARS in relation to your specific area in the larger field, it makes writing proposals for conferences (and getting started on journal manuscripts) so much easier.

The TL;DR version:

  • Establish territory
  • Establish a niche
  • Occupy the niche

Reviewers really like to see the occupation, the move toward telling folks what’s important about your work.  Otherwise, reviewers are left wondering if the presentation will provide any value to participants. See, that’s a big key you have to remember. Reviewers and program chairs have a responsibility to try and provide the best program possible. Proposals are what we have to work with so it’s important as the writer of that proposal to hit all three parts of the CARS model.#

Another challenge is that you need to be careful in not spending too much time talking about how you got interested in the topic. Rather, tell the reviewers what this topic is doing for the field and what you will be doing in your presentation or in the case of the Symposium, what you hope your work in progress will show/do.

Finally, the Symposium is not a typical conference and we’ve always struggled with ways to explain this to folks who have not attended. This detail is important because you are not proposing to give a presentation. You are proposing a larger work in progress that will be diligently and intensely workshopped. The rest of the time at the Symposium is a series of directed conversations.

As the field of the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine continues to grow, we hope we will be able to grow the Symposium along with it. Right now, however, we have a limited number of spots because of the model that funds the event. In 2019, this is the first year we will have a nominal registration fee for tenure-line faculty and a reduced fee for contingent faculty and  for graduate students who want to come but whose papers were not accepted. This is the spot we landed on because we are committed to mentoring and supporting new scholars in the field, while trying to balance that desire with the hard realities and economics of symposium/conference planning.

Wishing you all the best of summers!



** Academic writing for graduate students: Essential skills and strategies. 3rd Edition. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

#A small disclaimer: is CARS perfect? No. Absolutely, no. But if you use it, you’ll get a helluva lot closer to having something that reviewers can understand and act on.

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