Finding a conference
Figure out what the big organizations for your discipline are and subscribe to their mailing list. You can also join a listserv for your discipline—or even better, for your subfield (i.e. Early Modern Studies, Queer Studies, Disabilities in Higher Education, Positive Developmental Psychology, etc).Talk to classmates and professors about conferences they are planning on attending. Check your CGU e-mail often.
Decide what kind of conference would be the best place for your project.
There are local, regional, and national conferences.
Most local and regional conferences look for papers from accelerated undergraduates and graduate students who have recently begun their graduate journey.
National conferences often function at a more rigorous, professional level, and are more liable to take papers from candidates who are farther along in their studies, or from professionals who have completed their PhD.
Many national organizations, such as the Cultural Studies Association (CSA), the Modern Languages Association (MLA), American Educational Research Association (AERA), will accept paper proposals from non-members, but joining an association relevant to your field of study can clue you in to calls for papers and other valuable resources. Though these organizations will often accept proposals from non-members, they will require participants to join the association as part of the conference registration process.
Submitting a Panel Proposal
Often, it can be easier to get a panel proposal accepted to a conference than a paper proposal. Presenting on a panel with colleagues can also minimize the stress of presenting a paper and lead to a more synthesized discussion between presentors. If you decide to go it alone, the conference committee will likely place you with panelists presenting on similar subject matter, based on your abstract. However, many larger conferences will have subfields within their call for papers which allow applicants to apply to apply to participate in a specific panel. Check your conference website to see if this is an option.
Writing the Abstract
Write big, then edit and tighten. Avoid summarizing your argument.Try to distill your thesis, and the movements your paper makes, down to their essential components.
Use minimal jargon. Instead, try to signify the structural or theoretical scaffolding of your argument subtly. Be sure to locate your project within the larger scope of your panel, conference, and discipline. If it is a conference about transnationalism, you should clarify your project’s relation to transnational issues (note: the jargon rule is suspended if you’re mentioning a concept or phrase your conference/panel is specifically focused on).