Writing conference reports for the RMA website

Writing a report on an academic conference is, for many, one of their first experiences of writing for publication. The Association encourages conference organisers to nominate research students and early-career scholars to write reports. Those who are new to writing conference reports might like to consider the following advice.

Consider your audience. The Association’s members have an interest in the study of music, although many are not professional scholars. The membership includes a broad range of academic interests and disciplines as well as composers and performers. You can therefore assume knowledge of mainstream musical and musicological concepts but not of ideas or terminology specific to specialist approaches.

Consider your aims. A conference report provides a historical record of the event and an overview for those who were unable to attend. It should record the principle academic themes and should give a sense of what the experience was like for delegates.

Include some references to the overall experience (such as the venue, the social activities, and the hospitality), but give the most weight to the academic activities.

Avoid making lists. Don’t list the papers in order and don’t feel that you need to mention every contribution. A report that mentions every paper on the programme is not usually fun to read. Instead:

  • Select particularly interesting contributions to comment on (particularly keynote presentations / performances, and sessions of particular interest to you);
  • Arrange your comments in the order that makes the best sense for your narrative (rather than in the order they appeared in the conference);
  • Draw links between different sessions and highlight common themes emerging from the different activities.

Remain professional. It is fine to be critical – but criticise ideas rather than individuals.

Don’t procrastinate. It is tempting to put off writing your report, but it will take less time and effort and is likely to be of higher quality if you finish it within a few days of the conference, whilst the ideas are still fresh.

Look forward. Especially good for your conclusion, explain how the conference might impact research in this area in future. Note any publications or follow-up events that will emerge from this conference.

Practical Matters

  • Be succinct. A typical report for the RMA website is 440 words for a study day, or 880 words for a multi-day conference. The editor may cut pieces longer than 900 words.
  • Your report title should be the conference title. Include the dates and location within the prose of the first paragraph.
  • Where you mention speakers by name, please include an institutional affiliation as well.
  • Include a one-sentence biography at the end of your article in the form “Joe Bloggs is…..” (mention your institutional affiliation and principle research area).