The perfect call for papers

5 minute read

In order to collect submissions for your conference, you’ll need to send a call for papers (CFP) or call for abstracts. Here’s how to craft the perfect one.

Your call for papers is an email that will announce your conference and the start of submissions to researchers who might be interested in presenting. Since researchers receive hundreds of call for papers emails, you need to craft compelling content to maximise your chances of receiving submissions.

With the rise of virtual events, researchers and academics have more access to conferences than ever before. So, your call for papers needs to stand out. There’s already plenty of decisions to be made when organising a research conference (like the format you choose or the abstract management system you use). But don’t let these questions prevent you from crafting a clickable call for papers.

We’ve already discussed some rules to increase your open rate. In this article, we’ll give you some tips on what your call for papers should contain.

1. Conference Details

Your call for papers should immediately make it clear what the conference is about and who is organizing it. You need to provide certainty for your delegates, as many people are unsure whether they want to give up their cash and time to return to physical conferences. Your call for papers is likely to be one of the first contact points you’ll have with potential delegates. So, the key details of the conference should be the first thing recipients see:

  • Name of the conference (which should also be in the email subject line)
  • Conference dates and location (or virtual site)
  • Link to the conference website
  • Objectives & theme of the conference
  • List of topics
  • Names of committee members

If you have a rough idea about your conference schedule, or if you have plans for invited speakers, it would be well worth mentioning these, as any kind of special events (even social events), or guest lectures, could help attract potential authors and delegates. It’s also worth clarifying the timezone in which the conference will be running.

If your conference is partnered with an academic journal, or sponsored by an affiliate, these are all things that you may want to include in the call for papers.

And be sure to include links to your abstract management system, along with the format of your conference: physical, virtual, or hybrid. Delegates are planning to submit research to your conference. So, clarifying the format of their presentation will help here.

2. Submission Guidelines for your Call for Papers

Your call for papers should include any relevant guidelines and information. Here are some things delegates should know before they submit:

  • Deadline for submissions
  • Topics or themes that they can submit to
  • Formats they can choose for their submission (oral, paper, symposia…). If you have any special formats like workshops or panels, it would be a good idea to provide as much information as possible on how to submit to these.
  • Word limit
  • Important dates such as the notification of acceptance or the deadline for final paper submission

You might also want to include a policy for accepted papers. If your guidelines are too long, just include the link to the complete written guidelines page on your website.

Then you need to outline the process to submit a paper, or an abstract, to your conference and the guidelines involved.

Are you planning an academic conference? Request a quote for our award winning peer review platform. Click here.

3. Contact Details for your Conference Committee

Include the email address of the main contact person. This will ensure prospective authors can easily get an answer to their questions and that all the queries don’t end up in the wrong inbox. If the submission system you’re using has a communication centre to help you stay on top of your conference comms, use a generic email that your whole team should have access to through the system.

4. Legal Compliance

When sending a call for papers, you’ll need to check it’s compliant with data protection laws. GDPR, the EU’s new data protection law, came into effect on 25 May 2018 and applies to anyone who controls the personal data of others. Which means the email addresses on your conference mailing list. If you send your call for papers to researchers who haven’t given their consent to receive emails from you, your event will be in breach of GDPR, which could leave you at risk of being fined. So before you send your call for papers, make sure everyone on your mailing list has given their consent to receive emails about your conference. 

Find out more about GDPR for conference organisers here.

5. An Option Unsubscribe from Future Call for Papers

If you’re sending your call for papers as an email, don’t forget to provide a way for recipients to unsubscribe. If you use an email sender, this should be automatically added to all your emails. Otherwise, you should at least add something like “If you want to unsubscribe from this list, please send an email to [email address]”.

Some conference organisers are reluctant to make their email list smaller. But unwelcome emails only mean that those people don’t feel like a member of your community. So, it’s doing you no good to have them in there. Make your emails specific to your conference community and you’ll have a much more successful call for papers.

6. A Link to your Abstract Management Software

Screengrab of Ex Ordo abstract management software

And finally, even the perfect call for papers isn’t enough to guarantee your conference gets plenty of good-quality submissions. If you pair an effective call for papers with an abstract management system that frustrates would-be authors, it won’t matter how great your call for papers is, you’ll miss out on lots of submissions. So, make sure you include in your call for papers a link to your user-friendly abstract management software.

So many abstract management platforms are made by a single developer or are clunky systems that create stress for the researchers who are keen to submit to your conference. The system you use to manage your abstracts is one of the first places your delegates will interact with your conference. So, make the best possible impression on your community by taking your time and making the right decision on an abstract management system.


Plus, a call for papers template for you to use

Name of the conference
Date of the conference
Link to the conference website

It is a pleasure to invite you to <Conference Name>. The conference is organized by <Department & Organisation> and will take place in <Location/virtually> on <Conference Dates (including timezone)>.
<Brief history on your organisation/conference and why should recipients submit>.

The theme of <Conference Name> will be <Conference Theme>.

Topics of interest
<List of Topics>

Guide for authors
The deadline to submit abstracts is <Submission Deadline>.
To submit your abstract, please click on the following link: <Link to the abstract management system log in page or online conference form>.
<Insert any relevant information, guidelines and links>

Important Dates
Deadline for submission: < Deadline for submission>
Notification of acceptance: <Date of Notification of acceptance>
Deadline for final paper submission: < Deadline for final paper submission>

Organising committee:
<Roles and names of the organising committee>

For any enquiries regarding the programme, please contact: <Email Address>
For all general enquiries, please contact: <Email Address>

We look forward to seeing you at <Conference Name>

<Name of the Chair>


Your conference management software probably offers a service to send your call for papers. With Ex Ordo, you can send your CFP via the Communication Hub. The message header with the long name, the start and end dates of the conference and the submission URL will be automatically populated.
The email is then entirely customisable using macros to populate information directly from the system. Here is an example of what it could like:

Call for papers

Brian Campbell

Brian is a data-driven marketeer, and responsible for helping people find Ex Ordo. He works part-time as a lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and loves quizzing his students on the latest business trends and insights. Brian enjoys hanging out with his little nephews, and playing and watching sports. He also likes to keep a keen eye on the scholarly research space, and has co-organised an academic conference to boot.