Some Follow-Up Advice (From Someone Else!) To, “It’s Not On The Syllabus”

I want to begin this post by letting you know that I am profoundly touched and humbled and grateful for the insanely viral response my post about collegiality at conferences has spawned. Thus far, after less than 24 hours, the post has been viewed by over two thousand individuals in 17 different countries, and has been retweeted by many, many scholars. This response signifies to me one, very good thing: that there are many, many more of us who really care about collegiality and collaboration and want to make a difference for the better, than there are the other sort of academic. Maybe, as I optimistically suggested, this really is simply a case of people just not knowing or understanding those unwritten rules of conference etiquette.

Yet, as I told some friends of mine, “It [academic collegiality] is such a big topic. I just scratched the surface, really — there was so much more I could/wanted to write. But, I feel that if I have opened the door to an ongoing conversation, and more people really think about how their behavior affects others and what kind of scholar they want to be, and folks are discussing this and telling their own stories and being generous with their experiences, then this will have been a post successful well beyond my hopes.”

To contribute to furthering the conversation, I wanted to take a moment to share with you another, excellent post on the subject, which was brought to my attention during a lovely Twitter conversation yesterday. Although it was written well before my little offering on the matter, this post by Joanne Bailey, Isaac Land, Lorna M. Campbell and Steven Grayon published on Lorna M. Campbell’s professional blog is in many ways a natural sequel to the matter; they offer up advice for how to navigate the Q&A session. I include their opening statement below, followed by a link to the full post wherein is included the actual (extremely good!) advice. And of course, feel free to make your own suggestions and give your own nuggets of wisdom and advice in the comments section below!

The six best conference questions: Or, how not to paper-bomb at a conference

By Joanne Bailey, Isaac Land, Lorna M. Campbell and Steven Gray

Giving a conference paper can be a daunting and sometimes even an unpleasant experience, as Allan Johnson reminded us in his article in the Times Higher about the six conference questions every academic hears, and wishes they didn’t. They range from the helpful, to the ambush, to the direct attack. There are the well-intentioned, if condescending offerings: the ‘Courtesy Question’ and ‘The Tell-Us-What-You-Want Question.’ Then there are the conference versions of photo-bombing: ‘Talk-To-Me-Personally Question’ and ‘Wandering Statement’ where the questioner sticks their research in front of the speaker’s. Finally, the argumentative: ‘Obstinate Question’ and ‘Display of Superior Knowledge’.

Read on for descriptions and examples of the six types of questions these and many other seasons conference presenters really  wish you would ask:


About Melissa Ridley Elmes

Professor and writer; Unrepentant nerd; chaotic good. Author of Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems. PhD, MFA. She/hers. Views my own.
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2 Responses to Some Follow-Up Advice (From Someone Else!) To, “It’s Not On The Syllabus”

  1. City Girl at the Edge says:

    As someone who is beginning my M.A. program next fall, I find your advice helpful and indispensable. Thank you! Now to follow your link :)!

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