Why You Should Present Your History Research in Public

The UMass Lowell Department of History encourages students taking upper-level courses in history to present their papers publicly at one of the spring conferences for student research, which take place annually in April. They include the following:

What does it mean to present a paper at a conference?

  • A conference presentation will usually be based on a paper you have written for a course, one anywhere between roughly five and 12 pages in length. It will most often be a part of a panel containing two or more other students/papers, as well as a student or faculty commentator, and an audience.
  • The presentation itself can involve actually reading the paper aloud, or departing from the written text to give a briefer overview of the paper’s argument and elaborate particular points. Presentations can also incorporate projected images and PowerPoint for illustration as well. After all the papers have been presented, the commentator will make remarks about the papers and raise questions, before turning to the audience for its comments and questions.
  • Ideally, a history paper delivered at a conference will contain both primary and secondary source research and will aim at making an original contribution to knowledge of the subject in question. Alternately, it will raise a question that the author feels has been insufficiently researched and discussed in existing scholarship.

Why would I want to present a paper at a conference?

  • Presenting a paper at a conference can be a richly rewarding personal experience, as it involves formal public speaking, direct engagement of your and others’ ideas, and careful advance preparation. Conference presentation will significantly boost your intellectual and personal confidence and make public speaking far easier in the future.
  • Presenting also provides you with an impressive credential that you can use in resumes, job interviews and graduate school applications. Many jobs require public presentations, and for prospective teachers in particular, conferences are a chance to try out what you will be doing regularly in your job.

How do I go about submitting a paper to a conference?

  • The process begins of course with your writing a paper as you normally would for a course. Your professor may, in reading and grading your paper, propose submitting it to a conference, either as is or with recommended revisions. You can also signal to your professor your own interest in having a paper be considered for a conference.
  • Once you’ve decided you want to participate in a conference, establish a schedule with your professor for revising the paper and readying it for presentation. You will want to ask your professor for advice throughout the process, as he or she is most likely very experienced in public presentation in academic settings, and so will be able to provide useful suggestions.
  • Contact yourself or have your professor contact the conference organizer to signal your intention to submit a paper for the conference you want to attend. Take note of the deadlines for submission, as they will usually fall approximately a month before the conference itself.
  • The contact information for the conferences is as follows:

Student History Conferences at UMass Lowell

The History Department at UMass Lowell strongly encourages all students to consider presenting research results in public. Below is a list of conferences suitable for student attendance or participation.

2Phi Alpha Theta

Phi Alpha Theta is a national history honor society that holds a national conference every year in January (at the AHA) and a regional conference every April, including one in New England. For more information, please visit: http://www.phialphatheta.org/ or contact the UML Faculty Advisor for Phi Alpha Theta (Prof. Chandler).

Art History Club Symposium

The Art History Club usually sponsors a small conference once each semester. Topics generally focus on Art History and include two to four panels. 

4Gender Studies Symposium

The Gender Studies program began hosting its own conference ca. 2005. It is consciously interdisciplinary, drawing from History, English, Sociology, Psychology, etc. Students and faculty are both invited to participate. The conference traditionally meets in the Spring each year. For more information, contact the Gender Studies Director, Prof. Christa Hodapp (Christa_Hodapp@uml.edu), or visit the Gender Studies website.

StudentStudent Research Symposium

The Student Research Symposium at UMass Lowell is held every year in late April. Students in health, engineering, management, and sciences are invited to submit poster sessions for the event. Students in the humanities (including History) are invited to submit papers for panel presentations. Often 100+ students participate, so this is the largest event of its kind on campus. 

Massachusetts Undergraduate Research ConferenceConference (Honors Program)

This conference is targeted at Honors students but open to others too. Traditionally held at UMass Amherst in late April or early May, it is a prestigious opportunity to share your research with students from across Massachusetts. 

Many other opportunities exist too, such as the New England Historical Association (NEHA) and the many specific historical organizations (e.g., Eighteenth-Century Studies, Renaissance Society of America, Organization of American Historians, etc.) which hold annual conferences at different times and locales.