In a previous post I talked a little bit about listservs, or email lists, as valuable sources of up-to-date information on what’s going on in one’s professional and academic areas. I focused on listservs dealing with literary studies and the wider humanities, for the simple and obvious reason that these are my primary fields of research and interest, and this is my website after all. In case anyone missed listservs in STEM fields, then due to la demande présumée, here are a few:    .¹
So let’s start with getting a few things straight, to avoid anything Dunning-Kruger-y. It seems to be obvious, for example, what a CFP is, an abbreviation that generally stands for “call for papers,” but it may only be obvious to some and not to others. A CFP is probably the most common way of soliciting contributions (articles, book chapters, conference presentations etc., more on² this in a minute) from academics.
CFPs are usually issued by publishers and/or editors of journals, journal special issues and volumes as well as by organizers of conferences and workshops, it really depends on the event in question. In case of large-scale events, there may be multiple CFPs circulated: for example, the annual conference of ALA (American Literature Association) solicits presentations both through a general call for papers as well as through CFPs posted by individual member societies. CFPs usually follow a fairly standard structure, to provide potential contributors with key information they need.
As I mentioned already, there’s a huge variety of events and organizations that may want to attract scholarly contributions of different types. Besides the ones I list below, one may often find calls soliciting general articles for journals, nominations and submissions for prizes and grants etc. I’ll name only the two most common ones here.
Academic conferences and workshops
As it says on the tin, these are conferences and workshops for academics. Conferences tend to be bigger in scale, with more participants and usually with a broader range of subjects considered, whereas workshops are more focused on a specific issue, question or topic and are normally designed to allow a small number of participants engage in a more thorough discussion of that topic. Depending on the event, it may be down to the organizers to select and accept proposals (usually more proposals are received than there are presentation slots, so they need to be selective) or alternatively there may be a panel of selected experts who evaluate proposals and select the best ones for presentation.
Conference and workshop CFPs usually include:
- The title, date(s) and location(s) of the event, often amended with information on the organizers as well.
- A description of the general theme and rationale of the event. This normally includes a non-exclusive list of questions, issues and topics the organizers find particularly interesting and important. Of course, proposals addressing other topics that are however relevant to the overall theme still have an equal chance of being accepted.
- Paper submission information. For conferences, the usual requirement is a proposal (also know as ‘abstract’) of 250-300 words plus a short CV; in case of workshops, the organizers sometimes ask for extended abstracts of 500-1000 words, or even for the whole paper to be submitted up front so that it can be circulated to other participants in advance, thus allowing a more in-depth discussion of individual papers.
- Some conferences (especially large-scale annual ones) also accept proposals for panels. Panels are separate sessions at a conference, dedicated to discussing a particular subtopic of the overall conference theme, and normally consist of 3-5 papers on that narrower topic. A panel proposal usually includes a description of the subtopic to be explored, proposals for every contributed paper and the CVs for all participants.
- In many cases, conference/workshop CFPs also include the time allocated for delivering each paper so participants can plan their presentations accordingly. The time slots are usually given to accommodate the presentation itself, normally 15-30 minutes in length, as well as a Q&A session. The latter is generally around 5-15 minutes in the case of conferences but can be much longer (even up to an hour) in workshops.
- The deadline to submit proposals (and often the deadlines for registration).
- Ways of contacting the organizers.
I’ll give you a few examples: this is a CFP for a conference on steampunk and transnational cultures; this one is also for a conference, but here the organizers also invite creative works and demonstrations as well as academic presentations; and this one is for a workshop.
Edited collections & journal special issues
Edited collections are books compiled by one or more editors, in which each of the individual chapters are written by different academics. Such books are centered around a given topic and are normally published by university presses or other academic publishers. It is the editors of such volumes who select proposals to be developed into full chapters and included in the book.
CFPs for edited volumes and journal special issues normally include similar details as do the ones for conferences, with only a few changes:
- The title of the collection and the name(s) of its editor(s).
- A short description of the proposed book/special issue, the primary topics of interest and the rationale of the publication.
- The types of submissions sought (e.g. scholarly articles, creative writing, teaching resources etc.).
- Information on submitting proposals. Editors usually request a short abstract of 250-500 words, occasionally with references, as well as a brief bio statement from the author. In case of journal special issues, submissions are normally sent either through the usual submission channels of the journal or directly to the editor(s) via email; book chapter proposals are almost always sent via email.
- The deadline for submitting abstracts, the submission deadline for final drafts of chapters and the approximate length of chapters (in words).
- The projected publication date of the collection.
Here is an example of a CFP for an edited collection of essays, and this one is for a journal special issue. In this CFP, the editors are also seeking art and works of creative writing besides scholarly essays, while this one is interesting as it gives the approximate length of both abstracts and chapters in characters, not words. The reason? That book is to be edited by scholars from Germany, who (along with quite a few other continental European countries) tend to use the number of characters in a texts instead of the number of words to indicate its length.
CFPs @ UPenn – up-to-date, thematic, and relevant for folks like me, who are into literary studies (although by no means exclusively for us).
CFPList – this one is also updated very frequently and gives the option to narrow your search to certain specialist fields. You can also sort CFPs by submission deadlines and display events on a map.
H-Net – mainly geared toward people doing research within the social sciences and the humanities in general.
SPEP – official listing of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, with CFPs in fields such as philosophy, critical theory and literature.
ASLE – published by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, it is an up-to-date list of CFPs in this quickly emerging niche area.
L’Association française d’Etudes Américaines – maintained and updated by the French Association of American Studies, this website provides separate listings for conference and publication CFPs (a feature I love, as for budgeting reasons, I many times have to opt for gaining a publication credit instead of traveling to present at a conference).
Can think of something I missed? Can’t see something you were expecting to see? Let me know in the comments or drop a line.
I’ll hear you out now.