Session Formats and Role Descriptions

Session Formats  |  Professional Development Roundtables  |  Role Descriptions



Please note: Revisions for the 2018 conference are coming soon!

Session Formats 

Session formats for 2017 include (1) Panel, (2) Lightning Talk, (3) Poster, (4) Lecture, (5) Roundtable, (6) Junior Scholar Symposium, and (7) working group. Each format is described in detail below.

(1) Panel. Four to five papers are represented on a panel, which also includes a Chair and one or two discussants. The chair introduces the panel, each author, and the discussant(s), manages the time for each presentation, and insures that the discussion is polite and productive. Each author presents an abbreviated version of his or her paper. The program will list the exact time for each paper to be presented, the times for discussants to speak, and the time for questions from the audience. Click here for presentation guidelines.  

- If you are presenting a paper on a PANEL, you must upload the paper to the MPSA website (.pdf, .doc, .docx) two weeks before the conference so the discussants may read it. You may alss upload your PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx). More than half of the conference attendees report that they use these to decide which session to attend.


(2) Lightning Talk.
 During a Lightning Talk, six to eight papers are presented using brief PowerPoint presentations (six-minute maximum). After each presentation, there will be two minutes of Q&A. At the conclusion of the presentations, there can be more extensive Q&A about any of the papers. The Chair will keep the presentations to the exact time limit, so presenters need to have their presentation rehearsed in advance. Each participant is expected to read the other papers on the session, and provide comments on one of them. The PowerPoint and paper needs to be provided to the Chair two weeks before the conference and the presenter should bring the PowerPoint on a thumbdrive.

- If you are presenting on a Lightning Talk, please prepare the following to upload to the MPSA website: (Research Paper (.pdf, .doc, .docx), (2) PowerPoint file to be used during presentation (.ppt or .pptx).


(3) Subfield - Poster. 
Up to eight posters are included in a poster session, which will also include a discussant. Poster sessions are held in the exhibit hall. Each presenter is assigned to an 8' wide by 4' high numbered display panel. Attendees have the opportunity to walk through and view the poster displays throughout the day. Click here for guidelines for presenting a poster. 

- If you are presenting a POSTER, please prepare the following to upload to the MPSA website: (1) Research Paper (.pdf, .doc, .docx); (2) Poster.


(4) Lecture.
 These are talks given by a single individual, and two will take place during a regular session. Each talk will be about 20 minutes long, followed by 10 minutes of question and answer. The selection of lectures is at the discretion of the section head. You will need to bring your PowerPoint on a thumbdrive.

- If you are presenting a LECTURE, please upload: (1) Research Paper (.pdf), (2) the PowerPoint (.ppt or .pptx).


(5) Roundtable. 
Roundtables provide in-depth examinations of specific topics, projects, or books (e.g., author meets critics or book reviews). Four to eight panelists participate in a roundtable, which may include a chair who introduces the panelists and provides a substantive introduction to the topic. The focus is on the discussion and interaction among panelists. Examples would include: Author-meets-critics sessions, professional development sessions, etc.

-        Participants do not need to prepare papers, though PowerPoint presentations are encouraged and they can be uploaded to the MPSA website.


(6) Junior Scholar Symposium (JSS). 
Attendance is by invitation only. 
The Junior Scholar Symposium (JSS) is a unique opportunity for graduate students to discuss and get detailed feedback on their research and participants rate these sessions the highest.  Each JSS has four or five advanced graduate students, and one or two senior scholars. There is no audience and everyone on the panel will have read the papers in advance, so each presentation is brief (two minutes) and the bulk of the time is spent discussing the research.  Up to eight JSS will take place at the same time in a large ballroom. Because there is no audience, no audio-visual is needed (or allowed). See animated video below for a detailed example.

- Participants for a JUNIOR SCHOLAR SYMPOSIUM, must upload their Research Paper (.pdf, .doc, .docx) to the MPSA website about two weeks before the conference so the other people on their session can provide feedback.


(7) Working Group. 
A working group is a conference within a conference. Participants commit to attend a small group of related or organized sessions. A volunteer coordinator for each working group proposes a theme, selects and/or organizes sessions for the group to attend, promotes the working group, and facilitates communication among participants. A working group consists of up to 15 participants. A working group may meet before and after a session(s) or during lunch for additional discussion and interaction.


Professional Development Roundtable Instructions


Thanks again for participating on the Professional Development Roundtables at the next MPSA Conference. These career development sessions are very popular and fill an important role for junior scholars.

We arrived at the initial list of professional development topics by surveying members and conference attendees and looking at the types of sessions presented by other social science associations. In addition, we have several roundtables that are organized and submitted by conference attendees.

The Chair of each roundtable will also be a participant, and each session should have between four and six participants. The complete listing of all participants will be available on the MPSA website after the time of the sessions are scheduled in late January.  In late February, the Chair of each roundtable should contact the other participants so they can discuss the general points that each person is planning to cover.  This will help minimize the overlap between the presenters.   There can be a number questions from the audience, so the chair should make sure that there is twenty minutes for discussion.

In the past, we have had members and attendees ask for copies of any PowerPoint presentations used, so for 2018, roundtable participants will have the option to upload their PowerPoints to the MPSA website. In addition, many of these roundtables will be digitally recorded, which will allow us to make audio recordings (podcasts) available on the MPSA website after the conference. We only record a speaker on a session if we have that person’s permission.




Role Descriptions 

The Role of Panel Chair - The chair is responsible for introducing each paper and the authors as well as the discussant(s). The chair is also responsible for managing the time for each presentation, making sure no author exceeds his or her assigned time slot on the program, and ensures that the discussion is polite and productive. Please allow an equal amount of time for each presenter (if 5 presenters, 10 minutes; if 4 presenters, 12 minutes; if 3 presenters, 15 minutes), followed by 20 minutes for comments from all discussants, and 15 minutes for audience discussion. Chairs are responsible for recommending papers to the MPSA office for awards (www.MPSAnet.org/awards). Section heads will assign one of the discussants on the panel to also fill the role of the chair during the session. Chairs will be assigned before the conference program goes to print.


The Role of Panel Discussant
 - One or two discussants are assigned to each panel, and the paper authors will provide a copy of the paper in advance for the discussants to read. If there are two discussants and more than four papers, they may want to divide the papers each paper receives comments from only one discussant. Discussants provide feedback pointing out both the strengths and areas of improvement. Discussants also may place the research in a broader context and discuss trends and themes. Discussants may recommend papers to the MPSA office for awards (www.MPSAnet.org/awards).


The Role of JSS Discussant 
- One or two discussants are assigned to each Junior Scholar Symposium and the paper authors will provide a copy of the paper in advance for the discussants and other authors on that JSS session so they are familiar with the research. All attendees will have read each paper in advance, each presenter will provide only a two-minute overview before it opens up to a broader conversation about their specific paper and research agenda.  Because there is no general audience, the discussants play a crucial role in providing the authors with feedback. In addition to the comments typical in a panel, JSS Discussants may want to discuss publication outlets for this type of research and ways to expand the line of research. Serving as a JSS Discussant requires more preparation than serving as a Panel Discussant. Attendance is by invitation only to allow for detailed and productive conversations with the junior scholars. As discussant, if you have a colleague who you might wish to invite because of his or her expertise and interest in the topic, and their skill in providing productive feedback, please feel free to do so.  JSS Discussants may recommend papers to the MPSA office for awards (www.MPSAnet.org/awards).


The Role of Poster Discussant 
- One or two discussants are assigned to Poster Session. The Poster Discussants should receive the paper in advance. They will walk through their assigned poster session, asking questions, providing feedback, and making suggestions. Because of the more relaxed nature, serving as a Poster Discussant is often seen as a bit easier than serving as a Panel Discussant. Discussants may recommend posters to the MPSA office for awards (www.MPSAnet.org/awards).


Troubleshooting Tips for Lightning Talk Chairs 
- During a Lightning Talk, six to eight papers are presented using brief PowerPoint presentations (six-minute maximum). It is very important for the chairs to keep all of the papers on time. After each presentation, there will be two minutes of Q&A. At the conclusion of the presentations, there can be more extensive Q&A about any of the papers. 

Updated 1/24/17