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Conference Proceedings and Papers Guide

Techniques for locating conference proceedings, papers, and presentations.

What are conference proceedings?  A conference proceeding is the published record of a conference of an association, society, or group. These published records take a multitude of forms.  Some are simply lists of papers and/or posters presented along with the schedule of the conference, some contain abstracts only, and some contain full-text versions of the papers presented. 

Conferences go by many different names. Here are a few synonyms:

  • Symposium
  • Seminar
  • Forum
  • Congress
  • Convention
  • Colloquium
  • Panel
  • Meeting
  • Workshop
  • Roundtable


Why consult conference proceedings? 

Conference proceedings can help you discover not only what current (or previous) research is being conducted in a particular field, but also who is researching it and where they are conducting that research. Conference proceedings are an important part of any comprehensive literature review.

Why are they so hard to locate?

There are many reasons that go into making conference proceedings difficult to find. 

  • Complete proceedings are not always published. Sometimes "select" papers from a conference will be published in books, journals, or series instead. Abstracts, extended abstracts, digests of papers, and invited papers are examples of what may be published in lieu of complete proceedings.
  • Proceedings are not always published for public consumption.  Conferences that are sponsored by private companies or professional associations often send proceedings to members but do not release them to the public.  40% of the time NOTHING is published. 
  • Some may be published annually and treated like a journal, some may only be held once and treated more like a book. How they are published will impact how they appear in a catalog search.  
  • To further complicate the issue, many conference proceedings are not published at all. 
  • Remember if you have any difficulty in locating a proceeding or paper, please ask a librarian for help. 

Proceed with caution!

 It is important to remember that the papers presented at conferences are considered working papers. Although they have followed a set review process and have been accepted, they are not always peer-reviewed.  Before citing conference proceedings beyond a literature review, it is important to assess the quality of the conference.  Consider the history or longevity of the conference, the credentials of the conference committee members, the relationship to industry, and the impact of previous papers through citation counts when deciding how to use proceedings.