Guidelines for Section & Working Group Heads, Session Chairs & Discussants

Guidelines for Section and Working Group Heads

This page contains information for Section Heads and Working Group Chairs. The links provide information on how to organize different types of sessions for the Annual Conference, information on proposal review processes, and tips for running sessions. Please remember these are suggested guidelines intended to be helpful on a voluntary basis; they are not strict rules. Section Heads and Working Group Chairs are encouraged to refer individuals members to the Scholarly Review Committee’s Guidelines for Scholars/Presenters in Calls for Papers and/or in the letters of acceptance to authors.

Note about Conference Attendance

The problem of no-shows, i.e. scholars whose work was accepted and scheduled for presentation but who do not present, is a serious one.  The Scholarly Review Committee encourages Section Heads and Working Group Chairs to note those who did not attend and did not make efforts to contact session chairs to make arrangements.  It may be useful to communicate the Association’s disappointment following the annual conference, noting that attendance is vital to the success of panels and the building of the IAMCR community.  Furthermore, lack of attendance may be taken into account when scheduling papers in future conferences at the discretion of individual Section Heads and Working Group Chairs. On a proactive basis, it is possible to significantly reduce no-shows by communicating repeatedly with the authors of accepted abstracts, asking them to promptly notify the SWG head if unable to attend. At least one Section has reduced no-shows to zero by sending such an email multiple times during the lead up to the annual conference.

Session Types

The majority of IAMCR scholarly presentations take place in Paper Presentation Sessions.  However, Sections and Working Groups are encouraged to consider alternative formats to facilitate scholarly exchange.  A number of kinds of sessions are briefly described, highlighting how each type of session can give scholars the best opportunities to showcase their work. Click here to review some different kinds of sessions.

Review Processes

Sections and Working Groups at IAMCR vary in the way that paper proposals are solicited and reviewed.  This section indicates the various methods used.  Individual scholars may wish to contact the Section Head or Working Group Chair to learn which method is being employed. Click here to review some different kinds of review processes.

Tips for Session Chairs and Discussants

Session chairs and discussants play an important role in conferences. They ensure that sessions run smoothly, highlight scholarship, and encourage discussion. A well run session can often lead to scholarly discussion outside the conference. Click here to review some tips.

Session Types

Paper Presentation Session

A traditional paper presentation session consists of 4-5 presenters, who each receive 12-15 minutes to present their research, followed by a review by a discussant, and then general questions and answers with all session participants. Paper panels are facilitated by a chair, who is responsible for introducing the speakers, keeping time, and managing the question and answer section. The discussant of a paper session provides a quick critique of all of the papers presented, connecting them to the theme of the panel. Not all paper sessions have a discussant, but having one is encouraged. Though not optimal, the discussant and the chair are sometimes the same person. In such situations, it is best for the session chair to have someone else facilitate during the discussion.

High Intensity Session

High intensity sessions are similar to regular paper presentations, but instead of 4-5 presenters, they have 6-8 presenters (5-7 minutes each). High intensity sessions are sometimes employed when a particular theme or topic has attracted widespread interest amongst conference submissions. With limited time and space, sometimes it is necessary to have a single high intensity session, rather than splitting the theme into two sessions. This way, scholars also have a better opportunity to hear about each others' work and to meet one another. The sessions can either include time for discussion and Q&A facilitated by the chair, or they can move to mini-breakout sessions—in the same room—with audience members meeting with individual presenters.

Poster Session

The IAMCR employs poster sessions for the presentation of individual works on a regular basis, along with a variety of other presentation formats including high intensity sessions, dual-sponsored panels, and other. Thus, poster sessions are designed to enhance the quality of scholarly exchange within the association overall and to include work whose quality is equal to that of all other papers and presentation formats. Poster session papers are reviewed just as are paper presentation session papers. They are scored for quality in the same way and rated as well as other papers. They receive critical comment during poster sessions just as do paneled papers. Papers are selected for poster presentation due to their unique attributes, and are not selected in any way due to perceived lower quality. Finally, poster sessions are highlighted in conference programs. Scholars whose work is selected for the presentation in a poster session are as deserving of travel support in the same manner as all other presenters.


A Roundtable is an invitation-based session. These sessions focus on a specific topic, or scholarly work, and feature a selection of scholars (established and emerging) who engage in a discussion. These sessions can be done in various forms. For example, a group of scholars may come together, having written about the same topic, opening up a discussion about different approaches to the same issue. Another method could be simply a group of scholars providing commentary and discussion about a central theme or issue. A Q&A with participants may or may not occur.


Workshops are subject focused sessions that provide participants the opportunity to gain knowledge and learn skills together. This can range from professional development topics, such as teaching strategies, to timely theoretical topics. Presenters of workshops can lead participants through different interactive activities, including discussions, hands-on-activities, simulations, demonstrations, and exploration and application of models. Workshops should still have a chair/organizer and presenters can be either invited or vetted through the review process. They can be led by a single presenter, or have multiple presenters providing different perspectives on the same topic. Ideally, there is time dedicated to discussion and Q&A.

Review Processes

For a number of reasons, few IAMCR Sections or Working Groups review full papers.  Therefore, paper submissions usually take the form of an abstract or extended abstract.  Nevertheless, paper proposal abstracts are reviewed for quality and relevance to Sections and Working Groups.  It is normally expected that full papers will be prepared for the conference and forwarded to discussants an appropriate period of time ahead of the conference.  

Blind Review

A blind review is where submissions are reviewed by reviewers who do not know the name of the author(s) (files have had identifying information removed). Submissions are scored based upon academic criteria set by the Sections and Working Groups. Selection is based upon the scores and comments only, and sessions are constructed based on the submissions selected.

Section and Working Group Officers Review

This form of review is conducted by Section and Working Group officers. Submissions are reviewed either mostly blindly or not. The criteria for the submissions are determined by the officers in committee. The selections can be based upon scores (as in blind review), or through discussions as a committee. It is possible to have themes in mind beforehand and selections based upon these themes.

Section and Working Group Head Review

The chair (or co-chairs) of a Section or Working Group makes the selections. Abstracts are selected based on academic standards and the themes of the group. Reviewing is not blind.

Tips for Session Chairs and Discussants


The primary role of the session chair is to communicate with presenters. This includes ensuring that before the conference, presenters are aware that their submissions have been accepted and of the structure of the session (i.e. time limits). The chair also ensures that final papers are submitted to the discussant before the conference. The chair is also the primary contact for presenters, in case of absences or general questions.

At the conference, the chair facilitates the session. This includes introducing the panel and the individual presenters. One important task during the session for a chair is to keep time. Allowing presenters or the discussant more time than what is allotted is disrespectful to the other presenters and to the audience, as this cuts into the time for Q&A. During the Q&A, the chair should facilitate the discussion.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Make time-keeping signs beforehand. Make them large and clear - this will ensure that presenters see them.
  • Chairs should try to keep a speakers' list during the Q&A if possible. It is good to allow some free discussion, but it is important to ensure that different points are addressed during the session. It is possible for people to continue conversations after the session.
  • It is important that chairs remember to mention and thank the sponsoring Section or Working Group and to encourage session participants to attend other similar sessions and social events sponsored by the same group(s).


Discussants speak briefly after all of the presenters. During this time (7-10 minutes), the discussant should critically engage with the papers presented and if possible connect them together through the theme of the session. The discussant provides constructive feedback to presenters, and raises questions to be explored during the Q&A.

The discussant should read all the papers before the session. The feedback given does not need to highlight a "best" paper. Instead, the discussant should give each of the papers positive feedback and constructive criticisms.