September 2017
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Michael Karas, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada & Natalia Balyasnikova, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Each year, the TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo hosts the Doctoral Research Forum, which showcases new research ideas and fosters a culture of academic innovation in TESOL. Persistently high in demand, over the years, the forum has grown into a full day of presentations, poster displays, roundtable discussions, and informal events that bring together doctoral students from all over the world. Not only is the TESOL Doctoral Forum a great place to begin one’s journey as a researcher in TESOL, but it also provides an opportunity to engage with the association and build up a professional résumé.

There are four ways to participate in the forum: as a presenter, reviewer, volunteer, and, most recently, coordinator of the whole event.

As presenters, you can gain invaluable experience participating in academic conferences. This year, the forum has paper and poster presentation options. The 15-minute paper presentation option is a great way to present work in a welcoming and supportive environment surrounded by other graduates students. The 1-hour poster option is also helpful as there are dozens of poster presentations each year allowing graduate students to informally present their work and engage in conversations with fellow students and TESOL members. For novice presenters, it is an invaluable experience. This year, graduate students are invited to submit proposals for work that is in progress or recently completed. For work that is in progress, it is an excellent opportunity to receive feedback from others that can be very helpful for students’ projects.

As reviewers, you can learn the “nuts and bolts” of the often mystified evaluation and selection process for academic conferences. Every year, proposals undergo a blind peer-review evaluation. The process is similar to the main conference (and other academic conferences), and reviewers provide a valuable service to the forum. Furthermore, as reviewers, by taking on the role of evaluator, your own work is greatly enhanced as you can gain further understanding about what criteria are valued when submitting proposals for academic conferences.

As coordinators, we rely on the help of volunteers to make sure that the event-packed forum runs smoothly. Volunteers are needed to help with the registration and keeping time during the presentations. If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity for your vitae, the forum is a wonderful place to start. Volunteering is a great way to meet with fellow graduate students and TESOL leadership. This is also a great way to learn the ropes of conference planning!

For the past three years, graduate students have been managing many of the activities that make the Doctoral Research Forum a success. As coordinators, we work closely with the TESOL staff to develop and format the forum schedule. We reach out across the TESOL membership to promote the event and answer any queries. Right before the forum, we support the arrangements for forum keynote speakers, presenters, and attendees. This year, we are looking for PhD students to take over the coordination of the 2019–2020 forums.

The Doctoral Research Forum serves as a space for doctoral students to present their dissertation research to each other, established TESOL researchers, and language educators. Beyond that, the forum allows graduate students to discuss issues, challenges, and successes they face in their studies; gain leadership experience; and build up their résumés for the future. The forums have grown each year, and we hope this will continue.

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