Workshops and Conferences


Hi all,

I am a new phd student and have come back to education after a considerably long time. I've heard of workshops and conferences and was wondering if someone could provide a short explanation of their differences? Am I right in saying conferences are generally larger gatherings, and on an international scale? Whereas workshops are smaller and tend to focus on a certain specific topic for a few days?

If I attend a workshop what would I typically expect to see or do, compared to a conference?

I was told to look into workshops that are close by and relevant to my topic, is there any central registry that I should be looking at to find a workshop? How do people generally go about looking for relevant workshops in their areas, is it simply word of mouth?


Hey Rockstar! I think I would describe the difference in terms of the workshop being more centred on mutual learning and more participative. Usually for a workshop it is a roundtable discussion where everyone contributes in order to get a discussion going on the subject. However with a conference (just my opinion) I think it is more about the self recognition or self gratification of the presenters where they give their paper in their own specific topic and this is for the rewards they get. Don't get me wrong, I give papers too, but what I am saying is that, often if I just 'attend' a conference I don't get much out of them work wise often (if your interested in the business of net working that would be a different matter) whereas you can potentially gain a lot in terms of ideas from a workshop. So I would say if your going to present a paper go to the conferences but as for just attending them, often I would give them a miss in favour of a workshop. In saying that, it depends on the nature of the conference and also the availability of workshops in your field and area as often conferences may be the only option. I hope that helps!


Hi Rockstar,

In my experience conferences are events usually lasting at least one day where people present papers and/or posters about their research. Workshops tend to be smaller and have a combination of presentations and discussion or just discussion. Having said that 'workshop' is a bit of an unhelpful term as it can cover everything from mini-conferences on a very specific theme to more general discussion groups. Some good places to start to look for conferences are if your field has any professional bodies (I can only speak for my own area, politics, but we have things like the Political Studies Association, International Political Studies Association etc). You can join these bodies as a student and receive updates on conferences, research etc but they usually have websites where you can find that sort of stuff for free.

Another option is to join a relevant mailing list. If you go to there is a 'find lists' column down the right hand side of the page - search for your field and a whole bunch of options will come up for mailing lists you can join. Again, I am on a 'British politics' list and an 'Interpretation and methods' list - people use them to have debates via email but they are a great way of finding out when conferences and workshops are happening. Might be a good idea to set up a specific folder in your email which they will be diverted to because sometimes you do get a bit bombarded with emails!

Also sometimes conferences are advertised in journals, particularly if they are the annual conference in a particular field.

As for smaller workshops, if you know of a particular university or research centre in your field which does relevant stuff, check their website regularly and join an email alert list if possible because they will often post details of workshops and conferences on there before they are more widely advertised.

professional bodies


Sorry don't know why it randomly says "professional bodies" at the end of my post!


Hey Mm and Heifer, thanks a lot for your prompt responses, I've got a much better picture of them in my mind now.



I think workshops are more useful to learn, participate and (aggghhh!) network in.

Mailing lists are a good way to hear about these events - just google '(subject) mailing list'.