A network of black wires ascending in a polygon formation into the sky.

A few months ago, Matthew Hayes tweeted the following at me:



What I love about my conversations with Matthew is that his questions always make me think about the insider knowledge that I have about how the historical profession works.  While I ended up answering Matthew on Twitter, along with help from the equally awesome Keith Grant and Tina Adcock, I thought that this topic definitely merited a blog post. When this question came up again last week on Facebook, I knew that I needed to get on this quick. So that’s what we’re going to talk about: CFPs and where to find them!


Quick note: while I am speaking specifically in reference to Canadian history, these guidelines apply no matter what field you are in!


OMG, WTH is a CFP?

Aren’t acronyms fun? 😉 CFP stands for “Call for Papers” or “Call for Proposal.” It’s a shorthand that is used by most academics when they are trying to solicit article or paper proposals from an academic community. You’ll most often see them in connection with academic conferences, edited collections, journal special issues, and prizes.


Academic Conferences

Academic conferences are exactly what they sound like: conferences for academics. They’re just like those industry or hobby conferences you might be familiar with. With academic conferences, as with most conferences, individuals or groups that belong to a particular historical association will get together on an annual or biannual basis in order to tell each other about their latest research. While the scientific and medical communities are most well known for this, particularly since this is when new research findings or surgical techniques might be discussed, historians (and other humanities scholars) do basically the same thing. Most of the time, these presentations are opportunities for scholars to test-drive their latest research and see what other scholars in similar fields think of their work.

When conference organizers decide to get together and put on a conference, they will put out a CFP, asking people to apply to present their research. Since there are usually many more potential presenters than there are spots, only the best papers are selected.

Conference CFPs follow a basic format:

  • What, When, and Where the Conference is
  • A description of the overall conference theme, usually including “big questions”
    1. This often includes a list of topics that the conference organizers are most interested in
  • Paper and Panel Submission Information
    1. For individual papers, this usually includes a proposal (around 250 words) and a one-page CV
    2. For panels, this includes all of the paper proposals, plus a short description of the unifying theme of the panel, plus one-page CVs for all the participants
  • The deadline to apply

Seriously, it’s practically a mathematical formula. Here’s the latest one from the Canadian Historical Association just to give you a real example.


Expert Tip: The Canadian Historical Association, mostly known as the CHA, is the official professional association for all Canadian historians. In this case, Canadian historians refers to a historian who happens to be Canadian or anyone who studies Canadian history. If you want to find out more about the CHA, what it does, and how to become a member, go here.


I’m not going to go over the basics of writing paper or panel proposals, since that it a whole topic by itself, and the fabulous and very wise Karen Kelsky did that back in 2011.


Edited Collections

When you see an academic refer to an edited collection, or an edited volume, what they are referring to are book manuscripts where the individual chapters (or articles) are written by different scholars. They are usually on some kind of theme, and are collected together by the collection’s editor or editors. Edited collections are one of the two main types of scholarly publications that take the form of a book (the other being the monograph, which is has a single author or a small group of authors writing together on the same topic).

Edited collections often start out as an idea in the mind of the editor(s), who will often then put together a CFP to elicit those individual articles from the academic community. They basically follow the same format as CFPs for conferences.

  • Title of the collection and its editors
  • A description of the proposed book(s)
  • The specific kinds of articles they are looking for
  • Proposal submission information
    1. Usually a short proposal of 500 words or one page single-spaced, along with a short CV
  • The deadline for final submission of the chapters and approximate length
  • The projected date for submission of the entire collection to a publisher.

Here’s one for a book that I totally need to read.


Journal Special Issues

There is one final common CFP that you might run across, and those are for special issues of scholarly journals. Most of the time, academic journals publish articles together based on when they are accepted. Issues generally don’t have a particular theme. But once in a while, a group of people get together and propose a special issue of a journal that is devoted to a particular theme. These are less common than the other CFPs that I mentioned, but you will still come across them.

These also follow the same basic format

  • Title of the special issue, the journal, and its editors
  • The theme of the special issue, and the specific types of papers they are looking for
  • Proposal submission guidelines
    1. These usually include an abstract/proposal of around 500 words and either a one-page CV or a short biography.
  • The deadline to apply
  • The deadline for submitting the full articles
  • Projected appearance of the special issue.

Here’s a real one, to compare.



These kinds of CFPs are a little different, and usually only appear once a year. Most academic associations, like the CHA, give out a number of prizes each year in recognition of outstanding work by its members. Think the SAG awards, but less glamorous. 😉 Sometimes these are advertised as Call for Submission or Calls for Nominations, since you’re not really proposing a paper. These CFPs invite scholars to nominate themselves (yes, you can do this) or others to particular prizes. Here’s the standard format:

  • A short description and history of the prize
  • A description of exactly the kind of work they are looking for, including specific criteria that the prize committee are looking for
  • How to submit a nomination
  • The deadline and contact information

And here’s a real one.

As you can see, these are all variations on a theme (insert joke about academics, a lack of creativity, being stuck in the past, liking routines, etc… here). So, now that you know what they are, where do you find them?


Where to Find CFPs

CFPs will usually appear on

  • academic listservs
  • association websites
  • social media
  • blogs
  • word of mouth

Let’s go through these one at a time


Academic Listservs – Yes, they do still exist

Before you start laughing about the fact that anyone still uses listservs anymore (so five minutes ago), you should know that the bulk of communication that happens in the academic community happens through listservs, at least in the humanities. They are used to advertise jobs, grants, new publications, CFPs and more, and they also serve as a public(ish) forum for academics to solicit information or advice from other academics all over the world.

When it comes to the humanities, the only one that matters is H-Net (also known as H-Net Commons). While they officially call it a “content management platform,” most people simply use it as a listserv.

Expert Tip: The H stands for Humanities and Social Sciences, and Net stands for the internet. Fancy, huh?

The actual website offers a ton of services and does all kinds of fancy things, but I don’t know a single person who uses any of those features. I’m not even really sure how most of them work. That’s because H-Net is divided into different networks/communities/channels/whatever you want to call them. There are over 180 individual communities, and you can see them all here. Each network is run completely independently by a small group of editors. Some groups are closed and require an application to join, while others are completely open. But they are all completely free to use. Since each network operates differently, there is no way for me to cover all of them. So I’m just going to stick to the most important, since this is a Canadian history blog: H-Canada.

This is where pretty much everything gets posted. Once you join, you will receive a regular email (you decide how often you want to get it) directly to your inbox with all of the latest “discussions” or posts.

That’s pretty much it, unless you want to post your own CFPs, which is outside the scope of this blog post. H-Canada is relatively quiet, and is usually only updated every two weeks (under ideal conditions). But if you are in the field of Canadian history, you need to be on this listserv. Go now. Seriously. And don’t forget to sign up to other networks that are related to your research. For instance, I also subscribe to H-Oral History, H-Women and H-Sexuality.


Association Websites

These days, most conferences are organized either by professional associations or university departments or institutes. Accordingly, they will post their CFPs on their websites. However, for the most part, unless you are religiously checking all of these (and there are a lot), you will likely miss things. Which is why H-Net is so great. But there are a few others to keep an eye out for:

  • The CHA website will frequently post information about CFPs that are sent to them on their news page (here), along with conference announcements, scholarships, prizes, etc… But since they almost always post the same information on their Facebook and Twitter pages, it’s up to you how you want to get your information.
  • While the CHA is the flagship organization for Canadian history, there are a number of smaller committees that are devoted to particular subjects. For the most part, these committees aren’t terribly active online, but most run websites and social media accounts where you can sometimes find information about upcoming conferences or edited collections. Some of them also organize individual conferences, and run their own listservs as well. I highly recommend the Canadian Committee on Women’s History, but I’m biased. 😉
  • The Canadian Studies Network (CSN) is an independent organization affiliated with the International Council for Canadian Studies. The CSN operates much like a clearing house and resource centre for all things related to the field of Canadian Studies. In addition to posting information on jobs and various Canadian Studies programs, they also collect together conference CFPs and Calls for Submission for prizes and awards for anything related to the field of Canadian Studies. This often includes Canadian history. Generally speaking, the CSN is the most comprehensive resource for conference and prize calls, though since it is not specific to Canadian history, you will have to wade through lots of stuff that isn’t relevant.


Social Media

Aside from H-Net, social media will be your best source of information about CFPs.

On Twitter, the best sources for Canadian history are:

Other accounts that occasional post things of interest to Canadian historians are:

CFPs aren’t as common on Facebook, but occasionally these will be posted on the following accounts:

Sensing a theme here?



Blogs that are run by academic associations or networks often post CFPs. The only problem with this is that you have to be monitoring their blogs in order to be informed of new CFPs.

  • Odds are that you are already familiar with the Network in Canadian History and Environment as it is a fantastic blog dedicated to Canadian environmental history. But in addition to regular blog posts, they frequently post CFPs relating to environmental history, both domestically and internationally.


Word of Mouth

Trust me, if someone you know is looking for papers, or knows someone who is, you’ll know. 😉


CFPs on Unwritten Histories

So when I first started Unwritten Histories, I had to make a decision about whether or not to include CFPs in the roundup. I initially decided against including them, simply because I felt that it wasn’t really part of my purview. However, following my survey from several months ago, it became clear that many of my lovely readers felt differently. So I began including them in a separate section in the roundup. However, I was concerned about how useful this was, since most people only read the current roundup. So when my lovely editorial assistant, Stephanie Pettigrew, suggested that we start a collection of CFPs, I knew we had our solution. So, starting this week, Unwritten Histories will be maintaining a list of active CFPs relating to Canadian history. You can find the link at the top of the page, or you can check out the list here. Stephanie Pettigrew will be maintaining this list, and you can find her contact information there as well.


That’s all for this week! I hope you enjoyed this latest blog post. If you did, please consider sharing it on the social media platform of your choice. And don’t forget to check back on Sunday for a brand new Canadian history roundup! I’ll see you then!

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