My university requires for PhD candidates to publish 1 journal paper + 2 conference papers in order to be able to proceed to the viva.

Recently, I submitted a paper to a symposium that has a proceeding with an ISBN. The proceeding, however, will not be published online (only a hard copy, but I found the citations of previous conference in google scholar). The paper is accepted and today is the deadline to pay the registration fees. Both the university direction and my supervisor did not respond to my emails, so I have to make the decision on my own.

My question is: can we call a symposium paper a conference paper? And is there any difference in terms of quality?

My domain is Project Management.

  • 7
    The most significant difference is that "symposium" is spelled with two Ss and no Es; whereas, "conference" is spelled with two Cs and three Es. Also, "symposium" derives from Greek ("drink together"); whereas, "conference" derives from Latin ("bring together").
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 15:27
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    Essentially the same thing. When you've done some reading round the literature in your area, you'll see which places people in your field tend to publish and pay attention to. It's those places you want to publish. Sometimes there are quite small events that attract really strong and brilliant work, but just within a much more specialised discipline than a large more generic conference. You and your supervisor should work out where the best places for you to publish are, not worrying about really generic university guidelines. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 15:50
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    I've never seen or heard someone refer to a paper as a "symposium paper", but everyone talks about "journal papers" and "conference papers". This tends to support the idea that it's equivalent to a paper, though I am not at all familiar with the field of Project Management so this observation may not be worth much to you.
    – BrianH
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


AFAIK, a symposium is essentially the same as a conference. I think it tends to suggest a somewhat smaller size, historically, but definitely bigger and more competitive than a workshop. For instance the ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles is one of the most competitive conferences in the computer systems field, and gets maybe 500-600 attendees these days. Some "conferences" get many thousands, though some get only 50-100 too.

Now, perhaps in other fields than computer science, there is a completely different definition, but if you have to pull the trigger, you should assume it is a conference and not a workshop.

Besides, you submitted the paper and they accepted it. It would be really poor form to pull out right now, even if somehow it didn't count toward your graduation. Didn't your advisor know you were submitting it, and think it was a good idea?

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    Thanks for your helpful answer. My supervisor is not helping me almost with anything, I am doing almost everything in my own. The reason why I need to make sure a symposium is the same as a conference is because of funding. The university pays for each PhD student to go to only one conference. I will edit my question to specify that my domain is project management. Thanks again
    – M20
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 15:02
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    That's too bad. Perhaps another faculty member can confirm for you, but otherwise, I would go with "it's a conference". Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 15:04
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    @M20 in that case, you need to go directly to your administration. Some coordinator, funding specialist, or similar should be able to get you such an answer directly, short of total program negligence. You can often call or visit them directly, or email it necessary - most dedicated admins are more prompt with email than professors, in general.
    – BrianH
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 4:52

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