Preparing Your Paper

When your paper is accepted for a conference, you will receive an author kit with a Word template and a number of forms that you must submit with your manuscript.

Important Things to Remember

  • Commercialism. Material of a commercial nature is unacceptable in an SPE technical paper. Often, generic descriptions can replace trade names.
  • Plagiarism. Plagiarizing the work of others is unacceptable. If detected prior to presentation at a conference, your paper will be removed from the program. If detected after presentation, your paper will be removed from OnePetro and will no longer be acknowledged as a valid SPE paper.
  • Dual Submission/Publication. Papers accepted for an SPE conference must not have been accepted or presented elsewhere (including another SPE conference).


  • Avoid making claims not clearly supported by the data presented in the paper.
  • Define the audience before you begin writing. How you present your ideas depends largely on who is reading or listening.
  • Choose your words carefully, avoiding slang, overuse of abbreviations, and an excess of technical jargon. Use simple terminology and sentences that convey a single thought.
  • Organize your thoughts to point readers to a logical conclusion. Outline the topics you want to cover. Prepare a first draft, set it aside for a day, then go back and re-read it. Remove unnecessary words and phrases. Determine where you need to rewrite to improve readability. Try to think about what you are reading as if you had not been involved in the work – do the conclusions make sense based on the information presented?
  • Get an impartial opinion from someone who is not involved with the work, but who represents your prospective audience. Ask for specific suggestions on how to improve readability. If English is not your first language, it might be helpful to ask a native English speaker to review your paper.


Proper organization of the paper will lead the reader through your supporting data and theories to a logical conclusion. The following outline generally applies to SPE technical papers, regardless of subject matter, although not all sections will be needed for all papers:

  • Title. The title should be concise, attract attention, and highlight the main point of your paper. Be clear about the subject matter. Company names or abbreviations should not appear in the title.
  • Authors. Immediately below the title, list the full names and company affiliations of all authors. While SPE prefers the use of initials in the byline, authors can elect to use full names instead. Generally, the order of authors indicates the level of contribution to the paper, with the principal author listed first. If you or a co-author has written other SPE papers, formatting your name the same way as on the prior paper will make it easier for someone to find your papers in OnePetro. Where multiple authors are from the same company, do not repeat the company name each time, but only after the group of authors from that company. Below are two examples:
    • Michael Mayerhofer, Pinnacle Technologies; Lloyd Stutz, Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; and Eric Davis, and Steve Wolhart, Pinnacle Technologies
    • P. M. Snider, Marathon Oil Co.; I. C. Walton, Schlumberger; T. K. Skinner, Marathon Oil Co.; and D. C. Atwood, B. M. Grove, and C. Graham, Schlumberger
  • Abstract. Write an abstract of about 350 words to summarize the paper, stating significant new information and conclusions.
  • Introduction. Outline the problem and briefly explain the solution.
  • Statement of Theory and Definitions. Explain theory, define terms, describe test procedures used, and outline and problems peculiar to the subject.
  • Description and Application of Equipment and Processes. Tell how the equipment was used and how tests were conducted. Describe any unusual test procedure(s) and discuss the development of experimental equipment, with illustrations if possible. Evaluate the equipment and its applications.
  • Presentation of Data and Results. Present results in the clearest form, whether it is text, figures, or tables. Use the text to provide essential information on figures. Be sure to define all terms in the text and in figures and tables.
  • Conclusions. State directly and briefly your conclusions and the utility of these conclusions. All conclusions should be supported by data presented in the paper.
  • Acknowledgments. Briefly cite or acknowledge special help from individuals or organizations.
  • Nomenclature. If you use symbols, define them in a formal Nomenclature at the end of text. Symbols should conform to the SPE Symbols Standard and be listed alphabetically.
  • References. References should be listed in alphabetical order by the author's last name. In the text, please cite references in the text by placing the author's name and year in parentheses. [Note: this is a change from SPE's previous reference style, which required references to be numbered in the order in which they were cited.] Information should be as complete as possible and in the following order: 1) author's last names and initials; 2) year of publication; 3) title of paper or article without surrounding quotation marks, or title of book in italics; 4) publication in which the article appears in italics; 5) name of publisher and city where publisher is located (for books only); and 6) volume number in bold face, issue number followed by a colon, and starting and ending page numbers. Examples:
    • Reference to an article in a journal.
      Gidley, J. L., Penny, G. S., and McDaniel, R. R. 1995. Effect of Proppant Failure and Fines Migration on Conductivity of Propped Fractures. SPE Prod & Fac 10 (01): 20–25. SPE-24008-PA.
    • Reference to a book.
      Craft, B. C. and Hawkins, M. 1991. Applied Petroleum Reservoir Engineering, second edition. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
    • Reference to a conference paper.
      Omre, H., Solna, K., Tjelmeland, H. et al. 1990. Calcite Cementation: Description and Production Consequences. Presented at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans, 23–26 September. SPE-20607-MS.
  • Appendix. Use appendices for mathematical derivations and supporting material too detailed to include in the body of the paper. Designate multiple appendices as Appendix A, Appendix B, etc.
  • Tables. Tables should be used only if they present data more effectively than running text. All tables should be cited in the body of the paper. Number tables sequentially as they appear in the paper. In appendices, do not continue the numbering sequence from the body of the paper, but number tables by appendix and numeric sequence, i.e., Table A-­‐1, Table A-­‐ 2, Table B-­‐1, etc.
  • Figures. All figures should be cited in the body of the paper and should be numbered sequentially as described for tables above. The following guidelines are useful in preparing figures that convey your message clearly:
    1. Make figures as simple as possible. Remember that most people reading your paper will be viewing a black and white printout (even if you used color).
    2. Use horizontal orientation.
    3. Use only as many grid lines as necessary to illustrate your point.
    4. Although dual units (customary and SI metric units) are not required, you may want to present dual scales of measure on keys and axes.
    5. Provide brief but descriptive captions for all figures.
    6. Use a minimum of ordinate and abscissa values so they do not run together.
    7. Ensure that all lines in the figure are of the same intensity and that all the figures have matching intensities.

Grammar and Style

  • Units. Either customary or SI metric units of measure may be used in the paper, but please use one or the other consistently, rather than a combination. A conversion factor table at the end of your paper should list the factors necessary to convert units used in your paper from one system of units to the other.
  • American/British spelling/grammar. Use of either British or American spelling and grammar is acceptable. The recommended writing aids below focus on American grammar, but that is not meant to imply that this is the only acceptable usage.

Recommended Writing Aids

  • Bernstein, Theodore. 1983. The Careful Writer—A Modern Guide to English Usage. New York City: Atheneum Publishers.
  • Strunk, William Jr. and White, E.B. 1979. The Elements of Style, third edition. New York City: MacMillan Publishing Co.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. 2003. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. 2002. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster.

English Language Assistance

SPE is pleased to offer a 20% discount to member authors seeking language editing services from Editage. Non-member authors can also receive a 10% discount for the services offered. Use the links below to learn more about our discounted editing services partnership.  

Several other language editing organizations also offer services designed to improve the quality of English in papers submitted for peer review. SPE is not affiliated in any way with these organizations. Links to them are offered as a service only.