How do seminars work?

How do seminars work?

Seminars are more like being in a classroom than lectures, but they’re also quite different to what you might be used to at school. Read on to find out what to expect...

What are seminars?
Seminars are for small groups of students studying the same course. They are normally led by a tutor in a seminar room.

Seminars are designed for students to talk about topics in the course reading or lectures in detail, so students have to take an active part in the debate. Sometimes the tutor will lead the seminar, or they might choose students to make a presentation. But whether you’re presenting or not, you’ll still need to do some work before and after the seminar to make the most out of them.
Before the seminar
  • Whether you’re doing a presentation with others or on your own, you’ll need a plan to read from. Don’t write down everything you’re going to say, but make notes you can refer to easily. You could also make some handouts for other students.
  • If you’re presenting with others, meet up at least a week in advance to divide the research you need to do. Meet up again a few days before the seminar to plan who will present each part.
  • Practice reading your presentation to other people a day or so before the seminar, and get their feedback. This will not only make it clearer for your audience, but also make you more confident when presenting it.
  • Even if you’re not presenting yourself, find out the topic of the seminar from your timetable, and do any reading in advance. Look at your notes from previous seminars or lectures and jot down any specific points you want to discuss.
During the seminar
  • If you’re making a presentation, speak clearly and confidently. Look at your tutor and other students as much as possible, rather than just reading from your notes.
  • If you’re listening to a presentation, don’t interrupt people while they are speaking. During this time take notes in the same way you would in a lecture. They will signal when it’s time to ask questions or start the debate.
  • Once the debate starts, it’s very important to contribute. Sometimes you might be asked a direct question by a tutor, at others you will have to make a point yourself without being asked. It’s fine to disagree with what another person says, but be polite and give your opinion without sounding like you’re arguing.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t like speaking in public. You won’t look stupid because the whole point of seminars is to share ideas and find out what others think, so there aren’t any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers.
After the seminar
  • Type up and file any notes you’ve made during the seminar.
  • Consider meeting up with other students to chat about what was discussed afterwards – not only will this help you understand more about the topic of the seminar, it’s also a great way to make friends.
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