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Graduate Student Guides

Effective Participation in Seminars

In a seminar, students learn by listening, discussing, and engaging with one another. 

Come prepared to seminar:

  • Read materials in advance, and write down questions, ideas, and responses to prompts
    • How is this material related to other texts you’ve read for the course?
    • Reference texts the whole class has read to include everyone in the discussion 
  • When reading, look for key themes, topics, and terms as noted in class or on the syllabus, as well as any terms you don’t understand
  • Bring texts and materials with you to the seminar

Contribute to the discussion:

  • Speak to all participants instead of directing your comments to the instructor
  • Make sure you have something relevant to contribute before speaking, but remember it’s ok to share ideas that aren’t fully developed
  • Make your comments brief and to the point
  • Listen carefully and reference the points made by others if they influenced your thinking
  • If you struggle with speaking to a group, talk to your instructor so they are aware of your discomfort, and consider asking if you can participate in a different way


It is important to always be respectful in a seminar. Instructors will often establish expectations for respectful behaviour, but if they don’t, you can ask them to initiate a discussion about this. 

  • Be aware of your tone and body language, especially while others are speaking
  • Don’t interrupt other participants
  • Disagree with ideas, not people—challenge and present alternative ideas respectfully
  • Be aware of your participation—have others had a chance to speak? 
  • Remember that some topics may be personal for other participants—be considerate and open-minded in all discussions


Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus.  Questions? Email


“Effective Seminar Participation.” Student Learning Commons, Simon Fraser University, 22 Oct. 2018,

“Getting the Most out of Seminars.” Academic Skills Centre, The University of Sheffield,

“Seminar Participation and Discussions.” McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph, 16 Oct. 2020,

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