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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 skills@mcmaster.ca

References

“Effective Seminar Participation.” Student Learning Commons, Simon Fraser University, 22 Oct. 2018, https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc/learning/participation/seminar-participation

“Getting the Most out of Seminars.” Academic Skills Centre, The University of Sheffield, https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/301/study-skills/university-study/performing-in-seminars

“Seminar Participation and Discussions.” McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph, 16 Oct. 2020, https://guides.lib.uoguelph.ca/Participation

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