Seminar papers are the eponymous product of seminar classes. Typically graduate students produce seminar papers during the coursework portion of their graduate studies. Though there is no required structure or format for a seminar paper, nearly all seminar papers include essential elements presented in a consistent and logical fashion. This common structure of most seminar papers moves from the positing of a research question to the assertion of an answer to that question.
- Skill level:
Compose an attention-grabbing opening that simultaneously introduces the topic to the reader, provides a general overview of the topic, asks the guiding question of the paper and posits the thesis or theses your paper will argue. Typically, the thesis or theses will act as an answer to the paper's guiding question.
Position the research of the seminar paper within both contemporary and historical research related to the topic. This section of the paper is known as the literature review. Essentially, you will use this section to demonstrate your understanding of what other scholars have already written about the subject and how your paper will either confirm, deny or simply respond to others' research.
Outline the theory that will guide the research you are presenting in the seminar paper. You can either borrow this theoretical underpinning from some theory or position outlined in your paper's literature review, or you can posit a previously unused or unconsidered theory that will guide your research. Though not technically a component of your research, most discussions of theory in seminar papers mark the beginning of the "body" of the paper.
Present your research. This should be the largest and most complex section of your paper. It can take on many different forms, depending upon the type of research you are conducting and your field. Some common modes of presentation include detailed textual analyses of an individual work or body of works in light of your presented theoretical underpinning (literature), connection of previously undiscovered or unconsidered primary documents related to a specific historical event, movement or person (history), presentation of a philosophical position in linear, logical fashion and an attempt to either confirm or refute that position (philosophy).
Conclude your paper by reflecting upon the thesis or theses of your paper, as well as the guiding question. In the conclusion, offer final thoughts on how your research has satisfied the argumentative requirements of your thesis. Another way of putting this is to explain how your paper once and for all answered your guiding question.
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