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Writing Seminar Papers: Home

What is a seminar paper?

  • A piece of original research which contributes to an area / academic body of knowledge

  • Focuses on a narrow and specific topic / argument

  • Presents a topic to peers in a group setting

  • Follows formal academic writing structure and style

Stages in producing a seminar paper

  1. Analyse the brief so that you understand what you need to do for your current assignment. Ask for clarification from your lecturer and check that your chosen topic is suitable.

  2. Get started early by planning your schedule and making use of Learning Services support and Library resources. Schedule regular work times in your diary with specific topics for research and writing over the weeks ahead.

  3. Explore ideas with free writing, listing, mindmapping, and formulating and answering questions related to your topic:


    Begin by considering

Who? What? When? Where?


Move forward by asking

How? Why?


4. Create an overarching research question/title to guide your research and narrow your topic. The topic may evolve slightly according to what you find from your research. Check that your research question is suitable by talking to your lecturer before proceeding further.

  1. Collect research for your paper to support your argument. Find out the type of sources that will be suitable for your research – books, scholarly journals, media, legislation, professional guidelines, subject specific websites. Begin with background research and then move towards researching more specific topics relating to the themes of your research question. Make use of library databases and search tools (Discovery) and course reading lists. Book a research tutorial with a Librarian to learn how to research effectively.
  2. Evaluate your sources:
  • Who published it?
  • What are their credentials?
  • Is it biased? In what way?
  • Is it current/up to date?
  • Does it agree with other sources of information?
  1. Read your sources repeatedly and actively. Annotate your sources and/or make notes relating to your research question and themes. Use highlighting, underlining, questioning, and comparison to other sources. Keep a list of references for your sources / include page numbers.
  1. Write your thesis statement. A thesis statement is your argument / conjecture, and is usually stated in a single sentence. It is a statement of what you plan to argue or the topic you plan to focus on in your paper. For example:


The function of the high street shopping experience is changing in the face of internet marketing.


  1. Create a plan or outline of your paper. It is important to organise the way that you present information and this will help you to stay focussed and to avoid repetition and redundancy.  The seminar paper should be broken down into topics / themes (headings) and these can be  broken down further into subsections / subtopics (bullet points)to represent the content for you paragraphs and development of the argument in the main body of the paper. For example:


Theme 1– the rise of internet marketing

  • Sub theme

Historical background

  • Sub theme

Economic effects / statistics

  • Sub theme

Relationship to high street marketing


         3.  Structure your paper to present a clear progression of ideas.

          Introduction: Start with an introduction that explains the structure of your paper and the direction of your argument.

          Background information: Give some relevant background information to your topic to orient the reader in your  introduction (historical, statistical).  


        4.  Develop your argument/ introductory outline using paragraphs (main body), which focus on distinct aspects of the topic. Use topic sentences/ or headings to introduce the topic at the beginning of each paragraph/section:


eg. Many areas of high street shopping have been negatively impacted by the advent of online shopping.



You could use a TEST structure for your paragraphs:


T = topic sentence

E = example to make the topic clear

S = support – this is where you bring in the supporting evidence from your research (remember to clearly reference with in-text citation linking to your full reference list)

T = talk about the evidence – this is where you can evaluate the ideas discussed


You may want to use headings and sub-headings to organise and signpost your paper. This makes it clear to the reader what each section is about and how you are structuring your argument.


5. Conclude your paper in a way that is helpful and interesting – your conclusion should act as a recap or reminder of the themes that you have discussed in the main body. Reflect on what you have written and think about what you want to highlight from the discussion in your summary. You could synthesise the ideas by linking them together and explaining what lessons have been learned and what recommendations you could make. You could also focus on why the findings are important and what implications they will have for the future?

6. Compile you reference list using a recommended referencing guide. Check that you have cited all of your sources, both in-text and in the reference list to avoid plagiarism. Use the support of Learning Services if you are unsure about the correct way to reference or would like to check the accuracy of your referencing.

  1. Try to leave a few days break before you revise your paper, so plan to finish your drafts early. This will give you a fresh perspective on what you have written and allow you to consider whether the paper has really addressed the topic adequately and in a focussed manner.
  2. Revising your paper means thinking about ways to improve the content contained in the document. Important questions to consider are:


  • Does the content address the question?
  • Is there enough critical discussion of the ideas?
  • Do the sentences make sense and flow into one another to present a clear line of argument?
  • Do some ideas need more support?
  • Are all the references provided and in the correct format?
  • Is there any repetition of ideas that should be cut?
  • Is the structure and sequence of ideas logical and easy to follow?
  • Have you missed out anything important (check marking criteria)?



3. Finally proofread the entire paper aloud from a printed document (or use text to speech software), so that you can listen to how the paper sounds and make grammatical corrections and clear up any typos. Make sure that you leave enough time to submit your document – don’t leave it to the last moment – there may be technical issues that prevent you from submitting on time. When you are happy with your work you should submit it.  It is probably best to submit the day before the submission deadline if possible; so again, plan ahead.