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Managing Your Studies: Lectures & Seminars


Lectures provide subject specific information, explain concepts, introduce theories and are generally a structured learning experience in your chosen topic of study. They are often delivered in large groups involving a lecturer presenting you with information and activities to help develop your knowledge and understanding.

To engage in a lecture effectively, several skills are helpful:

Listening Skills Active listening is crucial during a lecture. Pay attention to the speaker, take notes, and focus on key points and important details. Maintain concentration and avoid distractions.
Note-Taking Skills Taking concise and organized notes helps in retaining information and serving as a reference later on. Develop a system that works for you, such as using headings, bullet points, and abbreviations. Check out our notetaking and note making section for different strategies [insert link].
Critical Thinking Lectures often present complex ideas and arguments. Develop your critical thinking skills to analyse, evaluate and make links between the information being presented. Ask questions, challenge assumptions, and seek deeper understanding.
Prior Knowledge Having even a basic knowledge on the topic being discussed before the lecture will enhance your engagement during the lecture. Familiarise yourself with related concepts, theories, or ideas beforehand to follow the lecture more effectively. Check your module page or course handbook for reading recommendations.
Concentration and Focus Lectures can be lengthy, and maintaining concentration throughout is essential. Practice techniques to improve your focus, such as minimizing distractions, taking short breaks when needed, and adopting active listening strategies.
Active Participation Engage with the lecture by participating actively. Ask questions, contribute to discussions, and interact with the speaker or fellow students when appropriate. This not only deepens your understanding but also creates a more engaging learning environment.
Time Management Lectures often have specific time constraints. Develop time management skills to keep up with the pace of the lecture, take notes efficiently, and allocate time for reviewing or reflecting on the content afterward.
Reflective Thinking After the lecture, take time to reflect on the material covered. Review your notes, summarise key points, and identify any areas of confusion or further exploration. Engaging in reflective thinking helps consolidate your understanding.

Top tips:

  • Find a notetaking strategy that works for you. It can be challenging trying to make notes while also listening to the lecture.
  • Always check prior to the lecture to see if you are required to complete any pre-lecture tasks or need to print out any presentation slides.
  • Turn your phone/ devices onto silent mode.
  • Most lecturers are recorded so you can watch them back later, however some may not be. You can always ask your lecturer if they are being recorded. WARNING!- ALWAYS ASK PERMISSION if you intend to record any part of a lecture on your personal device.


A seminar is an interactive learning session where a small group of participants, typically students or professionals, engage in discussions, presentations, and collaborative activities. Unlike a lecture, which is primarily a one-way dissemination of information from the speaker to the audience, a seminar emphasises active participation, critical thinking, and shared learning among the participants.

Here is what you can expect from a seminar:

  • The size of the group will be smaller compared to lecturers and will likely be held in a small space.
  • You will be expected to interact with you peers and engage in discussions on specific topics.
  • Seminars are often facilitated by a lecturer who will provide guidance and pose questions to help encourage discussions and debates.
  • It is likely that you will need to prepare for the seminar through the pre-reading of different resources and making key notes on points of discussion or preparing answers to questions.

In addition to skills needed to actively engage in Lecturers, Seminars also require specific skills:

Active Listening Actively listening to others' ideas, perspectives, and arguments is crucial in a seminar. Pay close attention to what others are saying, maintain eye contact, and avoid interrupting. Demonstrate your engagement by nodding, using body language, and asking follow-up questions.
Critical Thinking Seminars often involve analysing and evaluating concepts, theories, or research findings. Develop your critical thinking skills by questioning assumptions, examining evidence, and identifying logical inconsistencies. Engage in thoughtful analysis and present well-reasoned arguments.
Effective Communication Communicate your thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. Practice articulating your viewpoints, providing supporting evidence, and structuring your arguments. Use appropriate language, tone, and non-verbal cues to convey your message effectively.
Preparation and Research Skills To actively engage in a seminar, come prepared by completing assigned readings, conducting research, or familiarising yourself with the seminar topic. Having a foundation of knowledge enables meaningful contributions and informed discussions.
Collaboration and Teamwork Seminars often involve group activities or discussions. Develop skills in collaborating with others, actively participating in group tasks, and respecting diverse viewpoints. Foster a cooperative and inclusive environment that encourages shared learning and constructive dialogue.
Open-Mindedness Approach seminars with an open mind and a willingness to consider different perspectives. Be receptive to new ideas, challenges to your own beliefs, and alternative interpretations. Cultivate a respectful and non-judgmental attitude towards others' viewpoints.
Time Management Seminars typically have time constraints, and managing your time effectively is important. Contribute to discussions within the allocated time, balance your participation with others, and stay focused on the seminar objectives. Avoid dominating the conversation or getting side-tracked.
Reflective Thinking Engage in reflective thinking before and after the seminar. Before the session, reflect on the assigned materials, research, or questions provided. Afterward, review the key points discussed, evaluate your own contributions, and identify areas for further exploration.
Empathy and Active Engagement Show empathy towards others' perspectives and actively engage in the seminar discussions. Demonstrate respect for others' ideas, provide constructive feedback and build on each other's contributions. Encourage a supportive and inclusive seminar environment.
Adaptability and Flexibility Seminars can take unexpected turns, and being adaptable is important. Be flexible in adjusting your viewpoints based on new information or persuasive arguments. Embrace intellectual growth by embracing change and embracing new perspectives.

Top Tips

  • Be on time or, even better, early – walking in after the seminar has started is distracting for everyone. Assume a positive attitude.
  • Focus on the speaker - hear what is being said and respond to that, rather than prepared points.
  • Ask questions to clarify and probe for further information.
  • Summarise what has been said.

Further Reading