The Seminar Paper

  • Gregory M. Colón Semenza


Almost every serious graduate course in the humanities culminates in a final written assignment that I refer to in this chapter as the “seminar paper.” Because the seminar paper both allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of the relevant course material and prepares you for the difficult tasks of dissertation writing and scholarly publishing, it might accurately be understood as the sine qua non of your academic training. Nonetheless, for most graduate students, confronting the seminar paper each semester is akin to launching an arctic expedition without a compass or a map; you may have some sense of where you want to go but painfully little guidance about how to get there. Although there exists no universally applicable set of instructions for writing a successful seminar paper, especially across disciplines, you can take certain steps that will help you to master the form—steps which, in ideal situations, might even lead to publication. This chapter focuses on the perils and pitfalls of seminar paper writing—and how to avoid them. Since wise students approach writing seminar papers just as they approach writing articles, this chapter serves as a supplement to chapter 10, which deals with the publication process. The major subjects include:
  • The value of emulation

  • The construction of a reading list

  • The organization of materials

  • The note-taking process

  • The formulation of an argument

  • The context of an argument

  • The evidence of an argument

  • The process of revising for publication


Graduate Student Seminar Paper Scholarly Publishing Previous Scholarship Reading List 
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Copyright information

© Gregory M. Colón Semenza 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory M. Colón Semenza

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