Q: What are the best procedure and format for writing a seminar paper?

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I want to understand (how/whether) to chapter it, how many pages should it be, do I need hypothesis, and other building rules, etc.

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Answer:

The procedure and format for writing a seminar paper are in many ways similar to those for writing a research paper. Thus, you need to identify a study area, go through the current literature on it, identify gaps that you could develop into a research problem, come up with a research question, formulate a hypothesis, develop the methodology, conduct the study, evaluate the results, and finally, form a conclusion based on the results.

However, in certain ways, preparing for and writing a seminar paper are different from that for a research paper. The key factor is that of the audience, and you will need to keep this in mind when preparing your paper.

  • A seminar paper is written for an audience that is especially interested in the broad area of your study. So, in your paper, be sure to include examples, illustrations, discussion topics, and other such content points that will be of special relevance to the audience.
  • A seminar paper is written for the purpose of presentation. While you may choose to read from your paper, it is better to have a visual aid such as a PowerPoint presentation. A visual presentation can help bring alive the topic and also make the presentation engaging. The presentation needs to include the key points from the paper.
  • A seminar paper is written to be engaging. Whether you choose to have a visual presentation or not, the paper should be written in an interesting style. Thus, it should have an introduction that immediately arouses the audience’s curiosity and interest, and the rest of the paper (or presentation) should maintain that interest. In the discussion section, you can include questions to take up with the audience at the end, thus increasing the level of engagement.
  • A seminar paper is written under the close guidance of your professor. For the reasons outlined above, your professor is usually closely involved in a seminar paper. It is best to check and run through all the key milestones and aspects of the paper – from research question, hypothesis, discussion points to the format of the paper and presentation – with your professor. Which is also why each seminar paper is likely to be different from the other. So, while you may refer to the broad structure of a research paper, you may make changes to it based on discussions with your professor.

To answer your specific questions, rather than chapters, it is better to structure a seminar paper by sections (such as Introduction, Methodology, Results, and so on). The length of the paper could roughly be anywhere between 12-20 pages. However, your university might have some guidelines about this, so it's best to go with the prescribed length. For the presentation, go with a thumb rule of 2 minutes per slide. Thus, if you have 1 hour, you should have at least 30 content slides ready. However, the number can go up or down depending on how much text you incorporate in each slide. The best way is to start with 30 and then practice at home keeping a record of the time. This will help you understand whether you need more slides or less.

Here are some resources to help you with planning, preparing, and presenting your paper.