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Title: Seminar  
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Subject: History of the University of Michigan, Sarah Lawrence College, Economics Society of Calgary, Séminaire Nicolas Bourbaki, Teach-in
Collection: Academic Terminology
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A seminar is a form of Socratic dialogue[1] with a seminar leader or instructor, or through a more formal presentation of research. It is essentially a place where assigned readings are discussed, questions can be raised and debates can be conducted.[2] It is relatively informal, at least compared to the lecture system of academic instruction.


  • Etymology 1
  • In academia 2
  • In business 3
  • References 4
  • See also 5


The word seminar is derived from the Latin word seminarium, meaning "seed plot".[3]

In academia

At North American universities, the term "seminar" refers to a course of intense study relating to the student's major. Seminars typically have significantly fewer students per professor than normal courses, and are generally more specific in topic of study. Seminars can revolve around term papers, exams, presentations, and several other assignments. Seminars are almost always required for university graduation. Normally, participants must not be beginners in the field under discussion at US and Canadian universities, seminar classes are generally reserved for upper-class students, although at UK and Australian universities seminars are often used for all years. The idea behind the seminar system is to familiarize students more extensively with the methodology of their chosen subject and also to allow them to interact with examples of the practical problems that always occur during research work.

In some European universities, a seminar may be a large lecture course, especially when conducted by a renowned thinker (regardless of the size of the audience or the scope of student participation in discussion). Some non-English speaking countries in Europe use the word seminar (e.g. German Seminar, Slovenian seminar, Polish seminarium) to refer to a university class that includes a term paper or project, as opposed to a lecture class (e.g. German Vorlesung, Slovenian predavanje, Polish wykład). This does not correspond to English use of the term. In some academic institutions, typically in scientific fields, the term "preceptorial" is used interchangeably with "seminar".[4][5]

In business

Increasingly, the term "seminar" is used to describe a commercial event (though sometimes free to attend). Seminars may be aimed at business people or those attending in a private capacity. Seminars aimed at business people may be internal within a business organisation or may be external. Those attending are given information, training or instruction on

  • a topic relevant to the business, including how to grow and succeed in business, business ideas, success stories, etc.; or
  • for example, property investing, internet marketing or self-improvement; or sometimes
  • general personal development, covering topics such as psychology, philosophy, mindset.

Seminars may be internal to a business organisation. Many external seminars are arranged with the intention of marketing the services of the business organising the seminar.


  1. ^ Socratic Method-Problem Method Dichotomy: The Debate Over Teaching Method Continues, CG Hawkins-Leon. BYU Educ. & LJ, 1998.
  2. ^ Dialogic discussion and the siddharth seminar. L Billings, J Fitzgerald. American Educational Research Journal, 2002
  3. ^ "Seminary definition (". Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  4. ^ A consideration of preceptorial medical education in the United States. WS Wiggins. Academic Medicine, 1957.
  5. ^ "The Nature of Time--Cosmology Seminar" Sommers, Aaron. [2]

See also

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