*** Please note that this information was taken from a previous class - so it will seem 'long winded', but for those of you who have never written a seminar paper, or participated in seminar this information should be helpful***
Some hints for Seminar Papers, Discussion Questions & Seminar Discussions
The seminar is at the very core of your Evergreen education. As such, a thorough preparation for the seminar is of greatest importance. You will notice how satisfying a great, lively, interesting, and thought-provoking seminar discussion can be. The seminar papers, which you will write, will be a great help to all of us and will make the discussion gel. Consider the seminar papers and discussions as your greatest friends in obtaining the best education you can get. Your challenge is to work hard in your thinking, reading, and writing. Below are a few hints that might help you to write your papers, as well as instructions concerning their mechanics.
The seminar papers should be typed double-spaced, and proofread. Note that the seminar papers are not formal essays. Rather, they should have at least three unconnected paragraphs (talking points), each discussing a different chapter. Each talking point in your paper will be a brief explication (discussion, critique, analysis, appraisal, interpretation, clarification description) of an idea or issue which intrigued, puzzled, confused, perplexed, confounded, disturbed, tweaked, irritated, stimulated or otherwise engaged you from the reading. Each paragraph needs to have a clear thesis, (e.g. a question you are asking, a point that puzzles you, an observation that you made) followed by discussion of the thesis that is supported by the text (with a page number and maybe a quote), and a conclusion.
As you are reading Stiff, keep notes, sketches, and diagrams, or write questions and notes to yourself in the margins. Focus on finding the author's main points and what arguments, reasons, or evidence she uses to support these main points. Also ask yourself the following questions: Why does the author bother to make this point (why does she think it matters)? Are the author's arguments good, in that her premises or evidence support(s) the conclusion or main point? Why or why not? What is the most important or interesting argument in the reading? And finally, what links can you find between the class' lecture topics (for the current and/or previous weeks), workshops, and the readings? These questions can inform your participation for seminar as well as your seminar papers.
After you've finished each reading, use your notes to work up a list of questions and problems you want to discuss in the next seminar. These questions and problems might include clarifying questions (e.g., what you did not understand in the reading), discussion questions (e.g., open-ended questions that have no clear answer and will provoke interesting conversations), and observations about the author's main points or arguments. Include a notation about what specific places (pages) in the text motivate each question and observation. Separate your discussion questions from your personal opinion about the readings; you will have an opportunity to say whether or why you personally agreed or disagreed with the author's position, but this is not the major purpose of discussion questions.
The seminar discussion is exactly what is says--a discussion. Using your papers as a guide, you will "throw" your ideas into the fray. If you notice that your questions and ideas are in one way or another connected to what is being discussed, share them with your co-leamers. Equally, if your ideas seem to be diametrically opposed to what is being discussed, voice your opinion. However, each and every opinion must be informed by the texts and/or other class related discourse. An uninformed opinion, a discussion not based on the ideas of the class, can turn easily into meaningless babble. While your personal experiences matter greatly, in the seminar discussion they can only be relevant if they refer directly to the readings and other class material.
Make sure you phrase each talking point into a discussion question format: this is a question that you feel needs to be discussed in seminar. The talking point paragraphs are your way of beginning this discussion and/or establishing the reason for raising the question. These questions will help structure and guide our seminar discussions. (See below for additional hints on composing discussion questions.)
Strive in your seminar papers to create connections between the different texts and topics covered in class or sport in general. Nothing can be as beautiful as discovering an unexpected intellectual connection, and nothing can be as exciting as looking for such connections. If in your readings you stumble upon an idea that connects to another text, film, or current event, refer in your paper directly to the source where you found the connections. The ideas in your paper will be a way of beginning our discussion in seminar.
Make two copies of your typed, proofread seminar papers, one for the instructor to be turned in at the beginning of the seminar and one copy for you to bring to the seminar. Like all class work, the seminar paper must be turned in on time. If you are unable to attend a seminar discussion, you are still responsible for turning in your paper that day. (e.g., you might e-mail it to faculty or have a friend deliver it). Failure to attend class or turn in your written work on time may result in not being awarded upper division credit.
The faculty will read all your seminar papers and turn them back to you with appropriate comments by the following class meeting. Faculty comments will primarily focus on creating dialogue with you about your ideas. While your writing style is of secondary focus, I want you to develop a college level degree of writing proficiency (coherent sentence structure, spelling, grammar, and punctuation). If there are problems with the "mechanics" of your writing, the faculty will point them out in hopes of supporting your writing development. You may be asked to work with the Writing Center if you need further help in developing your writing skills.
Finish your list well
seminar, and take time to let the questions percolate before you write
seminar paper. Your questions, thoughts, and connections will form the
for your seminar papers and for our seminar discussions, so be sure
represent your finest thoughts and inquiries about the readings.