Reading and Note Taking


Seminars are an important part of the learning process in higher education and offer a great opportunity to discuss and clarify issues that have come up in lectures or as a result of your reading etc.

What are seminars?

Seminars usually involve a group discussion of material that has been presented in a lecture or that you have been asked to read.

Why are seminars important?

Seminars offer the opportunity to think about and discuss theories and topics in more detail than a lecture allows

Seminars encourage the sharing of ideas and enable you to gain extra perspectives and points of view that you may not have considered

Seminars help you to clarify your own thinking by providing you with the opportunity to ask and answer questions

Getting the most out of seminars

Ensure you have done any tasks or reading agreed by the group. Unprepared students are wasting their own and others time

Read around the subject. Identify the main issues and concerns

Think about the sort of questions you would like answered. Write a list

During the seminar

Note down useful points and any queries that are raised

If you don’t understand something – ask

Listen to alternative points of view and make notes –it’s always good to consider both sides

Let others speak but don’t be afraid to contribute - even if you disagree

After the seminar

Go over your notes. Add any new thoughts or information

Follow up interesting ideas and opinions – you could meet informally with other students

Dealing with common anxieties

  • Many people are uncomfortable about speaking out in a group, especially among strangers. You may feel that you have nothing valid to say or be embarrassed by your language proficiency. Often people worry about being ‘put on the spot’ and not knowing ‘the answer’.
  • Be prepared – if you are very nervous, write down what you want to say and if necessary read it out
  • Try and think of examples beforehand to support your point of view
  • Be honest if you don’t know something – it may be an area everyone needs help with
  • If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification – say something like ‘Do you mean…?’ or ‘Can you give me an example?’
  • If you feel unsure, you could direct the discussion towards your area of interest by saying something like ‘I’m not sure about that but I do know/think …’


  • good guide on what is the point of seminars from Learn Higher, via Brunel University
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