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This article is about the form of academic instruction. For other uses, see Seminar (disambiguation).
John Hasnas lecturing at Towson University during a seminar

A seminar is, generally, a form of academic instruction, either at an academic institution or offered by a commercial or professional organization. It has the function of bringing together small groups for recurring meetings, focusing each time on some particular subject, in which everyone present is requested to actively participate. This is often accomplished through an ongoing Socratic dialogue[1] with a seminar leader or instructor, or through a more formal presentation of research. 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. 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.

Origins of the word[edit]

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


In 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.

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, etc.) to refer to a university class that includes a term paper or project, as opposed to a lecture class (i.e., German Vorlesung, Slovenian predavanje, Polish wykład, etc.). This does not correspond to English use of the term. In some academic institutions, the term "preceptorial" is used interchangeably with seminar, although this is typically utilized in the scientific fields.[4][5]

In business[edit]

Increasingly, the term "seminar" is used to describe a commercial event (though sometimes free to attend) where delegates are given information, training and instruction on various topics such as property investing, internet marketing and self-improvement.

There are many different types of seminars, however the two most popular seminars are Personal Development Seminars and Business Seminars.

Personal Development Seminars are intended for the improvement of personal growth of people. In these seminars, the speakers usually talk about psychology, philosophy, mindset and other topics that can help individuals grow as a person.

Business Seminars are seminars where speakers talk about business strategies, how to grow and succeed in business, business ideas, success stories, etc... These seminars can be helpful for business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone who would like to start their own business.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Socratic Method-Problem Method Dichotomy: The Debate Over Teaching Method Continues, CG Hawkins-Leon. BYU Educ. & LJ, 1998.
  2. ^ Dialogic discussion and the siddhartg seminar. L Billings, J Fitzgerald. American Educational Research Journal, 2002
  3. ^ "Seminary definition (dictionary.com)". 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. [1]

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