Example A seminar paper

Roman historiography: problems and preconditions What the student said about this:

We were given the questions for this seminar paper. We had to address these in the actual seminar presentation and then hand in our written version at the end.

Extract from seminar paper 'Roman historiography: problems and preconditions':

Were there clear rules for writing history? When do they seem to have first appeared?

The sources appear to imply that there was, by the time of Cicero, a generally accepted way of writing history. Sources 2a and 2b tell us that there must be impartiality in historical writing and Cicero presents this as a 'law of history'. However, looking at the other source materials we can see that this 'law' was not always adhered to and much of Roman history was written in a biased manner, for example in 4a we see Cicero again, but here he is asking Lucceius to 'neglect the laws of history'.

Do Roman historians appear to have gone in for serious research on their material?

There does appear to be research done by Roman historians, but obviously the extent of their research will always depend on the individual. Dionysios of Halikarnassos (3b) tells us that the early historians did not research much, but that the events that were contemporary with them were written from personal experience. We can see that, in contrast, Cicero (3c) seems to be very interested in getting exactly the right chronology and is aware that earlier texts do not always agree.


This paper was written to help the student to give a seminar presentation in archaeology. In this particular instance she has been asked to make reference to different source material and address specific questions in the presentation. This is rather different from the tutorial paper, above, where she conceptualized her own ideas in bullet points.

Examples 1-6 above all indicate very different kinds of writing, and yet they are all excerpts from actual examples that this student had to tackle as part of her studies. So how did she approach these different writing tasks? Before she could start she needed to get some idea of what the writing was for, what ideas she needed to convey and how best to convey them. She also needed to think about who was going to read her work. The kinds of questions she needed to ask herself were:

• What kind of writing is this: essay, report, collaborative project, seminar paper?

• What is it for: assessment, support for an oral presentation?

• Who is going to read it: tutor/lecturer, other students, me?

Hence she needed to think about:

• Topic: what is this writing about?

• Situation: what is the context in which you are writing this?

In addition we can see that she also had to consider herself as a writer. How much of herself could she put in and how much should she leave out of her writing? So, to the above list we can add:

• Writer: to what extent should the writer's own voice be heard?

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