Seminar Is Like…


Over the next few days we will be thinking about the nature of research seminar, the course goals, and ways to achieve them. Seminar is a unique course, but there are some analogies that might be helpful to think about as you contemplate the work before you.

The course that comes closest to Seminar is Hist 2320: Introduction to Historical Research. While 2320 might be a reasonable comparison, it is important to understand that 2320 was a course to prepare you for your 4000-level courses. After taking Seminar, one student deemed  the comparison between the two courses as inadequate. The student said, “Seminar was like 2320 on steroids.” Seminar required more intensity and more work.

This student’s quip about Seminar caused me to think about other apt analogies for Seminar. I think the best one is between Seminar and a triathlon. To cross the finish line in such a competition, an athlete must 1. Train, 2. Swim, 3, Cycle, and 4. Run. You’ll be participating in similar stages this semester.

You have technically been training for this course your entire academic career, especially in 2320 and the 3000 and 4000-level courses you have taken. We’ll continue the training stage over the first few days of the semester by thinking about methods and tactics to produce an original essay that makes an argument based on primary sources.

The swimming stage of a triathlon is comparable to choosing your topic. Topic selection is critical, but it can be slow going and require a lot of work–just like swimming.

After you have chosen a topic, you will start the next two stages that will likely move a bit more quickly, but you will still be working hard just like cycling and running.

I, and your fellow classmates, will be your support network to cheer you on and help you reach the finish line.

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