Tips for Success

Thinking about seminar as a triathlon is helpful in conveying the amount of work that is in front of you and the fact that you may very well be exhausted by the end of the course. You shouldn’t be intimidated, though. Although there are no shortcuts to producing a high-quality research essay, there are some tips that can help you along the way.

  1. Do not procrastinate.

I encourage you to schedule some time every day that you devote to seminar work. Some people make an appointment on their calendar daily and make sure they don’t let anything else interfere. Some days your research appointment may only be an hour, while other days you may be able to devote larger chunks of time to your project.

Working every day is one of the most important tips for success in seminar. It is not a paper that you can write the day before–or even the week before.


  1. Choose a topic that is manageable or “do-able.”

Because this paper is meant to be based almost entirely on primary sources, it is critical that you choose a topic that had a variety of accessible sources. In other classes you may have started your research by brainstorming a topic and then finding sources. In seminar you will have more success if you find an archive or collection of primary sources and build your research questions around it.

  1. Develop a systematic way to manage sources, take notes, and keep track of your research progress and goals.

Keep careful bibliographic records. Take notes that clearly distinguish between the author’s words and ideas and your own. Record page numbers for every note you take. Taking a bit of time when you’re working with your sources will save time in the drafting stage.

These tips may seem basic, but they will help you produce a better research essay.

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