PLNT*6400 (F) Seminar

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The following description is for the course offering in Fall 2021 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

All graduate students present a departmental seminar on their research proposal typically in the second or third semester of their program. Each student is expected to participate in seminars of colleagues and faculty.

This course is a requirement for every graduate student in the department and should ideally be taken once the student has developed their project and has either written or is in the process of writing their proposal, generally during the second semester for their degree. The ultimate goal of the course is to help the students develop a formal seminar of their proposed research to be presented to the department at the end of the semester. Skills such as abstract writing and peer evaluation will also be addressed in the course.


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Graduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Fall

Class Schedule and Location:

The first introductory class will be held on Thursday Sept 16 from 11:30 - 2:30. Practice seminars will be held on various days and times in the third and fourth weeks of Oct. Final seminars will be held on various days and times in Nov and Dec, but date and times are subject to change and will be finalized, based on the availability of the students. Please note that all classes and seminars will be held face to face and will also be available in a virtual format using Zoom. There is a link to Zoom in the CourseLink page for PLNT*6400.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the course, the students will be able to

  1. Communicate effectively in a professional environment in an oral format and articulate scientific background, experimental design, technical methods and expected results.
  2. Communicate effectively in a written format in the form of an abstract for a scientific oral presentation.
  3. Formulate and communicate clear and effective answers to questions from student peers and members of the department.
  4. Formulate effective questions in a scientific environment
  5. Evaluate the presentations of others and provide effective feedback in an ethical and supportive manner.  

Lecture Content:

There are no specific lectures for this course.  There will be an introductory class to review the course content and guidelines for preparing abstracts and effective presentations.  There will be a second class meeting to further discuss effective presentations and discussion and tips on effective PowerPoint presentations.  

Labs & Seminars:

There are no labs for this course 


The main course content is the student seminars.  Practice seminars will be presented in class and final seminars will be presented to the department.  

  • Seminars will be 20 minutes in length, plus 10 minutes for questions, for M.Sc. students
  • Seminars will be 30 minutes in length, plus 10 minutes for questions, for Ph.D. students. 

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Grade
Abstract - first draft to Instructor 10%
Abstract - final draft 5%
Practice seminar 25%
Final seminar presentation (peer and instructor evaluations) 50%
Peer evaluations and participation 10%


Final examination:

There is no final exam. 

Course Resources:

Required Texts:

There are no required texts

Recommended Texts:
How to Write a Scientific Abstract (Website)
How to Prepare a Research Proposal (Website)
Lab Manual:

There is no lab manual

Other Resources:

D2L CourseLink
Teaching Support Services Learning Outcomes Resources
Selective Reading and Resource Material
Angus, H. 1993. Leading workshops, seminars, and training sessions. Self Counsel Press, N. Vancouver BC.
Barnard, S. 1946. Speaking our minds, a guide for public speaking for Canadians. Prentice-Hall, Scarborough.
Booher, D. D. 1994. Communicate with confidence, how to say it right the first time. McGraw-Hill Inc. New York
Davidson, C. I., Ambrose, S.A. 1994. The new professor’s handbook. Anker , Bolton, MA.
Gibbs, G., Habeshaw, S., Habeshaw, T. 1987. 53 interesting things to do in your lectures, Technical & Educational Services, Bristol
Habeshaw, S., Gibbs, G., Habeshaw, T. 1987. 53 interesting things to do in your seminars & tutorials, Technical and educational services Ltd. U.K
Kenny, P. 1982. A handbook of public speaking for scientists for scientists and engineers. Adam Hilger Ltd.
Makay, J. J. 1984. Speaking with an audience, communicating ideas and attitudes. Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque
McDaniel, R. 1948. Scared speechless, public speaking step by step. Sage, London
Nelson, R.B. 1985. Louder and funnier. Ten Speed Press, California
Sprague, J., Stuart, D. 1988 -1984. The speaker’s handbook. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York
Thompson, A., 1991. Words into speech. Copp Clark Pitman, Mississauga, Ontario
Vasile, A.J. and associates, Mintz, H. K.. 1986 -1989. Speak with confidence, Scott Foresman and Company, Illinois, Boston and London

Field Trips:

There are no field trips

Additional Costs:

There are no additional costs 

Course Policies:

Course Participation
Students are expected to attend all (100%) the practice seminars and participate in class discussion and evaluation of each practice seminar. Students are expected to attend all the final seminars and participate in class discussion and evaluation of each final seminar. Accommodations can be made for conflicts with experiments or other classes. 
The instructor will grade participation based on a combination of in-class questions and feedback and written submission of practice and final seminar evaluations.

Grading Policies:

The abstract must be submitted by 11:59 pm to the Dropbox on Courselink on the due date to receive full marks. Late assignments will be docked 50% if they are one day late, 75% for two days and zero if more than 48 hours late.
A similar policy applies to the practice presentation. It must be uploaded to Dropbox by 11:59 pm on the due date. A late submission will be docked 50% for up to 24 hours and 75% for 24 to 48 hours.
Course Policy on Group Work:
All work is graded individually. However, students are encouraged to get feedback and edits from their supervisor and/or committee members and to get as much practice and feedback from faculty and students as possible when preparing the abstract, practice seminar and  seminar presentation.
Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:
Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor. When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Other Course Information:

Please upload all assignments and your slides to Courselink Dropbox for PLNT*6400 by the due date stated in the outline.
Format of the Abstract
250 words (excludes title, authors, affiliations)
Use Times Roman 12 point font
Title: flush to the left, in bold print, 14 pt font; principal words capitalized; all other letters in lower case. The title must be the same as the seminar presented. Leave one line 
Author: flush to left in italic, 12 pt font on the line immediately following title.
Author affiliation: on same line as author in regular print (no italic).
Advisor (s):noted as ‘Advisors:’ and name(s) in italic followed by affiliation, 12 pt font on 2nd line following student author.
Text: The body begins after skipping one line. The text includes: an introduction to the topic (include reason/background for research); brief objectives or hypothesis of research; experimental approach; a summary of the results (if any); and comments on the significance
of your work. Text is in 12 pt single spaced, with full justification. 
The Abstract should follow what is called an informative abstract format, rather than a descriptive abstract format. General guidelines are:
Why should we care – 1stsentence
Put your research in context with the greater scientific community – 2 sentences
What is the question that you are asking – 1 sentence
How will you be asking/testing these questions/hypotheses – 2-3 sentences
Implications of this research – final sentence
See sample abstract below
Rooting of Evergreen Cuttings in Municipal Solid Waste Compost Media
John Doe, Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Advisors: A. Professor, Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1 
                B. Professor, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Harrow, ON N0R 1G0
Municipal solid waste (MSW) compost medium is an abundant resource and useful in production of container nursery stock. However, it can be high in soluble salts. Municipal solid waste (MSW) compost media with various levels of soluble salts were used for rooting
stem cuttings of nine evergreen landscape shrubs. Rooting occurred during the winter in greenhouse compartments supplied with bottom-heated benches filled with 100% sphagnum peat or 100% perlite, or peat or perlite mixed with 15, 30, 45, 60 or 75% by volume of MSW
compost. The electrical conductivity (salt) levels were similar in MSW compost with peat or perlite (range. 0.05-0.60 dSm-1 with 0-75% compost) and positively correlated with levels of MSW (r=0.88, P<0.0001). With few exceptions, cuttings rooted similarly in MSW with peat or
perlite. Depending on taxa, increasing salt levels had various degrees of diminutive, neutral and enhancing effects on rooting response, expressed in terms of percent rooting, root number per cutting and root length (longest root per cutting). Four taxa (Juniperus
horizontalis Moench ‘Bar Harbor’ and ‘Blue Chip’, J. sabina L. “Blue Danube’, Thuja occidentalis L.) were tolerant to the salt levels tested (positively influenced or unaffected). The other five taxa (Buxus sempervirens L. ‘Green Gem’, Juniperus chinensis L.’Hetzii’, ‘Mint Julep’, and ‘Pfitzeriana Aurea’, and Taxus x media Rehd. ‘Densiformis’) were intolerant (adversely affected). Thus, plant cultivars should first be evaluated on a small scale in MSW compost before large scale commitments are made.

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students  to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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