PLNT*6400 (W) Seminar

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2022 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 no later than the second semester. Each student is expected to participate in the 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:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

There will be introductory classes will be held during the afternoons of Thursday January 13, 20 and 27, from 1:00 to 2:30.   Practice seminars will be held starting the weeks of Feb 28 and March 7, including from 1:00 to 4:00 on Thursday March 3 and 10, and may also take additional days during those weeks.  Final seminars will be held during the weeks of March 21 and 28, 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 synchronous and there will be a hybrid format, if face to face classes are allowed. That means that students can be present for face to fact classes or connect on line.  Zoom for teaching will be used. There is a link to Zoom in the CourseLink page for PLNT*6400.  Students are encouraged to be in class for the final seminars, if face-to-face classes can go ahead.

Learning outcomes:

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, the students should 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:

Week 1

Introductory class will include introductions, review of the course outline, determining the days for practice seminars and final seminars and a review of how to prepare a scientific abstract and how to make an effective scientific presentation.

Week 2

Continuation of the review of how to give an effective scientific presentation.

Week 3

This class will continue the discussion of scientific presentations and point to include in the Methods.

Week 4

No formal class

Week 5

No formal class 

Weeks 6 & 7

No formal class during week 6 Preparation for practice seminars. Week 7 is winter break.

Week 8

Practice seminars this week.  There will be practice seminars on two or three more days this week to be determined in class based on student availability. 

Students will present their seminar to the class, and the class will provide oral and written feedback. Student evaluations of other's seminars will count for a portion of each student's grade.

M.Sc. students - 20 minute seminar plus 10 minutes for questions
Ph.D. students - 30 minute seminars plus 10 minutes for questions

There will be additional time, up to 10 more minutes, for feedback to each presenter.

Week 9

Keep open for practice seminars on one, and maybe another day this week.  Additional days will be selected based on student availability.

Week 10

No classes this week. Preparation for final seminar presentation.

Weeks 11 & 12

Final seminar presentations week 11 and/or week 12.

The final presentations will be given to the department and the class, with face to face presentations if possible. There will be questions from the general audience. Ph.D. students and possibly others, will be chosen to Chair the session each day. As in the practice presentations, M.Sc. students will present for 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes for questions, and Ph.D. students will present for 30 minutes, followed by 10 minutes for questions.

Specific days and times during these weeks will be selected in discussion with the class.




Labs & Seminars:

There are no labs for this course.


Week 1  Introductory class - This class will include introductions, review of the course outline, determining the days for practice seminars and final seminars and a review of how to prepare a scientific abstract.

Week 2 Introductory class 2 - This class will be a review of how to give a scientific presentation. 

Week 3  No formal class.  Students prepare abstract and begin working on presentation

Week 4 No formal class.  

Week 5 and 6 No formal class. Preparation of seminars continues

Week 7 Reading Week- no classes

Week 8 Keep open for Practice seminars, if this time is needed 

Week 9 Practice seminars over 3 or 4 days - Students will present their seminar to the class, and the class will provide feedback. Student evaluations will count for a portion of each student's grade.

  • M.Sc. students - 20 minute seminar plus 10 minutes for questions
  • Ph.D. students - 30 minute seminars plus 10 minutes for questions

Week 12 Final seminar presentations Tuesday to Friday. This can be modified based on the schedules of students and their advisors. The final presentations will be given to the department and the class.  There will be questions from the general audience. Ph.D. students, and possibly others, will be chosen to Chair the session each day.

NOTE: No classes during weeks 10 and 11 to provide time to prepare the presentations.

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Mark Learning Outcomes Assessed

Abstract - First Draft


Abstract - Final Draft


Practice seminar


1, 3, 4, 5
Final seminar presentation (Instructor Evaluations)


Questions and oral feedback, plus written evaluations




Final examination:

There is no final examination scheduled for this course.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:

Not applicable.

Recommended Texts:

How to Write a Scientific Abstract (Website)

Writing a Scientific Research Proposal (Website)

How to Prepare a Research Proposal (Website)

How to Make a Research Presentation (Website)

Lab Manual:

Not applicable.

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:

Not applicable.

Additional Costs:

Not applicable.

Course Policies:

Course Participation

Students are expected to attend all (100%) the seminars in their assigned section and participate in class discussion and evaluation of each practice seminar.

Students are expected to attend 75% of all the final seminars and participate in class discussion and evaluation of each final seminar.

The instructor will grade participation based on a combination of class discussion and written submission of practice and final seminar evaluations.

Grading Policies

Details of assignment requirements will be provided during class time and/or through CourseLink. Assignments submitted late will be subject to reduction of 5% per day. Late assignments will no longer be accepted after 5 days late. For example, if the assignment is due February 4 at 4:30 pm, submission of the assignment on February 5 (0:00-11:59 pm) would result in a reduction of 5% off the final grade for that assignment. The assignment would not be accepted after 11:59 pm on February 9.

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:

Addit6ional Course Information

Please upload all assignments and your slides to CourseLink dropbox by the due date stated in the outline and before your practice and final presentation times.

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 paper presented.
  • 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

Sample Abstract

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 horizontalisMoench ‘Bar Harbor’ and ‘Blue Chip’, J. sabinaL. “Blue Danube’, Thuja occidentalisL.) 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.

Format of PowerPoint Presentations

  • 20 minutes for M.Sc. students (plus 10 min for questions)
  • 30 minutes for Ph.D. (plus 10 min for questions)
  • Including (also see scientific method below):
  • Introduction/Literature Review – the problem is identified and justified in scientific and economic terms where possible through a brief survey of the literature.
  • Hypothesis/question/model – typically expressed as hypothesis, which is a brief statement in the present tense giving a tentative or possible answer to the problem, usually does not include methods.
  • Objectives – identifies how you plan to do to test your hypothesis/question/model, typically provides an overview of the experiments  
  • Experimental Outline – detailed description of the experiments, and how data will be collected and analyzed.
  • Predicted and Preliminary Results – preliminary data is not necessary, should flow directly from your objectives.
  • Conclusions/Implications – how will the experiments address the hypothesis/problem.

Expectations of the Students

Be courteous to your classmates by attending and participating in all seminars (in your section).
You are responsible for posting your seminar announcement on the PA-all listserve 1 day prior to your seminar.
Show up 20 min. prior to all seminars to help arrange the room for seminar.

Email Etiquette

I will respond to emails as soon as possible, usually within 24-48 hours (except on weekends). If your situation is urgent, it's best to speak with me in person either before or after class. 

Put PLNT6400 in the subject line, use your UofG email, and always identify yourself.

Be specific. I am better able to help you’re the more specific you are. If your question is complex or lengthy and requires multiple back-and-forth emails, I will ask you to make an appointment instead. 

Check the syllabus and CourseLink. If the answer to your question(s) is available in the syllabus or on CourseLink I may not respond to your email.

Be professional. Please use an appropriate tone, level of formality, and review what you've written before sending your email, Email in the context of the class and communication with instructors is professional correspondence. Please treat it as such.

Summary of the Scientific Method


  • Problem or question must be clear and based on a literature review or personal observation.
  • What will it take to solve my problem? What do I know, and need to know to solve my problem. Examine the possibilities, eliminate poor choices, consider likely choices.


All research proposals should be based on a hypothesis (hypo = under, beneath; thesis = an arranging) Please see page 30 of the Department of Plant Agriculture Graduate Student Handbook ( for an extensive description of these aforementioned terms.

A summary is provided here: A hypothesis is a tentative or possible answer to the problem, a possible cause or explanation for what was observed. It is a generalization based on deductive reasoning, not an observation. Hypothesis reflects past experience with similar questions (“educated propositions” about cause).

Multiple hypotheses can be proposed, but do not lose sight of the big picture.

A hypothesis should be: (i) testable by experimentation; ii) can be proven wrong (falsify), but can never be proven correct with absolute certainty.


  • Use deductive reasoning to test your hypothesis.
  • Inductive reasoning goes from a set of specific observations to general conclusions. Deductive reasoning flows from general to the specific; this is a prediction about a specific case based on general premises. 
  • In the scientific method, if a particular hypothesis is true, then a certain result is expected (predicted) in the planned experiment (i.e., the objective).


  • Perform an experiment to see if the predicted results are obtained. If so, that supports the hypothesis. 


  • Interpret your data.
  • IF YOUR HYPOTHESIS WAS INCORRECT, DON’T GIVE UP! DO MORE RESEARCH! What was wrong with your original hypothesis? Did you make a poor selection? Was your experiment flawed? Form and test another hypothesis. 
  • Continue the process until the problem is solved.
  • Use inductive reasoning to discuss implications of findings.
  • When testing / doing the experiment, it must be a controlled experiment. An “experimental” group must be contrasted with a “control” group. The two groups are treated EXACTLY alike, except for the ONE variable being tested. Sometimes several experimental groups may be used. 
  • Replication is important in an experiment. Everything should be tried several times on several subjects. Quantitative data are gathered from each group, then averaged and compared statistically. The use of standard deviation or other statistical analysis will indicate whether any difference is statistically significant. Research is cumulative and progressive, and builds on the work of previous researchers. Therefore, an important part of any good research is to first do a literature review to find out what has already been done.

Classroom Behaviour

For remote connection to the class, please silence your microphones in the Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting environment during the seminar presentation. Use the raise your hand icon if you want to ask a question; this format will be reviewed by the instructor during the first seminar session. Please do not participate in other online activities during class.




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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For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email or visit the Student Accessibility Services website:

Course Evaluation Information

Your ratings and comments are important.  Course evaluation data are used to assess and enhance the quality of teaching and student learning at the University of Guelph.  Student course ratings and comments are used as an important component in the Faculty Tenure & Promotion process, and as valuable feedback to help instructors improve their teaching effectiveness and to improve the delivery of the course.

Your responses will not affect your grade.  Course evaluation data are distributed to individual instructors after final grades have been submitted to the Registrar, following the completion of each academic semester.

Please be honest, respectful, constructive and thorough.  Instructors and review committees place great value on student course ratings and read all comments provided in course evaluations. It is helpful to provide comments on the strengths of the course, in addition to the areas for improvement.  Please refrain from personal comments unless they relate to teaching and learning.

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