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Thesis Writing Seminar


Admission Requirements

This course is intended for and accessible to students of to the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) and the MA Asian Studies (research) only.


Once every two weeks, students who are currently engaged in research for and writing of their Research MA thesis convene in a seminar under the guidance of the programme chair, Prof. Dr. Jonathan Silk. The objective of this seminar is to offer students a platform to present the outline of the thesis and to discuss it with their individual thesis advisor, the seminar convenor, and their fellow students. In the course of discussing each presented project, the main issues involved in the construction and writing a thesis (such as: defining the topic, formulating the research question and hypothesis, theory and methodology, seeking out sources, building a bibliography, structuring the thesis) are dealt with.

This procedure consists in the preparation of a short (3 to 5 pages) thesis outline, with reference to relevant literature and sources, the most important works to be consulted (with annotation where possible), and central hypotheses. This is presented before the supervisor and the convenor of the Thesis Writing Seminar, and fellow students, in the context of that seminar. The purpose of this is to provide students a review of and feedback, on the basis of which they more fruitfully work toward an excellent final product. The presentation itself consists of the student’s short and oral presentation of the main points of the proposed work, followed by questions from, and discussion with, those mentioned abovepresent. It is anticipated that this process will take approximately 1 hour.

This presentation is required in order to proceed to submission of the final version of the thesis, and therefore is required for graduation from the program. The completed assessment form for this presentation should be sent to the departmental student administration with cc to the student advisor.
NB: the proposal deals with the thesis, not the (field) research antecedant to the thesis, although of course the nature and scope of this research will play a role in it.

Course objectives

Students learn how to construct a thesis and how to orally present the results of their research. Students learn how to use presentation software effectively (and when it is not appropriate), how to speak publicly in an academic setting and other such skills. Moreover, students learn how to participate actively in an academic discussion and to receive and formulate criticism in this context.


Students take part in this seminar during one semester, preferably that in which they are writing their thesis (i.e., after fieldwork or other comperable preparation). However, all Research MA students are free to also attend the seminar earlier, in order to better prepare themselves for their research and presentations thereof.
See timetable of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or the timetable of the MA Asian Studies (research).

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

For this seminar bi-weekly attendance and participation is required. Classes missed for a good reason (to the discretion of the conveners and to be discussed BEFORE the class takes place) will have to be made up with an extra assignment.

Assessment method

Active class participation and presentation of the research outline. The course is graded pass / fail.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse (even portions of) materials they had previously authored and for which they have already received academic credit in any course.


Blackboard will be used for internal communication.

Reading list

Not applicable


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable of the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) or the timetable of the MA Asian Studies (research) in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English.

Not being registered means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.


Prof. Dr. J.A.Silk


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.