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Academic Writing


Admission requirements



Academic Writing is a group of courses that offer an introduction to a particular academic discipline, including cultural history, literary studies, the history of international relations and legal history. The Academic Writing courses not only differ in terms of their subject but also the periods they cover, which range from the early modern period to today’s world. However, what the courses share is that while you are learning about their specific subject, they all teach you, step by step, how to write and do research at university.

Every Academic Writing course consists of two blocks. In the first block, the writing part of the course will cover the stages and skills involved in the composition of an academic argument, including close reading, finding and evaluating sources, developing a thesis, using textual evidence, organizing ideas with clarity, citation and referencing as well as strategies for planning and revision. We will also address the subjects of styling and formatting, and you will learn how to examine and evaluate your peers’ texts and to provide constructive feedback. Particular attention will be paid to the subject of plagiarism and how to avoid it.

The focus of the second block of the course will be on research and this part of the course will take you through every step of the research essay, from how to prepare and write a research proposal to adding the final touches to your paper. Throughout the block, you will work in a research group and learn how to collaborate in a number of important academic activities, most notably the research presentation. Being able to give a good presentation (whether it’s in a lecture room or in a podcast) is a crucial skill in academic life and this course will not only teach you exactly what makes a presentation good but also teach you a number of key presentation techniques.

Please make sure you read the descriptions of the different course variations carefully before choosing which course you want to take as it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to move to another course after you have registered. Also note that course placement is subject to availability and course schedules.

Section A (Dr. Philomeen Dol)

In this particular section, we will focus on the concept of Genocide. The term Genocide was first coined during World War II by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer who became aware of atrocities committed against groups of people midway through the 20th century. Genocide was legally defined in the Genocide Convention, but it was not until the Rwanda Tribunals in the 1990s that suspects were prosecuted for the crime of Genocide. The delay between the first attempts at a definition of Genocide and its ultimate application in a Court suggests that Genocide is not a straightforward concept. During the course, we will consider various issues connected to Genocide, such as its historical development, its link(s) with crimes against humanity, the notion of cultural Genocide and the role of state policy in relation to Genocide.

Sections B + G (Dr. Bryan O'Donovan)
The State as an Actor in International Affairs

This course will examine the role states play in the conduct of international affairs. States have been the dominant actors in international politics ever since the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, taking responsibility for waging war and making peace with other states, conducting and regulating trade across borders, and exercising sovereignty over their respective societies. However, the 20th and 21st centuries have seen other actors enter the fray: regional and global organizations to which nation states have ceded varying degrees of sovereignty; non-governmental and civil society organizations who claim their own transnational constituencies; transnational corporations which wield vast economic influence, sometimes beyond the control of traditional state structures. Some criticize these developments and question the effectiveness of such actors in addressing global issues which often require prompt action and were traditionally tackled by states. There are, on the other hand, advocates of this diffusion of power, who claim the old system is not conducive to dealing with transnational issues such as climate change, migration and international security. In this course, we will analyze a number of academic arguments from the area of international relations to gain a better understanding of the traditional, current, and future role of states in the international arena.

Sections C + H (Sophie Rose MA)
Sexuality and Empire

This section will explore the history of colonial empires through the lens of intimate human encounters. Since the start of European overseas expansion, sexual relations played a crucial role in the creation of new communities, the formation of social hierarchies, and the policing of ethnic and racial distinctions. The first half of the course will draw on a combination of theoretical texts, meant to introduce students to a conceptual toolbox for conducting historical and cultural analyses, and the specific case study of Early Modern Dutch colonialism, which was dominated by chartered trade companies (the VOC and WIC, or Dutch East India Company and West India Company, respectively). In the second half of the course, students will conduct their own research based on a chosen topic from the wider theme of sexuality and gender in colonial empires.

Section D (Fernanda Korovsky Moura MA)
Ecocriticism in Literary Studies

In this particular section, we will read literary texts through an ecocritical perspective, a growing field of study within environmental humanities. Ecocriticism is a branch of literary theory that explores the relationships between the humans and the natural and nonhuman worlds as depicted in literary texts. This term was first proposed by William Rueckert in his essay “Literature and Ecology” (1978), and it has been officially recognized as an academic discipline since the mid-1990s. Although the categorization of ecocriticism is relatively recent, environmental approaches to literary texts can actually be traced back to Ancient Greece. In this course, we will also investigate the concepts of ecopoetics (the study of poetry that explores how the world is experienced by human and nonhuman entities), posthumanism (a philosophical perspective that understands the world as composed of multiple dynamic forces, where the human does not hold a superior position to nonhuman entities, redefining humanity’s place in the world) and the Anthropocene (the definition of Earth's most recent geologic time period as being human-influenced, or anthropogenic). During the course, we will discuss the literary theory and apply it to different literary texts, such as short stories, poems and extracts of novels (including science fiction and fantasy), written in different parts of the world and periods of time.

Section E (Dr. Densua Mumford)
Africa’s International Relations

In this section we will explore the ways in which Africa’s international relations have impacted the continent’s socio-economic and political development. We will engage with a range of arguments and perspectives on the causes and consequences of Africa's engagement with the world, both historical and contemporary. Major themes will range from international development, race and (neo)colonialism, China-Africa relations, to African regionalism. For example, how have African states engaged external partners to suit their interests? To what extent have such relations changed over time? Have African states learned to cooperate effectively with each other through regional integration schemes? How has Pan-Africanism been used and developed by transnational elites? Students will have the opportunity to develop their own research questions and to learn how to gather primary data from various sources, analyse them in a critical manner, and formulate robust scholarly arguments.

Section F (Dr. Looi van Kessel)
Sexuality and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Literature

Henry James' short novel The Turn of the Screw (1898) is a classic tale in which the author subverts both genre conventions and social norms governing female sexuality in the 19th century. As such, the novel is exemplary for modernist literature, which demonstrates a growing concern for turbulent developments in social life at the turn of the century and the concomitant changes in moral attitudes toward sexuality. In this course we will examine the changing role of sexuality in western society throughout the 19th century with a specific focus on the intersection of sexuality with gender and race. In the first part of this course, we will collectively read James’ The Turn of the Screw to identify attitudes toward sexuality and modernity in the late 19th-century. In the second part of this course our attention will shift to questions of race and gender when the students will pick a short story to analyze for their research group project.

Section I (Dr. Barrie Sander)
Dilemmas of Justice in the Aftermath of Mass Atrocities

In recent decades, the field of international criminal law has experienced a degree of judicialisation that few thought imaginable. During this period, international criminal courts have not only become normalised but also prioritized as a response to episodes of mass atrocity. In this course, we will grapple with some of the justice dilemmas that have arisen in responding to mass atrocities within international criminal courts. Traversing tensions centred on the expressive limits of international criminal law and the political choices and constraints of international criminal courts, this course invites students to reflect on the contested meaning of justice in the aftermath of episodes of mass violence.

Section J (Dr. Daný van Dam)
Navigating Migration and Identity through Literature

Literature can offer ways to turn what is abstract and general into something that is personally relevant. In this course, we will use Ken Liu’s prize-winning short story “The Paper Menagerie” (2011) as a point of departure to study how literature can offer the language and tools to discuss migration and identity in a multinational and multilingual context. Using approaches from politics of location and intersectionality, we will look at how authors creatively engage with the lived experience of migrant identities. In the first half of the course, we will use Liu’s story as an example to become familiar with the tools and terminology of constructing and navigating migrant identities through literature. In the second half of the course, we will expand on concepts of migration and identity, allowing students to select their own texts to apply the concepts to.

Section L, Semester 2 (Dr. Philomeen Dol)
The Role of Courts and Tribunals in International Criminal Justice

In this section, we will focus on the role which international criminal courts and tribunals play in dispensing justice. From the aftermath of World War II until today, criminal courts and tribunals have been established to bring perpetrators of war crime and crimes against humanity to justice in an attempt to end impunity. Advocates of these courts and tribunals argue that they are essential for establishing international criminal justice. Others, however, find that these organizations cannot effectively deal with war crime and crimes against humanity. In this group, taking the International Criminal Court as a starting point, we will examine arguments from a number of academic sources from the field of international criminal law in order to better understand the phenomenon of international criminal justice.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course, students can

  • conduct research at undergraduate level and have the skills to find, evaluate, analyze and process sources

  • carry out an essay project, from the first idea to the final revision

  • structure and present an effective thesis and argumentation

  • properly style all different elements of an academic essay according to a basic style manual

  • collaborate with peers in terms of providing peer reviews of other students’ work and effectively processing the feedback on their own as well as working together on planning a project and doing the research for it

  • prepare and give an effective research presentation

  • explain exactly what plagiarism entails and are able to avoid it through proper citation and referencing


  • At the end of the course, students can describe and explain the basic principles of their chosen subject and its main discourses, approaches, methodologies and terminologies.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Every Academic Writing course is different and depending on which one you take, your course can include different methods and activities. However, the structure and the teaching of the writing and research skills is exactly the same for all courses, including the general set-up of the writing assignments and their deadlines. In the first block, Information Specialists from Leiden University Libraries will teach the same class to all course groups and you will also be expected to complete several tutorials provided by Leiden University Libraries.

The course will be taught online this year but we have redesigned the programme to make it as effective and productive as the traditional version. The backbone of the course is formed by the close reading, analysis and discussion of texts, with one 2-hour session per week from Weeks 1 to 14. Almost every week you will write short assignments, all of which will build up progressively towards the two graded essays. The first essay will offer an original interpretation of a particular primary source and will incorporate secondary sources set by your teacher and discussed in class. The second essay will be based on your individual research. On the basis of your research proposal, you will be placed in a research group and you will be expected to work very closely with your group members throughout the block. You will exchange ideas and sources, peer-review each other’s drafts and prepare and give a research presentation together.

In the first block, all students will have a short, individual tutorial with their lecturer to receive and discuss individual feedback on their writing and in the second block, every research group will attend a group-tutorial to discuss the research proposals.

Attendance: Given that this is an intensive course, in which you will be learning skills that are crucial to your career, as a student at LUC and afterwards, you should try not to miss any class unless you have an exceptional and valid reason. If you have to be absent, please be aware that it is your responsibility to catch up with any missed classwork and submit your assignments on time or by the extended deadline agreed on - in advance - with your instructor.

Participation: You are expected to participate actively in class discussions, take notes, and respond to your peers’ writing. This means that you will have to do all the preparation for the class, including the reading, meticulously. Almost every week, you are expected to do a writing assignment and write a structured peer review of at least two of your peers’ assignments. These so-called Building Blocks are also included in your participation grade.

Assessment Method

Assessment: Participation (in-class participation and Building Blocks)
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: ongoing Weeks 1 – 15

Assessment: Essay 1 (1500 words)
Percentage: 35%
Deadline: week 8

Assessment: Research presentation in the second block
Percentage: 10%
The date of the presentations will be announced at the start of the block. Do please note that even though this is a group assignment, students will be graded individually.

Assessment: Final research essay (3000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: week 15

You must submit all the assignments - graded as well ungraded - in order to pass the course and you will be penalized (points will be taken from your essay grades – please see the syllabus for more information about this) for missed deadlines, including those for the Building Block assignments. If you need an extension, please contact your lecturer in advance of the deadline.

Also note that the grade of the final research paper cannot be compensated by the other grades and that you need to receive at least a C- for this essay in order to pass the course. If your final paper receives a D+ or lower, your final grade for the course cannot be higher than a D+ and you will fail the course.
Finally, please note that passing Academic Writing is a requirement for a positive BSA advice. If you do not pass the course, you can retake it in blocks 3 and 4. If you fail the course again, you will not be able to continue your studies at LUC in the second year. Please see the Student Handbook for more information on this.

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.

Reading list

The Little, Brown Handbook. Global Edition (13th edition), by Jane E. Aaron and H. Ramsey Fowler (Pearson Education Limited).

Please see the syllabus of your specific AW course for the other course texts.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Philomeen Dol.


Please read the course syllabus (which you will find on Brightspace) very carefully before the first class. After this first class, you will be expected to know and understand the course rules and requirements so do please ask if anything is unclear.