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Academic Writing



First-year programme

Admissions requirements



Academic Writing is a group of courses that offer an introduction to a particular academic discipline, including the history of art, cultural history, literary history and legal history. The Academic Writing courses not only differ in terms of their subject but also in the periods they cover, which range from the classical period to today’s world. However, what the courses do 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, structure, register, coherence and cohesion 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 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.

The following courses, except the final one, will be taught in blocks 1 and 2 – please read the following descriptions 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. The final course, which focuses on political art history, will only be taught in Blocks 3 and 4.

The Best of Both Worlds? Negotiating Histories and Identities in Greek Cities under the Roman Empire (Lizzie Mitchell MA)

As the Roman empire expanded aggressively across the Mediterranean in the late first millennium BCE, it came to hold power over people and places with histories, cultures and administrative systems very different from its own. This course provides an introduction to the world of the Roman Empire, but rather than starting from Rome itself we will focus on the experience of empire of Rome’s subjects in the Greek East, and in particular in the highly-developed city states of Asia Minor, modern Turkey, which had already seen a series of empires (the Persian empire, the empires of Alexander the Great and his successors) come and go. Over the course of the semester we will use a wide range of sources, from ancient novels and fictional dialogues to mosaic floors and archaeological data, to think about the different ways in which cities and individuals responded to Roman hegemonic rule, asking how they renegotiated their own histories and identities for the contingencies and possibilities of a new age – and how, in their turn, they redefined the history and identity of their conquerors.

Henry VIII’s secret love-letters: Affairs of State in 16th Century England (Dr. Nadia T. van Pelt)

You may have heard the expression: ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’, which refers to the tempestuous love-life of King Henry VIII’s (reign: 1509-1547), who married six times, and had two of his wives beheaded. This section addresses the secret love-letters that Henry wrote when he was courting Anne Boleyn (whilst still married to Katherine of Aragon). These letters offer great insight into the hidden world ‘behind the scenes’ of the Tudor court; a dangerous social space in which propaganda, diplomacy, religious schisms and international warfare could not be separated from the King’s marital and sexual relationships. As a case study, we will address the ‘Boleyn affair’ in order to understand the relationship between the Reformation and the King’s personal life. Students will engage with historical documents such as diplomatic and private correspondence, as well as legal documents recording Anne Boleyn’s trial, as she stood accused of alleged incest with her brother. The question remains: was she guilty or were there other forces at work?

Slaves in Court at the Cape of Good Hope (Kate J. Ekama MA)

In this course we will look at slavery in the Indian Ocean world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In particular, we will focus on the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) settlement at the Cape of Good Hope – today Cape Town, South Africa – where slavery was introduced in the late 1650s. While the enslaved at the Cape left no written records of their own, during the course we will analyse a number of eighteenth century court cases which involved slaves as victims, witnesses and perpetrators of criminal activity. Through these fascinating sources we will consider issues of power, agency and criminality. A central question which we will ask is how the enslaved responded to their condition of slavery, thus delving into the topics of resistance and rebellion.

The Role of Courts and Tribunals in International Criminal Justice (Dr. Philomena Dol)

In this particular course 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.

The Role of the State in International Relations (Bryan O’Donovan MA)

This particular course will examine the role states play in the conduct of international relations. 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 century saw the emergence of transnational actors – regional and global organisations to which nation states have ceded varying degrees of sovereignty in areas such as peace and security, environmental policy and trade. Some criticise this development and question the effectiveness of this approach to addressing issues which often require prompt action and traditionally were tackled by states. There are, on the other hand, advocates of this pooling of sovereignty who claim such an approach is crucial when dealing with transnational issues such as climate change, migration and international security. In this course, we will analyse a number of academic arguments from the area of international relations to gain a better understanding of the traditional, current, and future position of states in the international arena.

Art and Propaganda in the Dutch Republic (Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema)

This course focuses on how the various social and religious groups in the Dutch Republic used the visual arts as a tool for propaganda during the Golden Age. Although the course’s main emphasis will be on iconology, our discussions will also include many of the practices and concepts involved in the creation, dissemination and reception of visual propaganda. In the first half of the course, we will study the dynamics of propaganda in a number of seventeenth-century prints and paintings and interpret these in the light of their creation and impact. In the second half, we will explore a number of other works, ranging from Anthony van Dyck’s portraits to Romeyn de Hooghe’s prints, and discuss how these engaged with some of the period’s political, social and religious issues and events. This course will include a class at Leiden University Library’s Special Collections, where you will learn how to conduct art historical research and have the opportunity to work with rare seventeenth-century prints and manuscripts. N.B. This course will only be taught in Blocks 3 and 4

Course objectives

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

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

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

  • can structure and present an effective thesis and argumentation

  • can properly style all different elements of an academic essay according to the basic LUC style template

  • can 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

  • can prepare and give an effective research presentation

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


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Every Academic Writing course is different and depending on which one you take, your course can include different methods and activities, including hands-on excursions to research libraries and other institutes. The structure and teaching of the writing part however is 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 online tutorials provided by Leiden University Libraries.

The close reading, analysis and discussion of texts form the backbone of this course, 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 primary source and will incorporate secondary sources designated 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 towards the end of the second block, every research group will attend a group-tutorial to discuss the first drafts of the research essay.

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 write a structured peer review of at least two of your peers’ assignments.


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

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

  3. 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.

  4. Assessment: Final research essay (2500 words)
    Percentage: 40%
    Deadline: week 15
    Please note that in addition to the two graded essays, there will be additional writing assignments (the building blocks) due for almost every week of the course. 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.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Please see the syllabus of your specific AW course.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Jacqueline Hylkema,


Please read the course syllabus (which you will find on Blackboard) 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.