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Academic Writing




Admissions requirements

This is a compulsory Year 1 course.


Academic Writing is a group of courses that offer an introduction to a particular academic discipline, including political art history, the history of international relations 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 Middle Ages 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 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 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 descriptions of the specific courses are listed below. Please make sure you read them 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.

Medieval Disability and Robert Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid (Dr. Krista Murchison)
This course will examine medieval literature from a disability studies perspective. Central to our investigation will be the paired questions of how literature shapes views of disability and how views of disability are in turn shaped by—and reflected in—literature. In the first half of the course, we will examine some historical approaches to disability and students will gain an awareness of the ways in which perceptions of disability have shifted over time. The investigation will center around Robert Hennryson’s fifteenth-century The Testament of Cresseid. This poem, which was famously written as a rejoinder to the work of that father of English poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer, provides an ideal case study of medieval approaches to leprosy, and students will consider various approaches to the poem’s depiction of the disabled body. To gain a fuller understanding of the complex contexts in which medieval texts circulated, students will visit Leiden University Library’s Special Collections, where they will learn about medieval manuscripts and explore these valuable cultural artefacts.

Imagining Us: Nationalism and National Identity in Early Modern Art (Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema)
This course focuses on nationalism in Europe between 1600 and 1750 and will explore how artists and patrons used art to reflect and reinforce the emerging concept of national identity in this period. 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 these images. In the first half of the course, we will study the dynamics of early nationalism in the context of Europe: what did it mean to be European in the early 17th century? And how did this relate to the European perception and representation of Asia, Africa and South America? In the second half, we will focus on a number of emerging national identities within early modern Europe and explore these in works ranging from Anthony van Dyck’s portraits of the Dutch and Flemish upper middle classes to William Hogarth’s representation of 18th-century England. 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 17th and 18th-century prints and manuscripts.

How to Put an End to Slavery? British Abolitionist Strategies, 1823-1833 (Dr. Maartje Janse)
In this course we will explore the strategies employed within one of the most successful and iconic social movements in history. Between 1823 and 1833 the British anti-slavery movement organized a large-scale campaign that resulted in the abolition of slavery in 1833. How did they do it? What was their strategy? To answer that question we have to start from the observation that this was not a monolithic movement. It rather consisted of several groups of abolitionist men and women, all with their own strategies and organizations. Some tried to convince slave-holders to voluntarily free their slaves, others set up mass petitions to influence Parliament, while those who had lost their faith in these strategies started organizing boycotts of slave-produced consumption goods such as sugar. What did abolitionists base their choice for a specific strategy on? What could convince them to change their approach? Around 1830 the movement at large embraced an increasingly radical ideology and style, which would turn out to be effective. Based on primary as well as secondary sources, we will analyze the dynamics behind this shift, paying special attention to the role of abolitionist women such as Elizabeth Heyrick in transforming the anti-slavery movement at large.

Selling the ‘Good War’: World War II and the American Battle for Hearts and Minds (Albertine Bloemendal, MA)
The Second World War is often remembered as the ‘Good War’, during which the U.S. found itself on the ‘right’ side of history. The Americans started out, however, as rather reluctant warriors. After the First World War many Americans came to regard U.S. involvement in this conflict as a mistake. They believed the United States had been deceived into participation under false pretences. As a new conflict presented itself in Europe, it became very clear that the ‘war to end all wars’ had not lived up to its promise, leaving many Americans disillusioned, wary of government propaganda and reluctant to get involved in yet another foreign conflict. It was in this context, that president Franklin Delano Roosevelt began a propaganda offensive to steer the American public towards intervention in an effort to stop Nazi Germany. By studying a variety of sources, this course will focus on the battle for hearts and minds that took place between interventionists and isolationists within the United States and the efforts of the Roosevelt administration to sell the war effort to the American people.

The Role of Courts and Tribunals in International Criminal Justice (Dr. Philomeen Dol)
In this 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 organizations 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.

Forging the Enlightenment: The Power and Politics of Fakery (1700 – 1800) (Drs Jacqueline Hylkema)
This course provides a first introduction to the academic disciplines of cultural and political history, and focuses on the role of forgery in various aspects of the Enlightenment. Throughout the 18th century, forgery was rife in Europe and North America and provided an effective tool to those in power as well as those who fought to bring about political and social change. We will study both types of forgers, their motives and their techniques as well as the political, social and cultural impact of their fabrications. In the first block, we will focus on Polly Baker, arguably the world’s first feminist, and the context, creation and impact of the deception related to her. The second part of the course will explore forgery in a wider context and discuss a number of 18th-century forgeries in terms of the discourses they were part of (such as scientific progress, European nation-building, and Orientalism) and the media (pamphlets and newspapers in particular) that disseminated them. 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 18th-century prints and manuscripts. (Please note that this course is only offered 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 and research skills 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 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: 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.

Finally, please note that passing Academic Writing is a requirement for a positive BSA advice. If you do not pass the course, 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.


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

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.


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,