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Academic Writing




Admissions requirements

None. This course is compulsory for all first-year LUC students.


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 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 will be added at a later stage. 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.

The sections of Academic Writing have different themes; please find descriptions. You will be able to express a preference for a particular section during course registration. However, note that course placement is subject to availability. The Section letters (e.g. A, B, C, etc.) refer to the different groups of Academic Writing on the timetable.

Sections G+K: The Politics of Paintings and Prints in the Dutch Republic (Dr. Jacqueline Hylkema)
The Dutch Revolt may have started in iconoclastic fury, but from its creation in 1581 to the end of its Golden Age, the Dutch Republic produced an abundance of images, ranging from masterpieces by Rembrandt, Steen and Vermeer to cheap, anonymous prints. All these images are, in one way or another, political and reflect different kinds of power and agency. In the first block, we will focus on the visualization of political power and governance in the Dutch Republic. The second block will elaborate on this in a number of related themes, such as the agency of women in the republic, the rise of the middle classes, the relationship between the economy and technology, and the tension between the concepts of nation and religious diversity. Although the course’s main emphasis will be on political iconology, we will also discuss practices and concepts related to the creation, dissemination and reception of art, including patronage and propaganda, and study their political implications. The course will include a class at Leiden University’s Special Collections, where you will have the opportunity to work with rare 17th-century prints.

Sections C+I: Slavery in the Age of Revolution (Tamira Combrink, MA)
On the eve of the French Revolution, France owned the largest growing slave plantation colony in the world at the time: Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti). Until the Haitian Revolution, the enslaved plantation workers in Saint-Domingue produced 40% of the sugar and most of the coffee that Europeans consumed at breakfast. The French and American Revolutions, often remembered for the values of liberty and equality, occurred at a time in which slavery was at a high in European colonies. How did slavery and the revolt against it, shape political ideas at the time, and vice versa? How did economic interests in slavery play a part in political positions of various groups? How did the system of slavery itself transform in this period marked by deep geo-political changes affecting the Atlantic, but also many other parts of the world? In this course, we will read a selection from John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796) and discuss it from multiple angles, and explore late 18th and early 19th-century slavery, as well as a number of related issues, from economic, political, social and cultural perspectives.

Section D: Sexuality and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Looi van Kessel, MA)
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 United States of the nineteenth century. As such, the novel is exemplary for American modernist literature, which demonstrates a growing concern for turbulent developments in American social life at the turn of the century and the concomitant change in moral attitudes toward sexuality. In this course we will examine the changing role of sexuality in American society throughout the 19th century, from the imagining of its puritan origins to 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 late 19th-century America. In the second part of this course our attention will shift to questions of race, gender and genre when the students will pick one of the following authors for their research group project: Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Charles W. Chesnutt.

Sections A+F: 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.

Sections B+H: 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 twentieth 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.

Section J: Africa’s International Relations (Dr. Densua Mumford)
In this course 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 decolonisation, 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 more 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 E: Cultural Memory and Trauma in Contemporary Russia (Dr. Dorine Schellens)
In Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, the Nobel prize winning author Svetlana Alexievich recounts personal, often traumatic stories of daily life in the Soviet Union. Combining literary and journalistic storytelling techniques, her work is part of a larger process of shaping collective memories about the Soviet past since the 1990s. In the first half of this course, we will focus on excerpts from Alexievich’s book in order to examine the role of narrative practices in the construction of cultural memory and identity. In the second half, we will explore literature as a voice within the current ‘memory wars’ over the Soviet past in contemporary Russia. Drawing on recent literary texts, journalistic publications as well as entries on social media, students will compare and contrast the role of writers to increasingly strong efforts by the state to gain control over the narrative of national history, which represents a key component in the nation-building process. With this focus, students will gain insight into current debates on Russia’s search for a national identity.

Section L: Genocide (Semester 2) (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.

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.


Once available, timetables will be published in 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, including hands-on excursions to research libraries and other institutes. The structure and the teaching of the writing and research skills 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 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: 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.


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 Education 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.