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Academic Writing


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



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. 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 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 courses below 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. 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 African regionalism, international development, race and (neo)colonialism, to China-Africa relations. For example, what role do regional integration schemes play in African development? How has Pan-Africanism been used and developed by transnational elites? How have African states engaged external partners to suit their interests? To what extent have such relations changed over time? 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.

Sections B + J, Dr. Philomeen Dol: Genocide
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 C + 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, taking responsibility for waging war and making peace, 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 and decisive action. 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.

Section D, Dr. Lieks Hettinga: Aesthetics & the Body
This course examines relationships between aesthetics and the body, and how they shape and transform each other. Questions that guide this course include the following: How do artists and activist make aspects of embodied life appear in visual culture? And in turn, how can aesthetics make us understand and sense the body on new terms? The domain of aesthetics will be broadly understood as including artistic and activist practices and artifacts that create new knowledges, new affects, and new publics. During the first block, our starting point will be an art work by Félix Gonzáles-Torres (Cuba/US) produced during the height of the AIDS crisis in the US in 1991. During this time period, we see developments across activism and academic discourses that try to grapple with how the AIDS crisis reveals the ways in which state violence targets and impacts queer subjects. These debates also greatly influenced artistic practices, where we see artists developing new visual languages that could do justice to this complex entanglement of queer sexuality, love, desire, mourning, and rage. In the second half of the course, students will work on their own research essays based on their chosen art work that fits within the theme of aesthetics and the body, with critical attention to operations of race, sexuality, gender, and disability.

Section E, Dr. Evelien Walhout: Experiencing Epidemics in Early-Modern Times
Living a long and healthy life is the hope and ambition of many, today as well as in the past. Modern medical science and public health policy not only focus on how to stretch life but also on how to extend the number of years lived in self-perceived good health. In the past 150 years, life expectancy of a female newborn in the Netherlands increased from 38 to more than 84. Historical demographers study this fascinating process of reduced mortality risks and changing patterns of disease (aka epidemiological transition from infectious to man-made diseases) and contribute to a lively debate on the effects of economic growth, changing living conditions (housing, nutrition) and medical interventions (public health, medicine, vaccination) on living standards, health and longevity. In this course we focus on the individual patient against the background of these major processes. Through personal documents, such as diaries, letters and (auto)biographies, we study the personal experiences with illness and health of men and women in the past, in a time when most people died because of infectious disease (either epidemic or endemic). Personal documents became an extremely popular genre during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For comparison, the late-twentieth century also experienced a boom in blogs, social media and documentaries about personal disease perception. This course will discuss early-modern personal histories of the (aching) body, illness, childbirth and perceived health. The focus will be on medical historiography and theory, the possibilities and pitfalls of historical sources and (interdisciplinary) methodology.

Section F, 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 H, Dr. Mathijs Peters: The Critical Relationships Between Art and Society
In this section, we will explore different theories about the relationship between art and society. More specifically, we will engage with arguments that concern the role that art could and, according to some authors, should play in critiquing political and social structures. Some authors argue that artworks constitute an autonomous position, which distances them from society and enables them to critically turn against socio-political structures. Other authors reject this emphasis on distance and aesthetic autonomy, and instead claim that artworks are always already embedded in and dependent on socio-political contexts, which implies that they are part of more open critical dialogues within these contexts. To explore these arguments, we will read several theoretical articles on the relationship between art and society, and apply them to specific artworks. These artworks are taken from the realms of popular music, film, literature and more. For example, we will study how insights taken from the field of psychoanalysis enable us to show how Jordan Peele’s film Us critiques racist structures; how Homi Bhabha’s reflections on the postcolonial condition result in an approach that highlight critical aspects of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis; how affect theory makes it possible to foreground the critical ways in which sculptures by Doris Salcedo express experiences of collective trauma by ‘touching’ people on a bodily level; and how Mark Fisher’s analysis of capitalist realism constitutes a horizon that foregrounds how, Fisher argues, electric musician Burial’s album Untrue turns against the socio-political context in which it came about.

Section I, Dr. Fernanda Korovsky Moura: 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 K, Dr. Philomeen Dol, The Role of Courts and Tribunals in International Criminal Justice (SEMESTER 2)
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 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

  • 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, effectively processing the feedback, and working together on planning and executing a project

  • prepare and give an effective research presentation

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


  • 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 2022-2023 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, may 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 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 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 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 instructor 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 classes 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

Participation (in-class participation and Building Blocks)
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: ongoing all weeks

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

Group research presentation
Percentage: 10%
Deadline: weeks 5 and 6 (block 2)

Essay 2 (3000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: week 8 (block 2)

You must submit all the assignments, graded as well as 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 instructor in advance of the deadline.

Also note that the grade of Essay 2 (the final research essay) 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. 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.

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 Academic Writing course for any 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. Densua Mumford


Please read the course syllabus, which you will find on Brightspace, very carefully before the first class. After the first class, you will be expected to know and understand the course rules and requirements. If anything is unclear, ask your instructor.