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Academic Writing


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



Academic Writing is a group of courses that will teach you, step by step, how to write excellent essays and conduct relevant research at university. 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. They offer an introduction to particular academic discipline, including history, literary studies, cultural studies, international relations, and (international) law.

Every Academic Writing course consists of two blocks and a total of fourteen highly interactive seminars. 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, of course, how to avoid it. Above all, you will learn through experience that writing is thinking; the two cannot be separated. As academics, we write in order to discover what we think and want to argue, and then we rewrite in order to explain better what we think.

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.

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.

NB: The groups below refer to the groups (A, B, C, etc.) as stated in the timetable. Timetables will be available here once registration has started.

Dr. Ann Wilson, Groups A + G
Title: The History and Future of Nature Conservation

How should humans relate to other living creatures in the “more-than-human” natural world? What responsibilities do we have when it comes to protecting, creating, or otherwise managing “green” spaces—whether these are national parks, urban greenways, or our own back gardens? (And who is this “we,” anyway?) In this section we will explore the ways that different groups have engaged the philosophies and practices of nature conservation, both in the past and in the present day (and with an eye toward the future). We will examine the ethical conundrums that have arisen and the political struggles that have broken out when “ecocentrists” and others have sought to “put nature first.” And we will develop our own practice as writers, paying attention to the various ways scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences construct arguments and craft academic prose. Finally, we will take inspiration from the green spaces around our college building, learning to write not only about abstract ideas, but also about living creatures and ecosystems.

Bryan O'Donovan MA, Groups B + H
Title: The State as an Actor in International Affairs

This group 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.

Dr. Philomeen Dol, Group C
Title: 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.

Alexander van der Meer MA, Group D
Title: Church, Mission and Colonialism in the Dutch East Indies 1600-1900

Ministers and missionaries founded churches, schools and congregations in the Americas, Africa and Asia in the wake of European trading companies and colonial states. Faith was an important aspect of daily colonial practice, which is all too often overlooked in existing literature. Local populations often had more contact with pastors, schoolmasters and missionaries than with government officials. In this section we will focus on the intersection between the overseas Dutch church, mission and colonialism in the Dutch East Indies between 1600 and 1900. On the one hand, colonialism and religion often went hand in hand. Conversion to the colonizer’s religion was a means to bind local populations to colonial rule, extract labour and create a moral community of loyal subjects. On the other hand, ministers and missionaries at times ran into conflict with the colonial state, as the interests of church and mission could run counter to colonial state interests. To what degree was the overseas church and mission an extension of Dutch colonialism? In this section we will focus on this and several other themes. Next to the entwinement between the colonial church and state, we will, amongst others, investigate syncretization – ‘syncretic’ beliefs and practices as the result of intercultural and interfaith interaction – as well as the impact of the colonial religious encounter on the metropolitan colonial ideology. Students will be guided step by step into conducting their own research and writing their own essays based on the abovementioned and related research themes.

Dr. Oran Patrick Kennedy, Group E
Title: The History and Memory of Slavery in North America

This section will focus on the history and memory of slavery in North America, with a particular emphasis on the United States. We will explore how the institution of slavery shaped the social, economic, and political development of the continent, the expansion of slavery in the US South, abolition and emancipation between the American Revolutionary War and the US Civil War, and the historical memory of slavery from the late nineteenth century to the present day. We will engage with relevant topics and questions from an interdisciplinary perspective, influenced primarily by historical research and cultural memory studies. During the course, we will examine scholarly arguments and debates on various relevant topics by reviewing academic works (i.e., books, articles, etc.). Furthermore, we will analyze a wide array of relevant primary sources, including slave narratives and oral testimonies, newspapers, manuscript records, photographs and images, novels, films and TV, monuments, museums, and other sites of collective memory. For the section, students will be tasked with writing a research paper on a relevant theme or topic. Students will receive guidance on constructing a research design, formulating a research question and thesis statement, writing a literature review, devising a methodology, analyzing relevant sources, and structuring and organizing an academic paper.

Dr. Densua Mumford, Group F
Title: Digital Politics: Power and Resistance on the Internet

The internet and related digital technologies have significantly reshaped human relations. Originating as a military project, the internet was promulgated by scientists in the 1980s and finally found global commercial use in the 1990s, not least because of the launch of the world wide web. Since then, travelling, learning, and staying healthy are difficult to imagine without some interaction with the internet and related technologies. Communities across the world, using social media, are sharing information and offering each other solidarity in ways that can subvert traditional powers like the state. On the other hand, these new technologies may help to reproduce old forms of injustice and even create new ones. ‘Big tech’ companies, with their transnational reach and often highly opaque technologies, have become difficult to hold democratically accountable. Prominent activists and experts have demonstrated the racialised and gendered effects of AI technology even as they are being deployed to decide on new job hires, resolve criminal cases, and provide banking services. Repressive governments have learned to wield access to the internet and the (dis)information spread on it to manipulate their citizens. In this section of Academic Writing, students will engage critically with cutting edge debates about the myriad ways in which the internet and related technologies shape society. In the process, students will explore the extent to which these technologies can foster or prevent a good life, especially for marginalised communities.

Dr. Marcia Gonçalves, Group I
Title: Cultures of Empire in the Modern World

European overseas expansion and colonial domination triggered profound economic, geopolitical, and social changes that shaped the world we live in. This section will explore how ideas of empire also shaped the way people imagined the world and their self-image and identity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first part of the course will draw on a combination of theoretical texts (which will provide students with a conceptual and practical toolbox for conducting historical and cultural analyses) and primary and secondary sources on the theme 'Empire and Civilisation'. The starting point will be Joseph Conrad’s short story ‘An outpost of Progress’, first published in 1897 and inspired by the author’s time in the Congo Free State in 1890. In the second part of the course, students will formulate their own research questions and arguments and carry out their own investigations based on their chosen topic within the general theme 'Imperial Co-histories'.

Dr. Rosanne van der Voet, Group J
Title: Literature, Culture and Environment: Contemporary Challenges in Ecocriticism

This section of the course will focus on contemporary ecocriticism, a field that explores the relationship between literature, culture and the physical environment. This interdisciplinary strand of environmental humanities emerges from the premise that the stories we tell of the world – through all facets of our cultures and societies – have a significant impact on our treatment of the world. With a focus on contemporary challenges, such as pollution, extinction and global heating, we will reflect on the connections between literature, culture and the global environmental crisis. Throughout the course, we will explore several research themes, such as blue ecocriticism (concerning the role of water in the environmental crisis; notably, the ocean), animal studies (which explores the representation of animals in literature and culture) postcolonial ecocriticism (which focusses on the intersection between colonialism and environmental decline) and the concept of the Anthropocene (which designates a new geological era characterised by human intervention). In doing so, we will analyse and discuss a variety of primary sources, such as novels, poetry and nonfiction, and apply secondary sources in this context.

Dr. Fernanda Korovsky Moura, Group K
Title: Intersections Between Past and Present – Historical Fiction in Literary Studies (SEMESTER 2)

What role can literature play in looking back and understanding the past? In this particular course, we will read literary texts through a postmodernist perspective, investigating the intersections between past and present in works of historical fiction. When examining historical fiction through a postmodernist lens, it is important to consider how postmodernism challenges traditional notions of history, truth, and representation. In her seminal work A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (1988), the theorist Linda Hutcheon brings attention to the fact that history is multifaceted and fragmented. She argues that historical fiction embraces this multiplicity of perspectives, rejecting absolute truths and focusing on the subjective nature of reality. During the course, we will read and analyse together the novel Possession (1990), by A. S. Byatt. We’ll explore how the novelist blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction, and how the work engages with historiographic metafiction.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course, students can


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

  • formulate and structure 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

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

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


  • describe and explain basic principles of their chosen subject and its main discourses, approaches, methodologies and terminologies.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 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 support each other through the process.

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: 40%
Deadline: week 8 (block 1)

Essay 2 (3000 words)
Percentage: 45%
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.

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 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.