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Academic Writing




Admissions requirements

None. This is a compulsory course 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 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. The Section letters (e.g. A, B, C, etc.) refer to the different groups of Academic Writing on the timetable.

Sections E+J: Portraying Power: The Politics of Early Modern Paintings and Prints (Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema)
This course provides a first introduction to the academic disciplines of art history and cultural history, and focuses on the complex relationship between politics and the visual arts between 1600 and 1800. In the first block, we will study a number of different Dutch and English representations of the theme of the Continence of Scipio and interpret them in the light of their political impact. In the second block, we will explore a number of other early modern paintings and prints, ranging from Anthony van Dyck’s paintings of the Stuart court to Romeyn de Hooghe’s Glorious Revolution prints, and discuss how these engaged with the political ideas and issues of their time. Although the course’s main emphasis will be on iconology, we will also discuss several practices and concepts related to the creation, display 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 learn how to conduct art historical research and have the opportunity to work with rare seventeenth-century prints.

Sections B+G: Fit as a Fiddle: Perceived Health and Disease in the Nineteenth-Century Western World (Drs. Evelien Walhout)
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 medical and personal documents, such as diaries, letters and (auto)biographies, we study the personal experiences with illness and health of men and women. Personal documents became an extremely popular genre during the long nineteenth century. For comparison, the late-twentieth century also experienced a boom in blogs, social media and documentaries about personal disease perception. This course will discuss nineteenth-century personal histories of the 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.

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 C+H: Gender and Literary History: Women Writers in Early Modern England (Dr. Lotte Fikkers) In 1929 Virginia Woolf had cause to write that 'nothing is known about women before the eighteenth century' and that 'women did not write poetry in the Elizabethan age'. During the past decades scholars have been able to prove her statements incorrect, as more and more women authors from the early modern period were rediscovered. In the first half of this course students will study (part of) the work of one of them: Aemilia Lanyer's printed volume of poetry Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, published in 1611. Initially propelled unto the public stage after being (mis)identified as 'The Dark Lady' of Shakespeare's sonnets, Lanyer is now recognised and celebrated as poet in her own right. Her work will allow students to explore issues of gender and (proto)feminism in seventeenth-century England. In the second half, students will investigate such issues in a wider context, by turning to the work of other early modern authors, both men and women. In the process, students will learn about the conditions of literary production in early modern England.

Sections D+I: 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 K: Imagining Us: National Identity and Nation-Building in Early Modern Art (Drs. Jacqueline Hylkema)
This course provides a first introduction to the academic disciplines of cultural history and art history, and examines how artists used art to reflect and reinforce the emerging concept of national identity in Europe between 1550 and 1800. 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 evolution of a European national identity in the late sixteenth century and how this related to a number of developments, such as the discovery of America and rise of the Ottoman Empire. In the second half, we will focus on a number of emerging nations and national identities within early modern Europe and explore these in works ranging from paintings by Jan Steen to eighteenth-century nationalist personifications. 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 and eighteenth-century prints and manuscripts. (N.B. This section will only be taught in blocks 3 and 4).

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 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 the 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 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 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 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.