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Thesis and paper writing

When writing a thesis or paper you must make good use of the insights you have gained during your lectures and studies so far. You should also refer to relevant literature and carry out your own research on the topic.

One of the most important things you will learn during an academic study programme is how to write an interesting piece of work that meets the criteria of scientific quality, whilst also being accesible to the broader public.

Refer to our Study tips pages for more information on academic writing skills. 

Faculty regulations

The criteria of the thesis are outlined in the faculty-wide regulation shown on the right side of this page. For both papers as well as thesis the rules on plagiarism and academic integrity apply.

Request for appointing thesis supervisor

The Board of Examiners is responsible for appointing a supervisor for the master’s thesis and the bachelor’s thesis

Every study programme has its own procedure for appointing supervisors. Please consult the course description of the master’s thesis or bachelor’s thesis in the e-prospectus.

Need help with your writing assignment? Come to the Writing Lab!

Want to discuss your academic writing assignment (final paper, paper or other) with a trained peer tutor? Book a free appointment at the Writing Lab.

Workshops and thesis events

The Writing Lab organises interactive, hands-on (and free!) workshops and thesis events every semester to help you improve your academic writing skills and/or make writing your thesis a success!

The 45-minute individual coaching session allows you to focus on exactly what you need or have questions about. Everything you discuss with your coach remains between you and the conversation can take place face-to-face or online. If you want, you can also send your writing coach a piece of text in advance, which you will then discuss together during the appointment.

Read more about writing coaching and/or book a session!

Every semester, the Writing lab offers four interactive workshops:

  • Basic skills in academic writing:
    Goal paper, planning, structure, formulating research questions
  • Creating a clear structure:
    Clarity, coherence, paragraphs, main- and subquestions, text plan
  • Develop an academic style:
    Define style, techniques, formulation, sentence structure
  • Keep on writing: becoming a disciplined writer:
    Common challenges, planning, perfectionism, concentration issues

Read more about the workshop and/or sign up!

  • Thesis kick-off:
    Get a kickstart with your thesis. In two workshops, you will learn all about designing and planning your thesis.
  • Thesis group:
    Get to know other thesis writers in 4 weekly meetings, learn to plan better and exchange tips and experiences to stay productive.
  • Thesis week:
    For a week, you will write on your thesis every day from 09:00-17:00 under the guidance of the Writing Lab.

Read more about the thesis-events and/or sign up!

Guidelines for the Master MA-thesis

The MA-thesis is a written report of research which the student has carried out under supervision of a lecturer, but with a high degree of independence. The MA-thesis is the final project before graduation in the Master. The MA-thesis has a course load of 20 EC. 

Regulations concerning the procedure surrounding the MA-thesis are determined by the Faculty of Humanities.


Students start thinking about a research topic from the start of their MA-studies. The procedure for writing a thesis starts with a general meeting at the beginning of the semester. This meeting will be announced by the study coordinator and appear in your schedule. Successively, students hand in a thesis registration form. Based on the information on this form the first reader is assigned. In due course a second reader is appointed. The second reader reads and evaluates the final version of the MA-thesis. He or she is not involved in the supervision process.

Please note: The supervisor is appointed until the end of the Academic year (or the end of January in case the student started the Master in February). When a student due to personal circumstances has not graduated by the end of that period, he or she needs to file a request to the Board of Examiners in order to extend the period of supervision. In any other case, like not handing in a thesis without valid reasons or insufficient grades for the definitive version and the resit, the student must apply for a new topic/ supervisor through a registration form in the following semester.

Please click here for the current version of the schedule and procedure of MA Thesis. Students within one of the three older tracks who started the program in February 2022, please click here for the schedule and procedure of MA Thesis. 

Format MA-thesis

The MA-thesis will contain a maximum of 17.000 words (+/- 5 %) not including references and appendices. This translates to 30-40 pages.

Please take a look at the style sheet for the MA-thesis Arts & Culture for more information (preferred lay-out, structure and references).

Fraud and Plagiarism

Fraud is regarded to mean any action or negligence carried out by a student aimed at completely or partially hindering a correct assessment of the student’s knowledge, understanding and skills. When a MA-thesis supervisor or second reader discover a case of fraud or suspicion of fraud, he or she is obliged to report this to the Board of Examiners. 

For more information on fraud and plagiarism and the disciplinary sanctions that can be imposed by the Board of Examiners, please consult Article 6.5 of the Rules and Regulations of the Board of Examiners.

Deadlines for handing in your MA-thesis

Graduation date: 31 January 2023
Sunday 30 October 2022: First (full) draft.
Sunday 11 December 2022: Definitive version of your MA thesis.
Resit definitive version: 31 January 2023.

Graduation date: 31 August 2023
Sunday 30 April 2023: First (full) draft.
Sunday 11 June 2023: Definitive version of your MA thesis.
Resit definitive version: 13 August 2023.

Finishing your MA-thesis

Student Repository and Brightspace

The thesis should be handed in both electronically (in .docx or .pdf format) and as a  hard (paper) copy, one for each of its readers. It should be uploaded in the correct MA Thesis module on Brightspace via Turnitin.

Students also need to upload the final version of their MA-thesis in the Student Repository. 

The Student Repository forms an independent part of the Leiden Repository and offers an online archive that makes Leiden University student MA-theses easily searchable and publicly available (when desired). Students have to fill in the form of consent for the publication of a MA-thesis and hand the form in at the student administration (Arsenaal-building). 


The evaluation form is used in grading the MA-thesis. It lists the specific criteria supervisors and readers will use in the evaluation of your MA-thesis. As a student you have the right to consult the forms completed by the first reader/supervisor and the second reader.

Go to the evaluation form


There is no MA-thesis defense. When you have handed in your final version and your supervisor and second reader are ready to give you your grade, you can request a final meeting to discuss the results. 

Finishing the MA-thesis is in most cases the final step before graduation. Students who want to graduate need to take into account the graduation procedure. 

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