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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!

Procedures related to the Research Master Thesis

The course description of the Research Master Thesis can be found in the E-Prospectus.

The thesis is based on original research (possible conducted largely during Fieldwork in the third semester) and makes substantial use of primary material and professional literature. It is written in English, is up to 30,000 words in length (including footnotes and bibliography), and reflects the scholarly virtues of originality, focus and concision. The thesis must show the student’s ability to conduct original research under supervision, and to make a contribution to scholarship in a way that inspires confidence in his/her ability to prepare written reports of good quality. Its author must show that s/he is conversant with the discourse that emerges from influential publications in the field. If the supervisor does not specify otherwise, the references should be formatted consistently in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style
The thesis is supervised by a staff member of one of the Departments involved in the ResMA Area Studies programme possessing the appropriate expertise in the field addressed in the thesis. Formally, the supervisor is appointed by the Board of Examiners. Students must fill out a form to request the Board of Examiners to appoint a supervisor. In this form they may indicate their preferred supervisor(s). 
The official regulations regarding the Thesis of the Research Master are available as attachments to the Teaching and Examination Regulations.

Students in the Research Master Area Studies who started before September 2014 are to defend the first version of their thesis, when they have handed this in. This defense consists in the preparation of a short (3 to 5 pages) thesis abstract, with reference to relevant literature and sources, the most important works consulted (with annotation), and central hypotheses. The thesis is defended before the supervisor, second supervisor/reader and other faculty members as appropriate. The purpose of this defense is to allow students to get a review of their thesis on the basis of which they may rewrite parts for the final version.

Students who started in September 2014 or later are to defend their thesis proposal as described in the course description of the thesis.  

This defense is to be graded PASS/NO PASS. A PASS is required in order to proceed to submission of the final version of the thesis, and therefore is required for graduation from the program. The completed assessment form for this defense should be sent to the departmental student administration with cc to the student advisor.

The Research Master thesis is assessed by at least two persons: a first reader (in most cases the supervisor) and a second reader, both appointed by the Board of Examiners. Both readers use a standard form for their assessment in which the criteria are laid down.

Rough time path

Students planning to graduate by 31 August need to hand in a first, complete version of their thesis by 1 June. The supervisor will then arrange for the defense to take place later in June. The students will have the summer to revise the thesis. By 15 August they must hand in the final version after which the first reader (in general the supervisor) and the second reader can assess it. This allows for sufficient time to officially graduate on 31 August. 
Students are advised to discuss the actual time path with their supervisor as early as possible. Supervisors may have plans for research and may not always be available during the periods when no classes are taught.

Students should be aware that official graduation is NOT the commencement ceremony in which they receive their diploma. If students want to receive their diploma (i.e. the actual paper) before leaving at the end of August, they must officially graduate by 1 August. The time path accordingly shifts by one month.

Students planning to graduate by 31 January need to hand in a first, complete version of their thesis by 1 November. The supervisor will then arrange for the defense to take place later in November or early December. The students will have through the Christmas break to revise the thesis. By 15 January they will have to hand in the final version after which the first reader (in general the supervisor) and the second reader can assess it. This allows for sufficient time to officially graduate on 31 January. 
Students are advised to discuss the actual time path with their supervisor as early as possible. Supervisors may have plans for research and may not always be available during the periods when no classes are taught.

Students should be aware that official graduation is NOT the commencement ceremony in which they receive their diploma. If students want to receive their diploma (i.e. the actual paper) before leaving at the end of January, they need to officially graduate by 2 January. The time path accordingly shifts by one month.

Leiden University Repository

In the future Research Master theses will be archived and made available to the public in the Leiden University Repository.  More information can be found on the website of the University Library.

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