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Graduate School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Courses in Academic English

For all problems related to presenting your research in English, the Graduate School provides help in the form of an in-house Academic English Lecturer.

About the courses

The courses are compact, interactive workshops, aimed strictly at providing help with English for research purposes. They are not intended to replace the much longer writing and presentation courses offered in the various local and national research schools, or the Academic Language Centre. In most cases little or no preparation is required, but see the individual course descriptions.  

Dates and times may sometimes be arranged in consultation, and it is always possible to put in a special request for a course to be offered, as long as you can get together a minimum of 4 participants. 

Course overview

Dr. M.C. (Maria) Sherwood-Smith is available for personal advice geared to your particular language problems, and also offers a selection of mini courses and seminars. The focus is on the aspects that non-native speakers tend to find particularly difficult when writing about their research in English.

Course. Seven two-hour sessions
An important part of scientific work consists of communicating research results to the international scientific community and to society at large. This course provides rules and guidelines for three different modes of communicating results.

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Five-minute talks

Mini course; 2 sessions
The main focus in this short course is on content and structure of a very short talk, but the skills learned here can also be applied to longer presentations. Participants will receive extensive feedback, including a video clip of their own performance. The course requires some preparation for the second session, when all participants have to deliver their talks.  

A good level of proficiency in spoken English is necessary; please contact the instructor for more information. Participants are required to attend both sessions.    

Maximum number of participants: 6    


One two-hour session 
In an informal setting, attention will be given to various aspects of attending a conference, from applying for grants to conference behaviour (chairing a session, networking, etc.). The seminar is not about how to present a paper. Rather it aims to offer students an effective platform for discussing their own experiences and exchanging tips to ensure they get the most out of the conferences they take part in. 

Maximum number of participants: 8 
PhD candidates only


Mini course; 2 sessions
This short course focuses on the specific problems encountered by non-native speakers of English in writing about their research. Topics covered include: 

  • use of tenses 
  • paragraph length and coherence 
  • punctuation 
  • hedging strategies.  

The emphasis will vary depending on participants' specific problems and needs. The course is specifically concerned with writing at the paragraph and sentence level, and does not address questions of over-all structure such as ‘what do I put in the Introduction?’ or ‘where does my literature review go?’ – these issues are often discipline-related, and are usually taken care of in the writing courses provided by the Institutes themselves. There will be some in-class exercises, and participants will be asked to send in a short sample of their own writing, so that individual problems may be addressed.     

Maximum number of participants: 8   

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Workshop. One two-hour session
Where do I put ‘only’? Can I start a sentence with ‘also’? This workshop is specifically devoted to that aspect of academic writing in English that non-native speakers have most trouble with: word order. The workshop builds on the mini course Pitfalls for Advanced Writers of Academic English, but it is also possible to take each course separately.  

Maximum number of participants: 8   

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Mini course; 2 sessions, together with Prof. Christine Espin
Academic life does not consist exclusively of writing articles and teaching – in order to get your article published, arrange for hotel accommodation at that conference, or get a job in the first place, there are a lot of requests, applications, and other kinds of text writing involved. You email journal editors; you are asked to ‘write a profile of yourself’ for your Institute’s web page; you have to have an English CV, and so on.  

This kind of writing is essentially different from what is required when you write an article. These texts are much shorter, for one thing, and in the case of CVs and web texts often require a sort of telegram style which in English is quite different from what you would do in Dutch.  

In this course we will look mainly at how to write a well-organized CV, and what mistakes to avoid when writing  emails – for instance to that important Professor, asking for a traineeship. If there is time the specific requirements for writing an accessible web text will be addressed. Attention will be paid to the correct use of academic terminology, specifically how to use Dutch academic titles in English texts (if at all). If appropriate, the cultural context may occasionally be broadened to include other English-speaking countries in addition to the UK and USA.  
Participants must attend both sessions. There will be some homework to do (about 2 hours in all), on which you will receive feedback; study material will be provided.  

Maximum number of participants: 8  
PhD candidates only  


Unless otherwise stated, courses are open free of charge to regular PhD candidates and Research Master students of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. PhD candidates from other Leiuden University faculties or institutes may also join, but only if there is room; moreover, these students are required to pay a fee per session.  

Further, in the interest of an optimal learning experience, the instructor reserves the right to adjust the composition of groups to include representatives of the different Institutes as much as possible – so first come, first served will not always be possible.  


Dr. M.C. (Maria) Sherwood-Smith
Email: m.c.sherwood-smith@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

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