Writing assignment

The goal of the writing assignment is to teach students to independently write a literature review or research proposal in a limited amount of time.

The Master writing assignment guide568.48 KB for supervisors contains even more in depth information about writing assignment supervision. There is also a summary49.02 KB available.

If you can't find the answer to your question, please do not hesitate to contact the research project coordinators: Tania Morán Luengo for Biomedical Sciences students, and Kim Weiler for Biosciences students.

As a supervisor, you are responsible for coaching the student and helping him or her during the whole process of the writing assignment. The supervisor is responsible for helping the student in limiting and clearly defining the scope of the assignment. Part of the supervisor's job is also making sure the rules and guidelines are followed and the necessary agreements are made.
The student is responsible for choosing a topic and his/her own learning process.

Supervision terminology and responsibilities
The Examiner:

  • has final responsibility for the grade of the writing assignment.
  • is affiliated to Utrecht University or UMC Utrecht as a full, associate (UHD) or assistant (UD) professor with a tenured position. Professors on a UU/UMCU special chair (bijzonder hoogleraar), but in daily life affiliated to a non-UU/UMCU institute, can also act as examiner. Post-docs, PhD candidates, and professors not affiliated to UU / UMCU cannot act as examiner.
  • One examiner can only assess maximum two of the following components: writing assignment, major research project and minor research project or business internship.
  • In case of a writing assignment inside UU/UMCU, the UU/UMCU examiner and second reviewer both grade the assignment. The examiner decides on the final mark in close consultation with the daily supervisor (if applicable) and the second reviewer.
  • In case of a writing assignment outside UU/UMCU, the UU/UMCU examiner and the supervisor host institute both grade the assignment. The examiner decides on the final mark in close consultation with the supervisor host institute.

The daily supervisor (in case of a writing assignment at UU/UMCU):

  • is responsible for the daily supervision of the student during his/her assignment.
  • works at the institute where the writing assignment is carried out.
  • does not grade the writing assignment him/herself, but will advise the examiner on the grades.

The host institute supervisor (in case of a writing assignment outside UU/UMCU):

  • is responsible for the daily supervision of the student during his/her assignment.
  • works at the institute where the writing assignment is carried out.
  • grades the writing assignment.

The second reviewer (in case of a writing assignment at UU/UMCU):

  • should only be appointed for writing assignments inside UU/UMCU. Assessment of the writing assignment by a second reviewer is mandatory.
  • is a senior scientist (not a PhD candidate or postdoc) who is not directly involved in the research performed. Ideally, a second reviewer is a staff member from a different group than the examiner.
  • The second reviewer grades the writing assignment.

Before the start of the writing assignment the student has to fill in the general application form2.48 MB. The general application form contains information about the project, agreements between the student and supervisor, and contact information of the examiner and second reviewer/supervisor host institute. The information on the general application form allows the programme coordinator and the Board of Examiners to review the content and level of the writing assignment. 

Projects outside UU/UMCU also require a GSLS internship contract, signed by the student, examiner and supervisor host institute. When you are asked to sign a (non-disclosure) contract from the host institute/company, please consult Tania Morán Luengo (Biomedical Sciences) and Kim Weiler (Biosciences) first.

A student can only start the writing assignment after both supervisor and student have received approval from the Board of Examiners. This approval is sent in the form of an email by one of the research project coordinators

For projects at the UMC Utrecht, students need an UMC Utrecht internship account and UMC card. More information is available here.

The student can either write a literature review or a research proposal (using the NWO/ALW grant application format). The specific format of the assignment should be discussed before the student starts his/her writing assignment.

Content and process

  • The assignment should be written in English.
  • The body of the text (excluding legends, tables, footnotes, references, etc.) should be 6000–8000 words long, but keep in mind that the content is more important than the number of words.
  • The literature section should include between 25 and 60 references.
  • The assignment needs to include a summary of the content written for the general public (laymen’s summary – in Dutch or English, 500 words, high school Biology or science level).

When writing, the student should start with a writing plan in which an overview of recent literature on their topic is presented. The assignment should have an in-depth discussion, in which the student demonstrates his/her ability to critically evaluate hypotheses and results, present his/her own views, and draw conclusions that point towards new research opportunities. This often requires the student to read additional literature.

Data needs to be presented in one manageable graph or figure that tells the story. This requires the student to select, order, interpret and clearly present data. 

The writing assignment has a study load of 7.5 credits, which corresponds to five weeks of full-time study. The student cannot extend his/her writing assignment for more credits.

The whole assignment should be completed in 3 months*, from the start date of the assignment untill submission of the final version. However, we urge students to finish the assignment within the allotted five weeks, giving them the opportunity to practise working under a tight deadline and experiencing the pressure that goes with it.

This is only possible if the scope of the assignment is limited and clearly defined, the student needs to work diligently and the agreements between supervisor and student about the content and scope of the assignment need to be clear. During the first meeting with the student, dates should be set for discussion of the writing plan, discussion of the first draft, and feedback on the final version.

*If your student exceeds these three months, they can find the instructions to ask for an extension of the end date here.

Learning Objectives
After finishing the writing assignment, the student is capable of independently:

  • Conducting literature research, using scientific secure literature databases (e.g. PubMed).
  • Using scientific literature and insights in a critical manner.
  • Summarizing literature using own words.
  • Integrating results and models of papers read into new models.
  • Formulating hypothesis for future research.

In order to assess whether the student has achieved these learning outcomes or to discuss the specific criteria beforehand, the rubric for literature reviews or research proposals28.75 KB can be used.

When assessing the writing assignment please keep the following points in mind:

  • The examiner and second reviewer must complete the assessment within 10 working days after the student has handed in the final version. To make sure there are no delays, make agreements with your student beforehand about the date for handing in the final version.
  • The examiner determines the final grade expressed with one decimal figure. Grades lower than 6.0 will be rounded off mathematically according to article 5.4.1 of the EER.
  • A mark lower than 5.5 for the final grade is unsatisfactory. In this case, the student will be given a once-only possibility to sit an additional or substitute test.
  • If the examiner's and second reviewer's or host supervisor's grade differ by 2 or more points, the Board of Examiners should be notified by the examiner.
  • In order to meet the cum laude requirements, a student should receive a 8.5 or higher for their writing assignment.

The procedure for registering grades is as follows*: 

  1. The student downloads the assessment form from the Study Guide and uploads their assignment to Urkund to check for plagiarism. More info on this software here: https://urkund.sites.uu.nl/en/
  2. The examiner fills in the grade and signs the assessment form, after ensuring the grades of the second reviewer or host institute supervisor are correct.
  3. The examiner saves the form and sends it, together with the (Urkund) plagiarism check results to the Master’s administration office (science.gsls@uu.nl for Biosciences students and infobms@umcutrecht.nl for Biomedical Sciences students), Master’s programme coordinator and the student. The student can provide the contact information.
  4. The student sends a PDF of the writing assignment (including laymen's summary) to the Master’s administration office.

*If you participate in the pilot 'Osiris Zaak' please log in to Osiris Begeleider to register your grade and upload the documents there. More information can be found here.

The examiner (Utrecht supervisor) should be allowed to have access to the writing assignment at all times. The Board of Examiners should be allowed to have access to the final writing assignment upon request, as well as third parties concerned with the evaluation and accreditation of the Master's Degrees.

In case of confidentiality, the following assessment procedure applies*:

  1. The student downloads the assessment form from the Study Guide.
  2. The examiner fills in the grade and signs the assessment form, after ensuring the grades of the second reviewer or host institute supervisor are correct.
  3. The writing assignment should be checked via the plagiarism checker Ephorus. The examiner has to upload the file to Ephorus with 'Private check‘ on. The information in the report will not be stored in the Ephorus database.
  4. The examiner saves the form and sends the following to the Master’s administration office (science.gsls@uu.nl for Biosciences students and infobms@umcutrecht.nl for Biomedical Sciences students), Master’s programme coordinator and the student. The student can provide the contact information.
    1. the form, 
    2. the written motivation for the final grade (e.g. rubrics) and
    3. the summary of (Ephorus) plagiarism check (< 10%)
  5. Instead of a PDF of the writing assignment, the student hands in (instead of a PDF of the final report) one A4 with project information, a short summary of the project and a remark regarding confidentiality. The examiner either has to sign the document or confirm via email to the Master's administration that this is indeed a case of confidentiality.

*If you participate in the pilot 'Osiris Zaak', please log in to Osiris Begeleider to register your grades and upload the documents there. More information is available here.

Fraud or plagiarism are absolutely not allowed and will be dealt with as described in the Education- and Examination Regulations (article 5.14). 

The examiner:

  • has the responsibility to ensure that no fraud or plagiarism took place. When you find or suspect that your student is committing fraud or is plagiarizing during his/her research project, this must be reported to the Board of Examiners (BoE). You are invited to contact the BoE first for advice. More information on how to deal with plagiarism or fraud can be found here.
  • should check the final research report for plagiarism using URKUND*, in a stand-alone-function or in Blackboard. When the reported percentage of plagiarism in Urkund is >10%, but there is no case of plagiarism, a motivation written by the examiner explaining this should accompany the assessment form. 

Hand in the printed report
The printed report (summary in pdf) from Urkund should be handed in together with the assessment form.

Upload the final version of the report without the reference list to Urkund. There are two ways of uploading: a student can email or upload it to Urkund, or the examiner can do the upload.

Important: Upload it as Word file and not as a pdf.

Upload by student:
The student can upload the file to the receiver address of the examiner by simply emailing to the URKUND analysis address.

This analysis address is Initials.Lastname.uu@analysis.urkund.com. For instance John Anne Doe: J.A.Doe.uu@analysis.urkund.com (N.B. this is an non existing example). You can find this address when you log in to Urkund.**

The student will get a message from noreply@urkund.se with as topic [URKUND] Confirmation of receipt.

You as examiner will receive a message from the same email address with the topic [URKUND] [amount]% similarity, and the information who send in the file. In this email also a direct link to open the analysis is included.

The student can also choose to upload a file to the ‘webinbox’ of URKUND. The student can login here, and click at the right-top to upload document. Use the analysis address of the teacher (see above), and click on submit.

Upload by Examiner**
Teachers/Examiners can also upload the file themselves. They should go here, select Utrecht University, and log in to URKUND with their solisID.  Enter your second factor.

If you haven’t enabled 2FA yet, see: https://manuals.uu.nl/en/handleiding/twee-factor-authenticatie-faq.

For UU employees: Once there, you can find your analysis/receiver address at the top-left corner when logged into the Web inbox.

For UMC employees: Send an email to Pieter Jan van der Schoot to request an analysis address in Urkund. At the moment, there is a temporary workaround to log in to Urkund. The instructions can be found here

Analysis address in urkund
Once there, you can find your analysis/receiver address at the top-left corner when logged into the Web inbox.

Click on ‘upload documents’ top right bar (left you’re your Profile-name.

Select the analysis address (@analysis.urkund.com); type a subject, and select the file.  Click on ‘inzenden/ upload’

Click on the URKUND logo (top left) to go back to the results section. After a couple of minutes, you can see the analysis result [..]%. See for instance the picture below, where 3% similarity was found.

If you click on this percentages, you will be directed to the analysis page of URKUND.* See example below:

*Some UMCU Examiners get an error at this timepoint. You always get an email of URKUND though.

Please select Utrecht University, click on Proceed, and sign in with your SolisID.

View the analysis, and click on ‘ watch whole report /geheel overzicht bekijken’ to view the sources and text with similarities. We urge you to to turn on ‘quotes and brackets’ (aanhalingstekens en haakjes).

More information and a manual for Urkund can be found here for examiners or here for students.

No SolisID or questions about Urkund?
If you do not have a SolisID or have questions about URKUND, you can contact Pieter Jan van der Schoot (for UMCU examiners) or the Science Keyuser Plagiaat of the Faculty of Science (UU examiners).

Upload under embargo (exempt the file from Urkund)
In case of confidentiality, you can exclude the file (exempt) it from the Urkund database.

To do this, click on the analysis address, and go to the submission account (inleveraccount) see red circcle. It ends with @uu.nl in most cases.

You can do this by clicking on the fourth icon (that looks like a paper with an earmark).  In the figure below it is the file with 0% similarity (green bar) is exempted from the database.

If the file is exempt, it means other uploaders can see that there is similarity, but cannot open or access the file. If you click on the forth icon, you will see the following message that includes the definition of this examption:


Previously submitted documents provide comparative material in checking documents later submitted by others. Normally, a previously submitted document – where similarities have been detected - will be recognized as the source, in its entirety, in the URKUND Analysis.

You can, by clicking the button, exempt the document from being able to be viewed in its entirety if there are similarities found at subsequent inspections of other documents. If you choose to exempt the document, the document will still be stored on behalf of your educational organization and itself checked for potential similarities with other sources, but it will not be shown in its entirety or be downloadable. The analysis of the latter document will still show that there is a similarity to your document and inform when and where it was submitted, but no text from the document will be visible - instead, a text explaining why it cannot be shown will be displayed.

Do note that depending on the settings chosen by your university, your document may still be visible and possible to download within the university to which you submitted it.


Click on proceed.

*New plagiarism software, Urkund, is now live. Ephorus has stopped being supported from October 1st. More information on how to use it can be found here: https://urkund.sites.uu.nl/en/.

A student always writes his/her assignment under experienced supervision. Their assignment is often part of a larger framework or project. It is therefore not unlikely that part of their work will be published. This can even happen during the writing process.

In this light, it is important to note that the copyright (auteursrecht) of any written text always belongs to the writer, unless agreed otherwise. That means the student holds the copyright of their writing assignment.

When supervisors, or others, use part of the data or text in their publications, they need to follow the guidelines of scientific fairness and acknowledge the student's contribution. This can be done in a number of different ways and depends on the amount of data/text used, the quality of the work and the student's level of independence during the project. A student can be named in the acknowledgments, their report/writing assignment may be used as a literature reference, or they may be asked to be a co-author on an article.