Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

A users' guide to Professor Lecocq



A users guide to Prof. Baz Lecocq


I work for you as a teacher, and I fully support your educational endeavours, but I do work according to some basic principles, set out here below in some simple instructions. Please read them carefully, so you will know what you can expect of me, and what I in turn expect of you. In case something is unclear please ask me for clarifications by email.


Terms of engagement

I appreciate courteousness in our engagements. Many people mistake jovial informality for friendliness and equality, and respectful politeness for submission and inequality. But respect can only exist between people who see each other as at least potentially equal, and therefore respectful politeness acknowledges our potential equality. What is more, and with all respect: we are neither fully equal nor friends, we have a formal and unequal working relationship. After all, I am in a position to evaluate your work in ways that affect your future studies and career. The opposite is hardly the case. I therefore use friendly but polite and formal forms in addressing you as a sign of the respect I have for you, despite our unequal working relationship. I would appreciate it if you would do the same. If, when speaking German, I use the wrong—impolite—form, please consider this for what it is: a foreigner’s language mistake.


Email correspondence

You have received a Humboldt Universität or Freie Universität email address upon registration. Please use only this account for email communication with me, even if you route your HU or FU account through your private account. Many people do not use their given formal name in email addresses, but "aliases", like "littlebluesmurfette346@" which leaves me clueless as to the sender of a mail, or its importance. I might even accidentally take it to be spam. Emails not sent from your “formal” HU or FU account might thus end up being ignored. Also, if for some reason I want to contact you (for example because I’ve read or found some material that I think might be of interest to you, this occurs regularly), I might not be able to email you, as I don’t know your alias, but only your formal name, which is always part of your HU or FU account.

I receive about 60 emails a day and try to read and work though them all, but I am not able to do this all the time. Therefore my replies to your emails might be late, brief, and even curt. I appreciate it if you could email me only when it is really urgent, and then to keep your emails brief and to the point.


Consultation Hours (Sprechstunde)

I do not have fixed times and days of my Sprechstunde. You can obtain an appointment for my Sprechstunde via email to me directly ( In principle I reserve 15 to 20 minutes per appointment. It helps therefore to be well prepared. In preparation to your appointment you can always send me documents you would like me to read beforehand. Progress of your BA or MA thesis is first of all discussed in my Abschlusskolloquium, which serves exactly this purpose. I expect all students to whom I act as Erstbetreuer, to follow my Abschlusskolloquium. Students to whom I act as Zweitbetreuer or only as Zweitgutachter can make appointments for the Sprechstunde without following the Abschlusskolloquium. See further below under: “BA or MA thesis supervision and evaluation”. Please note that during the Term breaks (Semesterferien or Vorlesungsfreie Zeit) I hardly ever give  appointments for the Sprechstunde as I am largely absent in these periods. All administrative matters can be dealt with via mail, see below under “Handing in assignments, forms etc.”


Use of cell phones, laptops or tablets in class

Is not allowed in principle, unless you have medical or other well founded reasons to do so. First of all because I, being of an older generation, consider it rude to hide behind a screen possibly doing other things than what the course is about. If you attend class, please be really “there” and be focussed. Second and more important: I am convinced that the most important and defining skill for any academically trained person is the capacity to concentrate on one subject, and one only, for hours on end. This skill needs training, and paying attention in class for one and a half hours on the subject at hand is such training. It is therefore important that you engage in this training without devices that could possibly distract you. Although most if not all literature we discuss in class is uploaded to Moodle and hence readable online, I expect you to print it and bring the printed version to class. You can take notes on paper. Experience shows that this is far more efficient and faster than taking notes on a laptop (and the sound of typing in keys is very distracting to your fellow students and me) or a tablet (which looks really cool, but is really slow and inefficient to take notes on). Exceptions exist, for example in classes where we use or discuss electronic media or such like. Such exceptions will always be announced. If no exception is announced, you can assume none is given. It is always allowed to use laptops, tablets, etc., in the Abschlusskolloquium-sessions.



To obtain your points, grades and course acknowledgements, you have to hand in so-called MAP-Forms at the Prüfungsbüro of the IAAW, or of your own Institute or University. I consider MAP and other forms your full responsibility. Please make sure that you fill it out fully before you hand it to me, giving not only your name and personal data and the name of the course, but also the right amount of points you receive, the “Prüfungsform” (Klausur, Hausarbeit), the title of your paper, etc. Make sure that all I need to do is sign, stamp, and give the date. I will simply discard any incomplete or incorrectly filled in MAP-form, without giving you further notice, it is up to you to make sure everything is there and everything is correct.

The fastest from to hand in a MAP form, is to hand it in immediately with your Hausarbeit or your Klausur. In case you forgot: you can either send a filled in form as pdf by email (fill out the form in thick black ink to make sure it is readable after printing; also make sure the MAP form has the same name structure as that of a written assignment, see below), or hand in or send a filled in and printed form at the Sekretariat to be put in my mailbox.

MAP forms which have all the required signatures and stamps for a complete Modul will be automatically send to the Prüfungsamt. MAP forms in which there are still seminars or “modulabschluss” missing and which you need returned will be placed in the file folder specially designated for such forms at the Sekretariat under the first letter of your last name (ask the Seceraty for its location). I will not give further notice that I have placed the MAP-form in this folder, nor do I answer emails inquiring into this. Simply come to the secretariat and check yourself.

In case you have not filled the requirements for passing the course or the exam (in case you have not handed in your Hausarbeit in first exam term, or failed the exam, or failed the entire course due to lack of participation): you need to hand in a fully filled out MAP-form marked “5: nicht bestanden” for me to sign and for the Prüfungsamt to process, in order for you to be able to register for examination in the second exam session.


Handing in assignments, forms, letters, any form of paperwork

All forms of paperwork, Hausarbeiten, letters, forms you want me to sign (such as registration forms for your BA or MA Abschlussarbeit) can be either given to me directly before or after class, or be placed in my pigeonhole/letterbox at the Sekretariat of the Afrikaseminar. Please do not try to make an appointment for my Sprechstunde to hand me such paper, it would be a waste of everyone’s time. Please also refrain from “just dropping into my office” to hand them to me or have them signed. I might be busy otherwise, concentrating on work (perhaps preparing your next class) and feel disturbed by your interruption, which will make me react gruffy, which I don’t like to do (if this sounds like “please don’t disturb the animals in their natural habitat” so be it, my office is my natural habitat).


Letters of recommendation (Gutachten or Referenzschreiben)

I gladly support your grant applications or applications to foreign study programmes or jobs with letters of reference. However, as my time is precious and as my own reputation is at stake when I vouch for you, the following rules apply. Requests for a letter of reference should be addressed to me timely by email, or in my Sprechstunde. That is at least eight weeks prior to the deadline to hand in the letter at the organisations it is destined to, unless you can show this is impossible due to short notice from the side of the letter-demanding party. In principle I ask you to write a first draft of your letter of recommendation yourself, as no one knows you as well as you do. I will then edit your letter and send it. Make sure your draft is in correct German or English (or French if need be). Make sure I have all the information I need to correctly send the letter off as well as all the further information and documentation I need to complete the letter. This of course includes the name and complete address of the institution and person the letter should be addressed to, but it also includes other vital information, such as: where do you want to go, how long, what do you want to do there, and how does this fit in to your overall studies programme. I will not remind you to furnish this information to me, so requests for a letter without the complete information I need will remain unheeded. In general, the better I know you from classes you took with me, or through papers you wrote under my supervision, the better I can edit and customize your letter for you. I will therefore only very exceptionally agree to sign a letter for you without prior knowledge of you as a student.


Written assignments

Most Modules offered at the IAAW require the writing of a Modulabschluss Hausarbeit. Additionally I can require you to write shorter papers (for example book reviews or review papers) as part of the seminar I teach. A number of my courses give you the opportunity to hand in written assignments for feedback purposes to support you in your studies.  These are thus aside from the Modulabschluss paper.

The regulations regarding all these forms of written assignments below follow directly from common practice in the academic world towards scientific authors. When you hand in an academic article or a research or paper proposal to an academic journal or organisation, you will be confronted with exactly the same or very similar rules as you find here below.

Editorial and content format: All papers always need to comply with the standards for content and format set in the document “Empfehlungen für schriftlichen Arbeiten”. This document will always be available on the Moodle of each course as pdf. I will grade all papers according to the criteria set in “Empfehlungen für schriftlichen Arbeiten”.

Printed version: Papers for a Modulabschluss always need to be handed in to me as print on paper, which I am required by law to archive for five years, in case you want to dispute the given grade. Please do not bind your Hausarbeit in any plastic material as this takes space and will eventually pollute our planet. A simple staple (Hechtklammer) in the upper left corner suffices to keep your paper together.

Electronic Version: Next to this, the paper for a modulabschluss also always needs to be handed in electronically according to the requirements described here below under “Document name and format”. Course papers (papers required for the seminar itself, not intended as Modulabschluss Hausarbeit) always only have to be handed in electronically according to the requirements described below.

Deadlines: I set strict deadlines at which papers written for a course need to be handed in. Handing in paper after the deadline without prior permission requested and given per email ( will always have negative consequences for the grade. In general: the longer after deadline the paper is handed in, the larger the negative effect on the grade. Papers for a Modulabschluss handed in after the deadline will, as per HU regulations, be awarded 5.0 and a new deadline will be set.

Language: papers, BA and MA theses can be written in German, English, French or Dutch (for BA and MA theses, the last two languages only when the second supervisor agrees to it as well).

Electronic format: Course assignments always need to be uploaded to the Moodle of the course they are assigned in as Microsoft Word documents. You are free to use any text editing programme you like, but all these programmes offer the possibility to save your document as a Microsoft Word file, so make sure you do save your document as Word file (doc or docx extension) and send it to me in that form. I will simply ignore any document sent to me in the odt, rtf, txt, or pdf formats, or any other format.

Filename: To make sure I can always find your assignment back and know that it is yours and for what course you hand it in, you are required to write your name and the name of the course at the top of the first page of your assignment. More importantly, you save the Word file you send me under a pre-shaped file name structure:

  • Your First name
  • Your Last name
  • <BA> or <MA> depending on whether the course the assignment is for is on BA or MA level
  • A brief description of the assignment of your own choice, but preferably including a sort of serial number if there is more than one assignment attached to the course.


NB: the indication MA or BA depends on the course level, not on your study level. If you are on MA level but take a BA class, you write BA, not MA. Exception to this rule is the Abschlusskolloquium where you write ABS instead of BA or MA.


Thus a filename looks like this: firstnamelastnameBAdescription1.docx


Example:                     bazlecocqMAeinführungauftrag2.docx


This could be the file name of the second assignment document for the MA level course "Einführung in die Geschichte Afrikas".


Example:                     bazlecocqABSauftrag3.doc


This could be the name of a document uploaded to the Moodle forum of the Abschlusskolloquium, for the third assignment.


Note the extension docx or doc being used, indicating that this is (as it should be) an MSWord file. I will simply ignore documents with different name structures and not containing your name and the course name in it, as it saves me a lot of time trying to find out who send me "auftrag.pdf" and what for. Send each assignment only once, and only when you are sure it is to your full satisfaction. I will only open, read and comment on the first version you uploaded, all other versions will be ignored.

Word count per written assignment: I will always give an indication of the expected length of your assignment in a number of words you can use to write it, including footnotes. Most text editors have a "word count" option, so you can check exactly how many words you have used. I will do the same thing thirst when I receive your assignment. Assignments excessively exceeding the word limit will be ignored, or will receive negative evaluation remarks, unless you requested and received prior permission. Bibliographical assignments will never have a word limit. In the case of assignments that contain a bibliography element: the bibliography will be left out of the word count.

Feedback: On the plus side, here is what's in it for you if you stick to all regulations above: I will return each assignment to you with my extensive written feedback in the shape of text written in the "Track Changes" mode (Änderungen nachverfolgen), which will appear to you in a different colour than black in the returned text. Within Microsoft Word (and some other text editors) you can see these changes and "accept" or "ignore" them using the "Track Changes" setting, which will make improving your paper easier for you. You will thus have detailed comments on the content of your paper. Of course, if you write an excellent assignment, fewer comments will be given, other than that it is OK (equally so, if you repeat mistakes, I will not indicate them every time). I will give face-to-face feedback in a conversation during my “Sprechstunde” only very occasionally outside class. In class (for example the Abschlusskolloquium) I might discuss my feedback with you. Feedback on Hausrabeiten is more rare. If your note on your Hausarbeit is below 2,3  you can request an appointment to discuss the work.

Wordcount for BA and MA Abschlussarbeit: A BA Abschlussarbeit at the IAAW is expected to be around 10.000 words long, but this can sometimes be longer or shorter, depending on the topic. Note that there is no set length for an MA Thesis at IAAW. As a rule of thumb: an MA thesis of around fifty pages is probably too short, and unable to fully develop all answers and questions or to present all research done. If your MA thesis is growing over two hundred pages, you need to start asking yourself if everything you write is really necessary to make your argument or answer your questions. Around a hundred pages is OK. If you feel your BA or MA Abschlussarbeit is getting too long or not getting long enough, and you do not know why and what to do: this can be discussed with me in Abschlusskolloquium or if need be at my Sprechstunde.


Library books

Berlin is well equipped with libraries but there might always be books you don't find in any of them. The collection of the IAAW's Zweigbibliothek is maintained by the IAAW academic staff, who might have other interests than you when they order books. If you know of a book that is important to your research but is not available in any of the Berlin university libraries or the StaBi, you can always email the bibliographical references to the following address with a request to buy the book for the Zweigbibliothek: We will inform you as soon as the book arrives.


BA or MA thesis supervision and evaluation

In general, the closer your research interests are to my own in discipline, region or timeframe, the better I will be able to supervise your work. My own research is situated on the crossroads of (contemporary) history, anthropology and political science, with a regional focus on Francophone West Africa, the Sahara and Sahel, and North Africa, and with a temporal focus on the 20th and 21st centuries (I consider all that happened as of yesterday to be a possible historical domain, suited to a historical approach. Things do not have to be situated in a remote past to be suitable for historical inquiry, and neither do they have to be stored in archives, there are many sources for history). I therefore consider myself capable to supervise BA and MA thesis projects dealing with African history, that include anthropological or political science perspectives, methods or theories. However, the focus should be on history. On the other hand: I can supervise projects dealing with any African region in any time period.  Projects that are primarily linguistic, literary studies, anthropological or political science in nature, with a historical component are beyond my capacity as a first supervisor, but I can agree to act as second supervisor (Zweitgutachter). I will only accept historically focussed projects that include other disciplinary perspectives (literature, linguistics, sociology, media studies, medicine, agricultural sciences, etc.) if you have secured the cooperation of a second supervisor (someone legally ordained to act as such) at the HU or FU, who has the necessary expertise in this domain. Second supervisors who do not have the rank of professor and who are not in se obliged to function as supervisor within the HU or FU are allowed, but HU bylaws require such persons to be paid a fee of €50,- for a BA thesis, or €100,- for an MA thesis. If you insist on such a person to act as your second supervisor, I expect you to pay this fee yourself, unless I have myself suggested this person as your second supervisor.

I make a difference between “betreuen” (supervision) and “gutachten” (evaluation).

To me “betreuen” means that I actively engage with the progress of your work, most often a BA or MA Abschlussarbeit or thesis. Betreuung takes place primarily in my Abschlusskolloquium, where your fellow students and myself discuss your work. In the Abschlusskolloquium I regularly give you assignments to ensure you make progress and give you feedback on these assignments to help you improve the quality of your work. Betreuung is voluntary and optional from your side (not from mine, this is part of my job description) but not inconsequential when you ask for it. Logically, if you ask me for Betreuung, and I agree to give it, I expect you to work according to my system and indeed act upon the recommendations I give. In general, the chances of receiving a positive and higher grade for your work in my Gutachten (or in fact of that of the other Gutachter_In) are higher when you follow my supervision, but this is not guaranteed. Please note also that I never give any form of content supervision during the intersemestrial period (Semesterferien or Vorlesungsfreie Zeit). I will only respond to very urgent administrative matters per email, such as “Einschreibung” or an occasional (very occasional) letter of recommendation for a grant application or such matters. Content of your work will not be discussed in this period, nor will I read any of your work in progress in this period.

To me Gutachten means evaluation only. I can act as your Gutachter without betreuung if you ask me to. You are then free to engage in the research and writing of your BA or MA thesis entirely without my supervision (Betreuung), handing in the end-result of your work for my Gutachten, after I have agreed to function as Gutachter. I would still expect the work handed in to fulfil the general standards of the IAAW and my personal standards and will evaluate accordingly. It is not possible to not follow the Abschlusskolloquium (or not have followed it) and then still receiving feedback or having your work discussed in my Sprechtsunde, unless we have agreed otherwise.

I will hand in my evaluation report (Gutachten) for your BA or MA thesis at the deadline (Korrekturfrist) given by the Prüfungsbüro, which is eight weeks after being sent to me for an MA thesis, and four weeks for a BA thesis. Due to my own schedules I will usually not be able to hand in my report sooner than the set deadline. Therefore, if you want to ensure that you graduate before a certain date because of the commencement of your next step in life (job or new educational programme), simply make sure to hand in your thesis at such moment as to include the eight or four week deadline for my report (Korrekturfrist zur Gutachten) in your own planning. Exceptions will not be made, so please abstain from asking for one.


I am looking forward to our fruitful collaboration.