Amendment Essay

Due Friday, April 3, 2020

By Friday, April 3d, students will submit a 6 to 8 page narrative essay on an amendment to the US Constitution. Each essay should provide background on the amendment (either one of the 27 ratified amendments or one of handful of others sent to the states but not ratified), describe the struggle for approval and ratification, and then assess the significance of this particular change to the constitutional text.

  • Students don’t need prior approval for their subjects, but they should consult with Prof. Pinsker voluntarily.   Generally, you can find topics by reviewing all 27 constitutional amendments as a starting point.  Students should try browsing the Interactive Constitution from the National Constitution Center, which provides both amendment text and varying short interpretations of their significance. To find a list of “failed amendments,” or those sent to the states but not ratified, please consult this page from Justia.
  • Use this handout to help guide your topic decision and the framing of your research question
  • Use this handout to help shape your thesis statement

All essays should use a wide-ranging combination of high quality primary and secondary sources.

  • You will only be required to use digitally available sources (since you are now working from home).  This will limit your efforts in some ways, but make sure to consult with Prof. Pinsker to help identify the best possible digital versions of both your primary and secondary sources.
  • Make sure to consult online secondary source databases from our library database finder, such as JSTOR and America: History & Life, and also freely available site such as Google Books
  • Make sure to consult online primary source databases that can help illuminate the “original intent” of the amendment framers, such as congressional debates and historical newspaper databases

All essays should be typed and double-spaced while including a title page with descriptive title and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required.

  • Use this handout to help format your footnotes or consult this library guide to see the more variations on Chicago-style footnote format
  • Use this handout to improve the way you use quotations from your sources
  • Use this handout to improve your proofreading skills

In addition to the written essay, students should also submit a custom-made Google Map on their chosen subject as an appendix.  Well-designed maps can receive up to 5 extra-credit points.

  • Maps might feature newspaper coverage from various cities, ratification dates for various states, or biographical profiles of key amendment framers from around the country
  • You can find model maps (in terms of format & style but not content) here:  American Revolution and US Diplomatic History (note the use of dates in placemark titles, to help organize a timeline, the use of quoted and cited excerpts to provide text for the markers, and also extra features like credited images for placemarks and images or videos within placemarks)
  • Most maps should include about 6 to 8 placemarks

Both essay and map link should be submitted by email to Prof. Pinsker.  Student work will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and prose quality. Late essays may be penalized.  Please communicate in advance of any missed deadlines.

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