Landmark Case Essay

Due Friday, April 24, 2020

Annotated Assignment Guidelines

By Friday, April 24th, students will submit a 6 to 8 page analytical essay on a landmark constitutional case decision from the US Supreme Court.  Each essay should provide background on the case and its key participants (regarding any major decision from 1789 through 2000), describe the court’s judicial make-up and the text of its opinion(s), and assess the significance of this decision for constitutional interpretation.

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
  • If you need some help deciphering Supreme Court procedures, try this resource page from the US Courts
  • Make sure to consult historical newspaper databases such as Chronicling America (free online via Library of Congress), Historical Newspapers (library database finder) and 19th-Century U.S. Newspapers (library database finder).

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 try to submit a short video or podcast on their chosen subject as an appendix (less than 2 minutes).  Well-produced videos or podcasts can receive up to 5 extra-credit points.

Special Tips for Audio/Video Production

  • Remember, you must sign up for YouTube or Vimeo  or Soundcloud and upload your video or podcast to those free cloud-based services FIRST (with video sharing set to public) before sharing a link (or later embedding your audio / video at a website
  • The key to voice over narration with still images is to have good, clear audio and a narrator with strong pacing and a conversational style.  Make sure to take care with your recording devices and sound environment (watch echo!)
  • Also critical for the success of your video will be images.  Make sure they are high resolution, and be creative in cropping, framing and using tools such as pan & zoom, in order to create a sense of engagement.  Remember, you need to make quick cuts (about every 4 to 6 seconds) while still connecting images to the voice-over.
  • Documentary short films don’t need thesis statements, but they do need a coherent point-of-view and careful attention to narrative storytelling.  Try to outline your project with a storyboard (i.e. converting your text into a visual outline with accompanying images).
  • Finally, make sure your images, music and sound effects are in the public domain and properly credited at the end of your video.

Featured Tutorials

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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