Election Day

Due Sunday, December 4, 2016 by 5pm


 By Sunday, December 4 at 5pm, students will be required to post a short video documentary at the course website that transforms their earlier Election Day post into a compelling multi-media narrative. These short videos should be posted at YouTube but embedded in the original post and should be at least 2 minutes in length (and no more than 10 minutes) with proper opening titles and closing credits.  Students who do no wish to attempt a video documentary can simply post a second narrative essay of the same length (1,000 to 1,500 words) and scope but now on a different pre-2000 election day story.


    • There are some video tutorials below that can help students prepare such work.  Signing up for cloud-based video sites like YouTube or Vimeo is easy –and free– but does require you to pay attention to their various procedures for uploading.  In the case of YouTube, make sure to set your video or audio to PUBLIC viewing –at least until the assignment is evaluated.  After that point, we will decide whether or not to publish via our course site.  If not, then you can decide whether or not to keep your file online, or to delete it.
    • And here is one video model to consider, submitted as a close reading of a Lincoln document from 1861, by student Moyra Schauffler, in 2015:

  • And here is a more ambitious production, once that includes hand held camera work, and submitted by Colin MacFarlane in 2011:

  • General tips for Ken Burns-style documentary filmmaking:
    • 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!) and feel free to consult or record with the LIS specialists at Bosler.
    • 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.


  • Windows MovieMaker tutorial (by Russ Allen, Dickinson College, Class of 2014)


  • iMovie tutorial (by Leah Miller, Dickinson College, Class of 2014)


  • Audacity tutorial (by Leah Miller, Dickinson College, Class of 2014)


  • Embedding YouTube Video in WordPress



  • Identify primary sources that cover the Election Day experience of your selected contest and then organize anecdotal details and quotations from those sources in order to provide an engaging narrative analysis of the contest.


  • Your analysis should summarize the basic “grammar” of the campaign, including an understanding of the political parties, candidates, and relevant voting rules for the contest. But most important, your post should use the Election Day narrative to help explain the significance of the contest in American political history.  Make sure to provide Chicago-style footnotes for the secondary sources (like Alexander Keyssar’s The Right To Vote (2009 ed.) which inform your judgments about significance and context.



  1. Try opening with a narrative vignette from Election Day itself
  2. Step back in that opening paragraph to provide a thesis statement
  3. Then combine historical context and analysis within your narrative
  4. Intersperse your text with images (with captions and credits)
  5. Consider embedding videos where appropriate
  6. Also, intersperse your text with some hyperlinks to full text sources available online (especially for purposes of background), but rely principally on Chicago-style footnotes to acknowledge your research
  7. Close with a clear statement of significance that connects backward to the opening vignette
  • Students will be registered at the course website and will receive separate instructions on how to post at WordPress sites.


  • Late posts will be penalized 5 points per day, but make sure to communicate with Prof. Pinsker if there are any issues with lateness.