Due December 2 -5 // December 14, 2022
By Friday, December 2 through Monday, December 5 [REVISED], students will submit a 6- to 8-page narrative paper that analyzes a landmark case from the US Supreme Court (prior to 2001), one that helped reshape the meaning of the US Constitution. Students should use the essays from John Garraty’s Quarrels That Have Shaped the Constitution (1987 ed.) as an inspiration for an approach that humanizes their topics. All essays should be typed and double-spaced as Word or PDF documents with title page and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required). Papers will receive provisional grades (based on research effort, analysis, and prose) that will be updated following submission of the final website project.
- Students should consult with Prof. Pinsker over email as they make decisions about choosing their landmark cases. Generally, you can find topics by browsing this Landmarks Cases page or this excellent collection of resources from C-SPAN. Also, consider reviewing chapter 4 in Eric Foner’s SECOND FOUNDING (2019) for descriptions of various landmark Reconstruction-era cases. And finally, don’t forget to the consult the annotations at the Founders’ Constitution from the University of Chicago Press.
- Please open your paper with a descriptive title and your name (byline).
- Make sure to address a question and devise a thesis statement that can be effectively argued in a short paper. Consult the Methods Center handout on How to Write a Thesis Statement
- Research effort is key for this paper. You will need to find both relevant primary and secondary sources. To get started, look carefully at the course’s site web guide, but also remember that often it is easiest to find primary sources only AFTER reviewing some basic secondary (and especially reference) sources. You can find high quality academic sources via our online library catalog or through database resources such as JSTOR and America: History & Life. Take advantage of Google Books as well for its full text search capability and extensive snippet view. The most important reference source starting point, however, is American National Biography Online (available through the library database finder. Also make sure to consult the History research guide from the library.
- Here is a sample outline of a typical narrative landmark case paper:
- Introduction (1-2 pps)
- Striking quotation or narrative vignette + clear thesis statement
- Engage readers and provide analytical framework
- Background & Context (2-3 pps)
- Insights on the litigants and the case’s evolution
- Insights on the Supreme Court justices
- Rely on secondary sources here
- Case Study Analysis (2-3 pps)
- Focus on the arguments among justices and the decision
- Consider the impact of decision across a wide public
- Show primary source research effort here
- Conclusion (1-2 pps)
- Return to (and refine) opening analysis
- Explain significance
- Introduction (1-2 pps)
By Wednesday, December 14, students should transform their landmark case essays into a Weebly site. Each website project should be designed as an online teaching exhibit, revised and improved from the originally submitted essay, but now focusing on using various multi-media tools to help further humanize the case while also bringing key historical insights to life for high school and college classrooms. Students should especially strive to find ways to provide full-text access to relevant primary sources. Each website should also include an array of properly credited and captioned images as well as at least one embedded short video (about 1 to 2 minutes) that brings to life a key passage from the court decision (including both majority and dissenting opinions where relevant). Additional information will be available on the annotated assignment guidelines at the course site. Projects will be graded on depth of analysis, research and design effort, and quality of prose. Late research submissions will be penalized 5 points per day.
- Teaching websites can be organized with an essential question or theme rather than a thesis statement (as in a standard paper).
- Credits offer short acknowledgments of sources (Library of Congress) or (House Divided Project at Dickinson College). Captions provide brief descriptions of images or multi-media.
- Don’t forget your Chicago-style rules. See this methods handout on How to Use Footnotes and consult as needed with the library’s Chicago-style guide, but make sure to use sample footnote models for formatting and NOT bibliography examples.
- Building websites in Weebly is easy –and free. Just make sure you sign up for the free version of the site and pick the “subdomain” URL that allows for Weebly branding (e.g. 1876election.weebly.com). NOTE: sometimes your desired subdomain URL is not available. Just keep trying.
- PRIVACY: Your Weebly sites can be kept essentially private if you change the SEO settings on your web pages to “Discourage Search Engines.”
- All websites should have at least three main content pages: e.g. Origins and Litigants, Supreme Court case and decision, and Consequences or Legacy. All sites should also have a separate home page that describes both the nature of the project (landmark case) and the author (with grad year and major) and a mention of this class and semester. There is no minimum word count, but most sites should contain the rough equivalent of the 6-8 page narrative paper combined with supporting images, one embedded original short video and perhaps some additional multi-media resources (original or external).
Finally, here are some model student-produced Weebly sites culled from the Student Hall of Fame. Take special notice of how these students organized their content toward teaching goals. Also, pay attention to the ways they employed embedded images, multi-media resources, and hypertext links to primary sources.
- Charlotte Goodman, Henry Wallace (Fall 2020)
- Jordyn Ney, Furman v. Georgia (Spring 2020)
- Gracie Perine, Anna Dickinson (Fall 2021)
Try to surprise your readers. See this advice on storytelling from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns:
- Here are some student models for the video companion that features a reading from the Supreme Court’s majority opinion and any relevant dissents:
- For detailed written instructions on producing these videos in the free online platform WeVideo, please see this page. And below is a short video tutorial on using WeVideo. Please note that WeVideo has paid options, but anyone in this course can sign up for a free account and have more than enough time (up to 5 minutes per month) for this assignment (which requires about 1 to 2 minutes of video). For those who want to use other video production software, such as iMovie or Windows MovieMaker, please consult those video tutorials at the House Divided YouTube channel –but also please remember that you will have to then post your video at your own YouTube channel before you can embed it at the WordPress course site.
Other Multi-Media Tutorials