Second Election Narrative

Due November 8, 2020

By SUNDAY, November 8 [REVISED], students will submit a 6 to 8 page narrative essay that analyzes a significant American election contest between 1876 and 2000. Students are also required to submit a short companion video for possible extra credit.

  • Students don’t need prior approval for their subjects, but they should consult with Prof. Pinsker voluntarily over email.
  • Older presidential elections in this time period are probably the easiest to research, but students may choose contests up to the 2000 election or non-presidential (even non-federal) contests if they would like.
  • Make sure to address a question and devise a thesis statement that can be effectively argued in a short paper.  Consult the Methods Center handouts on How to Write a Thesis Statement and How to Frame a Research Question

Each essay should make sure to situate each campaign narrative in the historical context of the time period.

  • Explaining context and significance is a critical element of this narrative assignment and will require sophisticated use of secondary sources, especially academic books and articles like O’Mara’s Pivotal Tuesdays or Slonim’s article on the electoral college.  You can find such academic sources via our online library catalog or through database resources such as JSTOR and America: History & Life.
  • Consult our course site web guides for additional help and check out the History research guide from the library

All essays should employ a combination of high quality primary and secondary sources. All essays should also be typed and double-spaced as a Word or PDF document while including a title page with descriptive title and Chicago-style footnotes (no bibliography required).

Video Details

In addition to the essay, students should also submit a short documentary-style video on their chosen election contest (about 2 minutes or less).  Well-designed videos can receive up to 5 extra-credit points.

  • STUDENT MODEL:  Slave Stampede (Narrated by Liz McCreary)
  • STUDENT MODEL:  Roger Taney (Narrated by Sarah Goldberg)
  • STUDENT MODEL:  Moncure Conway (Narrated by Sam Weisman)
  • Students may chose to convert part of their paper (such as the opening paragraphs) into a video narration, or they may craft an original script
  • Consider using the free version of the online platform WeVideo, but you may also consider relying on software such as iMovie or Windows Moviemaker –but just remember that sharing those videos will require you to post them first at an online platform like YouTube.  
  • Remember to provide CLEAR audio narration.  Usually, you can achieve good sound quality simply by recording into your cell phone in a quiet room.  Just speak close to the phone, vary your tone and pacing, and try to sound natural.  
  • 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.
  • Finally, make sure your images, music and sound effects are in the public domain and properly credited at the end of your video.  You can find lots of examples of compelling short documentary videos at the House Divided Project YouTube channel.

Both essay and timeline link should be submitted by email to Prof. Pinsker by 5pm on the due date.  Student work will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and prose quality. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.