Term Paper Assignment


This assignment is one in which you will examine one of the Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century that impacted civil rights and freedoms. Generally speaking, the Supreme Court was much more active in expanding civil liberties and protections in the twentieth century than during any other period of U.S. history.

For this paper, you will analyze a single Supreme Court decision from almost any point in this course (1914 through 2000). The only topics you need to avoid are subjects that do not fall within the time frame for this assignment or are not connected to the expansion of civil liberties in the United States (e.g. Korematsu v. United States). A list of pre-approved court cases has been provided for you as a handout in Canvas, but you are not limited to these topics. If there is another topic of interest, please contact me for approval before you begin your research. As a bit of advice, a lot of former students choose very large cases like Brown v. Board or Roe v. Wade with the thought that the more resources available the better, but the amount of information out there can be overwhelming and hamper your research (so you might find selecting a less well-known case makes for an easier paper).

Required Submissions

· Topic Approval (optional)

If you have decided to write on a case which is listed on the handout, you have the option to skip this step.

If you have decided to write on a decision that is not listed on the handout, you must submit a prospectus (formal proposal) that includes a detailed description of your project. The goal of a prospectus is to explain the main components of your paper, the key evidence, and the sources of that evidence. The prospectus must include the subject of your research paper and a brief summary of the impacts and significance of the case. You must also include the specific sources where you found the information in your preliminary research. This is an ungraded assignment, but the subject of all papers not listed on the handout must be approved to receive credit for the other submissions listed below. Any papers submitted with a non-approved topic will not be graded and will be marked as “Incomplete.” If you have chosen a topic from the approved list, but you would like me to look over your sources and early research, feel free to send me a prospectus. There is no location within Canvas to upload the prospectus, so please submit the prospectus via email as a Word attachment.

· Final Draft – Due Week 5

The paper will consist of a title page, three distinct and individual sections that focus on your selected Supreme Court case, and a works cited page. Late papers are accepted, but they will receive a one grade (20 point) deduction for each day they are late, or any portion thereof. The last submission date for late papers is five days after the due date, at which point the assignment will be graded as an “Incomplete.” Below is a description of each section.

Section I. This section should provide a short background of the case, including the circumstances of the initial arrest, incident, or challenge to established law. Include any information you feel is important for the reader to know in order to understand your subject. This section should be a minimum of one and a half pages in length.

Section II. This section should explain the decision by the court. This will include the motivations for the decision as well as an explanation of the dissenting votes (unless it was a unanimous vote, in which case you would analyze the legal arguments presented by the losing side in the case). This section should be a minimum of one and a half pages in length.

Section III. This section will analyze the significance of the case on civil liberties and should much more extensively researched than the first two sections (which are largely explanatory). Examine the outcomes of the decision in terms of immediate changes and their impact on other cases, if relevant. This section should be a minimum of two full pages in length.

Submission Format and Requirements

Your total paper should consist of a cover page, a total of at least five complete typed pages of essay, and a works cited page.

The top page of your submission should be the cover page for your paper. The cover page consists of the subject of your paper in the center, with your name and any other information you want to include in the bottom right. Feel free to include a title for your paper to give it some personality, but this is optional.

Both sections should be clearly marked with a title as a new section. For example, Section I would be titled, “Background” and Section II would be titled, “Significance.” This is a very basic example, so feel free to get creative on titles, etc. The titles should be regular sized font, but centered, bolded, and/or underlined to make it clear. If Section I is two and a half pages, you should end the section there (mid-page), start a new page, and add the title at the top of the new page to indicate the beginning of Section II.

The total submission is a minimum of five double spaced pages, which means five full pages of essay not including footnotes, titles, etc. Failure to meet minimum requirements will result in a non-passing grade. Essay should be 12 point Times New Roman font with standard 1” margins. Do not put your name on each page or skip extra lines between paragraphs. Writing should be tight and have a good flow (e.g. avoiding dropped quotes and having topic sentences).

You should use Chicago style formatting for all citations, which means you must include footnotes for the evidence used in your paper. Citations are required for all direct quotes, paraphrasing, and any information that is not common knowledge. For example, the fact that Thomas Jefferson was the third president does not need to be cited, but something specific like the fact that 43% of New England voters in 1800 supported him does need to be cited. If you aren’t sure if something should be cited, err on the side of caution and add a citation. Failure to cite sources can be construed as plagiarism – please see the syllabus and college catalog for details. Any direct quotes five or more lines in length need to be cited as block quotes but as a general rule, five lines is too long anyway and you should try to paraphrase or only use part of the quote.

The final part of your paper is the works cited page. The works cited page should be on its own page and includes the full citation of the sources you have used in the paper in Chicago style.

Suggested Sources

You are free to use any academic books or journal articles for this assignment, but you may not use non-academic internet sources in your paper. This includes blogs, websites, Wikipedia or other encyclopedias, and the like. The internet could be a good place to start your research and find some other sources, but the information should not be used in your paper. Even Wikipedia has links at the bottom of the page that might point you in the right direction towards useable, academic sources. A website that is an .edu, .gov, or .org is not automatically an academic source. There are some exceptions to this of course. The library has several digitized sources in their collection that would be acceptable for the paper. JSTOR has over 100 years of academic journals that can be accessed as PDFs for free through the Foothill library and would be ideal for Section III of your paper. All the Supreme Court opinions are available online (this website – http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/supreme.html has a collection of full opinions) If you have a question on whether a source you found is acceptable for inclusion in the paper, feel free to email me a link and I can confirm that for you. Keep in mind that you are given over a month to complete this assignment and it is a research paper, so the textbook for this class and lecture notes do not constitute substantial research.

One of my professors once told me that it is called a term paper because you are supposed to complete it over the entire term, otherwise it would be called a weekend paper. In retrospect, now that I am a professor I know what he meant. There is a clear and very obvious difference between those papers which were researched over the quarter and those that were thrown together in the last week. My advice is to start early and dedicate a regular amount of time each week to reading about your topic.