Monday, April 11, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

First Amendment Research Paper Introduction

The First Amendment is, arguably, the most important one. In order to learn more about the amendment's real life application, you will conduct research with the ultimate goal of writing a research paper.

General topic questions:

Is TOPIC X protected by the 1st Amendment (constitutional)?


Is TOPIC X outlawed by the 1st Amendment (unconstitutional)?

First, choose one of the following First Amendment freedoms to focus on:
  • Petition
  • Religion
  • Assembly
  • Speech
  • Press
Once you've chosen your freedom, choose one of the following areas of study:
  • Controversial public advertising
  • Prayer at school sports events
  • Distribution of material within school
  • Religious meeting within school
  • Moment of silence at school
  • Censorship in a specific situation (ex: book banning, school newspaper censorship, etc.)
  • Dress code
  • Speech rules
  • Internet speech
  • Plagiarism
  • Protests at school
  • Other related topic
You could also choose a topic related to one of the First Amendment freedoms based on a current event. An  example might be the decision of a Florida pastor to burn a copy of the Qur'an.

Once you've chosen your focus and area of study, you will follow the steps below:
  1. Create a guiding research question (Ex.: Do radio personalities have the right to broadcast offensive material?)
  2. Use that research question to find Supreme Court cases related to your topic (using approved sources)
  3. Write a case brief following instructions given in class of one court case
  4. Find other court cases related to your topic (these could be state or local cases -- not every case has to have reached the Supreme Court)
  5. Find other informed sources related to your research question. For our purposes, these sources will typically be web sources.
  1. The paper should be 3-5 pages in length.
  2. The paper should be written in the third person.
  3. This research paper is an argumentative paper. Your first paragraph should clearly describe the topic and focus of your research by providing background information and context. Your thesis statement should come at the end of the first paragraph. Note: the reader should not have to guess what you will argue in your paper after reading the introduction.
  4. Even though you are making an argument on your topic, you must remain objective. You must show each side (or more) of the topic throughout the paper. You will ultimately reach your conclusion, but make sure to consistently present each side of the issue.
  5. Close your essay with a separate, final evaluation in which you relate your opinion concerning the application of the law. You are trying to show whether or not the First Amendment is still applicable 200 years after it was written. To what extent should there be enforcement of its use by the press, courts or citizens?
  6. You must include at least two court cases, at least one of which must be a Supreme Court case. Each case much relate to your research question in some way.
  7. You must have at least two additional sources related to the research question.
  8. All information must be cited properly -- including direct quotes and paraphrased information (refer to the Purdue Owl website to assist you in citing sources).
  9. You must include a title page separate from your paper. This does not count toward your page limit.
  10. You must include an annotated bibliography including your minimum four sources. This does not count toward your page limit.
  11. Your paper must be organized. Your introduction and conclusion will take at least one paragraph each.
  12. Use 12 point font, Times New Roman or Arial, standard margins, and include page numbers.
Today: identify your freedom and topic. Use the research sites provided in the next post to begin forming your research question. Friday, your research question, your primary Supreme Court case, and a brief summary explaining the case's relevance to your topic are due on your desk at the start of Friday's class. 15 points.

Schedule (we will visit the computer lab on additional days to conduct research)
Wednesday, 4/6/11: Computer lab visit to choose freedom, topic, frame research question, begin research.
Friday, 4/8/11: Research question and primary Supreme Court case due at beginning of class.
Mondy, 4/11/11: Lab visit during class to conduct research/work on bibliography.
Wednesday, 4/13/11: Lab visit during class to conduct research/work on bibliography.
Thursday, 4/14/11: Annotated bibliography due (30 point project page, based on rubric)
Tuesday, 4/19/11: Case Brief due (15 point project grade, based on rubric)
Tuesday, 5/3/11: Rough Draft Due (35 point homework grade, based on rubric divided in half)
Friday, 5/6/11: Final Paper Due (70 point project grade, based on rubric)

Potential Sources

Here are some potential sources to use in your paper (hint -- use the search functions on each site):

You may be able to find additional sources, but everything that is not on this list must be approved by me. Unapproved sources will not count on your annotated bibliography.

Writing the Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography lists the sources that you plan to use in a research paper.  List these using proper MLA format (as if you were typing a Works Cited).  After each citation, you include a brief description of the source.  The purpose is to cite the relevancy of each source.  The annotation should summarize important information in the source, perhaps the central theme of the source, evaluate the authority of the author, compare and contrast this source with another source, and/or remark on how you plan to use this source in your paper.  While the length of the annotation can vary with each assignment, the annotations for this assignment should be a paragraph (5 sentences).  The first three sentences should summarize the information in the source, and the last two sentences should state your interpretation and how you plan to use the source. Remember -- you will need at least 4 total sources for this paper.

Example: (Notice: do not indent the first line of the entry. Indent all others. Single space each entry. Blue text represents your summary of the source. Red text represents your evaluation of the source.)

Greenhouse, Linda. “THE SUPREME COURT: Animal Sacrifice; Court, Citing Religious Freedom, Voids a
        Ban on Animal Sacrifices.” New York Times. 12 June 1993. Web. 5 November 2009. This article by  
        Greenhouse overviews the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah case. It takes out some of the more   
        technical information included in the actual court case and replaces it with more summaries about the 
        opinions of individuals involved in the case. The article also includes a brief history of the religion of 
        Santeria, the religion of the church in question. Since it includes quotes from people involved in this case 
        other than those of statements from the actual court document, this article is very important 
        to use. These quotes add a little more depth to both sides of the argument and also to the final ruling.

Briefing a Case

One of the requirements of your project is a case brief. This is something that every lawyer and law student must be able to do. A brief is an outline of a case’s specifics that presents the most important information.  To brief a case, you need to consider and answer the following questions:

  1. Case: what is the name of the case? Where can the full case record be found? In what year was the case decided?
  2. Facts: provide a summary of the incident that brought the case before the court.  Include a description of the crime and the circumstances causing the earlier court’s decision to be appealed.  **Describe what previous courts ruled on the case (if possible) and explain the ruling(s).
  3. Issue: What are the central legal issues the court must decide to arrive at a decision?
  4. Holding: What did the court decide? What is the outcome?
  5. Reasoning: Why does the court decide the way it does? What is its logic and analysis of the facts?

You also need to read and provide a summary of the majority and dissenting opinions (judges explain
the ruling and why they agree or disagree with it) under the “reasoning” section.

Questions to ask when reading a case:  (taken from
Note: You do not need to answer these questions in the order written to complete the assignment. They must all be items you consider during when reading the case.

  1. What facts and circumstances brought these parties to court? 
  2. Are there buzzwords in the facts that suggest an issue? 
  3. Is the court deciding a question of fact - i.e. the parties are in dispute over what happened - or is it a question of law - i.e. the court is unsure which rule to apply to these facts? 
  4. What are the non-issues? 
  5. What are the elements that prove the rule? 
  6. What are the exceptions to the rule? 
  7. From what authority does it come? Common law, statute, new rule? 
  8. What's the underlying public policy behind the rule? 
  9. Are there social considerations? 
  10. Which facts help prove which elements of the rule? 
  11. Why are certain facts relevant? 
  12. How do these facts satisfy this rule?
  13. What types of facts are applied to the rule? 
  14. How do these facts further the public policy underlying this rule? 
  15. What's the counter-argument for another solution? 
  16. What's the holding of the case? 
  17. Has the holding modified the existing rule of law? 
  18. What is the procedural effect of the holding? Is the case overturned, upheld or remanded for retrial? 
  19. Does the holding further the underlying policy of the rule? 
  20. Do you agree with the outcome of the case?