Possible Term Paper Topics and Instructions[footnoteRef:1] [1: These instructions are derived from: faculty.smu.edu › jkobylka › ConLaw]
Your term paper will count towards one-third of you class grade. A well-written, well-researched paper in an accepted format (APSA; APA; MLA) will satisfy the writing intensive requirement.
You do not have to choose from among the topics listed below. However you must choose a topic related to the subjects will cover this semester.
· How the doctrine of political questions has affected the balance of power among the branches of government
· The investigatory powers of Congress
· Scope and limits of the presidential power to pardon
· The constitutional status of the War Powers Act (1973)
· The concept of Executive Privilege
· An analysis of the contemporary understanding and constitutional significance of the reversal of New Deal legislation by the Supreme Court
· The Roberts Court and executive power
· The opinions of Justice Sutherland on economic rights (interstate commerce; liberty of contract)
· The opinions of Justice Harlan I and Justice Holmes on economic rights (interstate commerce; liberty of contract)
· Justice O’Connor’s ideas on Federalism
· What did the Supreme Court do before Marbury v. Madison?
· The Constitution and state power to tax activities related to other states
· How the Court encouraged laissez-faire capitalism before the New Deal
· Can a Court (or Justice) be both liberal and restraintist? Or Can a Court or Justice be conservative and activist?
· The nationalism of Joseph Story and John Marshall.
You can develop your own area for research, but you must get approval from me before you begin.
1.Papers will be 10-15 pages long.
2.Papers will be prepared in standard term paper style, and will have a title page on which your name will appear with a signed Honor Pledge. Your honor pledge will read, “I have abided by all the rules and conditions for academic honesty as set forth in .” Know in advance that I take academic honesty seriously. If I detect plagiarism to any degree you will immediately fail the course. It is incumbent on you to understand the appropriate definitions.
Prospectus. A prospectus provides an introduction to your topic, a research question your paper will address, the plan of action you will undertake to assess the research question, and a thesis. It will give you a chance to work out an initial topic and research strategy, and give me an opportunity to assess your project before you are too deeply into it. You do not have to submit a prospectus, but it will be very beneficial if you do so.
There are five elements to a prospectus:
1. Topic. The general area of law and politics that your paper will address ( e.g., separation of powers; the commerce power of Congress).
2. Research Question. The specific question your paper will address and answer ( e.g. Has the doctrine of political questions enhanced the power of the President?).
3. Outlined Plan of Action. The strategy your paper will pursue to evaluate and answer your research question. This refers both to the logic by which you will do your reading and research and the way you structure (using internal section headings to demarcate the descriptive and analytical blocks with which you build your argument – your answer to the research question you posed). Think of these sections of research and writing as the blocks you place, one on top of the other, to build the wall of your argument. Block A leads to and supports block B, and so on. Each block – each section of your paper – will stand on its own as well as lead to the next block. Outline your plan of action in the prospectus.
4. Thesis. The argument your paper will make; the answer to your research question.
5. Annotated Bibliography. Each bibliographic entry will have a few sentences that describe 1) the argument of the piece, and 2) its relevance for addressing your research question.
The Final Paper
· Expectations and Structure. In assembling your research and writing your paper, structural concerns become critical. An intelligible and logical structure is needed to convey information and arguments coherently and persuasively. Any well-prepared research paper has three essential sections.
1.INTRODUCTION: Frame a topic and a research question. What topic will your paper address? Why is the topic worthy of investigation? What questions, related to that issue, will the paper seek to answer? What is the answer at which you arrive? (The answer to this last question will be your thesis – the argument that will organize and drive your paper.)
a. Everything here will directly relate to your thesis. Use the thesis to keep your paper focused and structured.
b. Review a relevant body of literature. ( e.g., What has been written – both on and off the Court – about this topic? What arguments have these various authors made? What are the common analytical agreements and disagreements that surface in them? Can you identify schools or patterns of thought in them? On what assumptions do they rest and to what conclusions do they come?)
c. Analyze that body of literature in light of the research question you are asking. ( e.g., What does that literature say about your research question? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches to your question contained in the literature? What is — and why is it — the most intelligent approach to (or explanation of) the topic question you addressed?)
3.CONCLUSION: Discuss your analysis. This should be more than just a “this is what I said above” section. It should note your conclusions and discuss their implications. What is the significance of your conclusion – the answer to the research question that framed your research and analysis?
To do the paper well, you will need to read extensively in both case opinions (NB: read and cite these only from unedited sources; i.e., use no caselaw texts) and secondary materials (e.g., political science journals, law reviews, and books). The better you organize, integrate, and critique these bodies of literature, the better you will do on your paper.
It almost goes without saying that a well-structured paper is grammatically correct, stylistically clear, and internally coherent. The reader should not be jarred by misspellings, sudden and unexplained transitions in thought, paragraphs that go on well past the confines of their introductory sentences, and sentences that are fragments, run-ons, or so convoluted as to convey no clear idea at all. Do yourself (and your grade) a favor. Finish a first draft of your paper a week before handing it in. Put it aside for a day or two to let it “rest,” and then return to it and give it a thorough edit and rewrite. It will amaze you how much this improves the clarity and quality of the paper’s presentation.
Remember, this is a course in constitutional law. As such, your paper will make extensive use of cases and opinions. The cases you use will, of course, depend on the topic you select. However, it is my clear and unambiguous expectation that your research will go well beyond the cases we read for and discuss in class. This paper is an independent analytical project, not a simple regurgitation of class material. Supreme Court opinions can be found in the U.S. Reports (U.S.), the Supreme Court Reporter (S.Ct.), the Lawyer’s Edition, United States Supreme Court Reports (L.Ed.), or on the internet at FindLaw
Select Bibliography of Legal Research Sources on The Internet
FindLaw ( )
A searchable database of the Supreme Court decisions since 1893 (U.S. Supreme Court Decisions: US Reports 150, 1937-). Browsable by year and US Reports volume number and searchable by citation, case title and full text.
Online Resources through the WSU Libraries: Check under the letter “L” for numerous legal publications, and “J’ (for JSTOR) for social science publications.
The LII and Hermes: overview and recent developments ( )
U.S. Supreme Court
Oyez Oyez Oyez The recorded oral arguments in major constitutional cases heard and decided by the Supreme Court of the United States since 1955.
The Supreme Court Historical Society
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