Term Paper Guidelines

Students are free either to devise their own term paper topics in consultation with the instructor or to compare two of the case studies from Part Two of the course.

If you choose the latter approach, your paper should address “outside” readings in addition to those assigned for the course. In either event, the overall aim is to build upon the foundation of the course readings by addressing some aspect of the relationship between race, crime, and citizenship in American law.

Papers should be 15-20 pages in length and should be prepared according to the following timetable:

Paper Topics

Paper topics are due by week 4 of the course. A one-page description of the topic you wish to write about (along with a working title that speaks to the problem you are aiming to address).

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is due by week 6 of the course. A list of 10-15 sources that you have identified as relevant to your topic. You need not have read all of these materials by this date, but the bibliography should include two or three sentences on the argument and significance of each item. The sources can include case law, statutes, books, law review or political science articles, articles from the general media, and any other materials you find relevant. Try to come up with a diversity of “primary” and “secondary” resources. You should read more than just Supreme Court opinions, for example, but also try to avoid simply elaborating on the views of legal scholars.

Rough and Final Drafts

A rough draft is due by week 9 of the course. Footnotes need not be fully formatted, but you should provide enough information in your references to enable me to identify your sources with specificity.

Final papers are due on the last day of class.

Exemplary Student Papers

The following papers appear here courtesy of their authors and are used with permission.

Croom, David. "Rehabilitation or Discrimination?" (PDF)

Edwards, Jamie B. "The Military Commissions Act of 2006: The Last Throw in the Bush Administration's Controversial Approach to Fighting International Terrorism." (PDF)

Sims, Clayton. "The Historical and Racial Implications of Plea Bargaining." (PDF)

Oral Presentation Guidelines

As outlined in the syllabus, all students enrolled in this course will be asked to make a 10-15 minute oral presentation on the readings for a particular class. In preparing this presentation, I ask you to consider the following guidelines:

  1. The readings for each class have been selected to illustrate contrasting approaches to the particular problem at issue. These contrasts may be methodological in nature, as well as substantive or political/ideological. You should aim in your presentation to draw out these contrasts and suggest why they matter to an overall understanding of the issue we are discussing.
  2. You need not do any additional reading or research, but if you come across any items in the newspaper or on the web that relate to your topic, this can be a good way of introducing and commenting upon the significance of our readings. As you will discover, the course deals with a number of very topical subject matters that are playing out in the court of public opinion on a daily basis.
  3. You should aim to pose a problem for discussion rather than simply summarize the readings. If you disagree with something in one or more of the readings, say so but explain the root of your disagreement. What aspects of the problem at hand are not addressed by any of the readings assigned?