Death Penalty and 8th amendment Assignment:
Research a federal public policy topic. Using best practices for objectivity and research quality, discuss the constitutional history, the political and social debates, and the current status of your selected policy.
Topic Guidelines. Your chosen topic must:
- Be a national/federal issue. Not a local/state issue. Most topics do play out to some extent within the states and that is fine. But the primary jurisdiction of your topic must be the responsibility of the national branches of government.
- Example of a national issue: abortion rights is predominately a national issue driven by the U.S. Supreme Court. It does play out in the states and that is ok.
- Example of a local issue: police misconduct is a local issue driven my municipal branches of government. It does play out at the federal level in terms of calls to the Department of Justice to intervene but the predominant issue swirls at the local level and therefore does not fall within the themes of this course.
- See suggestions at end of this document. These are just ideas and you do not have to select from that list.
- Have sufficient resources/research materials available with which to do your paper. Very new or very small issues are less likely to have sufficient sources for your use. Additionally, the resource/research materials must be factually reliable and unbiased.
- Not be overly broad. For example, immigration covers many different things. Avoid talking about several subjects within one broad policy field, which will result in only a very superficial treatment of everything and not gaining any deep understanding. Instead, focus on one slice and explore it more deeply. For example, you can write about the DACA issue, which is one specific thing within the broad immigration debate.
*** IMPORTANT: You must present your chosen topic in an entirely neutral way. This is not a position or debate assignment. This is a research assignment. Present to me the research you have conducted on both sides of the topic. Remain neutral. Pretend you have been selected to teach me about the topic. You may choose to explore your own opinion only after you have completed your paper, using the concluding paragraph to do so. Papers that do not follow this core requirement will not score well.
Some questions to ask yourself to help develop material for the paper:
- What are the significant milestones in your topic’s history? The idea in this paper is not to throw in every detail/development. Part of your task is to exercise judgement and select what is important enough to include and what is not.
- Are there any national laws or Supreme Court decisions around your topic? If yes, these are significant aspects and it is necessary to give these them proper attention in your paper.
- Does your topic play out to some extent at the state level too? If yes, what is going on among the states? Do these state actions contradict the federal position? Explore.
- Is your topic controversial or debated? If yes, what is the controversy about? What are the major arguments on each side? Or, what are the politics around the topic? Or, what action or inaction is happening among government leaders?
- Where does your topic stand today? Or, what is the next step that is due to happen?
- Lastly, as part of your closing comments, what is your own opinion on this topic, know that you have done our research? It’s ok to not have a clearly developed opinion; use the space to explore where your thinking is heading.
4. Research your selected topic in an unbiased manner. Give both sides of the story. As a researcher you hold back your opinion, preferring instead to explore all arguments, all evidence. Only after you have reported on all your research, in the final paragraph you can and should explore your own opinion. Again, this should remain in the closing portion of your paper, only after you have presented your research into all sides of the issue.
- Minimum 6 full and complete pages. A cover sheet (not part of the 6 pages) should capture your name and any other items you wish to include. The 6 pages should be full text. Can’t come up with 6 full pages? The deduction starts at 4 points.
- Absolutely no plagiarism. We discuss this at length in class.
- MLA or APA format: pick one and use it correctly throughout.
- Follow standard college writing guidelines. For example:
- Double spaced
- Times New Roman
- 12 pt font
- 1 inch margins
- APA, MLA, or Footnote citation style. Choose one and use it consistently and correctly
• Use quotations judiciously; the rule of thumb is to quote when you cannot reasonably improve on what was written in your source.
Common pitfalls that cost students points: Don’t do them!
- Handing in late
- Not fulfilling the absolute minimum number of full typed pages
- Choosing state or local issues (federal only)
- Choosing a federal topics that are way too broad, offering no deeper understanding. (Hint: a
broad topic, like “immigration”, is actually about many topics. Pick one of those.
- Choosing a topic that is good but has very limited usable resource materials available.
- Not telling the story in a chronological sequence, making it a challenge to follow what is going
on in the paper.
- Not using quotes the proper way and instead using them to fill up the page. If a quote is not
saying anything unique or especially enlightening, then there is no purpose to providing the quote.
Paper topic ideas (These are just a few to help get you thinking. Feel free to choose something else as long as it meets the guidelines at top)
Second Amendment and gun control policy
Gay Marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act
Race-based rights and the Civil Rights Movement
Death penalty and the Eighth Amendment
Hate speech and the First Amendment
Right to privacy and homeland security/ government surveillance Deferred Act