One-page memo on your research paper

Your most important assignment this semester will be an eight- to 10-page research paper on a First Amendment media-law case of your choosing. Your paper will be due on Nov. 20. You will begin by writing a one-page memo on what case you have chosen and how you will go about researching it. Your memo is due this Friday, Oct. 16, at the beginning of class.

As we discussed in class last Friday, just about any case on the syllabus or in the Zelezny casebook would be suitable. There are others that would make for good papers as well. The reason I have asked you to think about it now is that I want to make sure you’ve chosen something that will work.

I am still in the process of refining the requirements for your paper. Roughly speaking, though, you will be asked to read the case in its entirety, analyze it and explain its meaning; consult historical news sources to see how the decision was covered at the time it was announced; and consult research materials that will help you place the decision in context.

Therefore, your assignment for this coming Friday will be to write a memo that must include the following elements:

  • The name of the case you have chosen.
  • At least three news sources you have found covering the announcement of the decision or related elements. (Give me the citation, not the full article.) What’s a “related element”? Let’s say you had decided to analyze Sheppard v. Maxwell (not a good choice, by the way, since it established no lasting precedents). You might include news stories of Sam Sheppard’s conviction and his ultimate acquittal as well as stories about the Supreme Court announcing its decision.
  • At least three reference materials you have found. The most promising avenues are books and articles in law journals. The latter are accessible through the Lexis side of LexisNexis. “Law Reviews” is the very first choice, right above “Federal & State Cases.”

Feel free to use Wikipedia for tracking down information, but do not cite Wikipedia in your paper.

As for finding news sources, I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Nexis side of LexisNexis. I think you may find the first three databases listed in Northeastern’s library resources to be more useful. The New York Times has a powerful search function, and you can call up stories going back to 1851.

In addition, the folks at the reference desk at the Boston Public Library are incredibly helpful. You may find you need to dive into old indexes and look up articles on microfilm. The reference librarians are there to help you figure out how. (Try Snell Library first, though.)

Happy hunting.

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