Legal Studies

This Legal Studies Senior Seminar capstone course is your final course before you graduate. Here, you must write a 10 page research paper (that is, your chapter of the Class Book). Now there are typically two types of research papers (chapters): those that are really good, and those that lack any real substance. To demonstrate that you are ready to graduate, you need to write a really good research paper.

In order to write a really good chapter, you must first carefully choose a legal topic about which to write. Remember that your chapter needs to address at least one course objective and one access to justice issue addressed throughout this course. In addition, please remember that your chapter also has to dovetail in with the other chapters being created to form the overall Class Book project so that each of the course objectives and each of the access to justice concerns are covered somewhere within the final version of the Class Book.

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Thus, you must choose your legal topic well. The topic should be legally important and also very narrow in scope. If you do not narrow your proposed topic’s range, then you will not be able to demonstrate, within this single course, that you can deeply research, thoroughly analyze, and succinctly write about a legal matter. This sort of demonstration is critical for graduation purposes. Not only are these skills important for you to show that you are ready for graduation, but legal employers are also very interested in hiring employees who can prove that they have such skills. [If you write this research paper (chapter) properly, then you should be able to use it as an example of your writing skills for employment purposes.]

Here is some very specific guidance for your chapter in this class (This is the only guidance you will follow):

1. Your chapter will be 10 full pages, including footnotes. Not 9 pages, not 11 pages. Why 10 pages, you ask? It is actually harder to write a 10 page paper than it is to write a 15 or 20 page paper. You must be clear and avoid the filler that is often contained in longer papers. What is filler? Filler is extra “stuff” that just fills pages but adds little or no value to your paper.

2. Introduction (5%): Your introduction will not be longer than two pages.

3. Thesis Statement: (5%): Immediately after your introduction, you must present a clear thesis statement. In simplistic terms, a thesis statement is the main point of your paper that tells the reader what you intend to argue later in your paper. Word your thesis statement, as follows: “My thesis statement is . . . .” The thesis statement should not be longer than two sentences, and normally one is sufficient.

4. Road Map (5%): Immediately after your thesis statement, you must provide a clear road map to let the reader know where you are going with your paper. Word your road map similar to this: “My paper will first briefly explore . . . , followed by . . . . Finally I will defend my thesis statement by . . . .” Your road map should be only a few sentences, but it must be clear.

5. Background (5%): Next, provide a brief but clear background of your topic. This may only be one page or less.

6. Argument/Defending Your Thesis Statement (50%): Now you are at the meat of the paper (chapter), defending your thesis statement. This must be at least five full pages, and you must use your research to defend your thesis statement. This is the hardest part of your paper, and this is where you need to focus your time and energy. Why? This is where students historically lose a lot of points. Students either present poor arguments or they present no arguments at all. You will present clear arguments, supported by your research, to defend your thesis statement. Last four points in this area — (1) Conclusory statements must be supported with your research; (2) Do not use provoking language which amounts to merely an opinion, such as: “Those who support capital punishment are idiots.” (This actually came from a student); (3) Remember that the Class Book chapter that you are writing is a legal research paper. Focus your attention on the law, not on the political or social sciences nor on your personal opinion, and make sure that you provide objective (balanced) support; and (4) You need to fill in glaring gaps. For example, one past student’s entire research paper argued that the separation of church and state clause in the Constitution was misinterpreted by the Supreme Court and that religion should be in schools, government, etc. The glaring gap was, given the student’s arguments, what did the separation clause mean? This was not addressed.

7. Conclusion (5%): Conclude your research paper (chapter) in one page or less.

Finally, a few other points:

1. Grade: The grading rubric for each section of your paper is given above. As you can see, 50% of your paper is the argument section, which is why I say it is your main focus.

2. References/Proper Use of the Bluebook (10%): You must use a minimum of 15 scholarly references that will be footnoted (per the Bluebook) on the page where you use the reference. You may use a reference more than once, but it still only counts as 1 of the 15. Scholarly references are not Wikipedia, blogs, or unsubstantiated websites. Please use primary resources (e.g., the Constitution, statutes, case law) and high quality secondary resources (e.g., legislative history, peer-reviewed academic reference material like law review articles).

3. Proper Grammar, Spelling and Sentence Structure (15%): Write like the well-educated scholar that you are.

4. Formatting: Double space your paper and use a 12 point Times New Roman font.

5. Topic: Subject to the above instructions, choose a topic of interest to you. If you don’t feel passion for the subject matter, choose another topic.

Summarized Specific Guidance for Your Research Papers (please see Week 1 Assignment for full instructions):

1. Your paper will be 10 full pages, including footnotes.

2. Introduction (5%): Your introduction will not be longer than two pages.

3. Thesis Statement: (5%): Immediately after your introduction, you must present a clear thesis statement.

4. Road Map (5%): Immediately after your thesis statement, you must provide a clear road map to let the reader know where you are going with your paper.

5. Background (5%): Next, provide a brief but clear background of your topic. This may only be one page or less.

6. Argument/Defending Your Thesis Statement (50%): Now you are at the meat of the paper (chapter), defending your thesis statement. This must be at least five full pages, and you must use your research to defend your thesis statement.

7. Conclusion (5%): Conclude your research paper (chapter) in one page or less.

Finally, a few other points:

1. Grade: The grading rubric for each section of your paper is given above. As you can see, 50% of your paper is the argument section, which is why I say it is your main focus.

2. References/Proper Use of the Bluebook (10%): You must use a minimum of 15 scholarly references that will be footnoted (per the Bluebook) on the page where you use the reference. You may use a reference more than once, but it still only counts as 1 of the 15. Scholarly references are not Wikipedia, blogs, or unsubstantiated websites. Please use primary resources (e.g., the Constitution, statutes, case law) and high quality secondary resources (e.g., legislative history, peer-reviewed academic reference material like law review articles).

3. Proper Grammar, Spelling and Sentence Structure (15%): Write like the well-educated scholar that you are.

4. Formatting: Double space your paper and use a 12 point Times New Roman font.

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