The assignments reflect a mix of online and offline work that will help you critically evaluate evidence and write persuasively about history.

Weekly Informal Writing via Blog Post (25%)

Each student will be responsible for maintaining a blog where each week, you will respond to some aspect of the week’s readings. These will be short blog posts – between 200-300 words–that respond to some aspect to the week’s readings. What I am looking for in this writing is whether you are seeing complexities, delving into puzzles and problems, confronting inadequate explanations, interrogating the sources, and responding to them.

I will evaluate these assignments and try to leave comments on everyone’s posts so that you can return to your earlier writing assignments to refresh your memory, consider how your ideas or thinking process may have changed over the course of the term, and as may be useful to either your research paper or your final reflective essay. Remember, that the point of these assignments is not to restate the facts of the case, but to question and respond to what you are reading.

Participation  (25%)

Students should come to class prepared to engage with the material and their fellow students. I have weighted class participation heavily because we will spend a good part of our class time in discussion. We have the luxury of spending 3 weeks on each trial. That means that we will get down and dirty in investigating these trials and the issues they sparked in public discourse at the time. It’s important to note that speaking about history can be as important a source of understanding as writing about it. You will learn more about what you think on a topic by trying to explain those ideas verbally to others. Moreover, listening to what your peers have to say can help you to clarify your own thinking. Finally, class is simply a lot more fun if everyone contributes.

Reflective Essay (10%)

This short essay (3-5 pages) is intended to provide you with an opportunity to reflect more deeply on an issue of particular interest to you from the readings in the course. You should feel free to explore any larger connection that is exposed through our study of either the Salem Witch Trials or of the trial of Laura D. Fair. This paper will be due at the end of Week 7.

Please use Times New Roman, 12-point font with 1″ margins on your paper. A title page is unnecessary, but you should title your paper to reflect your argument. <insert writing help links>

Research Project: A Trial Analysis of Your Own (40%)

For the final project, I would like you to explore an aspect of a trial that you find interesting. The specific trial and the issue it raises are up to you–don’t feel compelled to use a trial from the course. Much as we will do in class each week, your project should analyze a criminal trial of a woman, explore the gendered issues raised at trial, incorporate the historical context of broader events that were going on at the time, and what, if anything, other historians have written about this aspect of the trial. We will do this exact same exercise four times over the course. This research project will show me that you can do the same type of historical thinking on your own.

Taking an example from the class, you could do your project on the role medicine played at Laura D. Fair’s trial, including using medical testimony and additional research into other scholarship on 19th century gynecology. Or you could explore how class affected the verdict in the Lizzie Borden case. As these examples illustrate, I expect you to use a combination of primary and secondary sources to support your argument. You must cite all images, clips, facts, ideas, paraphrasing, and quotes, in footnotes and include a bibliography, using the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition).

Some things to note about your project:
You must choose the format of your project. You can choose to hand in a paper or do a digital or multi-media project for your research. You can house your digital project on the blog you maintain for class or on a new site of your own. If you’d prefer to create a multi-media project (pictoral, documentary, etc), you are welcome to do so, but please talk to me first.

You must clear the topic with me first. Your trial can come from any time period, but I want to make sure you will have enough resources to actually complete your project. You can use Blood on Her Hands to point you in the direction of other trials, or you are welcome to work with me to find one that meets your interests.

Length is 6-8 pages or 1,500-2,000 words, (not including citations and bibliography). The project is due during our assigned finals period. Final research projects will be graded on originality, on the quality and use of evidence, and on formatting and presentation. If you choose to do a multi-media project, you must include a transcript of your script, notes, etc to get full credit.


Last updated: May 2, 2013 at 10:22 am