August 29, 2016
Basic information on the methods and madness of mini-paper assignment(s)
As the Course Description noted, part of your formal work in this class is to author (at least) two “mini-papers” which will comprise up to 20% of your final grade. (You can look through this blog's archives to see examples of the kinds of in-semester writings I have urged students to produce in previous years, though please know each year I tweak the topics and format of this class requirement.)
Absent further instructions/modifications, here is my planned approach to the mini-paper assignment this time around: Each submitted mini-papers must be no more than four pages long (and can be MUCH shorter), and should respond to my in-class prompts that I plan to provide every few weeks. The first prompt, for example, was (formally?) delivered today in class when I encouraged all to write up your personal "sentencing topic of interest" with a particular focus/reflection on the meta-topics we have discussed our first few weeks in class (namely theories of punishment and who sentences).
I expect to provide a new prompt for a new mini-paper every few weeks, usually right after these (Monday AM) tentative submission due dates for these mini-papers:
• September 19 (for "topic of interest" mini-paper)
• October 10 (for what will likely be a death penalty prompt)
• November 7 (for what will likely be a federal sentencing prompt)
• December 5 (for what will likely be a "SCOTUS-as-who" sentencing prompt)
As also hinted in class, one goal for this assignment is to engender additional inter-student substantive discourse; that is why, subject to any stated objections/concerns for certain submissions, I expect to distribute everyone's submitted mini-papers back to the class for all to read and consider.
Because the comments to this blog are now working, I encourage students to use the comments to ask any basic follow-up questions or to express any concerns about these assignments. And, to be perfectly clear, though I will be providing (at least) four formal prompts for mini-paper writing, students are requires only to complete two mini-papers throughout the semester. (But because you get this option, I will be expecting the papers to be really good, and you can earn extra credit by submitting more than the mandatory minimum number of papers.)