Due: November 9, 1998
Important reminder: if you haven't written a letter (to an editor or
decision maker) in place of one of the eariler essays, you need to write
one now in place of this essay. You should talk your letter over with
the writing associate.
Suppose that the ACLU's challenge to the Child Online Protection Act
(COPA) reaches the Supreme Court. The justices (and their clerks, who
do much of the actual opinion writing) are likely to have read
Volokh's article on "transcending balancing." What difference do you
think this will make in their treatment of the COPA case? Will they
reach the same decision on COPA's constitutionality as they otherwise
would have, but justify the conclusion differently? Or will they
reach a different conclusion? Or will Volokh's article have no effect
on the Court at all? Justify your prediction. If you are predicting
an impact, be sure to specify what you think that impact will be.
Your essay should be roughly a couple pages in length, and should be
written for an audience familiar with this material. You should use
the evaluation guidelines below as a source of more information on my
expectations for your essay.
Please rewrite your paper until you are convinced that the answer to
each of the following questions is "yes." When I grade your essay, I
will again use these questions, both to give you feedback and to come
up with your letter grade. Specifically, I will start with an A and
take off one grade "notch" (e.g., from A to A-, or from A- to B+) for
each question where the answer is "no". Be warned that some of the
questions are so critical that if the answer is "no," then one or more
additional answers are necessarily also "no." For example, if the
answer to question 1a is "no," you are doomed for 1b through 1e as
Does the essay has some specific point it tries to make, discernable
to the reader after reading the full essay?
Is that point within the parameters specified by the assignment?
Does the essay stick to that single point?
Is it immediately clear to the reader what point the essay is going to
make, without needing to read beyond the first few sentences?
Is the language used to state the thesis clear, straightforward, even
Is the essay consistent in the assumptions it makes about the
audience's background knowledge and vocabulary?
Are those assumptions within the parameters specified by the
Is the general style, tone, or voice of the essay appropriate to a
general academic audience, or if a different audience is explicitly
stated in the assignment, to that audience?
Does the essay have an introduction that lets the reader know what to
expect from the essay?
Does the essay have a conclusion that leaves the reader with a
satisfied feeling that the matter has been neatly wrapped up?
Does the body of the essay (between the introduction and conclusion)
have a discernible organizing principle?
Does each paragraph and each larger organization unit start with a
clear statement of topic, except where there is a good reason to do
Are there smooth, sensible transitions from each topic to the next?
- Supporting evidence
Is each claim you make backed up by specific supporting evidence?
Have you properly documented the sources of all your evidence, even
when that evidence is not directly quoted?
Do you comment upon each quotation or other piece of evidence and work
it into the flow of your essay?
Do you provide evidence that could on its face be taken as counter to
your thesis, and explain how it fits into your understanding of the
- Is the grammar, spelling, diction (word choice), and typography all
good enough to not distract the reader?
- Is the writing clear, crisp and direct?