I’ve updated my external links to connect to the latest version of Paul Edwards’s great instructions, How to Give an Academic Talk.
In 2014, the Journal of American History published eighteen articles based on original, primary-source research. Their first sentences, taken together, show what scholarly historians and their editors like to see in a lede.
To complement my existing instructions on How to Write an Outline, I have added an Article Outline Example. By keeping the outline to just the top two levels, this document outlines Wells’s article in just a page and a half.
The New York Times reports on a study arguing that Supreme Court justices fail to read amicus briefs with sufficient attention to the sources they cite.
In a 2011 decision about the privacy rights of scientists who worked on government space programs, Justice Alito cited an amicus brief to show that more than 88 percent of American companies perform background checks on their workers.
“Where this number comes from is a mystery,” Professor Larsen wrote. “It is asserted in the brief without citation.”
In a 2012 decision allowing strip searches of people arrested for even minor offenses as they are admitted to jail, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy cited an amicus brief to show that there are an “increasing number of gang members” entering the nation’s prisons and jails. The brief itself did little more than assert that “there is no doubt” this was so.
Liptak, Adam. “Seeking Facts, Justices Settle for What Briefs Tell Them.” New York Times, September 1, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/us/politics/the-dubious-sources-of-some-supreme-court-facts.html.
Note: I did not read the original study. But I’d like to think that Professor Larsen is less obviously partial than the authors of amicus briefs.
Radley Balko offers examples of the way police departments avoid active verbs, the active voice, and human subjects of sentences “to publicly deflect responsibility for police shootings.”
- “A deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
- “The innocent McKay family was inadvertently affected by this enforcement operation.”
- “The deputy’s gun fired one shot, missing the dog and hitting the child.”
Balko notes that police departments have no trouble writing clearly when they want to assign blame to a suspect: “The suspect produced a semi-automatic handgun and fired numerous times striking the victim in the torso.”
[Balko, Radley. “The Curious Grammar of Police Shootings.” Washington Post, 14 July 2014.]