Writing Across the Curriculum

POL344-1

POL 344: International Law
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor Chiseche Mibenge

Role of Writing

POL 344 is the senior student’s first introduction to research and writing in the discipline of international law. There are five sources of international law: treaty law, international custom and practice, judicial decisions, scholarly writing, and general principles of law. A research paper in the field of international law requires a strong international law framework on which to build arguments for or against State action (or inaction). How do we build that legal framework? With a careful collation of facts drawn from the political incident under discussion and from law drawn from the five sources noted above. Critical legal studies, in particular Third World approaches to international law and feminist legal theory, are the key methods/approaches students will apply to research and writing assignments.

The fields of international law and political science are replete with examples of sophisticated and articulate writing. We will examine some of these texts throughout the semester, and discuss what it is about the style(s) employed that distinguishes a “good argument” from a “good argument that is easy to grasp and has the power to change minds and challenge easy assumptions and popular thought.” Writing supported by research is the difference between mere talking points and an authoritative and persuasive work that can influence policymakers and/or reveal legal and political fault lines in existing international law regimes.

Students will work to master the following disciplinary skills:

  • Engage with, differentiate between, and analyze the work and approaches of leading scholars applying: a third world approach, feminist legal theory, and critical legal studies to contemporary international law situations.
  • Apply third world approaches to the analysis of statute/treaty, legal precedent (case law), academic writing and reports from international actors and organizations, such as the UN Special Rapporteur’s Report on Torture on his state visit to the United States or the UN Secretary General’s Report on Somali Piracy.
  • Apply critical legal theory to the analysis of statute/treaty, legal precedent (case law), academic writing and reports from international actors and organizations.
  • Apply feminist legal theory to the analysis of statute/treaty, legal precedent (case law), academic writing and reports from international actors and organizations.
  • Identify and interpret relevant international laws in order to respond to emerging international legal situations, for example, the International Criminal Court investigation into war crimes committed in Libya in 2011.
  • Conduct comparative analysis of statute/treaty, legal precedent (case law), academic writing and reports from international actors and organizations, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism on his state visit to the United States or the UN Secretary General’s Report on Somali Piracy.

Disciplinary Writing

Low stakes:

  • Summaries of lectures presented by guest lecturers on contemporary international law issues.
  • Weekly journal entries (on Blackboard) in which students update an international law situation as it develops, e.g. nuclear proliferation discussions between the UN and Korea, and Israel and Iran.
  • Outline of three research papers to be reviewed by the instructor throughout the semester (during office hours).
  • Visual powerpoint representation of their research paper submitted to the instructor (during office hours).

High stakes:

  • Drafts of the three required research papers, submitted to the instructor for editing, comments and questions.
  • Final draft of three research papers, revised to address comments and questions posed by instructor.

Expectations of Students in a WIM Course

In this course students will:

  • Document and respond to an international law situation as it develops, for e.g. nuclear proliferation discussions between UN and Korea, and Israel and Iran.
  • Apply international legal theory to current events covered by major international news broadcasts.
  • Submit a single draft of each research paper for review by the instructor for editing, comments and questions.
  • Revise high-stakes writing assignments, responding to instructor’s comments and questions during the revision process.

Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course

In this course the instructor will:

  • Provide clear instructions on course requirements.
  • Provide written feedback on drafts of high-stakes papers.
  • Provide written feedback on research outlines.
  • Facilitate (with library and ACE staff) a workshop on research methodology in international law: referring to the leading international law journals and websites of major international law organizations, such as American Society of International Law, International Court of Justice and the United Nations.
  • Facilitate (with library and ACE staff) a workshop on writing in international law: referring to the leading international law journals and websites of major international law organizations, such as American Society of International Law, International Court of Justice and the United Nations.
  • Invite two leading experts/jurists in international law to guest lecture to students. A published work of these experts will be included in the syllabus.
  • Lead a single field visit to a New York-based institution (during class hours 6.00PM-8.30PM) in order to allow students to participate in professional level debates in the field of international law. Examples: NY Bar Association International Law Committee Speaker Series, or Soros Foundation Open Society Justice Institute International Law Speaker Series.
  • Permit extra-curricular activities i.e., students are informed of international law seminars throughout New York campuses and organizations which they can attend in their own free time. Students can prepare a report/review of the event and receive some credit from the instructor.
  • Direct students to internships in the field of international law with New York-based institutions such as the International Crisis Group.

Criteria for Assessing Student Writing

A research paper in the field of international law will be assessed according to the student’s development of a strong international law framework on which to build his/her arguments. Students will incorporate the sources of international law, including treaty law, international custom and practice, judicial decisions, and the general principles of law. Student writing will demonstrate an understanding of the legal framework as well as the political opportunities and challenges to the enforcement of this unique body of law, that is horizontal (between States) and not vertical (the State and citizens). The instructor will prepare a rubric for each assignment that will cover the general criteria for an effective assignment.

Effective research papers should include references to:

  • Relevant treaty law and its application and interpretation.
  • International custom and practice and its interpretation and application to a political situation.
  • General principles of law and their application and interpretation to a political situation.
  • Scholarly writing and its application and interpretation to a political situation.
  • Judicial decisions and their application and interpretation to a political situation.

Last modified: Oct 5, 2012

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