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Eng 101 - Great American Trials

2. Explore Your Topic

After thoroughly examining your assignment, now it's time to look for initial background research on your trial.  Try browsing the Famous Trials website below to learn more about your trial.

Analyze Your Trial

Magnifying Glass

Who?

Knowing the names of individuals, groups, or organizations connected to your trial will help you focus your search.  For example: If you're researching the Lindbergh Trial, important people include:

  • Charles Lindbergh (famous aviator)
  • Anne Lindbergh (mother of kidnapped baby)
  • Charles Lindbergh, Jr. (baby of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh)
  • Richard "Bruno" Hauptmann (accused kidnapper)
  • Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf (head of the New Jersey State Police)
  • William Allen (truck driver who discovered the baby)
  • Thomas Trenchard (Judge)
  • David Wilentz (Attorney General of New Jersey)
     

What?

Reading a summary of the trial will help you understand the trial better. What exactly happened?  What year was the trial? What was the verdict? What made this case so famous?

When?

Dates are very important and can help you create a timeline of events.  Each trial will have significant events associated with it.  Knowing when the trial took place will help you choose the best sources to consult.  For example, is your trial in today's newspaper, or did the event happen 200 years ago?

Where?

Places are important to a trial, knowing the important places associated with your trial will help you choose the best sources to consult.  Each state has their own laws.  Knowing "where" the crime and trial occurred can help you pick the best sources.

Why?

Getting background information on why people are interested in your trial can help you decide whether the verdict was just or unjust.  Why is your trial considered a "famous" trial?