Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs (SWANN – no. 1318_)

The A Burning Idea website will be constructed from the work that student teams complete for the course. The work we do all semester will result in a public-facing website on book censorship.

Students will create their own case studies of censorship in their locale and mount it on the course site, and as a class we will build a digital map that locates the projects and a shared timeline that integrates the events in one place.

Students will research a book that has been challenged or censored in their geographic region. This can be a recent case or one from the past. Successful projects will include:

  • Document the event — tell the story of the challenge and its result. Look at available documentation: news accounts, patron complaint, etc. and contextual documentation: reviews of the book, testimonials, author interviews about the book, etc.
  • Identify the actors. Research the critical people involved in the book’s challenge: the patron who complained about the work’s use in a school or library, the teacher/librarian who wanted to use the book or adopt the book, and any others (school board presidents, administrators, journalists, etc.) In non-educational challenges, you might identify members of an anti-vice society, government prosecutors, etc.
  • Focus on the author.  Did he or she have a history of being challenged, did he or she discuss their purpose in writing the book, how they felt about being challenged, etc.
  • Interview the players (if possible) to flesh out your argument beyond the available documentation.  If that is not possible, try to interview stakeholders — historians or educators interested in censorship, civil liberties activists, parents, teachers, and students.
  • Explain and contextualize the critical components associated with the book: What are the literary or therapeutic benefits of the text? How does the challenge of this book fit into the larger historical framework of challenges and censorship?  When and where else has the book been challenged?  Can you make conclusions about whether there is a regional  or temporal story to be told.
  • You must do more than narrate. You must interpret the case, tell us what it means, why it happened the way it did,  what it means, and what it tells us about our society.


The student contract is an essential part of this assignment. In it, you and your partner will lay out the plan for the website, including milestones, and assignments. At the end of the semester you will each evaluate your success at meeting the terms of the contract.


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs ( LC-USZC2-1588)

Your team will craft a project website that explores the challenge or censorship of a book in your geographic area.  This presentation is not like a traditional term paper. Digital presentations can include different kinds of media – maps, videos, audios, and visualizations, and they can be organized in more fluid ways.

  • WordPress — You will select a WordPress theme and develop an organizational structure for the site. Remember to use links between pages as well as navigation bars to let your viewers choose their own paths through the site.
    • Make sure that you include citations to all your images and footnotes for your text.
  • Digital Tools — Embed digital timelines, maps, animations, videos, story maps, and visualizations to tell your story and interpret its meaning.
    • You can trace the story of the censorship challenge case and resolution.
    • You can trace the history of efforts to censor materials leading up to the censorship challenge case — looking at the history of challenges based on sexual content, violence, opposition to gay rights, etc.
    • You can build an interactive map or story map that plots the places that the work was challenged and what happened.
    • You can explore text analysis tools to compare the content of banned books over time.
  • Archival Materials — You must use primary sources in your work. We want to see photographs, letters, reports, newspaper articles, and other materials.  You can also create your own resources by interviewing people who were involved, or who were affected by the case.

Grading criteria – See rubric