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Film resources guide

Researching film: strategies

1. Start early. Consider the topic that you have in mind alongside of the assignment's timeline/deadline. As you learn more about the topic you explore, it is very common for your original idea to evolve dramatically. Consequently, you'll need time to find and incorporate sources throughout your topic's evolution 
2. Consider a variety of ways to search for your topic. Before you build a house, you should have a solid foundation to build upon. Think of the history of your topic as that foundation. Before you jump into the most current scholarly sources, be sure to learn about the history of what's already been discussed. Background information can often be found in book sources and older "landmark" articles that have been frequently cited by other scholars.

3. Be wary of topics that are too broad. If there's an entire book written on your topic (for example "women in early film" or the Depression), that's a good sign you need to find a more specific way to write about the subject. A good way to keep your topic focused is to ask yourself the "So what?" question. For instance, there are entire books already written about "women in early film." Asking So What? forces you to dig more deeply in to this broad topic. Perhaps there is a specific person, court case, issue, studio, film, etc. that can be your primary focus within the larger context.
4. Ask for help if you need it. Research can be challenging, especially if your topic is more complicated or the most obvious sources are checked out or not available. Ask for help from a research librarian if you need more guidance or have a question about conducting research. Talk to your instructor about refining your paper topic, your thesis, and expectations of the assignment. SU also has a University Writing Center that can help.
For additional general assistance, consult How to do library research

With permission, the organization and some of this guide's "Researching Film" content has been adapted from UCLA librarian Diana King's excellent course guide "Film & Television 6a" guide: Thanks Diana!