Judith Downie
Humanities Librarian
CSUSM Library
KEL 3424

Visual & Performing Arts Home

The purpose of this guide is to familiarize you with the best resources on a variety of aspects of film including criticism, history and technology.

Getting Started
Internet Sources
Need More?


Getting Started

Keywords: Think about words that describe your topic and the variations of that word, as well as directors, performers, and technologies. Boundaries are not clear-cut between film genres and some of the people involved cross perceived boundaries. This can give you great angles for your research, but can also make it difficult to stay focused on a topic precise enough for a good paper.

Encyclopedias and indexes are good places to start your research. They can help you identify a topic for your paper and often include useful bibliographies.

Film Encyclopedia REFERENCE PN1993.45 .K34 1994
Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film OVERSIZE P1997.85 .T54 1998
Film Literature Index REFERENCE Z5784 ,M9 F45
Film Studies Dictionary REFERENCE PN1993.45 .B53 2001

A research paper on film is not a review of a movie you attended. You need to do research and find 3-5 books on your topic to write a decent paper. Depending on how much time you have, you have options for where you can search for books:

  • CSUSM Library Catalog is what you can find in the Kellogg Library

  • Circuit is the joint catalog for CSUSM, SDSU, UCSD, and USD with delivery in 1-3 days for CSUSM users.

  • Melvyl searches the entire University of California catalog system and delivers in 5-10 days through Interlibrary Loan for CSUSM.

  • WorldCat searches a 'universe' of library catalogs and delivers in 5-10 days through Interlibrary Loan for CSUSM.

Useful Subject Terms
Can't think of terms to accurately describe your topic?  Library catalogs use specific subject headings to group related books together. 'Film' is such a large topic and can be defined in multiple ways, you will want to think of ways to narrow it down by time period, title, director, genre, etc. Ask a librarian to help, or here are some examples to consider:

Browse the book stacks
Sometimes, just looking through the shelves can turn up works you would not have otherwise considered. Using the Library of Congress subject heading system, you will find FILM is shelved in the PN call number area, ranging from PN1993 to PN1997.85. The Wikipedia online encyclopedia provides a list of the subclasses in the PN area so you can see how this is organized. 


Journal Articles
Film journals include some of the latest research in the field as well as discussion of adaptations, genres, directorial styles, and historical developments. THey're a good source for finding very detailed information on your topic and you should have at least 3-5 as well as the books found above for a decent paper. It is a good idea to start with a couple of books before diving into the journals to get ideas on terms to use in your research as you will get a larger number of articles to look through than you will find in books. To find articles, you will need to start with research databases. Each will allow you to search hundreds of journals at once. The problem is to decide which databases to look in first! Some databases do not offer full text of the articles. Use the Check SFX for Availability button to check our other resources for full text. Here are some ideas: 

Most Useful

Project Muse
Full-text coverage for hundreds of scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics

Contains complete full-text back files (EXCEPT for the latest five years) of core scholarly journals in such areas as sociology, history, economics, political science, mathematics, African-American studies, Asian studies and others.

Academic Search Premier
Covers a wide array of subjects with full text for nearly 1,850 scholarly journals, including more than 1,250 peer-reviewed titles.

Communication & Mass Media Complete
Provides abstracts and full text for more than 200 communication journals.

ProQuest Direct
Includes complete ABI Inform (business) and Newsstand publications.

Also Useful (more specialized topic areas)

Covers news and business information, including Dow Jones and Reuters newswires and The Wall Street Journal, plus more than 8,000 other sources providing current news.

Lexis Nexis Academic
Provides access to a wide range of news, business, legal, and reference information.

Includes abstracts of articles from critical literary and language journals. This is primarily concerned with the original work of literature, but you will find plenty of articles on adaptations here.

RILM Music Abstracts
Abstracts from scholarly journals on international music and related disciplines, focus on adaptations here will be on writing music for film.

Womens Studies International
Includes over 204,000 records drawn from a variety of essential women's studies databases.

Online Journals
Not all journals need to be accessed through the research databases, here are some additional titles:

CSUSM Catalog: Electronic Journals Film
A listing of all the full text journals available on film topics offered by CSUSM either through the databases or on the open internet.

Bright Lights Film Journal
Covers a wide variety of genres, reviews, and people in the industry.

Fade in Online
An emphasis on directors and trends in Hollywood.

FilmMaker: The Magazine of Independent Film
An emphasis on technical and promotional topics of interest to the filmmaker along with resources.

Film Score Monthly
If soundtracks and music in support of the visual images is your interest, this is a must-visit site.

Images: A Journal of Popular Film and Culture
Discussion of films, genres, and directors along with reviews of both theatre-release movies and video.

From the University of Nottingham Department of Film Studies, this free journal addresses meaning and representation rather than the technical aspects of various films. Covers a wide range of cinema as well as book and film reviews.


Internet Sources
Your instructor may allow use of some web pages you find on the Wild Wild Web, but remember NOT ALL SITES ARE OF EQUAL VALUE TO YOU AS A RESEARCHER. Exercise caution with statements you find and look for reference lists and citations for supporting documentation. Without careful checking and research, you don't know what is truth and what is fiction, but the instructor grading your paper is going to know! Click on a link below to open a page of reliable sites you can check out. 

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
This is the organization that selects the Academy Award winners to receive the coveted Oscars. Information winners in all categories can be found here.

American Communication Association
A portal to journals and academic sources on film, film studies and the business of film and screenwriting.

American Film Institute
The largest organization concerned with the moving image from commercial, education and preservation aspects.

American Popular Culture: Film
A list of websites, online articles and a bibliography to a variety of sources on film in American culture.

Artslynx Film Resources
A wide variety of links on film, filmmaking and more

From the British Broadcasting Company, this site offers reviews, filmmaking advice, and information on alternative films among many other useful pieces.

British Film Institute
Offering links on history, film reviews, scriptwriting and much more, this provides more of the European view of film.

Creative Planet Communities
Online news, articles and discussion boards for technical assistance on specific film making an editing tools.

Directory of Open Access Journals
Click on the "performing arts" category to see freely-available online journals including film journals.

Fathom Archive
A collection of online seminars, exhibits and other materials from reputable institutions and organizations, most is freely available. Check the Course Directory tab to find the free seminars and websites on film and cinematography.

Film/Video/Radio Resources
A list of organizations and funding agencies assembled by the National Endowment for the Arts.

An assortment of review sites, blogs and online publications. Genre categories offered in the left navigation bar are particularly helpful as are the screen snapshots provided when you mouse over the link.

Discussion and resource site for cinema history and uses of media.

InfoUSA: Links to Cinema Resources
Compiled by the US State Department, this is a list of links to archives and organizations on film and the film industry.

Internet Archive: Moving Image Archive
A very large collection of public domain films of documentary, entertainment and historical interest.

Internet Movie Database
For basic information about a film, this is one of the more complete sites. "A search on adaptations" returns a variety of links to foreign-language-adaptations, adaptations by the writer and more.

Masters of Cinema
Focusing on World Cinema topics and filmmakers.

Moving Image Collections: A Window to the World's Moving Images
A catalog of archives with access information provided when known. This site does not provide online viewing, but the information about each item is extensive.

National Film Preservation Board: Other Film Resources
Links to research centers, film schools, legal resources and historical research sources.

Selected Web Sites for Film History and Criticism
Short list of sites assembled by a Yale University Librarian, much of the rest of the site is focused specifically on accessing Yale's resources, but the Genres and Themes and Social and Other Aspects of Cinema pages are useful to CSUSM researchers as well.

Video on Demand
A collection of performances, lectures, interviews, and installations recorded at UCSD. These are free to watch using RealPlayer. Use the video finder subject divisions to browse the offerings (try starting with the Arts & Music collection and then select the "by subject" tab. A title/keyword search option is available. Of interest are the Media Arts and Artists Profiles sections.

Citing Your Sources

As you write your paper, you will need to cite passages and ideas from the sources you have found. In order to cite your resources properly, you need to follow the style specified by your instructor. See the STYLE GUIDES to locate a quick summary online or the shelf location for the paper-format manual you need to use.

Need More?

Contact the librarian listed at the top of the page OR call the Research Help Desk at 760-750-4391 or email libref@csusm.edu.