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Film Studies: Getting a Background

Library resources for film studies at Connecticut College.

Why use background (reference) sources?

Mostly because reference sources can greatly improve the quality and the efficiency of your research. Specifically, these sources can:

  • Help you get a background on a topic, allowing you to discover some of what has already been said, and how the thinking on the topic may have changed over time. This may help you figure out the argument that you want to make.
  • Generate additional ideas for research topics. Your background reading on a topic can serve as a catalyst for creative engagement with that topic, fostering new approaches to it, or connecting ideas that hadn't been previously connected.
  • Find additional primary and secondary resources (for more information on what constitutes "primary" versus "secondary" resources, look here). Often, reference sources will include bibliographies or suggestions for further readings, leading you directly into your research on a given topic. 

Reference Sources in Print

Following is a brief listing of some key background sources found in Shain LIbrary's first-floor Reference Collection. But there are many, many more such sources! To access more in the reference collection, you can browse the stacks. Check out the call number range from PN1993 to PN1998, along with Z5784. For reference works specifically on national cinemas (African, Australian, Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, etc.), browse the stacks at the PN1993.5 call number.

Also, you can search the library's OneSearch for sources on more specific topics. After you do your initial search (e.g., "film noir"), find the filters on the right-hand side of the screen. Click the filter that says "Reference," and the search results will display only reference materials. For more help with searching for books, go to the Searching for Articles and Books page of this guide, or schedule a consultation with the film studies liaison librarian.

Online Reference Sources