Documentary Research Methods
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Level: Graduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Media Studies
Department: Media Studies
Course Number: NMDS 5020
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Research Methods
  • Media Studies
This course is a non-production course in documentary research methodology. With a focus on the American documentary tradition, this course introduces the theoretical and practical foundations necessary for conducting research in the context of designing and developing documentary film content. We will examine award-winning documentary films as models, and will look at their process, their choices, and the emotional impact of these decisions in an attempt to understand the various stages of thought and of research that went in to creating the final film as a piece of art. The readings represent a diversity of approaches to qualitative research, and raise questions about what constitutes "good" research; and as such, what adds to our knowledge of the social world. We will ask such questions as: What is a good documentary subject? Why should we do documentary research, and how does doing it implicate us in a complex web of issues concerning the politics of representation and the social construction of meaning? Methodologies examined include print, photo and archival research; observation and direct cinema; interviews and oral histories; and participant observation; among others. Students will create a literature and film review on their own documentary subject, and will design, research, and write up their own documentary proposal and treatment.
Course Open to: Majors Only


Open to Graduate students.