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Digital Filmmaking: ENGL A270: History of Film

Searching Library Databases

In this module, you'll use library databases and keywords in order to focus your Film History research topics. The entire tutorial is written out here, or you can work through each section below. There are also video demonstrations of each section of the assignment.

If you have any questions as you work through the assignment, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can email me at, or make an appointment to meet with me via phone, video/web conference, or chat.


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Laurie Phillips

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Hi, I'm Elizabeth Kelly and I am the Digital Programs Coordinator in the Monroe Library. I manage the library's digital programs including digital special collections and archives, digital preservation, digital scholarship, scholarly communications, and library web services. I’m also the librarian liaison to Digital Film in addition to Mass Communications, Music Industry, Pop & Commercial Music, and Urban and Electronic Music Production, so if you take classes in those areas, you may see me again or want to reach out to me for research and technology help.

Today I’m going to demonstrate how you can use the library’s resources to find film reviews, film analysis, and film history. The library subscribes to many journals, newspapers, databases, and multimedia resources that would be prohibitively expensive for you to subscribe to yourself, so I strongly recommend that you utilize these resources whenever you’re doing academic research.

The library provides Research Guides for all major and minor subject areas, as well as guides for individual courses. We have created Research Guides to help you find the best resources for your particular subject area.

To access Research Guides, start on the library homepage at There is a link to Research Guides under the QuickSearch search box. You can also get to Research Guides by going to the Resources menu on the library website, then Research, then Research Guides; OR, you can bookmark 

This takes you to a list of guides that we have created for every major and minor in the university in the “Subject Guides” box. These guides include carefully curated lists of the resources that we think would be most useful for your research. Select the Digital Filmmaking guide to do research for this class.

The guide has links to databases that we’ve curated to include what we think will be most useful for research in this subject. Databases are collections of journal, newspaper, magazine, and trade articles. You’ll see on this guide that the databases are split into two categories: Film Literature, and Business. Film Literature databases will be most useful if you are looking for film reviews, film analysis, or film history. Business databases can be helpful if you’re interested in box office performance, what companies make films, who their competitors are, and what their annual revenue is, for example.

In the next video, I’ll walk you through search strategies to help find what you need in the library databases.

Searching Databases

The databases listed under Film Literature on the Research Guide have a variety of sources in them. Some, like Academic Search Complete and JSTOR, are general databases, with a broad scope that can include literature, business, psychology, science, and many other subject areas. Others, like Art & Architecture Complete and Communication & Mass Media Complete, are specific to certain disciplines. Depending on what exactly you want to find out about your film, some databases may be more useful than others.

To begin searching for resources on your topic, select a database. If you are off campus, you will be prompted to login using your SSO, or Single Signon, username and password. 

Some general tips for searching in any of the databases are as follows:
In Advanced search fields, you can use one idea per search box. This lets you search for a journal title along with keywords or subject terms, and many other facets, all at the same time, in a way the database structure understands (example: search “Citizen Kane” as TXT and “Film” as subject).
You can use synonyms when necessary by using the word “OR” (Basic Search: "do the right thing" OR "she's gotta have it")
Once you’ve gotten some search results, use the limiters on the left to narrow down your search
Discover similar information through subject terms embedded in the article record
Search for phrases using quotes around the phrase, like in the example above “do the right thing”

When you’re researching film, there are a lot of different aspects about the film you could be researching. You could be looking for historical information on how the film was made; analysis of the film that explains how it has impacted the film industry; technical information about cinematography; critique of the film’s music; and much, much more. The more specific you are, the more interesting your research will be. Your topic will also be more scalable; a search for “do the right thing” in Academic Search Complete has over one thousand results, which you would never read through, while ["do the right thing" AND screenplay] only has 8 results. 

So you will most likely want to come up with some ideas about subtopics related to your film. Essentially, you are trying to find an “angle” for your research. Terms related to your angle can then be used as keyword searches along with the title of your film, or a director’s name, or other term. Use the Advanced Search to combine terms, or the word “AND” (example: "do the right thing" AND screenplay).

Once you have found a source you’re interested in, click on the title to find out more. Here you can see where the source was published, who wrote it, and when it was published. You can also read it, or find it in another database if the full text doesn’t appear. You can also use the Full Text Limiter when you’re searching to avoid results without full text.

When you know you want to come back to a source later, email it to yourself using the “Email” button, or click “Permalink” to grab a permanent URL you can bookmark or email to yourself. Don’t just copy the URL from your browser bar; this is a session link that won’t work if you try it again later. Some databases also have Citation tools to help you cite your work in specific styles. Just double-check these for accuracy before using, because sometimes they’re not quite right.

Now that you’ve narrowed down your search, complete the handout linked after this video. Use your Loyola email to access the form. You will receive a copy of the handout in your email to help remind you of how you narrowed down your search.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about researching the library databases. You can reach me at You can also schedule a virtual meeting with me at if it would help to look at your research together. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your completed handouts!

ENGL-A270-051 History of Film Library Handout

Complete the handout by accessing it here or by filling it out below to receive credit for completing History of Film Research Tutorial. Note that you must be logged into your Loyola email to access.