Major Project

Major Project

I’m studying for my Film class and need an explanation.


  • perform independent research in film history parallel to class lectures
  • design a research project, including research questions
  • hone critical thinking and strategic uses of different kinds of research sources
  • practice poster presentation, which may be new to you
  • Topic Choose a film topic that is not directly related to class materials and that pertains to a period since 1950. The topic does not have to be “significant” (award-winning, famous), but needs to be a rich opportunity to explore a film movement, political situation, technology, aesthetic, or other key aspect of history. You can focus on one film or one filmmaker (director, producer, writer, editor, cinematographer, etc.), or you can look more broadly at a film movement, technology, etc. “Film” here is defined in its broadest sense of moving image usually accompanied by sound, so you can research videogames, online videos, television, VR, etc. If you are interested in a topic but unsure if it “fits,” please ask. There are several suggested topics in the Research Project folder on Brightspace if you have trouble thinking of a topic. Another possibility is browsing the DVD shelf in the Killam library; it’s on the ground floor in the room marked “Music Collection.”

    If you’re having trouble deciding what kind of direction you might take with your project – and especially what kind of focus or argument you might make – David Bordwell’s “Doing Film History” has a good overview of approaches. This article is a recommended reading for Week 1 of this course. This article also includes some broad questions (e.g., “How have the conditions of the film industryproduction, distribution, and exhibition—affected the uses of the medium?”) that you might adapt to more specific case studies. You can also think reflectively about the approaches and questions we use in class lectures and discussions, and the approaches in the assigned readings.


    Proposal (due 9 February)

    Your proposal of 1500-2000 words must a) state your aims (why do you want to do this project? what do you hope to learn?), b) state your research question(s) and/or provisional thesis, and c) include an annotated bibliography. The annotated bibliography must have a minimum of 4 sources and include both scholarly and non-scholarly sources in addition to the primary text(s) you are studying; for example, if you are writing about the historical significance of The Godfather, you need at least one non-scholarly source in addition to the film itself. Each annotation must include a) a brief summary of the content of the source, b) an evaluation of the source itself (its aims and effectiveness), and c) an evaluation of how the source will be useful to your project. The last is perhaps the most important. You do not need to do a full annotation for the primary text (s) you are studying, especially if there are several of them; for example, if you are analyzing the work of a YouTuber, you do not need to provide three paragraphs for each of their videos. Instead, you should annotate four sources that will help you analyze their work (including one scholarly and one non-scholarly source). If you have already found a lot of secondary sources and annotating each would take you over 2000 words, you can simply choose the four most important for full annotation. Please list all of the sources you anticipate using, however, and if you can provide a sentence or two of annotation for the other sources, this is helpful for the instructors when giving feedback (but is not required).

    Although the annotation style (i.e., what the three paragraphs contain) follows MLA conventions, you can format bibliographic citations in any style you choose (APA, MLA, etc.); just be consistent. Your proposal will be graded on the care with which you have found and evaluated sources and on the development of the research question/thesis (though it is understood that this may change as you work more on the project). See this page for examples of annotated bibliographic entries: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/03/. The first is the MLA-style annotation required for this course (although your annotations can be shorter than those in the example).

    See rubric online (click on the drop box) for details on the goals and assessment of the assignment. It is recommended that you read the A-range and D-range descriptions of each grading criterion.

    Major Project (due 16 March)

    Your major end project will either be a written essay of 2000-2500 words or a video essay of 10-12 minutes with your voice talking over clips of (a) film(s). If you make a video essay, you are responsible for mastering the technology video editing and voice recording (and it is strongly recommended that you write a script for a video essay). The major project should be relatively formal, and although you are allowed to use “I,” you shouldn’t overuse it. More importantly, your work should be logical, rigorous, and lucid. Whether you write an essay or make a video essay, you must submit a written bibliography for your work, formatted in whatever format you prefer. Video essays should also include bibliographic credits.

    See rubric online (click on the drop box) for details on the goals and assessment of the assignment. It is recommended that you read the A-range and D-range descriptions of each grading criterion.

    Poster Presentation (final week of class – presentation dates are assigned based on family name) Poster Presentations are common in Sciences, and they are getting more popular in Humanities and Social Sciences. You will present your work as a poster in the final week of class so that your classmates can benefit and learn from your work and you get practice presenting in this format. The poster (though not your presentation, for logistical reasons) will be graded on a pass (100%)/fail (0%) basis by Shannon Brownlee, who, like your classmates, may not have read your research paper or proposal and may not be familiar with the moving images your project discusses. You should try to make a poster that your classmates can absorb in about 2-3 minutes; you will be on hand to answer questions if they have them, but they may simply absorb your poster and move on to another. It is recommended that your poster contain the following elements:

    1. your thesis

    2. subheadings

    3. key findings (in words and/or images)

    4. your bibliography Your poster does not have to be huge – the size is up to you. And don’t feel that you have to spend money on printing images in colour; black and white is fine as long as we can tell what’s going on in them. Captions for the images could be very helpful.

    Hypothetical Audience Your audience for all components is a hypothetical undergraduate student with a good film vocabulary but little background in film history (or history of any kind). Therefore, you do not need to define general film terms (e.g., reception, continuity editing) that apply to most or all moving images, although you should define more specialized technical vocabulary (e.g., diopter, squib, Gopro camera), especially if it is relevant to your analysis. You need to explain film industry contexts, political history, etc., as relevant to your analysis.

    Grading Schemes The grading rubrics for the proposal, paper, and poster will be on the course website. Access them through the drop box.


    Problem: I can’t find any scholarly writing on the film/TV show/video game, etc. Suggestions:

    1. Use scholarly writing on one of the artists (director, producer, writer, actor, etc.).

    2. Use scholarly writing on moving images made at the same time/place. Do the arguments for these moving images apply to your moving images?

    3. Use scholarly writing on moving images that may have influenced yours and/or those that may have been influenced by it. Do the arguments for these moving images apply to your own?

    Problem: There is conflicting information on the film. Suggestions:

    1. Consider the sources. Which is most likely to be accurate?

    2. Do further research to confirm accuracy of some information.

    3. Cite all the information, state that it conflicts, and suggest which information is most likely to be accurate.

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