A Beginner’s Guide to Research for the Independent Study

"to encourage students to engage in some depth with a cinematic tradition that is unfamiliar to their own culture"

Independent Study
The aim of this workbook is to provide you with a structure for which to make notes on your chosen area of study. If you follow the instructions and discuss points with your teachers and your classmates, this should provide you with all the notes that you need to be successful in the assessment. The notes will also act as a record of your research that may have already started with your “home culture” presentation. The Independent Study offers you the opportunity to investigate an area that you find interesting. There is enough choice and flexibility that everyone should be able to find a topic that they can successfully research. Once you have chosen a general area that you are interested in (genre or history or a combination) then you need to think of a specific focus that you feel that you can explore in detail and fulfils the requirements of the syllabus. Your eventual script must explore “an aspect of film theory or history based upon the study of films from more than one country” and be “geared to an audience of 14-18 year old film students”. You must be careful to take note of the fact that more than one country really mean films from different and distinctive cultures. Don’t pick a Hollywood genre and try to compare it with Canadian or Australian counterparts. In fact, we are trying to avoid Hollywood altogether. For HL you must make reference to at least four films and at SL at least two films. It is important that you are realistic about the topic you choose - it might help if you have some prior knowledge about and/or interest in the area you choose to research. As with all research projects and coursework, there are some things that your choice of topic should allow you to do: • keep an open mind about where the project will lead – where you start may not take to an end • keep focussed and specific • offer a sense of open investigation – what are you trying to say about film that is important? • allow evaluation of the validity of source material. We offer you this advice based on experiences from the exam board. We do not wish to prevent you from choosing your own topic to research but you should be realistic about your own interest in the topic area. For example we would advise you against choosing to research women directors unless you felt confident that you could identify a suitable female 2

director to focus upon! Previous topics: • How representations of social realism differ in French and British cultures in terms of film history, culture and narrative focus • An analysis of musical cinema that compares American film making conventions with that of Indian the “Bollywood” industry. • Scare Tactics – How are people frightened at the theatre? An exploration into the element of surprise across three cultures. • Did it Move For You? An exploration into the influence of camera movement in creating meaning across three cultures. (This is a reworked question)

Preliminary thoughts!
Make notes on areas of interest that you feel you might be worthy of study. You should also think about a possible focus for your research. As your ideas take form, begin some research to see if academic writings can be found on your topic. By the beginning of the last term, you should have made a decision on your principle topic area. Proposed area of study and initial idea. • Now that you have decided on the areas you wish to research further, the next step is to start by searching this topic on the Internet. It would be best to start with search engines. This type of research can be classified as secondary research. What this means is that someone else has researched an area or written an article about a topic that you are interested in. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to using a search engine. These are as follows: Advantages: • Quick way of accessing large amounts of information • Information is sorted for you • It may lead you to more useful links • You have the ability to refine your searches Disadvantages: • Not all the sites listed will be relevant • Initial searches will often generate too many sites to look at • You cannot expect them to answer your questions • It will only provide initial information With this in mind, it is still a useful starting point for any research project; you should be aware that it will not answer your question for you. You should consider the following questions and then begin to record the 3

information that you find. It would be worth evaluating the success of your searches and also writing down any useful sites that you find as you can always go back to them. You should summarise the key points of the pages you find. How can I tell if this page is any good? Web pages require the same (or more) caution as any other source • Look for sites that have an author • Use Google scholar • Access the Library’s databases • Anyone with access to a server can put material on the web • Do not assume statements are true, verify them. Ask yourself the following questions: • Who is responsible for the site? • What are the author’s credentials? • What is the rationale for the site - is it endorsing a particular viewpoint to the exclusion of others? • Is there a date when the site was last updated- how long ago did this happen? • Does the site seem to be permanent or part of a permanent organisation? • Is the page connected to a reputable institution? You should record what you typed in as your search question and how you refined it. [See the example below] Annotated Bibliography This is a stated requirement for this assessment task. Make life easy for yourself and make this a work in progress – starting now. An annotated bibliography is usually the first stage of any extended essay like a thesis. The idea behind this is for you to demonstrate that you have searched for all the academic work published about your topic and found areas that can be drawn together (synthesized). So, how to move forward? Every time you find a site, copy the COMPLETE bibliographical reference for that book, article, web page, etc. This information is placed at the top of your page. As you go though the information, look for references that will be useful for your IS, like an interview with the director. If it has a page reference, include this and then copy and paste the relevant information. Finally, write a short (3 or 4 sentence) appraisal of the information. For example: Gottleib, S. Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, University of California Press, California, 1997. Pg 146 (on violence) Hitchcock: “Well, I don’t know. I have always felt that you should do the minimum on screen to get the maximum audience effect.” 4

This is a very useful text in that it provides an insight into the works of Hitchcock through his own writing and interviews that took place throughout his professional life. The Editor attempts to reveal much about the director and provides both positive and negative critiques of both his work and his approach within the Hollywood studio system. As a minimum, you should be looking to source a bibliography that list at least 10 to 15 texts. You must find a range of sources (both primary and secondary) that includes, books (digital versions count), websites, articles, etc. Your bibliography includes everything that you have read that has contributed to your understanding of the topic. Now all bibliographical references need to be cited within the body of your IS as endnotes. Quality Online Resources When using the Internet for academic research, choose reliable, authoritative websites. Examples include: The Media and Communication site from Aberystwyth University in Wales (http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/) provides excellent theoretical concepts, like representation and culture, that can be applied to film. Senses of Cinema (http://www.sensesofcinema.com/) is a superb on-line journal that deals with all film-related issues. It is worth browsing this constantly. The BBC at www.bbc.co.uk - go to ‘About the BBC’ for information about policies, values, plans etc. University research sites (with ac.uk addresses) such as Glasgow University Mass Media Unit at www.gla.ac.uk/departments/sociology/media.html or the Norman Chester Institute for Football Research at Leicester University for more specific research at www.le.ac.uk/footballresearch (e.g. Fact Sheet 8: British Football on Television) The websites of professional organisations and pressure groups such as the National Union of Journalists at www.nuj.org.uk/front/index.php , the British Board of Film Classification at www.bbfc.co.uk , Ofcom [the broadcasting regulatory body] at www.ofcom.org.uk , Cinenova (Women behind the Camera) at www.cinenova.org Sites with good links to other websites, such as the British Film Institute at www.bfi.org.uk ‘Film Links Gateway’. University gateways can direct you towards academic sources, e.g. the Media and Communication Site from Aberystwyth University at www.aber.ac.uk/media/index.html , SOSIG [Social Science Information Gateway] at www.sosig.ac.uk (e.g. for the Girls, Women and Media Project at www.mediaandwomen.org ), the Adam Project at www.adam.ac.uk Umbrella websites such as Media UK at www.mediauk.com Use personal or anonymous websites with care. They may be valuable sources for analysis of opinion, but they may not be factually accurate as the authority of the author may be in question. 5

Though it is highly unlikely that you will find a single book that entirely covers your specific area of study they will provide useful wider knowledge that can help put your research into context. In this session you should scan three books for useful chapters or pages that relate to your topic. You should note down the key points mentioned alongside the title, author, publisher and year of printing. This is an on-going document that will, in all likelihood, morph into something unexpected. Don’t be afraid. This is simply the world of research tasks – remember the process for your Extended Essay! By Easter, we are looking to have an annotated bibliography (with associated notes and quotes) for at least 10 sources that directly relate to your topic.


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