The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) has just published Using Film as a Source, the first in a new series of research guides designed to equip students and new researchers with the information they need to tackle a particular field.
Written by Sian Barber a lecturer in film studies at Queen’s University, Belfast, the guide’s 192 pages explore how film and moving image can be used as historical sources. It will be a model for future publications in this planned series that is expected to cover a diverse range of topics including space, transport history, material culture and objects and Tudor government.
Naturally each author will approach writing the guides in different ways, according to the demands of their subjects. In Dr Barber’s case, she treats using film as historical evidence as if it has its own conventions and practice. Detailed case studies are employed as an aid to beginning researchers in the field. The guide includes sections on working with different kinds of moving images, how to explore visual sources, how to undertake film-related research and how to use film theory, as well as providing a full bibliography, glossary and resource list. And Dr Barber also addresses a subject that is perhaps little considered by non-specialists: how exactly do you cite a film in academic work?
Our plan is that the main content of each guide will follow roughly the same structure: Understanding the historiographical context; Formulating your research questions; Choosing your methodology; Locating your sources; Getting the best from your library (negotiating archives, digital resources); Using your sources (handling and reading sources, reproducing images); Writing up your findings; What next?
Therefore, although the IHR Research Guides will place the subject in historiographical context, they will be largely practical in focus. And as increasingly necessary, there will also be good coverage of digital resources for a particular topic.
As such, they will be particularly useful for final-year undergraduates and beginning postgraduates, as well as independent researchers. Printed only in paperbacks, they should be affordable by individuals and not just by libraries.
Jonathan Blaney is a project editor for IHR Digital and one of the series editors for the IHR Research Guides series.