Starting your research

After accepting the EEMP invitation, one of my first stops naturally was the GMU library—specifically, the online Film & Media Studies InfoGuide, which offers a primer on research, with steps that range from finding background material for your topic to evaluating what you find. There’s also a helpful listing of research- and media-related websites.

wikipediaBut perhaps the most useful thing I found in the InfoGuide was the name and contact information for media services/film studies librarian Laura Jenemann. Having once been in the film archive-finding business herself, she is more than eager to help GMU’s budding film and media researchers.

One starting point for media background information that Jenemann recommends is Wikipedia. That’s not because its articles are necessarily always accurate—in fact, the crowd-sourced article-building process often results in errors of omission or commission—but because they provide a wealth of “breadcrumbs,” or external links, to valuable websites.

Once you start digging, it’s easy to get inundated. So Jenemann advises that you carefully organize what you find, preferably in a spreadsheet—among other things, to avoid confusion about where material was obtained, what it contains and who owns the licensing rights to it. Not only will that remind you what clips came from what source, but the list will come in very handy when it’s time to do the film credits.

It’s also important to know when to stop digging, she says. Massive databases and far-flung websites could become major time-wasters unless a researcher knows when search results, though perhaps not perfect, are good enough. There’s even a word for knowing when to stop: “Satisficing,” and of course there’s a Wikipedia entry for it too.

“Basically,” says Jenemann, “when we satisfice, we are taking the most easiest/convenient option out of the all of the known options, rather than searching for the best or ‘optimal.’ “

Sam Meddis

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