Early Film History Research Paper

Early Film History Research Paper
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Your task in paper one is to focus on a decisive event, piece of technology, concept, individual, or group of individuals that played a role in the development of American cinema; outline the specific origins and effects of this selected topic; and clearly explain its historical significance. Please select a topic in American film history prior to 1940.

– When choosing your topic please keep the length of the assignment in mind. Avoid topics that are too broad to be covered at this length, such as “Hollywood’s transition to sound.” Narrow the area of study; “The impact of the transition to sound on independent producers” is more manageable at 6-8 pages.
– This is not a film analysis paper, so don’t pick a topic that requires film viewing or film interpretation. Instead, focus in on a particular aspect of a historical topic that interests you. Narrowing the focus will also help you to approach the topic from a specific, unique angle and consequently, make your essay more original.
– You need a thesis. Please bold the text of your thesis statement in your paper so that both you and your TA will recognize it.
– Statements about the past should be phrased as an argument that can be supported with historical evidence. Avoid projecting 21st century values onto past events.
– The easiest way to arrive at a solid thesis is to begin first with a research question, a loose query about your chosen topic. As an example: a student can begin with the topic “the conversion to sound” and the research question could be “what happened to movie theaters during the conversion to sound?” Next, one should do some preliminary research to find a plausible answer to the research question that is defensible in regards to historical data (books, periodicals, etc.). This answer becomes a tentative thesis statement.
– There are weak arguments, those that cannot be either proven or disproven, and strong arguments, those that can be supported and even verified with creative use of evidence and sources. To make sure your paper is one of the latter do the following: ask yourself if your thesis can in fact be disproven – a positive answer ensures a “scientifically” sound basis; be very specific in your research and writing – the more precise the better; remember that an exemplary paper will include a novel thesis supported by imaginative uses of sources – in other words, while this is history, creativity is still essential.
– If you’re stuck for inspiration, a careful review of the readings, lecture and section notes, and the films screened in class should give you some ideas.
– Do not write an overly general history of your topic. Do not write a broad biography if you choose to focus on an individual, or a paper that simply calls the films, filmmakers or genres discussed “great.” “D.W. Griffith was the greatest/most innovative/most important filmmaker of his or any other generation,” “Walt Disney supplied the United States with a magical world of fantasy that has delighted children and adults alike” – these are vague and cannot be proved. Do not make broad generalizations, especially about films you haven’t seen – “The image of women in silent film showed them as newly independent.” Remember, this is not a film analysis paper. If it is unclear to you why these theses are weak or how one would go about transforming them into something usable, please ask your TA during discussion or office hours.

Additional Guidelines:
• All topics should be approved by your TA in advance. Your TA will provide you with more detailed instructions about submitting your topics.

• You are required to use a minimum of three sources for your research. Include a bibliography at the end of your paper. Acceptable sources include books, articles published in scholarly journals, and articles published in newspapers and periodicals. A wide selection of relevant source material has been placed on reserve for the class in the Arts Library, located in 1400 Public Affairs. Additionally, the course Web site contains links that can contribute to your research; use the Arts Library e-resources page for starters. Try to use some books and articles published after 1985, in order to benefit from the extensive progress made in the field of film history in the last 30 years.
While you may consult Internet-only sources such as film websites or blogs, they will not count towards your three required sources.

• All information and ideas adapted from another source must be properly cited with either footnotes or endnotes. In addition, the sources of all direct quotations must be clearly indicated with in-text citations. Please consult either the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or The Chicago Manual of Style for correct citation procedures. You may use either MLA or Chicago style but please choose only one and be consistent in your usage. The course Web site contains links to style guides for quick and easy reference.

• Your essay will be evaluated for its clarity of expression and absence of errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. There are many links on the course website to research and paper writing aides. If you would like further help with your writing, please meet with your TA before the paper is due to get advice.

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