Cinema Studies Research: Getting Started

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If you are working on cinema studies research and not sure where to begin, the reference sources listed here can help. Reference sources include encyclopedias, bibliographies, filmographies, and more, each of which may be more or less well-suited to your research needs. For example, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and companions are useful for familiarizing yourself with key concepts or figures, while bibliographies are most useful when looking for resources related to a topic.

Most of the sources listed here are available online or located in the Wells Library Reference Reading Room on the first floor of the East Tower. Materials in the Reference Reading Room cannot be checked out of the library so plan to consult, scan, or copy them in the library.

If you have questions at any point in your research process, ask a librarian for assistance!

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Reference Guides

References guides organize different types of reference sources, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes and more, into lists designed for consultation. If you are looking for a bird’s eye view of reference sources on a topic, a reference guide can be a useful tool.

Film and Television: A Guide to the Reference Literature - If you are not sure where to begin, this guide is a great resource. This comprehensive bibliography includes bibliographies, filmographies, indexes, dictionaries, and encyclopedias among other reference resources. The topical organization makes this guide simple to navigate and annotations allow you to quickly evaluate listed resources.

Call number: Z5784.M9 E47 2006 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)


Encyclopedias contain detailed information on topics that are usually listed aphetically. Consulting an encyclopedia is an effective way to familiarize yourself with key topics at the start of the research process or to clarify an unfamiliar topic you encounter.

Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts

Call number: PN1993.45 H36 2006 (Wells Library – Research Collection)

The Film Encyclopedia

Call number: PN1993.45 .K34 2001 (Wells Library – Research Collection)

Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film

Call number: PN1993.45 .S35 2007 v.1-4 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)


Dictionaries contain entries on a topic that are usually listed in alphabetical order. They are similar to encyclopedias, but entries are usually more concise, making them a useful tool for quickly familiarizing yourself with a topic.

The Film Studies Dictionary

Call number: PN1993.45 .B49 2001 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers

Call number: PN1997.8 .I58 2000 v.1-4 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)


Companions are similar to dictionaries and the two terms are often used interchangeably. They contain concise entries and can help you quickly familiarize yourself with a topic.

Cassell Companion to Cinema

Call number: PN1993.45 .C28 1997 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)

The Oxford Companion to Film

Call number: PN1993.45 .O984 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)


Bibliographies are lists of sources on a topic that can be useful because they gather relevant books, articles, and other sources in one place. Short bibliographies often include key works on a topic, while long bibliographies may aim to be exhaustive.

Bibliographies and Full-Text Articles - A collection of online film bibliographies maintained by the University of California Media Resources Center.

The Film Anthologies Index

Call number: Z5784.M9 B637 1994 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)

The Macmillan film bibliography

Call number: Z5784.M9 R423 1982 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)

Oxford Bibliographies Online: Cinema and Media Studies - An extensive online bibliography compiled by scholars and experts in cinema and media studies.


Filmographies are lists of films that meet a particular set of criteria. A filmography may include films by a particular director, films on a certain topic, or films of a particular genre to name but a few examples. Some filmographies are exhaustive and include all films that meet the criteria of the list, while most are comprehensive or aim to include a large percentage of relevant films.

American Film Institute Catalog - Draws its content from six printed volumes and online content that document every American film from 1893 to 1975, with full or short records for films from 1976 to Present.

The Complete Index to World Film Since 1895 - A freely accessible online database of more than 500,000 films from 1895 to the Present.

Film Index International - A database containing films and person records with detailed information relevant to each.

IMDb - A freely accessible online database of films.


Reviews can provide insight into the reception of films. There are many resources available that can help you locate reviews for films.

Online Review Aggregators


Movie Review Query Engine

Rotten Tomatoes

Print Reviews

Film Review Annual

Call number: PN1995 .F4595 1981-1982,1984-2002 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)

Film Review Index

Call number: Z5784.M9 F513 1986 v.1-2 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)

The New York Times film reviews

Call number: PN1995 .N532 1913/1931-1995/1996,1999/2000 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)

Variety Film Reviews

Call number: PN1995 .V34 1907-1987/1988 (Wells Library – Reference Reading Room)


These databases contain full-text articles from academic journals, magazines, and trade publications. The sources available in these databases are especially relevant to cinema studies topics.

Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive

Film & Television Literature Index

The Film Literature Index

International Index to Film Periodicals

Performing Arts Periodicals Database

Contributor: Kayleigh Fischietto