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FMS8360 : Researching Film: Skills and Methods

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Philippa Page
  • Lecturer: Dr Andrew Shail, Professor Guy Austin, Dr Sarah Leahy, Dr Fernando Beleza Pinto
  • Visiting Lecturer: Ms Lucy Jolly
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


•       To provide students with research skills required to become an independent researcher. This includes the following: identifying an area of research that includes mapping out existing scholarship in this area and identifying an original contribution to existing work; developing their own research questions; identifying relevant materials/sources and putting together a bibliography; engaging critically with published work; accurately referencing works cited; developing the critical, organisational and presentation skills required in academic writing.
•       To introduce students to the (inter-)disciplinary scope of film studies.
•       To familiarise students with methodological issues specific to film studies.
•       To prepare students for the planning and writing of assessed essays and their final dissertation, supporting them throughout this process.

Outline Of Syllabus

This foundational module in research methods addresses a full range of core skills and methods in Film Studies with the aim of training students to become independent scholars. An indicative list of topics can be found below (this may vary slightly from year to year depending on which staff members are involved in leading seminars):

- What is Cinema?
- Library research methods and skills
- Film history and historiography
- Critical engagement and referencing
- The uses of film theory
- Archival research
- Audiences and textual variation
- Box office figures
- Writing assessments/Creating a research project
- The life of a film
- Genre and Syntax
- Interdisciplinarity in Film
- Decolonising Film Studies

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00Preparation and completion of all summative and formative assessments.
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials101:0010:00Non-synchronous materials available on VLE inc pre-recorded presentations to accompany learning.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading102:0020:00Guided preparation for in-person seminar activities.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00Present-in-person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery13:003:00Present-in-person Assessment support/In-person drop-in
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study197:0097:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The learning hours on this module have been distributed as follows:

Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities: 10 in-person small group teaching seminars, or 1 x 2-hour scheduled seminar every fortnight approximately over the course of two semesters. These in-person live seminars can migrate online without undue disruption, if necessary. Student-led small group discussion aims to explore each topic in-depth and give students a space in which they can share their ideas and benefit from peer feedback as well as guidance from seminar leader.

Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities: 3 hours of drop-in. Two of these are to be divided into tutorial slots during which students are invited to present their research proposal idea and receive feedback and advice as to how to develop it for the assessment. The third hour is a more general drop-in session for assessment support.

Structured Guided Learning: 10 hours’ worth of lecture materials (approximately 1 hour/week) that introduce the topics for each week. These non-synchronous guided learning materials and activities provide students with an overview of each topic, which puts the topic in context, offers examples to be explored and discussed (via a discussion board, for example), and raises the key issues for debate. Each week corresponds to a key aspect of Film Studies, covering a range of methodologies and conceptual frameworks. Evaluation from last year showed that a majority of students appreciated the online elements as part of the module contact hours. This is a programme that is offered both on both a full- and part-time basis, meaning that some students work alongside their studies. Seminars are programmed in the evenings. The combination of 2-hour seminars and online materials builds flexibility into the programme for all students.

Structured Guided Learning: 20 hours’ worth of guided learning activities that include guided screenings, reading tasks, preparation of seminar activities (individually or in groups). Students are expected to work independently on these activities, but they are set by seminar leaders with guidance.

The remainder of the hours assigned to this module will be spent preparing each assessment task and carrying out independent study, during which students are expected to use the learning materials, skills and feedback provided as a springboard from which to develop their own ideas and skills as independent scholars.

The different types of learning activities work together in combination with one another to build progressively the skill set and methodological knowledge/capacities required to author scholarly essays and design, carry out and write-up a longer dissertation project.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M301,000-word peer review exercise
Research proposal2M702,500-word research project proposal
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment for this module is divided into two separate tasks that ask students to build on the film research skills and methods that they develop throughout this module. Given that the main aim of this module is to lay the foundations for more complex, research-based, in-depth written work, including the dissertation, the inclusion of one summative assessment that is also formative (providing timely feedback throughout the module) addresses the learning objectives more accurately.

An example of what these two assessments may look like is as follows:
Part 1 (30%) consists of a 1,000-word peer review exercise that asks students to critically engage with a piece of secondary reading and author their evaluation of and recommendations for the piece. This is set and introduced in week 2 because the session in week two deals with critical engagement with secondary reading. This assessment also functions as a formative assessment for parallel modules where proper critical engagement with secondary reading is necessary.

Part II (70%) consists of a 2,500-word research project proposal. In this assignment, students are asked to develop a proposal for a dissertation-length research project. They will be evaluated on the clarity and focus of the research questions, the structure of the proposal, their provisional mapping of the area of research and where their proposal fits therein, the proposed methodology/approach and bibliography. This assessment also functions as a formative assignment for assessed essays and, more specifically, the dissertation.

Reading Lists