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Documentary: A Beginner's LibGuide: Sources for Documentary Information

This is a LibGuide that will provide various information on all things concerning Documentary.

Documentary Books

Documenting the Documentary

This is a collection of essays that explore the purpose and power of documentary films throughout history. Additionally, it investigates the various strategies used within these types of films.


source: Grant, B. K., Sloniowski, J., & Nichols, B. (2014). Documenting the documentary: close readings of documentary film and video. Detroit : Wayne State University Press.


This is a collection of essays that explore the roots of documentary in modernism and its critique under postmodernism, surveys current theoretical thinking about documentary, explores a wide range of works by artists within, around, or against documentary all the while contextualizing documentary art. 


source: Stallabrass, J. (2013).  Documentary. London : Whitechapel Gallery ; Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press.

Documentary Filmmakers Handbook

This is a relatively short text that provides all the basic information one would need in order to know the basics behind becoming a documentary film-maker. It not only provides the history of the film-making genre, but also what elements are necessary to documentary films and examples of certain documents that a documentary film-maker would need to be familiar with. While this is a great introduction to documentary film-making, we would suggest consulting further sources to gain more insight, especially if you want to continue down the documentary film-making career path.


source: Eckhardt, N. (2012).  Documentary filmmakers handbook. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland

Introduction to Documentary, Second Edition

Introduction to Documentary provides an examination of the documentary. This is achieved by exploring documentary definition, ethics, content, form, modes, and politics. Additionally, it compares and contrasts this type of film to fiction films; it explores the similarities between the factual documentary to fiction films as well as defines distinctions to the documentary genre.


source: Nichols, B. (2001).  Introduction to documentary. Bloomington : Indiana University Press.

Rethinking Documentary

Within this text, the documentary is reexamined as a genre in today's world of Youtube and Google Video. It includes critical analysis of various aspects of the documentary, including its definition, its emergence as a specific field of study, recent perspectives on documentary production, affects of recent interpretations of documentaries.


source: Jong, W. de, & Austin, T. (2008).  Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives, New Practices. Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill Education. Retrieved from

Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film

Through three volumes, the Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film provides information on various aspects of documentary film. This is a useful source when researching specific topics or renowned people within the profession.


source: Aitken, I. (2006). Encyclopedia of the documentary film. New York : Routledge.

New Challenges for Documentary, 2nd Ed

Similar to Rethinking DocumentaryNew Challenges for Documentary explores the documentary film in the context of recent years. Specifically, it discusses modern approaches and analysis of theories and forms of documentary as a genre, the responsibilities of producers and directors, ethical and aesthetic issues, changing contexts in television, and more.


source: Rosenthal, A., & Corner, J. (2005). New challenges for documentary. Manchester ; New York : Manchester University Press ; New York.

Introduction to Documentary Production

This text provides useful information on the production of documentary film. For example, it investigates structure and script, narrative and intent, audience, management, cinematography, digital technology, and editing.


source: Kochberg, S. (2002). Introduction to documentary production. London : Wallflower.

Documentary: A History of the Nonfiction Film

This book surveys the history of the documentary film genre from 1895 to the present day. Not only does Barnouw provide an overview of all the relevant documentary movements and personalities, but he also weaves the development of nonfiction film alongside human history since the 19th century. 


source: Barnouw, E. (1993). Documentary : a history of the non-fiction film. New York : Oxford University Press.

A New History of Documentary Film

This text continues on the same topic as Rethinking Documentary and New Challenges for Documentary. It includes various essays that explores aspects of documentary in context of contemporary times.


source: McLane, B. A. (2012).   A new history of documentary film. New York : Continuum.

Documentary Databases


Docuseek2 is a platform for independent, documentary, education, and social issue video and films for higher education. The collection contains over 1,300 documentary films from leading film producers and distributors, including: Bullfrog Films, Icarus Films, the BBC, the National Film Board of Canada, CBC, and many more independent filmmakers from around the world.  

Ethnographic Video Online

Ethnographic Video Online provides an online resource for the study of human culture, behavior, and society around the world. The collection contains over 1,300 hours of streaming video, including ethnographic films, documentaries, feature films, and previously unpublished fieldwork. 

Filmakers Library Online

Filmakers Library Online provides access to award-winning documentaries presenting points of view and historical and current experiences from diverse cultures and traditions. The collection contains topics ranging from race and gender studies, human rights, multiculturalism, criminal justice, bioethics, current events, globalization and global studies, international relations, and many more. 


Kanopy partners with public libraries and universities to provide entertainment streaming on any devices with no fees and no commercials. By logging on with your library membership, anyone can enjoy their broad selection of more than 30,000 feature films, documentaries, foreign language, and training videos. 

New Day Films

New Day Films provides award-winning films to educators, community groups, government agencies, public libraries and businesses. New Day Films is a filmmaker-run distribution company composed of more than 150 filmmaker members. The content delivers hundreds of titles that are dynamic, provocative, illuminating, challenging, and inspiring. 

Documentary Journals

Studies in Documentary Film

Studies in Documentary Film is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the history, theory, criticism, and practice of documentary film. 

Film Quarterly

Film Quarterly publishes in-depth articles, reviews, and interviews on all aspects of cinema, media, and society—from film classics to emergent technologies. They are committed to advancing timely and intersectional approaches to the criticism and analysis of visual culture through exploring new perspectives on issues of diversity, race, gender, sexuality, and transnationalism.


[documentary] is published by The International Documentary Association (IDA), dedicated to building and serving the needs of a thriving documentary culture by expanding the understanding of shared human experience, fostering an informed, compassionate, and connected world. 

Kanopy Tutorial

A tutorial on how you can create a membership and use Kanopy, a video streaming database.


produced by LibGuide creators


Created December 2018 by Melissa, Ann, and Alex. Pratt Institute.