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ENGL 373: Writing & Culture: Getting Started

Use this guide to get started on the documetnary film project for ENGL 373

Start with an Idea

Begin your research with an idea and then brainstorm possible aspects and angles. 

Use a concept map to help you organize your thoughts. Concept maps are a tool to help you:

  • explore your topic;
  • discover possible lines of inquiry;
  • consider search terms;
  • brainstorm resources to investigate.

Ask yourself: what do I already know about my topic? what am I curious about? what kind of data do I need, and where am I likely to find that data?

From a disciplinary perspective, think about what kind of questions scholars and experts in that discipline are interested in, and how they would ask those questions or measure their findings. 

The process is simple: start with a subject in the center, then:

  • In the space around the central concept, write words or phrases for any relevant subtopics.
  • For each of your focus subtopics, add related terms/concepts to your map.


Concept Mapping

Keep track of the various connections between ideas by creating and revising a concept map! 

You can create a concept map with pencil and paper or use one of these free online tools:



Start Your Research at the Library!

Use this guide to get started with your research for

ENGL 373: Writing & Culture!

Film Reel Image

Creative Commons License moonpies for misfitsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.


"Every film, especially a documentary, has a ‘value’. This could be social, political, historical, philosophical, artistic or of some other kind. The amount of research a scriptwriter puts in is directly related to the ‘value’ of the film."

- Trisha Das, "How to Write a Documentary Script."

Ken Burns: On Story

Ken Burns is a celebrated and prolific filmmaker, known for his style of using archival footage and photographs in documentary films. In the video below, Burns describes the complicated and personal process of storytelling.

Humanities Librarian

Katy Curtis's picture
Katy Curtis
Office: Collins Library 140

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