Documentary or Educational Film

A documentary or educational film is a nonfiction motion picture intended to document some aspect of real life. Watch one, or clips from one, when you are looking for information about almost any topic. 

Educational films are produced to teach about a topic, and generally they try to maintain a neutral viewpoint.  

Documentaries are often used to reveal an unusual, interesting, or unknown aspect. Documentary filmmakers are often motivated to make their films because they feel a particular story or viewpoint is not being adequately covered by other sources. Therefore, documentaries often have a strong viewpoint or bias. 

When do I use a documentary or educational film?
Use them like you would any source, but especially when you need the following:

  • in-depth information about a topic
  • Information from a specific viewpoint or perspective
  • to be able to "see" a situation or get a visual representation of a topic 

Where do I find a documentary or educational film?
Look for films in your library, in a database, on the Internet (TED Talks), from streaming sources (Netflix), or on television. When looking for library content, use the advanced search feature of the online catalog or database to limit your search by a format type like DVD. Or, when searching on the Internet, like with Google, add AND video after the keyword that identifies your topic (dogs AND video). 

How do I use a documentary or educational film?
Read the description or reviews of the film, and preview it to get an idea of its content and purpose. Think about what information you need. View the documentary or educational film, or parts of it, and take notes. You may even want to use a clip in your presentation.

For more information about this topic, take a look at the eBook, Watch It! Researching with Videos