A film library is a collection of motion pictures, videodiscs, videocassettes and any other material stored in a film, archive .mp4 or similar.

Ways to Search

A quick way to start your research is to search your university’s library online catalog.

Search for your movie as a theme

This way, you’ll find resources about the movie instead of the movie itself.

For example, you want to see what the library has for the “Godfather movies.” Type “The Godfather” as the topic and click the Submit button.

Remember that when searching for a film in a foreign language, use the title in the original language.

As another example, you want to research Fellini’s “81/2.” The original title in Italian is “Otto e mezzo”. That is the title that should be used for a search by topics.

But you don’t find anything. What should you do next?

Find the director as a topic

Continuing with the “Godfather movies”, if we have nothing under the films themselves, look for Francis Ford Coppola. “Criticism and Interpretation” books should be especially useful.

Is there nothing for “Otto e mezzo”? Do a search by Federico Fellini topics.

Is there still nothing in the online catalog? See WorldCat.

Recommended headings for the Online Catalog

At this point some of the most interesting subject headings that can be found in the online catalog for films are highlighted.

The Cinema and …

This subject heading can look for a group’s relationship to movies. For example, there is “Cinema and Gay Men,” which examines how and what they see, rather than their depictions in movies. Check out the rest of the list.

… in the movies

If you want to see how a topic is handled in the movies, put the word in front of “in the movies”. One example is “sex in movies.”

Film Databases

The list consists solely of electronic resources, but extensive research by film studios still requires extensive use of print resources as well.

Academic Search Premier

It is an important interdisciplinary database with a large part of full-text content. A large database of resources that will allow you in most cases the option to view the results as an HTML, text or PDF file. Articles range from critical analysis to film reviews.

Art & Architecture Source

The articles cited are mainly about individual films. Most are in English, but there are also those from the French magazine Cahiers du Cinema.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index (Web of Science)

Most are interviews with the filmmaker of the film in question.

Dissertations and theses (authorship of American universities)

Reference is made to films, filmmakers and directors in works on their works, universal and local cinema, cultural identity and other contexts.

Encyclopedia Britannica online

References in the context of world cinema and in the Performing Arts sections of several editions in the so-called Book of the Year.

FIAF International Federation of Film Archives

They are the results of an extensive international collection of film periodicals. A high percentage of the articles are written in languages other than English. The database cites articles from a variety of academic, industry and amateur journals. It does not contain the full text of the articles.

FLTI Film & Television Literature Index

A large number of mostly full-text articles including more than 500 journals. The FLTI is a continuation of the Film Literature Index Online database and covers from 1988 to the present. It is, without a doubt, the most useful database for this particular search.

Film Literature Index

This free online index, provided by most universities, is also an excellent resource for searching for articles in English.

Google Scholar

This feature of the famous search engine claims to be the ultimate way to search for academic papers on the web. Results vary widely, from academic articles to encrypted web pages. The results are classified according to the number of times the works are cited in other academic publications. When using Google Scholar from a computer affiliated with the university where it is located, the search results will include a search link in the catalog to find books owned by the consortium or will include a full-text link if an article is available in a university database.

Performing arts journals

This full-text article index allows you to choose the display options for the articles that match your search. Given the quality and quantity of results, this database should not be overlooked when conducting research on film studies.

Internet Movie Database (IMDB)

This free database contains biographical information and a complete filmography of the works in which the actor or filmmaker has written, directed, produced, edited and/or acted. Each film has its own entry. Tickets include a wide variety of information, such as credits, filming locations, box office, curiosities and user reviews.

JSTOR: The Scholarly Journal Archive

JSTOR is a database of full-text academic journal articles. There are many reviews of the works of multiple filmmakers, some analyses of elements of their work, and many incidental mentions of their work. Most of the journals represented do not include content from more recent years; the normal is a delay of at least five years, although there is no rule. It’s not a good source for localizing analysis of recent films or emerging filmmakers, but it can be pretty good for established filmmakers and older films.

Lexis Nexis Academic

The number is limited to 125 results, but if you mix the search, you can expand the possible results. Although Lexis Nexis Academic is not the right place to search for articles from academic journals, especially in the field of the humanities, it contains the full text of many popular newspapers and magazines. It’s a good place to locate background information about a filmmaker or film, but it’s not recommended if you’re looking for extensive critical perspectives.

New York Times

He covers the newspaper from 1851 to the present, with a gap of three years. Most of the results correspond to ads, short reviews, descriptions and ads about movies.


It is a database with full-text partial coverage. He is not strong in film studies.

Periodicals Index Online (PIO)

This index of articles focuses on thirty-seven thematic headings of the humanities. The film studios are grouped into Performing Arts. Since PIO is only an index, it does not contain full-text articles, but provides links to full texts in other databases when available. There is an overlap with other full-text databases on this list, so for film studies research it is only necessary to consult it in the course of a thorough literature search.

MUSE Project

This index is easy to use and classifies the results so that articles that only contain passing references can be evaluated quickly. The database has its share of reviews, but there are also quite a few longer articles that provide deeper analysis. Most article entries include abstracts and show excerpts where search terms appear.

Popular Magazines

Many articles from popular magazines such as Time, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, People and Newsweek. 27 results come from academic journals such as American Anthropologist, Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Canadian Literature, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Journal of Popular Film and Television and Women’s Studies Quarterly. Film Quarterly, Literature/Film Quarterly and Film History.

Articles range from background information and reviews of new video/DVD releases to critical analysis. There is some overlap between this database and several of the others, but one advantage of using this database is that many of the citations are linked to the full text (more than half in this case). One of the aspects that distinguish this resource from the others is that it provides Suggested Topics with your search results. These suggested topics can be very helpful.

VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever

An online e-book of the printed movie guide. VideoHound provides very brief information about the films, such as the cast, crew, and plot summary of the film.

WorldCat (OCLC FirstSearch)

It mainly includes quotes from books (including some in French, Spanish, German and Italian) and quotes from films/videos. Worldcat is a stock-joining catalog from libraries around the world, and since a given title may have been published in different editions or formats, it is not unusual to find multiple records for the same title.

There are WorldCat.org and WorldCat.com. The .org version is free for everyone, but it has fewer features and is less comprehensive than the .com version.

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Sources Consulted

The Oxford handbook of film and media studies / edited by Robert Kolker. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

International dictionary of films and filmmakers. Editor: Nicholas Thomas. Consulting editor: James Vinson. Chicago: St. James Press, c1990-1994. Vol. 1-5.

You might also be interested in: Periodical Research: Getting Started

How to research in a film library

How to research in a film library. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Jakob Owens

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