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ENGL 1102 McNamara - Film Analysis

Fall 2021 - Library info for Professor McNamara's ENGL 1102 class

Research Paper: Film Analysis

It never hurts to have the assignment written in more than one place, right?


Research Paper: Film Analysis



  • 3-4 pages or more, more than 5 paragraphs*    
  • 3-4 reliable sources + a movie from the movie list

*Note- This means that the paper must be at least 3 pages from the top to the bottom with the correct spacing.


Main Question

Does the film accurately depict American life and/or the main issue addressed?



This paper is an analysis, just like you did for your Literary Essay, and will have a traditional thesis that states whether or not the film accurately portrays an aspect of American society and a challenge/social issue.

As you consider the film, think about how it portrays one social issue. (Possibilities are listed on the movie list, but you may have a different idea.) Then consider how this film addresses that issue in contemporary American life.  (Some movies appear in more than one category. Choose one issue for the movie you watched.)

Once you have researched the social issue, decide whether or not the movie portrays it realistically. Use your research and the movie to show this.

Begin the paper with a brief summary of the movie. This will be your introduction. It shouldn't be more than 5 sentences + the thesis.

Note - If your movie is an older movie or is about a time in history, you may discuss one of these two things:

--whether or not the issues in it are the same today or if they have changed


--whether or not the issues are accurate for when the movie was produced or for when it takes place



In order to fully understand the issue, you will need to conduct research. You should use a mix of academic/scholarly research and, if you’d like, magazines that might contain movie reviews or commentary. You will probably not find direct research. For example, you may not find an article about poverty in Precious. It will be up to you to research poverty for young women and apply it to the movie yourself.

You must use at least two scholarly sources (journals) from the GSU databases/Galileo. Your other sources must be reliable.


Remember- you are not assessing whether or not this is a good movie, nor are you summarizing what happens. You are explaining if it accurately depicts American life.


  Questions You Might Consider to Get You Started

  1. What is the issue being explored in the movie? Does it affect just one group of people, or does it affect many groups?
  2. What is the main message about this issue that the movie wants you to take away? For example, if the movie addresses educational challenges, what does the director want you to learn about those challenges?
  3. How much of a problem is this issue in our society? What does your research tell you about this? Is it a problem only in certain areas? Why or why not?
  4. Once you know more about the issue, think about whether or not the film is it applicable to today? Does it romanticize the issue? Does it address or perpetuate stereotypes? Is it fair to the group it is depicting? Is it realistic?
  5. Is it an important film in showing the audience something they may not have known or understood before?
  6. How do the elements of the movie contribute to the overall message? (costuming, lighting, soundtrack, dialogue, setting, plot)



The tone and language of your paper should be for a group of thoughtful, educated, and well-informed people who might read publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the New York Times, or The Washington Post. Assume that the reader has not seen the movie, so you have to explain each example.



  • Your research must include at least 4 (3 + the movie) sources.
  • Sources may be books, newspapers, academic journals, or magazines.
  • At least two sources must come from the Galileo/GSU databases, not from a general web search. These sources will most likely address your issue, not the movie.
  • All sources must be documented correctly. Sources from databases must be documented as electronic sources as outlined in the OWL website linked to our materials. 
  • Sources cannot be abstracts, summaries, or encyclopedia entries. They cannot come from sources that outline or summarize the movie such as Schmoop or Cliffnotes, etc.
  • Journals and scholarly sources must be more then 3 pages long.
  • All research must be reliable. (see research module)
  • Do not use any quotes that are over 2 lines.
  • Use quotes, specific examples, facts and statistics, and paraphrases to support what you say. 



I hope that you will be able to use the sources that you used in your Annotated Bibliography. However, you are not required to use those sources, nor are you required to do a new bibliography if the sources change.

Also, for the paper, your Works Cited has only the publication information, not the summaries.


Mechanics (see check-list for more help)

  • You may not use 1st or 2nd person.
  • Follow literary conventions:
    • Present tense verbs when referring to the movie
    • Correct punctuation of titles
  • Use an informative, interesting, and suggestive title for your essay. Do not underline or use quotation marks for your own title.

  • Be original! Do not begin your paper with a definition or with phrases such as “In our society today…”

    • 3-4 pages, more than 5 paragraphs

    • Introduction includes the title of the movie and basic production information, including the names of leading actors, year, and director

    • Use correct form for parenthetical documentation and for the Works Cited page.

*Don’t forget to add the movie as a source in addition to your 3 sources.*

  • Edit and proofread carefully.

Submit your paper in the Assignments area of iCollege. The Works Cited page must be a separate page the end of the paper, NOT in a separate file.

Remember that reference librarians can guide you with your research, and I can guide you with content.