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FILM 272: American Cinema (2018)

A guide for the American Cinema Primary Source Assignment in Professor Annie Berke's class, created by Librarian Maryke Barber


You will be comparing primary sources from the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive with primary sources found elsewhere, using three choices: The New York Times, The Library of Congress's Chronicling America database, or America's Historical Newspapers.

For Feb. 8:

Work with a partner to consider the following questions and record your answers. You will be sharing them with the class.

Search for a primary source article about Lois Weber and her film SHOES (1916).

One of you should use the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive database; the other will search the NY Times or Chronicling America.

Read a little, and discuss the following questions:

  •          What sort of information is the author focusing on?
  •          What sort of audience do you think the article is targeted to?
  •          Can you think of a specific contemporary publication (print or online) that is similar to what you read in here? 


Second Activity:

Read these two pieces on Florence Lawrence.

1. this one, and

2. this one

These two articles are both primary sources, but they are different. Come up with three differences you see between the content (not the container!) of the two articles.

How To Search

AND, OR, & NOT (also known as "Boolean operators") help you combine search words, to find what you are looking for. Watch this video to find out how it works:

Adapted from the materials created by The University of Auckland Library, NZ. This video is covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license.

Smart Searching Tips

Create a list of key words, and try different key words in your searches:

Who, what, where, when....topics, names and places are all good key words, so are titles, events or historical periods, genres/styles/other categories, expert terms.
Add to your list by looking for:

  • Subject terms in OneSearch and other databases.
  • related terms (producer - filmmaker)
  • synonyms (woman - female)

No results? Search more broadly: 

Try your search using fewer terms, or change to broader terms: for example, use the term film festivals (broad), instead of just Sundance Festival (narrow).

Too many results? Narrow down by adding something:

Try combining  search words, using "and" in between: celebrity and media

Search Tools

Combine your terms using "AND":

Brad Pitt and directing and salary


Use the *  (asterisk) wildcard, to search several terms at once.

act* = acting, actor, actors, etc.

Use quotation marks to enclose a phrase:

"social media"