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Film Studies: effective library research for dissertations: Find: research databases

Online support to assist with planning and conducting your library dissertation research


Databases provide access to scholarly research, including journal articles, conference proceedings and books.

To find databases, use the A-Z list.

Use the information below to help you find and use the key databases for your subject.


A-Z Databases Activities

Databases for Film Studies

About Databases

What is a database?

Research databases enable you to see what has been published in the area you are researching. They contain detailed records of thousands of journal articles, book references and conference proceedings. These records usually include the article title, authors, abstract (a brief summary), keywords (to enable your search to find it) and more.

Why should I use a database?

  • They are a valuable way of searching for published scholarly research across a wide number of sources
  • You can build complex searches using sophisticated search interfaces. There will be plenty of options to refine your searches, ensuring that the results are likely to be relevant to your needs
  • They contain huge numbers of records, and thus provide comprehensive subject coverage
  • They also provide frequent (often daily) indexing, and so are very up to date

There are many different databases. Their interfaces will all vary, and they may use different terminology.

However, they all have similar features. Once you are familiar with these, you'll be able to find your way around different databases. You can see the main features in the examples below.

This is what a standard database interface looks like:

Once you click the Search button, the results page appears:

It is important to note:

  • Some databases provide full text access to the articles themselves.
  • Some databases are primarily indexes or bibliographic databases, and although they provide information about the content of a journal article, they may not provide full-text access to the actual article itself.
  • Some databases are a mixture of full-text and indexed/bibliographic access.


So, when searching databases, be prepared for an extra step. 

After finding a relevant article or book you need to check whether you have access to that item, either in print or in full-text online.  Many of the databases will have a Check for this at Exeter button; clicking on this link will check whether we have access to the item.


For more information and top tips on finding the full text, see the How to access full text articles libguide.

In some cases, material you want to consult may not be available to you at Exeter. 

You will be using vast literature databases which feature many millions of resources from around the world. There are a number of options that may be of assistance to connect you with the information you need. 

Document Delivery Service

This service can be used  to request books/journal articles from other libraries. There is a charge for this service. Check online to see what arrangements are in place with your College / Department for covering the costs of this service.  You may have an allocation or your supervisor may provide a prepaid token for the request. 


Student Book Suggestion Scheme

Students can make book suggestions to the Library. Submit requests online and they will be reviewed by the library. If the book is unlikely to be used by others after your dissertation work, then you may be directed to the Document Delivery scheme instead, for short term access to material.


Library Hub Discover

Use this service to search across the book and journal collections of the UK research and specialist libraries.

You can search to see if copies of books/journals are available in other libraries that you could visit whilst at home over the vacation, or by a special trip.  Always check the access requirements before you travel, if you wish to visit another library.  Find out more about visiting other libraries. 

Finding resources using the A- Z Databases list

You can scroll through the A-Z and choose a database if you know exactly what you are looking for.


You can select your subject from the drop down subject menu to see a subset of resources in that category.

The subject listings will highlight the 'core resources'; these are key databases that are likely to be of interest to anyone studying and researching in that area.

Your Subject LibGuide will also highlight recommended databases for you to explore.


You can select a database type from the drop down type menu to see a subset of resources in that category.

For example, you may want to focus on news, official publications or reference works databases.

Screen Studies Collection

This is the key resource for Film Studies. It contains publications relating to film history, theory and criticism.

The collection includes the following databases:

AFI Catalog covering the history of American cinema from 1893 to 1975, with full or short records for films from 1976 to present. Every film produced on American soil or by American production companies is indexed from the birth of cinema to the present day. 

FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals Databasecoverage of the world's foremost academic and popular film journals. This database contains FIAF's “Treasures from Film Archives”; a detailed index of the silent-era film holdings of archives from around the world, a selection of Reference volumes and the linked full-text of over 60 journals.

Film Index Internationalentertainment films and personalities produced in collaboration with the British Film Institute, from the very first silent movies, to art house classics or the latest blockbusters . Film Index International indexes films from over 170 countries. 

Visit the comprehensive online guide created by Proquest for further help:

Bloomsbury Screen Studies

Access screenplays from screenwriters including Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, and Joel and Ethan Coen.

Alongside this, you can explore an interactive timeline of film history, film stills, and a range of e-books.


Use the Explore menu to view content by people, themes, genres, or films.


Use the Browse Contents menu to access screenplays, books, history of cinema timeline and more.

If you know which screenplay you want to access, from the Screen Studies homepage, run a search, e.g. The Big Lebowski

You results will be displayed as below. On the left hand side, you have options to view related content, such as books with chapters relevant to the Big Lebowski.


Click on the screenplay title and you will be able to read the screenplay by scrolling through, or by using the table of contents to navigate to particular sections.

Along the left hand side you can link to related subjects and content. At the top, under the title, you can also click on the name of the screenwriter, to run a search on that person.


From the home page, go to Browse Contents > History of Cinema Timeline

The timeline is divided into 50 year sections.

Click on the blue bubble e.g. ‘1880-1889’ to see the full range of contextual content (categorised into colour-coded information on ‘Production’, ‘Society and Culture’, and ‘Technologies’).

Click on the images to find out more.

Each image has an accompanying descriptive caption. Cick on Read more to explore more context with an e-book.



JSTOR is a valuable research resource for secondary resources.  You can use it to search and find the full text of published books and journal articles.

Use the How to Search JSTOR LibGuide for an introduction to the service or take a look at JSTOR's Vimeo channel for educational and instructional videos. 

Enter your search

You can use the Basic search box that appears at login.

Alternatively, select the Advanced Search option for additional options.

The example below shows a basic search for book and article content that includes reference to marlowe and shakespeare and ambiguity

View your search results

You can refine your results if you find too many as a result of your initial search.

You may find it useful to select the Show Snippets option. This will highlight the appearance of your search terms:


Click on the title of the journal article/book/book chapter to view the item. You can also download the item.

You can also see how many times your search terms appear across the article and link through to the pages where the terms appear, via the View Results link.


Understanding Shakespeare is a collaborative project between JSTOR Labs and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Click next to any line of text in a Shakespeare play, and relevant articles from the JSTOR archive immediately load.

Explore the collection here.


Here is an example from Richard III. There are 17 articles within JSTOR with reference to the first line of the play:


The Text Analyzer is another useful research tool:

  • Upload a file and the tool will analyze the keywords and produce a list of JSTOR items that match those keywords
  • You can even use your phone to photograph some text and upload that for analysis!
  • You need a fairly significant piece of text, but you can use assignments, reports or journal articles
  • You will get mismatches and it will work better with some searches than others
  • If you are struggling to retrieve content from your usual search strategies, why not see if this helps.

Find out more about it here, and this brief introductory video will give you an overview of the tool.


Humanities International Complete

An index to scholarly literature in the Humanities from around the world, including film studies publications. Some content is full-text.

Use Humanities International Complete to find secondary critical sources.

View the tutorial to find out how to search this database.

MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography covers scholarship dealing with the following fields:

  • Literature: from all over the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America
  • Folklore: folk literature, music, art, rituals, and belief systems
  • Language and linguistics: the study of languages from any historical period, including history and theory of linguistics, comparative linguistics, semantics, stylistics, syntax and translation
  • Literary theory and criticism
  • Dramatic arts: film, radio, television and theatre
  • History of printing and publishing
  • Teaching of language, literature, rhetoric and composition at college level (from 1998 onwards)

The most common materials listed are books, book articles and journal articles.

The MLA has developed an online course to teach students how to use the MLA International Bibliography.

There are five modules in the course. The fifth module is 'Literary topics' which provides guidance on performing searches on specific literary works and authors as well as on broad topics.

  • You can sign up online for the course and module - only your e-mail address is required to register.
  • The course usually takes around 90 minutes to complete, and the “Literary Topics” module takes around 45 minutes.
  • You should complete the online course first. The subject modules build on the general database search skills taught in the course.
  • You will need access to the MLA International Bibliography through their library’s website to complete all aspects of the course.

The MLA provide short tutorial videos to help you use the resource. 

There are more tutorials available at


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