HIST1112 World History, Video Documentary Analysis

World History

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HIST 1112

Fall 2022

Video Documentary Analysis:



Almost every week of the syllabus for this class includes a documentary video that corresponds to the topic for that week. Video documentaries are one of the main ways that history is presented to the public, and as such they are worthy of critical analysis. For this assignment you are being asked to reflect on not only the basic content of a video documentary, but also how the material is presented;  and how we, the viewers, can evaluate whether the historical information presented is reliable. Twice during this semester you will submit a Video Documentary Analysis (VDA).

 For each one you must write a 500- to 750-word commentary about one of the documentaries that are listed in the syllabus and contained within each of the Weekly Modules.

Preparing to Write your Video Documentary Analysis When you have selected a documentary that you intend to write about, watch and listen carefully and TAKE NOTES. Captions, if available, may be helpful for picking up unfamiliar words or names, but beware: “auto-generated” captions usually contain errors and inaccuracies (particularly where foreign names and words are concerned).

After briefly describing the content of the media, analyze & evaluate how the history is presented and how effective the presentation is. The main purpose of your VDA is not to merely summarize the information, but to think critically and assess how this historical information is being conveyed. Support your assessment with specific examples and information from the documentary under consideration.

Your VDA should not just take a casual approach to evaluating the particular source (e.g., “I liked this documentary”), but rather should actively explore what is good or bad about the source, then explain how it succeeded (or didn’t) in presenting history (e.g., “This was an effective presentation of the history of ________ . The producers accomplished this by [(a), (b), (c), etc.]”).

Note that this assignment is not simply about your opinion. You should work to provide an objective, even-handed analysis of the source under consideration; an analysis which is supported by evidence. However, in your closing paragraph you may want to briefly state your reaction as a “consumer” of this particular historical media.

As with any media source, we should strive to be critical consumers of information. This means watching and reading carefully, paying attention to how the material is presented, and how well it appears to be supported by evidence.

Look for any sign of bias or selective presentation of information: have any particular perspectives been given undue emphasis? Have any particular perspectives been left out of the presentation?

Here are some questions that you should consider when writing up your


• What kinds of images and sounds are used to present the historical information? Are there still images such as paintings or photographs, maps,  scenes with actors, historical film footage? What kind of music or sound effects are used, and how does this influence the viewer’s experience of thedocumentary?

• Does the documentary rely upon: historical footage with narration;  interviews with experts; reenactments using costumes and props; and/or other techniques?

• How can we evaluate how reliable and trustworthy this documentary may be as a source of historical information?

Remember that your commentary in your VDAs should be mainly analytical rather than just descriptive. This means you need to focus on explaining how the historical material is presented, as opposed to simply repeating what happened or what was shown in the documentary. If you just submit a summary of the source material, you will not do well on the assignment.

Formatting and Organization

Each VDA must be typed and double-spaced as a document in a standard 12-point font (such as Times New Roman) with one-inch margins. 750 words of double-spaced text is approximately three pages. Your paper may go over that amountslightly if necessary, but if it is less than 500 words you will not receive full credit.

Work to organize your observations and arguments into separate paragraphs. In an assignment of this length, you should plan to write three to five paragraphs.

IMPORTANT: If you use the exact wording (or very similar) from the documentary under review—or any other source—without marking it as such by using quotation marks and a proper citation of the source, this constitutes plagiarism. A first offense will result in a grade of zero on the assignment, and a warning; a second offense will result in a grade of F for the class, and your misconduct will be reported.

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