Using Film as a Resource for Research Assignments

Locating academic resources for a college paper, speech, or assignment can sometimes be overwhelming – especially when you have to sort through books, journal/newspaper articles, and database results to find the most appropriate source for the information you are trying to convey. You may have noticed, as you search through CSN Libraries OneSearch, a number of video or film items appearing in your results and wonder why the library has such a large collection of film and streaming video databases when the majority of students are not Film or Videography majors. To answer this question, consider this: have you ever tried to explain, in words only, how to swing a baseball bat, braid hair, ride a bicycle, etc.? It certainly can be a challenge without the aid of a video tutorial or film.

Eadweard Muybridge. The Horse in Motion. 1878. Artstor,

From the first motion picture captured in Palo Alto by Eadweard Muybridge in 1878 (The Horse in Motion), to NASA’s continual live streaming coverage of Earth from space, visual media continues to grow as an increasingly relevant source of global information. With variety and quality of data available through the internet, social media, and streaming services, however, it is tempting to think that video, film, and other types of visual media may not be considered academic sources when searching for information as part of the research process. Afterall, the majority of video and film we consume as a culture is often for the purpose of entertainment and amusement, rather than educational enlightenment. It may, therefore, surprise you to learn that the video and film resources available from CSN Libraries are, in fact, academic sources that offer unique perspectives central to the fundamental expressions of humanity (from everyday social behaviors to significant moments in history), and provide multiple opportunities for expression, interpretation, and meaning that are as equally reliable to more familiar sources, such as scholarly articles and texts.

Just how are video and film resources accessible through CSN Libraries? You have a couple of options. To find out what films can be streamed through the internet, as well as DVDs you can borrow from any CSN campus library, go to the CSN Libraries website and select the box “Find Films.” 

Enter your search term(s) into the box in order to see what films we have available.

You can also browse our many streaming video databases if you select “Browse Databases” from our CSN Libraries website. You will need to choose “Streaming Video” from the drop-down box on the right:

You can now browse through each streaming video database, such as Alexander Street Press, Films on Demand, Kanopy, JoVE, and many more!

Each streaming video database offers a variety of content and features, and spans across a wide range of subject areas. Try as many as you like and see how much information you can find for your next assignment!


Muybridge, E. (1878) The horse in motion [Digital image]. Retrieved from

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (n.d.). NASA television. Retrieved from

Spencer, S. (2011). Visual research methods in the social sciences: awakening visions. London: Routledge.