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How to successfully write a documentary critique

If+you+need+help+analyzing+a+doccumentary%2C+the+USA+Writing+Center+is+happy+to+help+students.+
If you need help analyzing a doccumentary, the USA Writing Center is happy to help students.

If you need help analyzing a doccumentary, the USA Writing Center is happy to help students.

Shelby Guidry

Shelby Guidry

If you need help analyzing a doccumentary, the USA Writing Center is happy to help students.

Dr. Mir Zohair Husain, Contributing Writer

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Instructors often use documentaries as an engaging way to address topics covered in a course. Documentaries can show you details and information in ways that books and articles cannot. After watching a documentary your instructor may ask you to write a critique.

In this assignment, you should analyze how effective the documentary was at getting its message across. However, you should also consider how fair the work was to its subject matter. Following the checklist found below will help make sure your critique is strong, and it will help you get the most out of the experience as well.

Introductory Overview

  • What is the title of the documentary?
  • Is the documentary title catchy, fascinating and/or intriguing? Does it clearly and succinctly encapsulate the subject matter?
  • Who produced, edited and funded the documentary? And when was it produced?
  • Who is the documentary’s primary intended audience?
  • What did you learn from the documentary?

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Is the documentary informative and educational?
  • Is the information insufficient, sufficient or overwhelming?
  • Is the documentary balanced or biased in its coverage?
  • Are the sources and interviewees credible (credentialed, believable, and unbiased)?
  • Is the information current?
  • Does the documentary include useful archival footage?
  • Are the statistics in the documentary helpful to understanding the subject matter?
  • Is the script well-written (thoroughly researched, concise, and clear)?
  • Is the documentary thoughtfully, systematically and effectively organized?
  • Is the principal commentator effective (audible, clear, understandable, lively, and captivating)?  
  • Are all the visuals imaginative, captivating and engaging? And, do they significantly add to the the content?
  • If there is background music, is it appealing or distracting?
  • Is the documentary overall entertaining and enjoyable?
  • Does the documentary present new information and complement the subject of the course?

Overall Opinion

  • Is the presentation uplifting or depressing?
  • Does the documentary capture and hold the viewer’s attention from beginning to end?
  • How well-crafted are the introduction and conclusion?
  • Is the documentary memorable?
  • Does the information stimulate further research about the subject?
  • Would you watch the documentary again and/or recommend the documentary to friends and family?
  • Would you purchase the documentary?
  • What overall rating would you give the documentary (0 to 5 stars)?
  • How would you improve the documentary?

Dr. Mir Zohair Husain is professor of political science in the University of South Alabama’s Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice. He also taught the First Year Experience course for USA’s College of Arts and Sciences and led summer camps on “Study Skills” for middle and high school students in USA’s former School of Continuing Education and Special Programs.

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