critique documentaries

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After watching four documentaries each on race, class and gender, critically review the documentaries by following the guidelines and questions below. (4-5 pages, double spaced, Times news roman, 12)

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Things to look for when viewing a documentary for the purpose of critiquing it:

  • Find the documentary’s point of view. This is often clearly stated in the introduction or preface section.
  • Identify the documentary’s major hypothesis, point, or contention. There may be more than one or there may be a main one accompanied by several lesser but still important hypotheses. Again, most documentaries will state their point or hypothesis in the introduction and the conclusion of their book. Furthermore, if produced for commercial television, they will repeat main points at the commercial breaks.
  • What types of evidence does the documentary use?
  • Who are the experts or talking heads who are consulted? What are their credentials?
  • Are both fringe and mainstream ideas and theory given equal time?
  • Do any of the talking heads make assertions that are not supported by evidence?
  • How is the book documentary organized to present its argument? Is the organization effective?
  • Is the documentary’s point of view appropriate? Is there a discernible bias, is the documentary objective?
  • How does the documentary fit in to the existing knowledge on the subject?
  • Based on the organization, argumentation, and evidence presented, do you find the documentary contains a convincing argument or not?


  • Supply a brief summary or overview of the documentary’s hypotheses and contents.
  • Assess the nature and the quality of the evidence presented.
  • Comment on the documentary’s presentation: organization, narrative style, and evidence.
  • Conclusion with final assessment and recommendation to readers.

When critiquing a documentary, there are several other key words that can guide your efforts. Ask yourself, what is the documentary’s purpose for investigating this subject. That question encompasses both point of view and hypothesis. Ask yourself, what is thescope of the documentary? That question deals with what the documentary is about. What is its subject (person, time period, place, etc.?

It is also important to know something about the experts interviewed. The keyword for this is authority. What is the expert’s authority? Does the expert have expertise or a reputation in the subject?

(*The following questions and guidelines above have been drawn from Dr. Fritze’s history course)

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