Documentary Studies

 

Click here to learn how to apply.

Documentarians creatively make nonfiction stories. Whether it’s a story about historical events and people or the events of our times, documentarians produce stories that give shape and meaning to our understanding of culture, social life and history. 

Our graduate program at Northern Arizona University's School of Communication provides a solid grounding in communication and the theoretical, critical, and practical traditions that inform documentary work. Students engage in intensive research and fieldwork, professional production skills in storytelling, and learn to critically analyze media in terms of both content and craft.   

The program is ideally suited to prepare graduate students for today's world of cutting-edge multimedia journalism, documentary work, as well as preparation for PhD programs in cinema and media studies. It also provides the foundations to start a business doing production in a variety of formats.

NAU is set in the midst of the striking and diverse Southwest. With its manifold Native American communities, environmental issues, high desert landscapes, canyons and mountains (including the Grand Canyon and other national parks), NAU's Colorado Plateau setting provides a rich palette for the next generation of documentary storytellers.

This is the only Master's level Documentary program in the Southwest.

Students in this program will:

  • Engage a theoretical and historical understanding of documentary as rooted in the traditions of creative storytelling and social critique.
     
  • Apply heightened skills of observation, critical thinking, and creativity in telling stories about untold, under-reported, and under-represented issues and peoples. 
     
  • Create and distribute a variety of documentary projects in different forms at an advanced level.
     
  • Realize that production tools and techniques are a means to author a unique point of view shaped by the documentarian's philosophical sensibilities and ways of perceiving the world.
  • Gain tools for creating their own production business

Documentary Studies Coursework

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Master's Emphasis Requirements in Documentary Studies

Recommended Degree Progress Plan

1st semester (fall): COM 535, COM 601, COM 605

2nd semester (spring): COM 604, COM 698, COM 550

3rd semester (fall): COM 550, COM 600, COM 690 (3)

4th semester (spring): COM 690 (3 units), 2 Electives

Take the following 36 units: (courses and proposed plans subject to change) 

Core classes (12 units)

COM 600 Communication Theory and Application (3 units)
Reviews the nature, history and types of communication theory with emphasis upon the use of theory in analysis and problem-solving. 

COM 601 Intro to Graduate Study in Communication (3 units)
Focuses on role and development of research in communication studies, including history and status of contemporary scholarship.

COM 603 Qualitative Research Methods (3 units)
Graduate level class in qualitative research methods, focusing on contemporary problems and practices of participant observation, interviewing and ethnographic inquiry, and developing background and skills to conduct qualitative research. [Highly recommended for Doc Studies students.]

OR
COM 604 Quantitative Research Methods (3 units)
Students will learn the purpose, application and process of quantitative research methods in the field of Communication.

COM 698 Seminar in Communication (3 units)
Reading and discussion on selected advanced topics in communication theory. Topics vary each semester. Letter grade only. May be repeated for credit for up to 9 units with different content. (Will include documentary topics.)

Documentary Studies Emphasis requirements

COM 535 Documentary Skills and Storytelling Practicum (3 units)
Students learn to tell stories in three different mediums: audio, photography, and digital filmmaking. They will produce three stories over the course of the semester, one in each format. Course fee required. 

COM 550 Documentary Research Practicum (3 units)
Graduate students work with the course professor in researching, proposing, and producing a documentary project. May be repeated twice for 6 additional credits. Course fee required.  

COM 605 Intro to Documentary Issues, Theories, and Methods (3 units)
Graduate level class in learning how to see the world from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives. Includes a range of documentary work by photographers, filmmakers, oral historians, folklorists, radio documentarians, and writers stressing aesthetic, scholarly, and ethical considerations involved in representing other people and cultures. 

Select either the Thesis or Project option.

Thesis option

COM 699 (6 units)
Write a traditional MA thesis on a documentary studies topic. Be aware that you may end up taking more than the 6 units of COM 699 you can count toward your degree because you must enroll for COM 699 each fall and spring semester while you work on your thesis. You must enroll for at least 3 units of COM 699 in the semester in which you will graduate, including summer, regardless of the number of units already taken.

Additional coursework chosen in consultation with a graduate faculty advisor. Select elective courses from any graduate program at NAU that will help provide you the research tools, specialization, knowledge, and intercultural understanding for documentary work. Such disciplines could include: anthropology, communication, environmental science, ethnic studies, gender and women’s studies, sociology, among others. (6 units)

Project option

COM 690 (3 units)
In consultation with a graduate faculty advisor, prepare field research and a detailed project proposal in the semester previous to your project covering a semester-long documentary field project—this may be done through writing, audio, oral history, photography, digital film, exhibit, or multimedia.

Additional coursework chosen in consultation with a graduate faculty advisor. Select elective courses from any graduate program at NAU that will help provide you the research tools, specialization, knowledge, and intercultural understanding for documentary work. Such disciplines could include: anthropology, communication, environmental science, ethnic studies, gender and women’s studies, sociology, among others. (9 units)

Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also take. For prerequisite information click on the course or see your advisor.

Documentary Studies Faculty

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Laura Camden, MA
Photojournalism and documentary photography
http://nau.edu/SBS/Communication/Directory/Camden-Laura/

Janna Jones, PhD
Cultural studies, cinema history, documentary and social change 
http://nau.edu/SBS/Communication/Directory/Jones-Janna/

Kurt Lancaster, PhD
Documentary production, DSLR cinema, cinema raw, and multimedia journalism. 
http://nau.edu/SBS/Communication/Directory/Lancaster-Kurt/

Mark Neumann, PhD
Audio documentary and cultural studies
http://nau.edu/SBS/Communication/Directory/Neumann-Mark/

Peter Friederici, MS
Science and environmental writing; oral histories
http://nau.edu/SBS/Communication/Directory/Friederici-Peter/

Annette McGivney, MA
http://nau.edu/SBS/Communication/Directory/McGivney-Annette/   
Environmental writing, creative nonfiction