Documentary Studies

What do Man on WireAn Inconvenient TruthThe Fog of WarThe March of the PenguinsBorn into Brothels, and Bowling for Columbine have in common? They are all Academy Award winning documentaries. They are all powerful and compelling stories based on real life ideas and issues and people, and they move us and enlighten us in ways that fiction film does not.

Have you ever looked at the photographs of Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, W. Eugene Smith, or Henri Cartier Bresson? Have you visited  Check them out, and be prepared to be blown away.

This is the documentary tradition, and MSU now offers a specialization in Documentary Studies that will prepare you to be a part of that tradition. Our focus is on the history, theory, and production of Documentary forms and modes of expression. That means film, video, audio, web, photography – any medium with which you can examine the wonder and complexity of the real world.

Our focus is on bringing high level production and analysis together to produce theoretically informed work. Students will gain a cutting edge understanding of the challenges of representing reality. We will screen the best works of the present and the past, work in teams to create short and long form documentaries, and interact with the best of contemporary documentarians. Graduates of the specialization will be prepared for success in the world of the documentary, whether it is in Journalism, Public or Cable Television, or Independent or Feature films.

Offered By: The minor is administered jointly by the College of Arts and Letters and College of Communication Arts and Sciences.  The College of Arts & Letters is the lead administrative unit.

Who is the Minor for?
Students enrolled in bachelor's programs at Michigan State University are eligible to apply for the specialization if they are sophomores in good standing.

The primary pool of students that the minor will draw from will be in Department of Media and Information; The School of Journalism; The Department of English; and the Department of Writing Rhetoric, and American Culture. However, students in other academic disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Eligibility & Applying

You must apply and get accepted into this program in order to complete the minor. Students will apply for the Minor in spring of their sophomore year. To apply, students must submit an application. The application is available on the CAS Academic and Student Affairs website.
Applications will be reviewed and decisions made before the start of annual enrollment of the spring semester by a subset of the core faculty from both colleges who will teach in the specialization.

Degree Requirements
Example Student Work
Golden Harvest from MSUTISM Vimeo channel.


Documentary Studies adviser
Stratton Lee
189 Communication Arts and Sciences Building
Documentary Studies Program Coordinator
Bob Albers
435 Communication Arts & Sciences


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