The Certificate in Documentary Studies at Duke University is a program of study involving undergraduate students in community-based research using photography, filmmaking, oral history, and other documentary fieldwork methods. To receive the certificate, students are required to complete a minimum of six courses and a documentary project that they exhibit, present, publish, or otherwise disseminate to the public. The certificate program allows students to connect their educational experiences and creative expression to broader community life and to examine the representational and ethical issues related to this work.
Certificate students work in one or more documentary mediums—photography, filmmaking, writing, audio, community-based performance, among others—while exploring a particular issue, community, family, or individual. In addition to introductory courses in documentary mediums, the program also features special topics courses and a large number of cross-listed courses in other departments. All coursework is intended to guide students toward completion of their final documentary projects.
Certificate courses are taught by instructors and staff members of the Center for Documentary Studies, along with professors of art and art history, history, public policy studies, education, African and African American studies, cultural anthropology, religion, the University Writing Program, African and Asian literature and languages, women’s studies, the Divinity School, and the Arts of the Moving Image program.
The Certificate in Documentary Studies program is directed by Charles Thompson, CDS education and curriculum director and adjunct professor of cultural anthropology and religion.
Completion of the Certificate in Documentary Studies includes two required courses; a minimum of four electives, selected from a range of courses offered by CDS and by a number of departments and programs at Duke; and a final documentary project. A required interdisciplinary survey course, Traditions in Documentary Studies (DOCST 101), is taught each fall. A capstone course involving directed work toward completion of a final documentary project, Seminar in Documentary Studies (DOCST 480S), is typically taught each spring. Courses may be taken in any order, with the exception of the Seminar in Documentary Studies, which must follow the survey course and at least four electives.
Student projects may range from a selection of black-and-white prints exhibited in the community to a short video about a topic of interest, and from a written piece based on oral history recordings to an audio documentary suitable for broadcast. Ideally work on a final project will begin in other certificate courses, well before enrolling in the capstone Seminar in Documentary Studies. During the final semester, student will bring their projects to completion and plan and carry out a public presentation of the documentary work.