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Using Media in course assignments and projects

As a student, you might create projects for your class that ask you to be creative or use media in some way, such as podcasts, StoryMaps, photo essays, documentaries, and photo essays.  If you would like to use media, like images, sounds, music, or video, other people have created as part of your project you should consider where you are getting that media from, what copyright restrictions there are, and the quality of the content. There are many misconceptions about copyright, and when you are making public-facing projects or work you would like to share with others, you should be especially careful of following copyright laws and guidelines, and properly citing your sources.

In this guide, you will find a checklist for things to consider when choosing media to include in your projects, sources of free-to-use images, sounds, video, and other media, additional information on copyright, fair use, and creative commons, and FAQs.

Things to consider

  • What kind of copyright restrictions does the media have?

  • Have you cited the source of the media?

  • It is clear, cropped appropriately, not distorted, and appropriate for the platform or tool you are using? For images and videos, pay attention to image resolution and aspect ratio (width vs height).

    • For example, for StoryMaps, we recommend File size less than 400Kb, 4:3 aspect ratio.

      • 2000 pixels wide by 1500 pixels tall for full screen and main sidecar section images 

      • 1000 pixels wide by 750 pixels tall for medium images in narrative sections or sidecar panels

      • 280 pixels wide by 210 pixels tall for images in pop-ups and thumbnails

  • For images, it’s a good to test different sizes and dimensions to see what looks best. 

  • Is the media relevant and appropriate for your assignment and its topic?

  • Are you making sure to accurately represent what’s in the image, video, or sound clip? If relevant, have you tried to verify its accuracy?

  • Have you included alt text for images?

Special thanks to...

Feenstra, K. (n.d.). LibGuides: Creative Commons: Introduction. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from

Powell, C. (n.d.). LibGuides: DSNA 114: 4D Design: Stock Film Footage. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from

Rebar, L. (n.d.). LibGuides: Free Resources: Welcome. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from

Schuler, N. (n.d.). LibGuides: Copyright and Fair Use for Student Projects: Intro. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from