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Research Services: Research Tips for Archives

How to do Research in an Archive

First time in an archive? Not sure where to start? This guide has got you covered! 

For tips on planning a visit to the Archives, see our Visiting the Archives page. 

Tip 1: Read Up on Your Topic 

  • Spend sometime before your visit to the archives familiarizing yourself with background information on your topic. This will help direct your research and make connections with the records you find. 

Tip 2: Familiarize Yourself with What Archives are and How They are Organized 

  • Use our guides to get comfortable with the basic concepts underpinning archives and how to navigate them 

Tip 3: Prioritize Your Requests 

  • Archival research can be time-consuming. Plan to view the most important materials for your research first. 

Tip 4: Talk with the Archivist 

  • You're the expert in your topic; the archivist is the expert in the records. Talking with the archives' staff can help you uncover additional sources related to your research. 

Tip 5: Bring the Necessary Supplies 












Avoid bringing food and drink into the archives. Archives can be cold so consider having a light sweater on hand

Tip 6: Take Thorough Citations 

  • Record any unique identifiers associated with the material (collection title, call number, etc.) as well as the box and folder numbers. 
    • For help with citing archival materials, visit our guides.
    • If you're taking photographs of materials for personal use, consider including citation information in the photo. 

Tip 7: Ask for Copies 

  • Reading and taking notes on archival materials while in the archives can be time-consuming. Consider maximizing the use of your time by acquiring copies of materials to review at home. 
    • Be sure to follow all institutional policies on creating copies
    • Never share archival materials without permission from the institution 

For more help, visit the Society of American Archivist's, Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research