Using Archives: A Guide for the Inexperienced

These pages are designed to help anyone who wants to find out more about finding and using archives in their research.

They are aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students in particular, but we hope they answer many questions that anyone new to using archives may find helpful.

Archives are the life-blood of research. Using archives in your dissertation or research can add a great deal of value to what you write and give you a unique perspective. You may be able to uncover new evidence in support of your work, make new connections between people, places and events, and ensure your research really has a wow factor!

What Are Archives?

Includes: a definition of primary/secondary sources; the difference between a library and archive; digital materials; datasets and archives

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Archives in Context

Includes: What is meant by archival conrtext; interpreting archives; issues of trust; archives as evidence

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Working with Archives

Includes: Which collections to use; how many collections to use; researching one individual; researching a subject; questions to ask to help define your use of archives;

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Visits to Archive Repositories

Includes: use of the terms archive/repository/record office/reading rooms; how to overcome a lack of confidence; questions to ask; a typical visit

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Descriptions of Archives

Includes: How to make sense of descriptions of archives; how to go about searching; the organisation of an archive; searching archives across the UK

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Resources

Links to a whole load of resources including videos, blogs, websites and documents, to help you use archives more effectively.

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