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Introduction to Archival Research: Tips for Archival Research

Ask Distinctive Collections!

Google Searches

Conducting a general search via Google can be a useful preliminary strategy to find out what institutions might hold materials relating to your research topic.

Try the following searches:

  • [organization name] or [topic] or [person name] "collection"
  • [organization name] or [topic] or [person name] "finding aids"
  • [organization name] or [topic] or [person name] "archive" or "archives"
  • [organization name] or [topic] or [person name] "digital collection"

Limit your search to educational sites such as university libraries, archives, and special collections by including "" with your search terms.

Adapted from Georgia State University Library.

SAA Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) has published "Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research," which is a useful introduction to making the most of your time engaging in archival research. 

Searching MIT ArchivesSpace

See the "Searching MIT ArchivesSpace" tab of the Using MIT ArchivesSpace LibGuide for additional terms to search and how to use ArchivesSpace.

Using Footnotes

If an author used an item from an archival collection in their research, it will appear in their footnotes or citations.

Some citations may only point you to the collection and the repository, while others may be more specific (e.g., "Lois Lilley Howe Sketchbook , M.F.A. April 10, 1883", 1883, cuid27813, Box: 27, Folder: 661. Records of Howe, Manning & Almy, Inc. and the papers of Lois Lilley Howe, Eleanor Manning O'Connor, and Mary Almy, MC-0009. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections).

Footnotes can be incredibly useful as a starting point when there is already material written about your topic. They can also point you to other materials and collections that you might not have known about otherwise.

Collection Highlight: Alice Bache Gould Student Notes, 1889-90

A scan of a handwritten page of math notes on a tan piece of paper.

Least Squares, Institute of Technology 1889-90, 1st semester (D.P. Bartlett), Alice Bache Gould Student Notes (MC-0450).