Manuscripts and Special Collections

How do I start my research?

  • Be clear on exactly what you are researching. It is easier to research a number of narrow topics one-by-one than to try to research an entire subject in one go
  • Use the library to undertake background reading of your chosen area before trying to use original documents. You might find that someone else has already done the research, or provided a complete transcription of the document
  • Read footnotes and bibliographies. They often provide references of useful documents, or reveal the location of original records
  • Make use of published guides and the internet to determine where appropriate material is held
  • Finally, visit the archive office. The background work you have done will help you make the most of your time there

Here are some useful websites which describe how to set about using historical records: 

  • The Internet for Historians 
    A tutorial produced by the Intute Virtual Training Suite, which gives advice on using the internet for historical research
  • The Internet for Archives
    Another Virtual Training Suite tutorial, this time focusing on finding primary source material using online archive catalogues and websites
  • The National Archives
    A number of different in-depth online guides to researching family, house and local history.  TNA also provides guidance on citing documents, with rules around the citation of folios, rotuli, and membranes, and some advice about citing digital records and TNA catalogue webpages.
  • BBC History, 'How to Do History' 
    This resource is intended for students and those new to researching history, and provides tips on how to work with original sources - but not how to find them.
  • Using Archives: a practical guide for researchers 
    This site is produced by Libraries and Archives Canada


Next page: Catalogues and Finding Aids


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651