Preparing to research

Find out where to look when you first start your research, and how to assemble and organise your findings to get better results.


The National Archives is home to 1,000 years of government records and information. The sheer range of publicly available documents that we hold is immense.

When carrying out research, preparation is everything. There are lots of places you can go and look. Libraries can be good places to start, as well as encyclopedias and articles on the internet. Has anyone already carried out research, or written a book, magazine or newspaper article on the subject? Can you ask friends or family, or talk to anyone locally who may know something that isn't written down anywhere?

Setting important dates on a timeline, and keeping key facts like names and places in a clear, easy-to-refer-to document or file will really pay off. The better you are at organising your findings, the easier it will be to find out more information and pinpoint areas to investigate further.

Think of yourself as a detective: following up clues, reading between the lines, trying to form a picture while there are still some of the pieces missing.

Researching can be fun, if frustrating sometimes. Organising your research and coming to our website armed with key facts will make the process much more productive.

So, enjoy the journey; you never know where it might lead.

More video guides

Finding records in other organisations

Learn how to find records in other archives.

How detailed is the catalogue?

Understand how to use catalogue descriptions.

How the records are arranged

Understand how records are arranged to help save you time and make your research more productive.

Ordering documents

Find out how to copy, order and view the documents held by The National Archives and how to access popular records online.

Preparing for your visit

Forward planning to help you get the most out of your visit.

Recording research results

Discover how to record all your results effectively so that you can find useful information again in the future.

Research routes

How to map out your research trail.

Starting your research

Where to go to find the information you need.

The life of a document

Discover more about the journeys our documents have made before reaching The National Archives and how they may be useful for many different types of research today.