Starting your research

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The National Archives can at first seem a daunting place for new researchers.

Before entering you will notice a sign listing what you can and can't take into the reading rooms. Use the free lockers on the ground floor to safely store your belongings.

The layout of the reading rooms has been designed to follow your research trail. This guide will take you along that journey.

The 'Start Here' zone immediately in front of you on the first floor is where your research begins. There are plenty of PC screens available. You begin by selecting one of the search options on the screen.

It's a good idea to use a pad and pencil or a laptop to make notes on as you go, in case you need to check your work over at a later date.

On your research trail you may be directed to an area or zone within the reading rooms for you to follow something up, whether you need to print online records, view microfilms, or ask a member of staff at an advice point, where more detailed research questions can be addressed.

If your searches show that you need to consult an original document you may request and apply for a reader's ticket. This will enable you to order the document to view in our secure reading rooms.

The instructions on the screen will take you through the process for applying for a reader's ticket; bear in mind that you will need to produce your means of identification before the ticket will be issued.

Your reader's ticket gives you access to the secure reading rooms and keeps a record of your document orders. This is incredibly useful if you need to retread your research trail at a later date. It also acts as a smart card that allows you to pay for printing.

Whatever your research, there is guidance along the way. This and other animated guides are on display in the 'Start Here' zone to act as reminders of how to get the most from your research at The National Archives.

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