From "What is a Primary Source?" http://www.princeton.edu/~refdesk/primary2.html.
A finding aid is a document with detailed information about a collection and a list of materials by folder or box. A finding aid can tell you whether a collection is relevant to your research. You'll encounter finding aids when you are using collections of materials such as unpublished papers or archives. Collections with finding aids are indicated in the MERLIN catalog with an icon that looks like this:
You can find out more about these collections by accessing their finding aids from the link on the MERLIN record, or directly from the Collections A-Z page on the Special Collections web site.
You may encounter finding aids with the following sections in your research:
You can request items from a finding aid by asking the librarian for a specific box and folder number, but feel free to ask for help at any time!
Adapted from "How to Read a Finding Aid," Primary Sources in Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries. http://guides.lib.purdue.edu/content.php?pid=282374&sid=2542554
Did you know the MERLIN library catalog will let you limit your search to Special Collections? Here's how to do it.
Get set up to search
Starting from the main MERLIN screen, click on the Advanced tab.
On the Advanced Search page, enter your keywords at the top. You can use the dropdown menu to search within Author, Title, or Subject (Table of Contents and Notes are not advised for Special Collections materials). Or you can leave it open to search all available fields.
Limit your results
Scroll down to Add Limits. Under Specific Library Location, choose MU Ellis Special Coll.
You can use additional limits such as language or year of publication. Because Special Collections holdings include lots of microfilms, it's useful to limit by Material Type.
Hold down the CTRL key to make multiple selections. Some useful limits include:
When searching materials in Special Collections, it sometimes helps to use terms that we consider out of date. For instance, you may find early works on mental illness by searching keywords like lunatic and lunacy. Or if you're looking for works by or about women, it may be helpful to search for lady or ladies.
Use wild cards and Boolean operators to search for several forms of a word at once. More search tips.
You can easily refine an existing search. Click on the Modify Search button at the top of the results screen.
Put your additional search terms into the second box (and possibly the third, if you have more than one).