Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Special Collections & University Archives

Identifying and locating primary sources at Texas Wesleyan University Special Collections & University Archives

What is a Finding Aid?

A finding aid is a guide to the special collections and archival collections an institution stewards. Think of it as a table of contents to a book. Archivists make data about collections available so researchers can search, find, and access material.


There are some terms archivists use that may be useful for you to know:

  • Series: This is a grouping of material with similar content within a collection. Think of it like a chapter in a book. Series are helpful when you have an idea of what you want to find. If you want to look at the autograph books from the previous members of the Guardians of the Golden Shears a good place to start would be Series II: Autograph Books. Series can be further organized into subseries with more specific content groups. Guardians of the Golden Shears Records and Memorabilia Series II: Autograph Books has five sub-series organized chronologically by decade.

  • Access Restrictions: Limitations on an individual’s access to or use of materials. They may be designed to protect personal privacy or to preserve materials. This note is found under the Conditions Governing Access section for each collection and on each item record.

  • Provenance: The origin or source of something. This includes information regarding creation, custody, and ownership of an item or collection.

  • Record Group: A group of materials where the provenance is the unifying characteristic and is synonymous with collection.


For archival terms not listed here please see the Society of American Archivists (SAA) publications:

 A Glossary of Archival Records and Terminology

Dictionary of Archives Terminology

Abbreviations Guide

When you browse archival collections you may come across these abbreviations for documents. Below is a guide for your reference.