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How can Special Collections assist me with my learning or research?

Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World

If you are looking for source material for an undergraduate essay, a PhD thesis, or an academic publication, you will find an extraordinary range of rare books, journals, manuscripts, archives and visual material within our Special Collections. But where to start? The possibilities can seem endless.

Before you decide upon a research topic, it is advisable to find out what sources are available, both at the Library and elsewhere.

If you are researching for a dissertation or thesis, it is important to talk to your tutor or supervisor at an early stage. They may know of important material either at the Library or elsewhere. They may also be able to suggest avenues of research, and ways of improving your proposal.

It is also important to talk to us, because we may know of relevant source material, and we may also be able to tell you if anyone has worked on a collection or item before. This may save you valuable time by avoiding duplication.

If you need help or have an enquiry, please contact us.

The John Rylands Research Institute brings together experts from the Library and the University’s Faculty of Humanities in a unique partnership to uncover and explore hidden ideas and knowledge contained within our world-leading Special Collections. Visit the Institute’s website to learn more about opportunities to study our collections and be part of our community. 

Special Collections can help your research in several ways:

  • Special Collections take you closer to the people, events and themes you are studying. They constitute primary (first-hand) evidence, unlike secondary sources.
  • You will enhance your research skills and develop a critical approach to research. Using Special Collections will help to prepare you for the next stage of your career.
  • You will have the opportunity to make original contributions to knowledge. You can make genuine discoveries, or reinterpret sources that have been used before.
  • There is the ‘tingle factor’ - the thrill that comes from handling and reading old books and documents, personal diaries, intimate letters and first-hand accounts of historic events.

You may be handling material that has never been studied before. Like an explorer, you are more likely to make significant discoveries if you move off the beaten track.