How Can We Improve the Researcher Application Form?

Have you conducted research at the National Archives?  If so, you probably remember filling out this researcher application form.  We use this form as both a security measure to protect the records, as well as to better understand your research interests and goals.  We’ve made some updates to the form, and we’re looking for your feedback to ensure the application process is as streamlined and user friendly as possible.

Take a look at the Original and Draft * forms, and let us know what you think!

*  There are some limitations on what can be changed.  Your input will help guide future revisions if they’re not feasible for this revision. 

Leave your comments here on the blog, or see other ways to comment in the Federal Register online listing.

Thanks for your feedback!

28 thoughts on “How Can We Improve the Researcher Application Form?

  1. How about making the PDF form fill-in? (Even better, do an html form that creates the paperwork on hitting the submit button.)

  2. New draft looks good – but from an aesthetic point of view, does it have to be in Times New Roman? What about a nice Garamond or Adobe Caslon?

  3. The signature is supposed to indicate compliance with “all regulations regarding the public use of records at the National Archives and Records Administration (36 CFR Part 1254), as summarized on the back of this form.” The back of the form actually has very little information about how records may be used in public, but rather includes mainly rules about research room conduct. Something should change there to make sure everything is there that needs to be.

  4. The researcher categories, since only one is to be checked should be mutually exclusive to insure accuracy. Either that, or let people check more than one.

  5. The check boxes where the researcher indicates whether it is ok to share information should have some instruction and explanation about what happens when a box is checked.

  6. I am looking for Millitary records of my Grand Father Edward Ringuette files , 1861-1934 data Administation. t288,546 rolls

  7. If collecting information about the uses of research is important, it might also be good to include common electronic formats of publication, as opposed to just the book/article/film categories. Would it be useful to ask about the url where the results of research will be posted?

  8. Personally, I would not include any questions about the character of research projects on this form because a researcher may visit with numerous projects in mind over time. If the project changes, is this form updated? And if an out-of-date form is acceptable, are these questions even necessary? I would include those questions in the forms used to request particular records, then they can be expressed and answered in terms more applicable to individual projects. Lower barriers to entry to promote access. Those answers, tied to specific records requests would also give us better stats on the use of our records.

  9. I want to thank everyone who has commented so for. Your valuable feedback is very important to us. Please keep us informed!
    Diane Dimkoff
    Customer Services RD-DC

  10. Wouldn’t “Legal” or “Legal Researcher” be better than “Lawyer”? Lawyers may be visiting doing personal research, while non-lawyers such as project assistants and paralegals often do the actual research on archival records. Also, the pupose of research section does not seem to reflect any of the research that many legal researchers or government researchers would be doing (litigation, environmental cleanup, etc)

  11. I am worried if the text size is actually large enough. I could read it, but what about other people. When I went to the website on the draft it said “file not found” so hopeful it will be put up if the draft becomes final. The link I tried was

    If it is downloadable yes it might be good for us to be able to know how to complete the form along with a possible choice of pdf fill-in.

  12. Like the PDF fill-in idea, but up the idea a little bit. We keep a database of our researchers. Make the form electronic, tie it to a database with all the proper fields. The researcher sits there types in the material, you print it out and then it gets loaded into the database for you location (which is great for generating all sorts of reports).

  13. Heck, if going with a database, skip printing it. Let the electronic form update the database and share among all locations. The researcher card is a simple form to be printed on demand from any location, whenever one is lost. Authenticated with signature of local NARA staff person who prints it. Oh heck — why waste time with researcher cards? A picture id, check the database for verification, nothing for the researcher to lose.

  14. There will be revisions to NA Form 14115; two of the NARA Facilities will be removed
    (Pittsfield & Perris) since they will no longer exist for research. On the second page the contact information will change from Archives II in College Park, MD to Archives I in Washington, DC.

  15. Thanks Doug B for the suggestion re legal researcher vs lawyer, especially since most of the legal researchers we see in College Park are paralegals or equivalents.

    I urge everyone to keep in mind that the form will be reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget because it is a collection of information about individuals. Even if researchers are supplying most of the info themselves, OMB has in the past been very concerned that we only ask those questions that are essential to the task. In general, the less info requested , the better at least from the approval process. We do, of course, take everyone’s suggestions seriously and appreciate the time you are all taking to improve the quality of the form.

    Bob Coren
    Senior Archivist
    Customer Services RD-DC

  16. I agree with many of the above comments, especially the ones regarding the “description of proposed research” section. Many people are just curious about family history, they’re not planning to write anything. I think just keeping it as “Description of Proposed Research” and not listing any of the things beneath it (purpose, title, instructor, occupation) would make more sense.
    Besides Mr. and Ms. you should include Mrs. and Miss; some people get irritated by Ms.

  17. Todd Gilliom makes some good points, but there a couple of things I want to point out. The records in the National Archives are all public records and the information gleaned from them can be used for almost anything. Therefore, the most important thing in signing the agreement section IS behavior in the research room. As for the part that includes type of research, occupation, etc. is located under an “Optional” category and therefore can, I assume, be skipped unless the person wants to fill it out. My experiences in researching at the National Archives in DC have been very positive. Old form/new form – as long I can get in, I am happy.

  18. Many of our researchers fill out the form by hand, and I think it would be helpful to have blank lines (for name, address, etc.) rather than just empty white space.

  19. This form is faulty in not indicating which bits of the information being collected is essential.and required in order to obtain a permit to do reasearch.

    Many parts need coding to show what it is not required: – e.g. one does NOT have to have a fax or a cell phone. We do not have to have details of dissertation titles & advisors. On what grounds does NARA need to gather personal employment information?

    Keep the form simple and make that the initial part of the form. Put all of the optional queries on the back or in a separate section.

  20. What is the block (Wireless Account Number) referring to on the form…This form is no different than the original one as you seemed to just take it from block form to another type of printing….Need to think about adding a space to indicate the fact that the researcher has reviewed the orientation program with name and/or initials of NARA Reviwer/issuer along with date…..could be added under section (For NARA Use Only)

  21. I Filed a Federal Lawsuit in 1999. I cannot access my records against Kaiser, despite being my OWN PRO PER Lawyer. Can you assist?

    1. Hi Nancy,

      I’m not sure if 1999 is too recent for those court records to be transferred yet to the National Archives, but to find out you can send your question to NARA’s Civilian Reference staff at for an initial response. Depending on the location of the Federal court where the suit was filed, the records (if we have them) could be at one of our regional branches.

    1. Hi Adelia,

      We’d be glad to help point you in the right direction as you research your mother. For assistance, you’ll want to contact our reference staff at In your email, include any information you know about your mother, such as her first and last name, dates of birth or death, date of immigration to the United States, or anything else that would help identify her in the records.

      Best of luck with your research,

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