The Society of American Archivist’s glossary defines finding aids as:
- A tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records
- A description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials.
Finding aids typically have two components: an overview of the collection and a detailed inventory of the contents of the collection. The overview of the collection describes who created the materials, the scope of the collection, the arrangement of the collection, and any access restrictions on the materials. The detailed inventory describes the contents of the collection at the series-level and the file or item-level. Finding aids are created to help researchers gain access to the materials.