William McLoughlin used a combination of filing systems. He had labeled and organized files for most of his research notes, drafts for books, and course materials. The archives staff maintained the folder labels that he assigned.
His other filing system seems to have been a box he put next to his desk into which he placed whatever correspondence, committee minutes, newspaper clippings, memos, and notes he was working with at that time. They were put into the box when he was done. The contents of each "desk box" usually contained materials for one academic year although overlap of time periods was often true if a topic or set of correspondence spanned many years. There were a total of 35 boxes spanning the years 1960-1990.
The "desk boxes" contained rich documentation for his work as a professor, scholar, colleague, and activist. The scattered nature of the materials made them inaccessible for researchers. Therefore, archives staff sorted through all the materials and grouped documents together based on topic and correspondent. Descriptive folder titles were supplied by archives staff.
All of his materials (the ones he labeled and the ones labeled by archives staff) were then arranged alphabetically to group subjects together and facilitate access.
The collection is arranged into 5 series. All of the materials are arranged alphabetically within the series. The exception is Series 2. Subseries 2. Baptists (Isaac Backus) which contains the research materials McLouhglin used to create the book The Diary of Isaac Backus . The original order of the Backus research materials has been retained to show McLoughlin's process for creating that publication.
Series 1. Cherokees
- Subseries 1: Research on Cherokees and related topics
- Subseries 2: Publications about Cherokees
- Subseries 3: Native Americans (General)
Series 2. Religion
- Subseries 1: Modern Revivalism (Charles Finney, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham)
- Subseries 2: Baptists (Isaac Backus)
- Subseries 3: Sun Myung Moon
- Subseries 4: Liberation Theology
- Subseries 5: Henry Ward Beecher
- Subseries 6: Religion (General)
- Subseries 7: Sacred Journeys
- Subseries 8: Great Awakenings
Series 3. Brown University
- Subseries 1: Courses
- Subseries 2: History Department
- Subseries 3: Brown Departments and Committees
- Subseries 4: Activism
- Subseries 5: Keep Brown Green
- Subseries 6: Speeches (Conferences, Symposiums, Debates, etc.)
- Subseries 7: Articles and Projects
- Subseries 8: Correspondence
- Subseries 9: History (General)
Series 4. African Americans
Series 5. Personal
- Subseries 1: Activism
- Subseries 2: Personal
- Subseries 3: Calendars
- Subseries 4: Committee and Organizations