The collection is organized into several distinct parts, including administrative files (3 file folders), committee files (12 file folders), memorials (5 file folders), reports (12 file folders), petitions (45 file folders), resolutions (5 file folders), amendments and articles (82 file folders), printer's drafts of articles (10 file folders), and minutes (126 file folders).
First–time users would do well to look at the comprehensive Finding Aid to the collection. This finding aid, prepared by State Archives' staff, provides a wealth of information about the records and the political context of their creation. It includes a background summary relating to the convention, a listing of all elected delegates with their age, birthplace, residence, occupation, political party affiliation, and district represented, a listing of each committee with its respective representatives, a chronological chart depicting the dates when each article was reported, debated, amended, and adopted, and a record series–level description of the papers, which includes the number of file folders, identification number, and a summary description of the contents.
Two indices are included as well in the finding aid: convention resolutions are indexed numerically by number and provide subject, author, and date introduced; amendments are indexed numerically by number and provide subject, author, and date introduced.
If users have a particular subject to focus their research, it will be valuable to consult the Subject Index, which was especially created by State Archives' staff in preparation for the digitizing of the records. The index is arranged alphabetically by subject term and includes the subject, identification number, and box, folder, and page references where the subject material is located. Note that many of the subject terms do not include a page reference since not all the documents in the collection contain page numbers. In addition to scrolling through the index to search for a topic, a user can enter a subject term in the box at the top of the page.
Users who want to search the collection by type of document should consult the Document Type Index. This index, arranged by type of document, includes a link to an identification number, and other information as needed. Minutes, for example, which are organized chronologically by date, are broken down to the folder level with corresponding span dates.
Finally, the three–volume Debates and Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the State of California by E.B. Willis and P.K. Stockton (Sacramento: State Printing Office, 1881) may be consulted for the information it contains about actual discussions during the convention. These rare volumes contain indices. Although the volumes are presently not available in electronic form, two of the three volumes are at the California State Archives. All three volumes may be found at the California State Library and online via the Internet Archive.