The Paddy Whannel Papers fill three and one-half boxes and span the years from 1896 to 1980. Comprising the series are: biographical materials, general correspondence, writings, research materials, and course materials.
The biographical materials are arranged in five folders at the front of the series and include: vitae and clippings, correspondence and related documentation pertaining to Whannel's citizenship and visa, bills and receipts for personal expenditures and housing, income and tax documents, and medical and insurance bills and statements.
General correspondence is arranged in chronological order in one folder. The correspondence mainly documents Whannel's academic appointments and salary while at Northwestern.
The writings subseries includes one folder of brief articles and reports authored by Whannel; one folder of reviews of his book, The Popular Arts; and two folders of draft articles on Busby Berkeley and Gene Kelly.
The research materials fill about one box and include transcripts of interviews with noted producers, directors, and choreographers of motion picture musicals as well as notes and bibliographies pertaining to other filmmakers and film genres.
The course materials form the bulk of the series and include syllabi, bibliographies, assignment instructions, and examination questions. The course materials are arranged in folders according to course number with numerous copies of student papers scattered throughout. Unidentified or general seminar materials, miscellaneous student papers, general course and lecture notes, and course grade records are arranged in folders at the end of the series.