The Herbert Jacob Papers fill sixteen boxes and although they span the period 1962 to 1996, most material dates between the early 1970s through the early 1980s. With the exception of one folder of general biographical materials, the papers are arranged into four broad categories: correspondence files, records relating to Jacobs' administrative work and teaching in the Northwestern University Department of Political Science, records pertaining to research projects, and presentations and publications.
Correspondence dates between 1970 and 1996 and is divided into general and subject files. Nearly all the correspondence pertains to professional matters and concerns sponsored research, publications, and relations with colleagues. General correspondence is arranged alphabetically by surname of correspondent or by the first keyword in the name of an institution or organization. Where there are multiple items pertaining to a single correspondent those items have been placed in chronological order. Correspondence with persons or organizations of particular significance to Jacob is contained in folders according to subject. These subject files are ordered alphabetically by surname of individual or, again, by first keyword if it relates to an organization. Correspondence within subject files is arranged in chronological order.
Files relating to Jacobs' work within the Northwestern University Department of Political Science include general administrative and curricular files. General administrative files, largely concerning the Department's graduate program, are topical with folders arranged alphabetically by title. Curricular files form the bulk of the papers and document courses taught by Jacob between 1970 and 1996; most date from the 1980s and 1990s. The files are arranged first by course number and, where there are multiple files per course, subsequently by date. Typically included in these files are syllabi, examinations, grade records and course evaluations. Often found here are lecture notes and other teaching materials. Occasionally there is correspondence between Jacob and students as well as student papers and completed examinations. At the end of the curricular files are several folders of correspondence, proposals and other work relating to individual students, usually ones pursuing graduate degrees in Political Science. These student files are alphabetized by surname. Finally, audiotape cassette recordings of Jacob's 1990 B30 Introduction to Law and Politics course lectures are boxed at the end of the series.
Files pertaining to several of Jacob's research projects, including work supported by grant funding, are found in the papers. The files are arranged first by theme or title of the project: divorce law, empirical theories about courts, felony justice, government responses to crime, and the judicial career. Where there are multiple files relating to a single project folders are arranged alphabetically by topical headings. The most extensively documented research projects found in the papers are those on felony justice and government responses to crime. Both projects resulted in major publications. While some field notes are included the files mainly concern project administration and research methodology.
Copies of presentations made before professional organizations and of publications complete the papers. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order according to presentation or publication title. Typically represented in these folders are copies of the presentations and article reprints. In some cases the folders contain relevant correspondence.