A biography is an account of the special and important events in a person's life. It should not be confused with the similar sounding term bibliography, which is a listing of books and articles on a topic. Biographies may be brief and cover only basic information about a person's life such as dates of birth and death, education and vocation. A biography may also be very detailed, and cover the cultural background, outstanding accomplishments, and historical significance of an individual.
Biographical sources cover both living and deceased persons, notable persons in particular countries, persons in specific occupations, celebrities, and civil and government leaders. It is helpful when searching for biographical information to know:
•Person's full name and correct spelling (for example: Smith, Smyth or Smythe)
•Date of birth
•Occupation or profession
•Date of death (when applicable)
•Nationality or country of residence
1. If you need basic facts about a person, e.g., "When was Napoleon born?", check general encyclopedias, such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopedia Americana. You might also want to check some foreign language encyclopedias, such as Grand Larousse (French) or Brockhaus Enzyklopädie (German).
2. If you are unable to find simple biographical information in general encyclopedias, or you need more information than provided, check one of the specialized biographical reference books listed on this page.
3. If you cannot find the person you are looking for, or cannot get enough information from a biographical reference book, check one of the biographical master indexes listed below. These guide you to books, periodical articles or other reference sources.
4. For highly detailed information, search the Library Catalog for books on the person. Perform a subject search by typing the person's last name followed by their first name, e.g., Whitman, Walt. Execute the search and look for the subheading --Biography. The complete heading in this example is: Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892 -- Biography. You can also use the Catalog to search for the titles of books and periodicals found in the biographical master indexes.
5. It is important to remember that biographical information may not be available for all individuals. In these cases, information about an author can sometimes be found by checking the preface or introduction of an author's work for scholarly background and academic achievements. Perform an author search in the Library Catalog by typing in the last name followed by the first name.
This guide does not present a comprehensive list of titles in the Reference Collection. These titles were selected to provide broad, well balanced coverage within their categories. Consult a reference librarian for assistance in locating other titles, particularly those with very specific coverage, if the ones listed do not meet your needs.
The following is a selected list of titles that provide broad coverage. Other master indexes are available covering a variety of specific topics. Consult a reference librarian for assistance in locating other titles, if the ones listed below do not meet your needs.