By now, you are aware that not all Web sites are created equal and that anyone with a computer can put up a Web page. For doing academic work, students must be sure that the Web site from which you are getting information is reliable. Use the following information* as a tool for evaluating your sites. Most sites won't have all of the following qualities, but the ones you actually use should contain answers to at least some of the following questions:
Who wrote the information?
-does the article indicate who wrote it?
-are the credentials of the author indicated?
Is there an "about us" or "mission statement" located on the main page?
-is it easy to find?
-does it match the content of the Web site?
-is the sponsor of the site interested in making money or an organization wanting to win you over to a point of view?
Is the site current?
-does the site state when it was copyrighted or written?
-does it say when it was last updated?
-does each article have a date when it was written?
Who funds the site?
-is it easy to find that information?
-do the sponsor and content match?
-is there contact information available?
What type of site is it?
-look at the domains, i.e. .gov, .edu, .com, .org.
-make .edu and .gov your first choice when possible
*thanks for contributions made to this checklist by Kathleen Packard (Springfield Technical Community College)
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 thispage.
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.
We have several excellent databases to use for biographical research. From the databases listed below you will be able to retrieve reports and articles. If you need help using the databases, please call the Research Help Desk (256-824-6529) or come by and see one of the Research Librarians.
To look in our various Biography Journals, click the link below.
For additional information on biographies and biography resources, click on the link below.