Text:AAA A

Finding Biographical Information


Biographical information is found in a variety of formats ranging from full-length books, to entries in collected works such as encyclopedias and biographical dictionaries, to articles in periodicals, and to non-print sources such as videotapes.

To increase the success-rate of your search, ask yourself these key questions:

  • What is the nationality of the person?
  • What is the person's race/ethnicity/religion/gender/profession?
  • Is the person living or dead?
  • If dead, during what time period did the person live?
  • For what reason(s) is the person famous?

Most biographical sources are organized by nationality, time period, profession, or some other factor common to the people included. The more you know about your person, the more quickly you can focus on likely biographical sources.

Book-Length Biographies

To determine if the Library owns a book-length biography of your person, perform a SUBJECT search in the Library Catalog. Enter [Last Name, First Name]. Example: Twain, Mark

Biographies in Collected Works

To determine if the Library owns a biographical dictionary or some other collected work likely to contain a biographical sketch of your person, consider the following headings for SUBJECT searches in the Library Catalog:

  • Biography
  • [Country]--Biography Example: Great Britain--Biography
  • [Profession]--Biography Example: Authors--Biography
  • [Profession], [Country]--Biography Example: Authors, American--Biography
  • [Profession], [Country]--[Time Period]--Biography Example: Authors, French--18th Century--Biography
  • Military Biography
  • Religious Biography
  • Naval Biography
  • Women-Biography

Article-Length Biographies

To identify biographical articles in periodicals, consult online databases and print indexes. The databases can be accessed through the Library's Web site. The print indexes are on the Index Shelves in the Reference area. Use the person's name [Last Name, First Name] as your subject heading. Indexes to consider include but are not limited to:

Biographical Reference Sources

General Sources
  • General Encyclopedias [World Book, Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, etc.]
  • Current Biography Ref CT 100 .C8
  • Encyclopedia of World Biography Ref CT 103 .E56 1998
  • Great Lives from History Renaissance to 1900 (5v.) Ref CT 104 .G68 1989
  • Great Lives from History Twentieth Century (5v.) Ref CT 120 .G69 1990
  • International Who's Who Ref CT 120 .I15 19--
  • New York Times Biographical Service Ref CT 120 .N45
American Biography / American Ethnic Biography
  • Contemporary Black Biography Ref E 185.96 .C66
  • Dictionary of American Biography (22v.) Ref E 176 .D563
  • Great Lives from History American Series (5v.) Ref CT 214 .G74 1987
  • Great Lives from History American Women Series (5v.) Ref HQ 1412 .G74 1995
  • Notable Asian Americans Ref E 184 .O6 N67 1995
  • Notable Hispanic American Women Ref E 184 .S75 N68 1993
  • Notable Native Americans Ref E 89 .N67 1995
  • Who Was Who in America Ref E 176 .W64
  • Who's Who in America Ref E 176 .W642
  • Who's Who of American Women Ref E 176 .W647
  • Contemporary Authors (200+ v.) Ref PN 451 .E8 C62
  • Contemporary Dramatists Ref PR 737 .V5 1993
  • Contemporary Novelists Ref PR 883 .C64 1996
  • Contemporary Poets Ref PR 603 .C6 1996
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography (200+v.) Ref PN 451 .D5
  • Something About the Author [children's authors/illustrators] (100v.) Ref PN 451 .S6
Various Professions / Groups
The Arts and Humanities
  • Contemporary Artists Ref N 40 .S78 1997
  • Contemporary Designers Ref NK 1166 .C6 1997
  • Contemporary Fashion Ref TT 505 .A1 C66 1995
  • Contemporary Photographers Ref TR 139 .C664 1995
  • Dictionary of Art (34 v.) Ref N 31 .D5 1996
  • The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (6v.) Ref ML 102 .P66 G84 1995
  • International Dictionary of Architects and Architecture Ref NA 40 .I 48 1993
  • International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers (4v.) Ref PN 1993.45 .I49 1997
  • Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects (4v.) Ref NA 40 .M25 1982
  • New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (20v.) Ref ML 100 .N48
  • The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10v.) Ref B 51 .R68 1998
  • St. James Guide to Black Artists Ref N 40 .S78 1997
  • Who's Who in Fashion Ref TT 505 .A1 S74 1996
  • Who's Who in Interior Design Ref NK 2004.2 .W48
  • American Men and Women of Science (8v.) Ref Q 141 .A474
  • Dictionary of Scientific Biography (16v.) Ref Q 141 .D5
  • The Grolier Library of Scientific Biographies (10v.) Ref Q 141 .G84 1996
  • Notable Twentieth Century Scientists Ref Q 141 .N73 1995
  • Notable Women in Mathematics Ref QA 28 .N68 1998
  • Notable Women in the Physical Sciences Ref Q 141 . N734 1997
Social Science
  • Biographical Dictionary of Modern American Educators Ref LA 2311 .O55 1997
  • Biographical Dictionary of Psychology Ref BF 109 .A1 B56 1997
  • Encyclopedia of World Crime (5v.) Ref HV 6017 .N377 1989
  • International Dictionary of Anthropologists Ref GN 20 .I5 1991
  • The Justices of the United States Supreme Court (5v.) Ref KF 8744 .F75 1995
  • The Presidents: A Reference History Ref E 176.1 .P918
  • Who's Who in American Politics Ref E 176 .W6424


Christine Kickels, Associate Professor and Librarian
(630) 942-2313
Additions or errors? Email kickels@cod.edu

printPrint ·