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Reference Resources

Choosing a Person

To get started, think about people you admire who are:

  • From a particular profession:  musicians, politicians, etc.
  • From a specific period in history:  the 60's, etc.
  • Associated with a historical event of interest:  World War II, etc.
  • From a specific culture or country
  • Known for participation in an artistic, social, or political activity or movement

To choose a person:

  • Try searching a profession (scientists, etc.) in the index of the electronic encyclopedia below to get biographical information on interesting people in that profession or
  • Search a person by name to locate an article about that person.

General Biographical Reference Sources

The library has a wide variety of resources that include biographical information.

If the individual's profession or area of knowledge is known, use the Library of Congress system or the catalog to find the call number for that area of the Reference Collection. Reference sources often include biographical information.

Specialized Biographical Sources

Finding Books about People

To find reference books in the catalog:

  • Click the Search Options link
  • Choose Reference under the Collections box
  • Click the Set Search Options button
  • Search the word "biography" and any topic: art, music, sports, African American, women, etc. or
  • Search the descriptive word for people in a profession: artists, musicians, politicians, mathematicians

To find a whole book about a person search the name with the word "biography":

  • Thomas Jefferson biography

To find books with a section or chapter on Jefferson, try:

  • presidents biography or
  • presidents United States biography

Finding Biographical Articles

General databases such as Academic Search Premier may include biographical information.

  • Use the word "biography" in a keyword search with a person's name
  • In subject headings, proper names are expressed like this:  jefferson, thomas

After reading biographical information in a reference source, use keywords from those articles in database searches.  It may be necessary to also use "biography" in the search. 

Example searches:

  • Thomas Jefferson and significance
  • Thomas Jefferson and family
  • Thomas Jefferson and (personality or philosophy)
  • Thomas Jefferson and biography and personality
  • Try Jefferson, Thomas and (biography or significance)

Specialized databases relating to the individual's profession may include information about his/her life, career, and significance.