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Searching for biographical information
You can gather biographical information for a variety of sources, including:
- individual biographies (book length)
- collective biographies (e.g. encyclopedias or dictionaries)
- interviews (written and/or audio/film)
- news story / profile
Search strategies and the search tools you use will vary. You may use a library catalog to find book-length profiles, but would need a databaase to search for obituaries.
The search strategies on this page are only starting point - if you want to learn more, schedule an appointment with the Comparative Literature librarian.
Biography (Gale in Context)
Includes biographical profiles from reference sources, newspapers, magazines, and journals. Covers all time periods and areas of the world.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography
300+ volume set, each focusing either on a literary genre, or time period. Includes lengthy biographical essays authored by scholars in the field. Each essay includes a bibliography for further reading.
- World Authors
Covering 1950-Present. Biographical articles on novelist, poets, dramatists. Includes bibliographies for further research.
- Current Biography
Covering 1940-Present. Biographical profiles of 'people in the news'
Library Catalog Search Strategies
Library catalogs, such as the Williams Library Catalog and Worldcat will help you identify and locate biographical information published in book format:
- full-length biographies
- collections of biographical essays
- biographical dictionaries
- biographical encyclopedias
There are two prevalent search strategies when using a library catalog
- Keyword searching
In this type of search, you can explore widely, experimenting with a variety of keywords
This casts a wide net and will help you get a sense of the scope of your topic
Suggested word combinations:
- Author's name + biography
- Literary genre + biography
- Country or region + biography
- Subject searching
In this search, you use standardized subject terms assigned by the Library of Congress.
Each book in a library catalog is assigned subject headings. This allows you to run
thematic searches that retrieve items on the same subject.
To find subject headings, you can either:
- Start by a keyword search (above), then get the subject headings from one of the books
- Use keywords in the Subject field of the library catalog
- Use pre-assigned subject headings, or construct them. Subject headings are specific, but their structure is logical, so you can use an existing subject heading and modify it. When searching for biographical materials, subject headings will include words such as "biography", "bio bibliography" either applied to an individual, a group, or a literary genre, for example: