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Searching for Biographical Information

Biographical information can be difficult to find, particularly if the individual is not a subject of news coverage. In addition, if the individual is still living or they are active in another country (and thus may not be noted by English language press), it may also be problematic to find information using the resources we have.  Here are a few strategies to find information:

  1. First, look for an autobiography in our library catalog or in WorldCat. This will be a primary source, providing a first person account and may include their own realizations, feelings or motivations.
  2. Published biographies are also a useful source for information on an individual. These can also be found through the library catalog or WorldCat.
  3. News articles also provide biographical information, and sometimes interviews or quotes. These can be found through some of our news databases (Factiva, Nexis Uni and others) or through some of the news/periodical indexes such as Biography & Genealogy Master Index or Biography Index).
  4. Reference sources like biographical dictionaries or encyclopedia will have basic information on individuals and sometimes include additional sources to check.  Marquis Who's Who or other dictionaries are a good place to start as well as more specialized sources like the Statesman's Yearbook.
  5. For world leaders, diplomats or other government officials, there may be information on the country web site so check there.  Government documents such as Foreign Relations of the United States may also provide details about events or interactions. Declassified Documents includes communiques and reports that are not publicly available and may illuminate a situation or interaction.
  6. Scholarly articles may have detailed analysis of an individual, their actions or motivations and any events for which they were a major player.  Such sources will usually include citations that can be tracked down for additional information, as well as primary sources that may be of use (and foreign language sources may be translated and quoted in the article).

There are additional possible source, depending on the individual. Social media is starting to present itself as a primary source but it is advised to verify the authority (bias, expertise, etc): a conservative approach may to treat social media as similar to public opinion (unless the subject of the research has their own verified social media channel).


Biographical Sources

Profiles & Opinions of World Leaders

Government Structure