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Print Sources space Biographies in Electronic Format space Internet Websites or Search Tools space Online Journal Article Databases

Finding Biographical Information

Finding a biographical sketch of a person can be easy or really challenging, depending on how well-known the person is. There are numerous sources of information, and it’s always a good idea to try more than one. Ask us at the Reference Desk, send us an Instant Message, or call us at 405-744-9775 for assistance. The Library homepage is found at:


Print Sources

Reference Books—
Many dictionaries and encyclopedias include biographical information. One way to find these books is to use the Library Catalog Advanced Search, as shown below.

Type the person’s name in the search box, and in the second box type Biography and choose Subject from the drop-down menu.

Washington, George (all of these) Biography (Subject)

For biographies of groups of people: Use an Advanced Search for the group of persons (as a subject and the subject, biography and either dictionaries or encyclopedias as another subject word.

Presidents Biography Dictionaries (all of these) (Subject)
Scientists Biography Dictionaries (all of these) (Subject)
Artists Biography Dictionaries (all of these) (Subject)

Frequently, the newest or largest biography dictionaries and encyclopedias in print are in the Reference Section on First Floor. For example:

American National Biography 920.073 A5125 General Reference, first floor
Dictionary of Women Worldwide 920.72 D554 General Reference, first floor
Current Biography 909.82 C9755 General Reference, first floor
Biography Index 1990-present 016.92 B615

General Reference, first floor

Biography Index 1955-1989 016.92 B615 3rd Floor


Biographies in Electronic Format

The Library subscribes to several good biography sources online (We pay for these subscriptions, so look for links to the titles in the Library Catalog or in the Databases list (A-Z). Each entry links to the electronic version home or search page.

Who’s Who Online—This is the online version of the famous “Marquis Who’s Who” publications, covering over 1 million individuals and over 800 occupations. Good for basic biographical sketches. (Look for Who’s Who Online).

Oxford Reference Online—A large collection of online reference books (dictionaries, handbooks, encyclopedias). Search by the individual’s name, or use the Advanced Search option to select a topic or occupation to search in. A good place to look for individuals in many areas.

CQ—Congressional Quarterly
The Library subscribes to several electronic publications from the Congressional Quarterly. Look them up in the Library Catalog or the database list. Three are especially good sources for biographies of American political and judicial figures:
CQ Press Politics in America
CQ Press Supreme Court Collection
CQ Press Voting and Elections Collection

Sage Reference Online
This is a collection of reference tools, mainly handbooks and encyclopedias that is easily searchable online. It’s especially good for individuals in the social sciences. Look it up in the Library Catalog or the Database List and search some or all of the books at once. A good source for information about social scientists, including the founders of the disciplines.

North American Women’s Letters & Diaries
This database includes both original and published letters, diaries and other information from many women. While not exhaustive, it covers the period from 1675 to the latter part of the 20th century. Recommended for extended research on a topic.


Internet Websites or Search Tools

Wikipedia (Check the discussion tab to see if there are issues with the accuracy of the information, and see if your professor will allow this as a source!) (use the search “biography of (and the person’s name)”
Example: biography of barbara myerhoff

Google Directory

Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) (One source for actors, directors, etc.)

Internet Public Library (excellent portal to websites)

Librarians’ Internet Index (another directory of selected sources)


Online Journal Article Databases

Many journal databases will include biographical articles about individuals. Use your favorite database to find biographies of individuals. A hint: Many scholarly articles include the author’s affiliation—where he/she works use this to look for people who are actively publishing in your field.


Sociological Abstracts (includes a directory of scholars)

Web of Science (Social Sciences Citation Index, Science Citation Index)

Ageline (Currently produced by AARP, but has been purchased by EBSCO. I will be checking and let you know about further developments.

ProQuest ( Especially ABI/Inform, EthnicNewsWatch, and Research Library databases)

Academic Search Elite (EBSCOhost)

Accessibility Legend
Available to all free of charge
Resource available via the Internet to everyone free of charge.
Internet resource licensed by OSU
Resource available via the Internet to the Oklahoma State University community (faculty, staff, and students), Stillwater campus. These resources may be available to other users depending upon permissions from their home institution.
CD-ROM available in OSU libraries
Resource available via CD-ROM at public workstations in the Oklahoma State University Library. These resources may be available to other users depending upon resources at their home institution.
Print resources available at OSU
Resource available in print at the Oklahoma State University Library. All call numbers refer to this library. These resources may be available to users at other locations.

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Last Updated: 1 Sept 2009