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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Biographical Resources

This guide will help you find online and print information about important historical figures and prominent people living today.

Getting Started

There are numerous sources available for people doing biographical research. General reference sources might cover the lives of prominent people throughout history, or give information about important people from a particular country. More specific reference sources might describe the achievements of African Americans, women, or the members of a particular profession such as educators or scientists. The information presented here is intended to provide a brief overview of a few of the most general biographical sources available.

If you have any questions, try our Ask a Librarian service!

How to Choose a Resource

There are several things to consider when you are looking for biographical information and choosing a source.
  • What type of information do you need? Basic information (like birth and death dates) or an in-depth essay about the person with a list of other resources to consult?
  • Do you want direct information about the person or do you want a list of resources to consult?
  • Is the person you are researching alive or dead?
  • In what field (politics, business, writing) is/was this person active?
Read the brief descriptions of the available sources with these questions in mind and you'll be more likely to choose a source that will suit your needs.