English 1A  -- X. Candelaria
Biographical Research Paper
Helpful Resources

Remember to ask a librarian for help if you have trouble finding anything!


Circulating Books
Find entire books about your subject by going to the Library Catalog and searching for the name of the person by Subject Heading. For example, if I wanted a whole book about Frida Kahlo, I would search for Kahlo, Frida as a Subject Heading.

Reference Books
You can find really good articles about famous people by using the reference collection at the Gavilan Library. Books are arranged by subject according to the Library of Congress Classification System. Go to the section that seems to be closest to your topic, and look around. For example, if I want information about Sigmund Freud, I would look in the psychology section of the reference collection. Looking at the Library of Congress Classification System, I find that Psychology is in the B to BJ section. If I go there, under call number Ref BF31 .E52 2000 I would find theEncyclopedia of Psychology, which contains a 4-page article about him.

There is also a special section just for Biography, in the CT range. There you will find sources such as the American National Biography, and Current Biography from 1940 to the present. If you are having trouble finding biographical information about a person, be sure to look in the Biography Index, at
Ref Z5301 B5

Examples of other Great Reference Books with Biographical Info:

The Dictionary of Art -- but it's much bigger than a dictionary!
Ref N31 .D5 1996
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians-- more like an encyclopedia
Ref ML100 N48
Contemporary Authors--information on writers
Ref Z1224
Dictionary of National Biography--information on dead British people
Ref DA28 D48



Encyclopedia Britannica
If you have a hard time finding information using reference books, you might try using the Encyclopedia Britannica. It will give you general information about the life and times of a famous person, but only if they are very famous! To get access from off-campus, you must have a user name and password (available at the Gavilan Library).

ProQuest provides access to articles in more than 2,500 journals, magazines and newspapers. To get access from off-campus, you must have a library card. (available at the Gavilan Library).



Although it might be easy to find a thousand web sites on a topic, sometimes it seems like none of the sites are any good! Here are some questions you should ask yourself to determine whether or not you should use a certain web site:

  • Can you find the author and his or her qualifications?
  • When was it written?
  • Who is sponsoring the web site?
  • What is the purpose of the site?

Try using web subject directories to find good websites. Subject directories are collections of web sites compiled by human beings. Someone decided each site was good enough to include. Here are some good subject directories. If one doesn't work, try another:

General Directories
Digital Librarian Maintained by Margaret Vail Anderson, a librarian in New York.
Internet Public Library IPL also features "pathfinder" subject guides.
Librarians' Index to the Internet High-quality sites organized by librarians.

Academic Directories
Academic Info An annotated subject directory of online college and research level Internet resources.
Infomine More than 20,000 scholarly and educational Internet resources, compiled by CSU and UC librarians.


Primary Sources:

Primary sources come straight from the people or world that you are researching. They may be diaries, letters, interviews, or autobiographies. To find an autobiography written by the person you are writing about, check the Gavilan Library Book Catalog and search for their name as an author. The Gavilan Library has other primary resources in book form, sometimes as compilations of primary resources, like anthologies of letters. If you are having difficulty finding something, please ask a librarian.

You can find some primary sources on the Web, but sometimes it can take a long search. Below are some links to collections of web-accessible primary sources. Happy hunting!

Discovers Web Primary Sources -- a collection of texts written by explorers during their travels.

U.S. and World History Primary Sources -- a collection of links to primary source documents, maps, and images.

North American Women's Letters and Diaries -- "includes the immediate experiences of 442 women, as revealed in approximately 50,000 pages of diaries and letters."

Using Primary Sources on the Web -- an eclectic list of links to various primary source collections and information sites.



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Address of this page is: http://www.gavilan.edu/library/candelaria2.html
Last updated on Sept. 5, 2006.
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