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Finding Biographical Information on Authors

Finding biographical information on a specific author.

What are Primary Sources?

"Primary sources are materials produced by people or groups directly involved in the event or topic under consideration, either as participants or as witnesses." (Quoted from: A Pocket Guide to Writing History, 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007). Examples of primary sources, both print and online, include:

  • Official documents, reports and publications
  • Letters, diaries, memoirs, or published writings
  • Cartoons and advertisements
  • Newspaper or magazine articles written at the time of the event
  • Speeches
  • Autobiographies
  • Statistical data
  • Oral or transcribed interviews
  • Artifacts & realia
  • Maps
  • Audio & Visual Materials - Photographs, film & video, digitized collections, sound recordings

Searching for author primary sources in the library catalog

To search for primary sources in the library catalog, try some of the subject terms below and  also enter your author's name:

  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • interviews
  • personal narratives

Search examples:

  • langston hughes AND correspondence
  • anne frank AND diaries
  • maya angelou and interviews

An autobiography or memoir is a primary source. Some authors of literary works have also written about their lives. If you know the title of the autobiography or memoir, enter the title of the work and the author's name.

Search Examples: 

  • "dust tracks on a road" AND zora neale hurston
  • "surprised by joy" AND c. s. lewis
  • wild AND cherly strayed

A specific literary work is also considered a  primary source. If you are looking for a specific literary work, enter the title of the work and the author's name:

Search Examples:

  • "to kill a mockingbird" AND harper lee
  • beloved AND toni morrison
  • "farewell to arms" AND ernest hemingway

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary Sources:

  • Primary sources provide first hand accounts of experiences or events.
  • Original documents or artifacts were created at or near the time an event occurred.
  • The source can be in its original form or a reproduction, whether it be a written work or artifact.
  • Written works can include: interviews, speeches, questionnaires, letters, diaries, manuscripts and memoirs.
  • Sources may be found in book, periodicals, databases or the open web.

Where to Find:

Secondary Sources:

  • Secondary sources provide second hand accounts of experiences or events.
  • Materials that have been analyzed, interpreted or reported by people who do not have firsthand knowledge of an event.
  • Sources may be found in books, periodicals, databases or the open web.

Where to Find: