Background sources or "reference works" are excellent starting points for doing biographical research, and can serve as helpful launch pads to further secondary sources. These types of sources can help identify the basic facts about the historical figure you are writing about, or the historical events that will help you contextualize their life. A good, specialized reference work will help you identify key events, dates, people and organizations.
Recommended tools for finding background sources for your assignment are:
*Note that these are tertiary sources, which can be useful launchpads to your research, though they are not peer-reviewed or based on original research.
If you are unsure what constitutes a scholarly secondary source for your assignment, the following video may help.
Recognizing Scholarly Secondary Sources in History and the Humanities 7:42 min.
On the library homepage, use the Books, articles & more box.
To to find scholarly journal articles, check "peer-reviewed" on the right side of the screen.
To find books, filter by "resource type" to "books" on the right side of the screen. Books are a more common source of biographical information than journal articles.
Try the To find biographical information, search for your historical figure's name in the subject field via the drop-down menu, and add the term biography
If you are overwhelmed with results in LibrarySearch, or having trouble finding relevant enough sources, try searching in a history specific journal article database.
Historical Abstracts: Is a database that includes articles covering the history of the world from 1450 to the present. Subjects include world history, military history, women's history, history of education, and much more. FOR NORTH AMERICAN HISTORY, use America History and Life instead.
Place an interlibrary loan request and we will find a library who can provide it for you. Note that during COVID, some print books and other physical materials may not be available via interlibrary loan, but most journal articles are.
The following video explains-
Video length: 11 minutes.
0-4 minutes - what are primary source, how to recognize them, and who collects them
4-11 minutes - strategies and tools for finding primary sources using LibrarySearch and other tools
"primary sources," sources, documents
collection, museum, archive or archival, digital
Sample Google search: Mussolini "primary documents"
Primary source research is often very challenging and can be very, very time consuming. Give yourself lots of time and don't hesitate to ask for advice early on where and how to find a relevant source. See my librarian contact information in the side panel for details.