Choosing a topic
When choosing a topic for your research paper, think about the following:
- Unless your instructor assigns a topic, try to select a topic that interests you.
- Make sure your topic is not too broad, or too narrow. You will find too much information when searching for a broad topic; and not enough information when searching for a narrow topic.
- If you already have a general topic, try searching the library's catalog or the library's databases for ideas on how to narrow that topic down.
- Visit the library's Reference Desk and request to view the following book: 10,000 ideas for term papers, projects, reports and speeches: Intriguing, original research topics for every student's need.
- For current events and issues in the news, try searching the library's database: CQ Researcher.
- For debatable or controversial issues, ask one of the librarians about the Opposing Viewpoints Series, the Taking Sides Series, Issues in Focus Series and/or the Current Controversies Series.
- Visit the Social Issues Research Guide. There you will find a list of current social issues to choose from.
Books will provide an excellent starting point for your research in the field of Biographical Information. Reference books often give you background information and a general overview on your topic so that you can proceed with greater understanding to a more detailed treatment of your subject in other books and periodicals. Reference books may include specialized dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, almanacs, atlases and/or statistical reports. The librarian at the Reference Desk can help in locating an appropriate source. Listed below are the titles and call numbers of some of the Biographical Information books in the library's reference collection. The reference collection is located on the main level of the library. Books with a location of Reference cannot be checked out of the library. The Circulating Collection is on the second floor of the library. Books with a location of Circulating may be checked out.
To search the Catalog for a book, click on it's callnumber below.
1. General Biography
|American Characters: Selections from the National Portrait Galle...||Reference||CT215 .L49 1999|
|American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, ...||Reference||CT213.A68 1999|
|Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia. 2nd Ed. New York: Cambridge...||Reference||CT103 .C26 1998|
|Chambers Biographical Dictionary. New York: Larousse Kingfisher ...||Reference||CT103 .C4 1997|
|Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Scribner, 1957-. 11 ...||Reference||E176 .D563|
|Dictionary of National Biography. London, Oxford university pres...||Reference||DA28 .D47|
|Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 2000. 1...||Reference||CT103 .E56|
|National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Clifton, N.J.: J. T. ...||Reference||E176 .N27|
|Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Ca...||Reference||CT3260 .N57|
|Scribner Encyclopedia Of American Lives. New York: Charles Scrib...||Reference||CT213 .S374 2003|
2. Directory Information
|Who's Who in America. Chicago: A.N. Marquis, 1899-present. Last ...||Reference||E176 .W642|
|Who's Who in the World. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. Current year...||E-Book|
|Who Was Who in America. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 18 vols in r...||Reference||E176 .W64|
3. Biography by Profession
|Baker's Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musici...||Reference||ML105 .S612|
|Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists. New York: Marshall Cave...||Reference||Q141 .B532|
|Concise Dictionary of Scientific Biography. New York: Scribner's...||Reference||Q141 .C55 2000|
|Contemporary Authors and Contemporary Authors New Revision. Detr...||Reference||Z1224 .C6|
|Contemporary Theater, Film and Television. Detroit: Gale Researc...||Reference||PN2012 .W51|
|Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 19...||Reference||PS21 .D56|
|Dictionary of Scientific Biography. New York: Scribner [1970-198...||Reference||Q141 .D5|
|Explorers and Discoverers of the World. Detroit: Gale Research, ...||Reference||G200 .E88|
|New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. New York: Macmillan...||Reference||ML100 .N48|
|Notable Twentieth Century Scientists. Detroit: Gale Research, 19...||Reference||Q141 .N73|
|Outstanding Women Athletes. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1998||Reference||GV697 .A1 W69 1998|
4. Biography by Ethnicity
|African American Encyclopedia. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 199...||Reference||E185 A253|
|Arab American Biography. Detroit: U.X.L., 1999.||Reference||E184. A65 H35 1999|
|Dictionary of Hispanic Biography. New York: Gale Research, 1996.||Reference||CT1343 .D53 1996|
|Notable Asian Americans. New York: Gale Research, 1995.||Reference||E184 .O6 N67|
|Notable Latino Americans. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997...||Reference||E184 .S75 M435 1997|
|Who Was Who in Native American History. New York: Facts on File,...||Reference||E89 .W35|
The library catalog is used to locate books both at RVCC, as well as from other libraries in the Somerset County Library System. Books will provide in-depth information not found in reference sources.
- Start with a Keyword search. Once you find one or two books about your topic, check the book's record to see what Subjects are being used. Once you find the appropriate Subject Heading, repeat your search using those headings. Generally, the results from a Subject search will always be more accurate than the results from a Keyword search.
- If you know the title of the book you are looking for, do a Title search.
- If you are looking for a book with a specific author, do an Author search (last name first).
Suggested Subject Headings for Biographical Information:
Click a subject heading below to use it as the search term for a Subject Search in the catalog.
- Holocaust Survivors--Biography
- Stockbrokers--United States--Biography
- Television News Anchors--United States--Biography
- Women Mathematicians--Biography
Consult with the reference librarian to find the term best suited to your needs.
Browse the Collection:
Most of the books can be found in the following areas:
- B108-5802 -- Individual philosophers, by period
- BJ71-1185 -- Individual ethical philosophers
- BL71.5-73 -- Religion, biography
- BM750-755 -- Judaism, biography
- BP70-80 -- Islam, biography (including Mohammed)
- BQ840-899 -- Buddhism, biography
- BR1690-1725 -- Christianity, biography
- CT -- Biography (general)
- E176 -- United States History, biography
- JA92 -- Collective biography of political scientists
- K170 -- Law, biography
- LA2301-2396 -- Education, biography
- ML385-429 -- Music, biography
- PN451-497 -- Literature, biography
- PS126-138 -- American literature, biography
All of the library's circulating books are located on the upper level of the library.
For additional library catalogs, including libraries in Hunterdon and Middlesex counties, consult the Additional Library Catalogs page. If you find a book in one of these catalogs that the library does not own, request the book using the library's Interlibrary Loan Service.
Research Databases - Finding Articles
The Evelyn S. Field Library has access to thousands of periodicals. (Periodicals can be magazines, scholarly journals, or newspapers.) Some periodicals are in the library's print (or hard copy) collection. However, the majority of periodicals are available in the Research Databases. These databases provide access to articles. This information is generally more current than material found in books.
Search for periodical articles on Biographical Information using the databases listed below. They can be accessed from the Library Database Page. (If you are using these databases from an off-campus location, you will be asked to identify yourself by logging in with your Username and Password. This is the same login you use on campus. The Research Databases are available only to registered RVCC students.)
- Biography Reference Bank
This biography database covers over 550,000 authors, artists, composers, political figures, scientists, influential women and more. Biographical information is provided through full-text biographical profiles, feature articles, interviews, essays, book reviews, performance reviews, speeches, and obituaries. There are also over 36,000 images available. The database covers historical and contemporary people of the United States, Britain and Europe.
- Contemporary Authors
"Provides complete biographical and bibliographical information and references on more than 120,000 U.S. and international authors." Drawn from the vendor's website.
- LexisNexis Academic
LEXIS-NEXIS® Academic Universe provides access to a wide range of news, business, legal, and reference information, including news from over 18,000 newspapers, magazines and news wires and company financial information.
- National Newspapers Expanded
Proquest Newspapers includes the full text of The Atlantic Journal - Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
After finding an article on your research topic, the database will either provide a citation and summary of the article, or it will provide the full-text (the complete article). If you are only given a citation and summary of the article, you can check the Periodical Locator to determine if the periodical you are looking for is available in another database. (The Periodical Locator is an alphabetical list of all the journals the library has access to. Feel free to talk with a librarian for assistance.) If the article is not available in any of the library's research databases, request the article using the library's Interlibrary Loan Service.
If, for your assignment, you are required to have sources from scholarly journals, use the Identifying Scholarly Articles guide to help you determine if your source is a magazine article or a scholarly article.
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
Source: U.S. Congress -- Brief reports on all members of Congress from 1774 on.
Source: Biography.com -- A site created by the A&E network and based on the popular show Biography. The site offers basic infor on more than 25,000 famous persons.
- InfoPlease's Biography
Source: Infoplease -- Over 30,000 biographies of historical and contemporary figures. Search by name or by category.
- Internet Public Library - Biographies
Source: Internet Public Library -- Links to many webpages containing biographies of people in a variety of fields.
- POTUS: Presidents of the United States
Source: Internet Public Library -- "A biographical directory of the 41 men that have been President, from Washington to Clinton. This resource uniquely brings together presidential Internet sites, including biographies, speeches, writings and where possible, audio and video clips. Election results, odd facts and presidential term highlights have been added to enrich this resource. First ladies, cabinet members, and additional important members of presidential life are also covered, adding further insight into the character of the president and the history of his time."
Source: R.F. Holznagel and Paul Hehn -- Who2 provides basic facts about famous people, alive and deceased, and links to 4 more informative sites for information about the person. Information about “famous” fictional characters is also included. The For Students tab provides citation information for the website profiles.
- Yahoo! Directories: Biography
Source: Yahoo! -- Search within the directory for websites containing biographical information. Use the categories to narrow your search by time period or type of person.
- Call or visit the Reference Desk to speak to one of the librarians. The Reference Desk is located on the main floor of the library. The phone number is 908-526-1200 x8350.
- Email your question to one of the librarians using the Ask-A-Librarian Service.
- For further information about this guide, please contact Megan Dempsey
Last Updated - 22 September 2008