Library Hacks: Biography in Context

How often do you have to research a person? Maybe you need to write a report about an important historical figure. Or a biography of an author. Or a list of a scientist’s major accomplishments. Or maybe you’re just curious about someone.

Whenever you need to find out information about a person, Biography in Context is the first place you should go. Even if you need help figuring out who to research, this database will help you out.


Sure, you could try to find a book about the person, but it might be checked out, or at a library far away from where you live, or it could be outdated. You could do a Google search, but you’ll get a billion hits, and it’s hard to tell which are fact and which are fiction, rumor, or just plain lies. And what if you have no idea how to go about finding an Asian-American political figure from the late 1900s?

Biography in Context to the rescue! It has authoritative, trustworthy information on just about any noteworthy person you can imagine. And it’s really easy to use. 

If you know the person’s name, just type it in the search bar and you’re ready to go. But where Biography in Context is really useful is in figuring out who you want to learn about in the first place.

I won’t go through all the details and processes here, because there is an excellent Resources page with tips, tutorials, and even video guides. Just be aware that you can find people in many cool ways, including:

  • Browse through who’s currently notable and newsworthy from the front page
  • Use Person Search to narrow down your search by occupation, nationality, ethnicity, gender, and time period
  • Use Advanced Search to search for specific types of content, such as magazine articles, news reports, academic journals, or even videos. 

I recommend playing around with the different search possibilities (look at all that stuff surrounding the search bar in the top right corner) so you’re prepared for your next assignment. See all the stuff that comes up when you look for John Green, or Beyonce, or Steven Spielberg. 

Oh, and full source citations are provided for everything you’ll find in Biography in Context, so your teacher will be happy too. 

And, of course, if you ever need help using this database, or anything else at the library, just ask! We live for that kind of stuff. 

Happy hunting!

Melleny @ Mukilteo Library

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