Start with what you know

Think about the person you are researching. Do you know:

  • their full name and other names they were known by?
  • their life dates - are they alive or dead?
  • the names of organisations or groups they belonged to?
  • their nationality or country of residence?
  • any significant events in their life?
  • if they are famous? What they are known for?

This information will help guide your search to the right resources and provide you with additional topics to search on.

Where can you find biographical information?

You can find biographical information in a range of sources including:

Primary Sources:

  • Contemporary newspaper articles
  • Personal papers such as diaries and notebooks
  • Interviews and audio recordings

Secondary Sources:

  • Biographical dictionaries arranged by country or topic
  • Books, journal articles and encyclopedias
  • Obituaries

The type of sources you search will depend on the person you are searching for.

Searching the catalogue

Quick search

Use the Catalogue standard search  to find titles, authors or subjects. 

  • If you get too many results, use the Narrow search options (at the right of the page) to display only the items you’re interested in
  • If you need to widen your search, click on subject headings in an item’s Catalogue record to find other material related to that subject.


Although you can’t browse the Library’s shelves in person, you can use the Catalogue to browse by title, author, subject or Dewey number.

  • select the Browse alphabetically tab, then subjects.
  • type your keywords in the search box.  Remember to type in the person's surname first.

For example, try a search for items relating to Joan Sutherland; search for 'Sutherland, Joan' in the subject search:

In your search results, click on the relevant subject to see a list of items about Joan Sutherland in the catalogue.