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Basics of Literary Research

Getting Background Information

Dictionary of Literary Biography

Use the Dictionary of Literary Biography to look up your author to find a scholarly biographical essay written by experts in the field.

Search for Kafka in the DLBDLB Franz Kafka entry

Advanced OneSearch

You can also find background/biographical information in OneSearch by performing a subject search.

You can use OneSearch to find primary sources.  You can do a keyword search for the name of the person, but a more focused way to search for biographical sources is to choose "Library Catalog" at the top of the search page, choose  "Subject" from the drop down list, and then put the name of the person in the search box in this format "LastName, FirstName" (ex. "Dostoevsky, Fyodor") and then choose "Subject" on the next line and put in the term "Biography".  

The results will be all the materials we have in the library that are biographies of that particular person.

Advanced OneSearch with subject "Dostoevsky, Fyodor" and subject "biography"

Other digital reference databases

If you are still searching for information about your author, needing to find supplemental background information about your work of literature, use some of our other digital reference databases, which include encyclopedias and dictionaries of a wide variety of topics.

Advanced OneSearch

You can also use Advanced OneSearch to find other reference materials (dictionaries, encyclopedias) about literature, history, and culture to help inform your background knowledge.

To do so, choose "Subject" and then your topic (or, if you want, you can leave the drop down as "Any Field" to search for your topic as a keyword), and then in the next line, choose "Subject" and put "Encyclopedia" or "Dictionary."

Subject search for "Middle English" and subject search for "Encyclopedia"

The results of that search brought up these excellent resources:

results of a search for middle english encyclopedias

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