A biography is an account of a person's life, experiences and achievements. Forms of biography include:

  • Autobiography: the author writes their own life story.
  • Biography: the author writes about another person's life.
  • Memoir: a shorter biographical form that includes personal reminiscences of the author


Try searching for books by the person you're interested in. They may include short biographies.

If the person was involved in a specific organisation or group, there may be details about them in organisational histories or books about particular subjects.


The Library's biographical cuttings files contain newspaper articles about a specific person.

Articles in these files were collected from the late 1960s until 2000.

You can find them in the catalogue by searching for the person's name.

For example: Biographical cuttings on Sir Zelman Cowen, Governor General

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 to find titles, authors or subjects. 

  • If you get too many results, use the Limit Your 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.

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

Tags: Biography


Australian dictionary of biography

Australian dictionary of biography Melbourne : London ; New York : Melbourne University Press; Cambridge University Press, 1966-<2012>

The Australian Dictionary of Biography is one of the best sources for information on Australians


Biographical dictionaries include an alphabetical list of entries about notable people.

You can find these dictionaries by searching the Library catalogue.

Search for a topic or country and dictionary or biography

For example:

Not sure where to start?