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Biographical Perspectives: Biographical Perspectives

Getting Started

Biographical research begins with a "pre-search" that provides us with a general understanding of an individual's place in history. Below are a number of resources where you can begin this process.  Those marked with a  will provide you with information that is easily verified as credible based on publisher and author.

General Encyclopedias

Britannica School Ed. (Badgerlink) 
Encyclopedia Britannica was one of the, oldest, largest and most respected general knowledge encyclopedia's published.  In 2010 they converted to online editions that continue to feature articles written and signed by experts in a field related to the topic.

Many of Britannica's articles have been expanded to included "leveled" reading options.  The option appears at the top of each article as numbers (1,2,3). If you are having difficulty understanding the original article (generally a 3), just click on the 2 or 1.




Wikipedia (open-edited)
Wikipedia is a "multilingual, web-based, free-content" project written collaboratively by volunteer authors.  It is the largest encyclopedia in the world. Because it is written 'live" it often contains articles in various stages of completion. Wikipedia strives to provide articles written from a neutral point-of-view, but because of it's open-edting options, may contain misinformation or vandalism until others discover and correct it.

Gale's Student Resources-in-Context (Reference and Biography Sections)
This database provides resources of all types, including general reference and biography. Content is derived from works published by a variety of respected publishers.  Also consider these same type of resources offered through Gale's Global Resources-in-Context.

Biographical Dictionaries/Encyclopedias

These are published collections of short biographical essays presented as alphabetical, thematic, or chronological listings   Considered reference resources, contributing authors are generally highly respected historians who have particular knowledge regarding the subject.

Tips from Teachers


As Mr. Keys points out, when doing biographical research, you may need to "branch out" and do research on related events in order to better understand the context in which an individual acted.

As you complete your assigned Google research guide, open a blank document where you can gather keywords, URLs (or citations), and notes that do not fit within the guide but that you feel may be useful in later stages of research.




Learning Index


A biographical pre-search gives you insight into the way in which an individual's life shaped the events and actions that individual has taken part in.  Focus is on determining life shaping information.

 Research begins with a basic understanding of the topic(s) involved.

 Individuals are influenced by the people, times, and events that occur during their lifetimes. 

Primary Sources 

 Researchers seek insight into the thinking of individuals involved in or witnessing an event through primary sources.

 Individual responses to an event will differ, based on their perspective.

He Says / She Says
Primary sources created by an individual offer insight into how an individual views their own actions and the events around them.  

People Say
Primary sources and secondary created by the contemporaries (people living at the same time) provide insight into how others viewed and responded to the ideas and actions of an individual.

Secondary Sources

 Secondary sources provide a studied analysis of historical events.

 The expertise of an author as well as evidence of research (sources noted) indicate credibility in a source.

 Expert analysis both builds on and differs from the analysis of other experts.

 Researchers can borrow credibility from secondary sources.

History Says
Secondary sources represent deeper research and analysis of the events and actions of individuals in history.  These sources often shape how the general public remembers an individual.

Reflective / Critical Thinking

 Researchers form educated perspectives by reflecting on and analyzing a variety of sources from a variety of perspectives.

 Each researcher's critical analysis expands our shared understanding of a topic.

I Say
Reflection based on analysis and critical thinking results in learning. Our own analysis may result in a perspective that differs from that of our peers, but it is an educated perspective that adds value to the larger conversation.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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