Biographical statements are more ubiquitous than you may think. While you might have been asked to write one for an academic paper, scholars also write them to accompany published scholarly research. Writers use similar biographical statements on their websites and on their book jackets too. Scholarships, business proposals and other applications may require similar bios as well.
A biographical statement describes the researcher’s or writer’s experience in his field. Biographical statements can include academic awards, degrees earned, research experience and interests.
What Is a Biographical Summary?
A biographical summary is not the same thing as a biographical statement. Biographical summaries are usually longer and contain elements of the writer’s background that are not necessarily relevant to her subject of study. Biographical summaries usually include certain forms of biographical data, such as where the writer was born and in what year. Since biographical summaries are more like shortened third-person biographies, they can even include information about the writer’s personal life, like whether she's married and if she has children. While the purpose of a biographical statement is to express a researcher’s background and accolades in a particular subject, a biographical summary is meant to give information about the person's life and give context to her work.
Don't get confused. There may be some overlap between them. Both a biographical summary and a biographical statement may have information about a person’s research, where she went to school and her academic interests. Both are written in the third person, even when they are written by the researcher herself. Both can even be used on websites and informational materials.
If it helps you to remember, think of a biographical summary as summarizing a whole life. However, a biographical statement (or "bio") states only the necessary information.
How to Write a Bio Statement
When you are writing your own biographical statement, remember to stick to academics. Make a list of your awards and achievements or refer to your CV if you have one. Summarize your interests and explain why you chose this field of study above all others. Don't forget to write in the third person and omit superfluous biographical data. You aren't writing your whole life story.
This task may be difficult if you have not been in academia very long, especially if you are in high school or just beginning your research career. If you’re stumped or you struggle with describing yourself, ask a friend who knows you well to help you. Journaling and free-writing can help too.
If you are in high school, your bio should include information such as your school, if you are specializing in any subject and your plans for the future. Also include any awards you have, like if you won the science fair or if you have perfect attendance. Since you most likely do not have any publications yet, it is permissible to include other biographical elements, such as membership in clubs or achievement in sports. At this point in your academic career, the purpose of this bio is to describe yourself and your interests. Obviously, it will change and grow with you as you continue your studies.
How Do You Write in Third Person?
Biographical statements should be written in the third person. Third person is a point of view in writing that does not use the first-person “I” pronoun. First person feels subjective, whereas writing that is done in the third person seems more objective. Writing in the third person uses the pronouns "he," "she," "they," etc., but when you begin the biographical statement, you will refer to yourself by your full name. Be sure to use whatever form of your name you use on your resume or other published materials. Remember to be consistent. This is the name that will be tied to your research for your whole academic career.
Here is a third-person example: Jane Doe, Ph.D., has a doctorate in astrophysics from the California Institute of Technology. She currently works for SpaceX, where she specializes in fuel dynamics.
What Is Biographical Data?
Biographical data is the kind of information that might be on a driver’s license, such as birthday, address, marital status and more. Most of the time, biographical data is irrelevant to your academic resume, and therefore, it should be omitted from your biographical statement. If you're writing a biographical summary, however, you can include whatever information you deem pertinent.
Biographical Statement Outline
Writing a bio is like writing a well-formed paragraph. It should include a topic sentence, evidence, elaboration and a conclusion. In this type of paragraph, the topic sentence introduces you, the scholar. The body sentences should provide information about your education, work experience and publications. Additional sentences can elaborate on those ideas if you think they need more explaining. If you're stumped on what to write for the conclusion, explain to the reader why you chose this field of study. Why are you so passionate about it? That extra dose of personality will make your bio memorable and unique.
An academic bio can follow the outline below. Depending on the length you’re allowed, you can omit the elaboration sentences.
Start with a topic sentence about yourself. Follow that with a sentence about where you went to school and the degrees you earned. Next, describe your relevant work experience. The sentence after that should list a few of your most prestigious publications. Including more than five publications is unnecessary and sometimes frowned upon. Finally, describe your research interests and why the subject is so important to you. You can also use a lighter detail about yourself if that is acceptable in your field of study.
Elaboration on Education
Elaboration on Work Experience
Elaboration on Publications
Example Biographical Statement
Here is an example of a biographical statement:
Jane Doe, Ph.D., is a novelist and art critic in Tallahassee, Florida. She has a Ph.D. in rhetoric from Harvard, where she studied the symbolism used in political ads and speeches. Before Harvard, she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa. She currently teaches creative nonfiction in the English department of Florida State University. Her latest book, "Untitled," was published by Penguin Random House in 2016. Her essays frequently appear in The New York Times. When she isn’t writing about politics or reading the newspaper, Dr. Doe raises and shows standard poodles with her husband, Clyde.
What Is a Biographical Research Paper?
A biographical research paper is very different from biographical statements and summaries. Biographical statements and summaries are used to share information about yourself. They usually accompany some sort of published material, like a book or research paper.
A biographical research paper, on the other hand, is a short form of biography about another person. Biographical research papers can be written about anyone living or dead, but teachers usually assign this kind of work so students can learn about important historical figures and practice their research skills.
How to Write a Biography About Someone Else
Writing any length of biography, whether it is a biographical research paper or a full-length book, takes a great deal of research and fact checking. To write a biographical research paper, determine the person or historical figure about whom you would like to write. Research him on the internet to figure out what has been written about him already. Figure out a few key elements of his life on which you would like to focus. Read as many articles and books about him as you can. Save quotes and cite them as you’re writing, synthesizing your own story of his life with the information you’ve found.
How to Research for a Biography
If you’re going to write a biography, especially if you want to take on a larger project like a book, you will need to do an immense amount of research. The best biographies are told like stories with characters, action and scenes. Rendering stories like this requires finding first-person accounts that describe the scenes you want to make into a story. When researching a historical figure, the best information for biographies can be found in diaries, letters and other primary sources of that time. Try to find as many sources as you can. If you have multiple sources for one event, you can compare the way they describe the event and use details from all of them to create a more accurate picture. You can also interview scholars who specialize in the person about whom you are writing.
Writing a biography on a living person can be easier in some ways. Talking to that person and interviewing her directly will give you the best information. You can also talk to people who know her and use this information to create a more full picture of her life the same way you would compare diary entries and letters by and about a historical figure.
Either way, as you are researching, be sure to take accurate notes. Not only do you need to write down everything you do, read and discover, you also need to be prepared to quote and cite your sources. Being able to create a full bibliography that cites all of your research is an integral aspect to maintaining the validity of your work. In other words, your bibliography can help you prove that the statements you have written in your biography are true because they’re based on valid primary and secondary sources.
How Do You Write a Bibliography?
To write a bibliography, start with the list of sources you are using to write your biography. If you have copied down their publication information, you already have everything you need to write a bibliography. If you haven’t, you will need to go back and find the following information about each individual source: the source’s title, its author, the city where it was published, the publisher and the year it was published. For sources that are part of a larger work, like an anthology, include the editor of the anthology as well as the title. When you quote specific passages from a book, write down their page numbers. You will need to cite those in the body of your paper. However, if you are writing something longer, like a book, citing page numbers may be unnecessary.
Example Bibliographical Citation
Author’s Surname, Author’s First Name. “Title of Article in Quotations.” Title of Book in Italics. Publisher, publication date, location of publisher. Page numbers.
Citation requirements vary by type of publication. For example, citations of digital publications must include a URL and the access date in addition to the date it was published. Look up specific requirements for different kinds of works or ask your teacher.
You must create a citation entry for everything you read, watch or listen to while researching your biography. Organize entries in alphabetical order by the author's last name on the last page of your report. Title this page “bibliography.” Bibliographies and works cited for longer works will require more than one page.
- Enago Academy: How to Write a Good Academic Biography (Part 1)
- University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration: Examples of Biographical Statement and Abstract
- George M. Pullman Educational Foundation: Professional Bio – Writing 101
- University of Southern California Libraries: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Primary Sources
- EasyBib: How to Cite a Book in MLA 7
Rebecca Renner is a teacher and freelance writer from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour and elsewhere.