Tips for Writing a Biography

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AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach

How to Write a Biography

At some point in their academic careers, all students will be required to write a biography. In this guide, learn how to write a biography with tips for every phase of the process, from planning to research and writing. And because a biography is only as good as the author’s research, find links below to the best sources of biographical information on the Web, including interviews and obituaries.

Tips for Writing a Biography

Get advice on how to write a biography from those who have done it before. The following resources range from brief lists to comprehensives tutorials on biography writing.

Top Sites for Biography Tips

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Researching for a Biography

Encyclopedias, newsmagazines and history Web sites are good places to begin your research. Many long-lived newspapers and magazines have made their story archives available online. Some require fees to access content, but many provide free content. If possible, search for contemporary articles on your person of interest. These will provide a perspective not available in a historical retelling.

Top Sites for Biography Research

Researching entertainers:
Researching athletes:
Researching U.S. presidents and first ladies:
Researching Nobel Prize winners:
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Interviews have the potential to offer writers an intimate window into a person’s world, and their firsthand accounts can lend useful substance to a biography.

Insights for Interviews

  • When searching for biographical information, don’t forget to search for interviews. Add the term “interview” to a person’s name when doing a Web search. Chances are if they’ve done an interview, you’ll find record of it online.

Top Sites for Interviews

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Obituaries are a useful source of biographical information for deceased persons. Found in all major newspapers, obituaries contain details of a person’s life and work, and describe their relevance and cultural impact.

Insights for Obituaries

  • Rather than go directly to one specific paper for an obituary, try getting a broad cross-section by using a search engine. For example, if you’re looking for obits on British Author J.G. Ballard, enter “jg ballard obituary” into your favorite search engine. Such a search will pull up obits written on the author from the top British and American newspapers.

Top Sites for Obituaries

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