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How to write a biography essay

by tutlance

Essay writing is an inevitable part of a student’s life, not to mention there is a variety of these pieces. One of the writings that a learner will encounter is the biography essay. Students are advised to distinguish between a biography and an autobiography. If you are in a history, cultural studies or literature class you will certainly write some biography essays. Most students in arts faculty are required to write this type of essay. While some essays do not necessarily require any writing style, biography essays mostly follow MLA or Chicago styles. Therefore, you must be familiar with these formats before starting to work on your paper.

What is a biography essay?

A biography essay is a piece of academic writing that tells the story of another person’s life. It is not to be confused with an autobiography that tells your personal story. Hence, you should write a biography essay in third-person language. If you have always looked up to a certain person, this essay is your chance to unveil information about them. Like other essays, you need a compelling introduction, informative body paragraphs, and an appealing conclusion. An effectively written biography will provide insights as to why that person was of interest. The reader will see the person’s achievements and their overall impact. Below are some useful tips and guidelines that help you craft a great biography essay.

How to Write a Biography Essay Step by step

1. Pre-writing

Any essay requires planning before diving into the actual writing process. The pre-writing stage helps the writer to come up with adequate content for the essay.

Choose the subject

Identify the person whose story you want to tell and seek their permission first, especially if you will publish it. If the person does not agree, you might have to choose another subject. The person you intend to write about should be a popular one. Politicians, musicians, artists, authors, philosophers, and activists are some of the people with readily available information. It is also ideal to choose a subject you are interested in. What do you already know about this person?

Gather information about the subject

Use available resources to collect all the information you can about this person. You can look at books, newspapers, magazines, journals or reliable online sources. A list of research questions will make it easier to come up with the information you want to discuss. Note down the dates, events, facts, quotes or names relating to your subject. Use a wide number of sources to compare the information available about this subject. If they are available people, schedule dates where you can interview them. Alternatively, you can gather information from close persons like spouses, siblings, children, workmates or friends. This approach is crucial if there is some information you cannot find from the other sources.

Visit places that are important to the subject

If this individual made a breakthrough or encountered a life-changing event in a certain place, visit such locations. This way, you will relate more to the occurrence from that place. You can also identify the historical events that were happening during your subject’s life. If it was during a war, financial crisis or such, you will understand this person better. What were the cultural trends during this person’s growth? How did they change them positively or negatively? A person’s surrounding is likely to affect the decisions they make bout their life.

Make your subject’s timeline

Since you have collected much information about this time, organize their life from birth upwards. List down the events and occurrences from the person’s childhood to their death or later years. Be keen on the dates since they will relate to major historical events that may have changed your subject’s life.

2. Drafting your biography essay

Choose how to organize your essay

You can organize the information gathered about your subject in several ways. Choose the most ideal one for you; the one that will help you tell you about this person exhaustively.

  • Linear narrative arc

This approach tells the story of a person in chronological order. It starts from birth, childhood, young adulthood, adulthood, later years or death. Use a timeline to identify the events that occurred in this person’s life. Tell about the turnarounds, breakthroughs or depressions as at the dates they happened.

  • Non-linear structure

In this method, you will use flashbacks or tell the story in reverse order. While you can insert new information at any point, this is a more complex approach.

  • Thematic structure

Rather than writing the essay in chronological order, the writer chooses themes. This method does not necessarily tell the story but ideas regarding the subject.

The most standard format of writing biographies is the linear arc.

Develop a thesis statement

Since you have information about your subject’s entire life, you are ready to write a thesis statement. It will identify your subject, achievements, and impact on others.

Introduction – How to start a biography essay

Write an introduction that will automatically get the reader interested in reading the entire piece. Start with an interesting quote, anecdote on or by the subject, or a fascinating achievement.

Write your body paragraphs

This section supports your thesis by the use of quotes, milestones, and experiences of your subject. Discuss any themes, patterns or habits that grew your subject to the person they became. Remember to include the dates and historical events that go in line with this person’s life. What activities was this person interested in? Talk about films, sporting activities, political forums, and so on. Also, highlight the kind of lifestyle that your subject led and any changes in the same. If there is any contradictory information about this person, mention it in this section.

Conclude your essay

End your essay with a bang by connecting the person’s life with any legacy they created. In this paragraph, your opinion or reason for interest in this person is welcome. Ensure that your conclusion fully supports your thesis statement and the information provided.

3. Polish your biography essay

Having told the story about your subject, review your work to ensure you did not omit any crucial details. Does your essay flow or are there loopholes that raise eyebrows? Make sure that you have observed the proper formatting and followed the required style.

How to write a 5 paragraph biography essay: Examples

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