You will be writing a biographical sketch of the person you selected that will:
- Be 12-15 pages in length.
- Be based on a combination of primary sources (at least 8) and secondary sources (at least 12).
- Follow the writing guidelines established on your syllabus (font, spacing, page numbers, etc.)
- Include footnotes
- Include a bibliography that lists primary sources first, followed by secondary sources.
Basic Biographical Details include: Date and place of birth and death, family information, lifetime accomplishments, major events of the person’s life.
While this information is necessary to your project, these dry facts alone don’t really make a very good biography.
Effects/impact on society, historical significance, and historical context are far more significant, as we’ve discussed throughout the semester. What are those contexts for the person you’re writing about? What was her impact on society? A person’s impact could simply mean one’s the effect she had on her local community or a contribution to more significant events (Civil War, anti-slavery, etc.) Consider all of this in writing your paper.
You’ll want to start off with great first sentence. It’s a good idea to begin with a really interesting statement, a little known fact, or really intriguing event.
You should avoid starting out with a standard, but boring line like:
“June Carter Cash was born Valerie June Carter in Virginia in 1929.”
A more interesting beginning might be something like this:
“While June Carter Cash may be best known for singing and songwriting, she was also an author, philanthropist, and an actor, starring as “Momma” Dewey in Robert Duvall‘s 1998 movie The Apostle.”
You’ll have to make sure your beginning is motivating, but it should also be relevant. The next sentence or two should lead in to your thesis statement, or main message of your biography.
You chose a certain person because you believe she is interesting, so you certainly don’t want to burden your paper with an inventory of boring facts. Your goal is to impress your reader (Dr. Cox) with your mastery of the facts, the historical milieu in which this person operated, and, more than anything else PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR WRITING. That means proofreading your work, following the Chicago Manual of Style, and taking care to avoid misspellings, typos, poor transitions, passive voice, etc.