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How to Write a Biography (Examples & Templates)

A biography is a written account of a person’s life that details their life in chronological order. Another person usually writes this detailed account, and it contains reports of their childhood, career, major life events, relationships, and social impact. It also details their relationships with their family, children, and life accomplishments.

The best way to find out more about a popular figure is through reading their biographies, so you need to make sure you get the correct information. Before writing a biography, you need to do a lot of research and interviews to represent a person’s life accurately.

Types of Biography

A biography is the story of someone’s life as written by another writer. Most biographies of popular figures are written years, or even decades, after their deaths. Authors write biographies of popular figures due to either a lack of information on the subject or personal interest.

A biography aims to share a person’s story or highlight a part of their life.

There are different types of biographies, depending on the story. Some biographies are written true to the story, while some are written as fictional works. Biographies can give you true understanding of a person on an internal as well as external level along with a lot of life lessons.


An autobiography is different from a biography because it is written by the subject of the story, themselves. The author writes in the first-person narrative, and it flows step-by-step like a story of their life. Autobiographies contain personal accounts of the subject’s life, along with their perspectives and opinions on events in their life.

How To Write a Biography

Pick a subject.

Picking a subject is the first step in writing a biography. You can pick an already famous person or a relatively unknown person with a great life story. If you already have a few in mind, you can start by asking yourself some questions such as;

  • What has the subject accomplished that makes them a good subject?
  • Have they had an impact on society?
  • Is the subject a celebrity or a well-known personality?
  • Will the biography appeal to a wide audience?

Get Permission

When you pick a subject, the next thing to do is to get permission from them or their family or rights owners. Although, with some historical figures, there may not be any need for permission. Getting permission from your subject makes it easier for you to get stories to put into your book. You can get the chance to obtain additional personal stories and anecdotes that will make your book more interesting by doing so as well.

Do The Research

Research is the most important part of a biography’s process as the entire content of the book is dependent on it. Irrespective of what you know about the subject, you need to carry out as much research as possible to get the story’s facts precisely.

Biography research comes from various sources, depending on the book’s subject. Firsthand reports from family, friends, or personal accounts from the subjects are primary sources. They are usually the most accurate and reliable, and they are crucial for a biography. Secondary sources come from other sources like magazines or documentaries.

Pick a Format

Biographies come in various formats, with each of them having their pros and cons. A typical biography will start at the beginning, usually with the birth and childhood of the subject. Yet, if the biography’s theme involves a different event in their life, the author may want to explore the flashback option or one with concurrent events from different times.

Usually, biographies have a theme or a general life lesson at the center. The author’s role is to tell the subject’s story leading up to the major event.

Which-ever format you choose should place the theme at the center, with the other events detailing the journey.

Create a Timeline Of The Story

Since a biography takes place in chronological order, there needs to be a timeline of the events in the right order. The timeline should contain the key events in the subject’s life, in the order the author plans on revealing them. A great way to declutter the story and keep it interesting is to use flashbacks . This way, the author can introduce past events and explain later events excluding the element of monotony.

Add In Your Thoughts

The good thing about biographies is that you don’t have to stick to the hard facts only. As the author, you can share your opinions and emotions in writing. The author has the freedom to do this by commenting on a significant action by the subject in a manner that describes why they feel the subject may have done what they did.

The author can also include commentary on events depicted in the biography – how it was influenced society or its impact on the lives around them. Recounting these events through a different perspective can make the biography more relatable and interesting to read.


Why is a biography template important.

A biography template has an outline that makes the writing easier for the author. Biography templates usually contain a sample timeline, format, and questions that provide more information about the subject. With a great biography template, you can cut your writing time in half and spend less time coming up with an outline.

How are biographies better in comparison to autobiographies

Since a different person writes biographies, they tend to be more objective and somewhat accurate than autobiographies. An autobiography tells things from the author’s perspective, so their views and perspective cloud it. Thus, a biography will likely tell a more factual story.

These are the important steps you need to take to help you write a great biography. Now, to make things easier for you, we have a free customizable autobiography and biography template that you can use to start your first book. Get the template and start writing today

What are some of the most important elements to keep in consideration while writing a biography?

Any author looking to write a biography must consider the factors below. They aren’t the only important factors, but a biography isn’t complete without them. • Date and place of their birth • Academic background • Professional expertise • Death, if deceased • Facts and anecdotes about the person • Main accomplishments • Detailed accounts of their child and adult life

Biographies tell the untold stories of some incredibly relevant people in the world. But biographies are not always strictly accurate. So, every biographer needs to follow the necessary steps to provide a biography with all the requirements.

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Last updated on Dec 8th, 2023

How to Write a Biography

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Table of Contents

How to write a biography can be a fun challenge as you share someone’s life story with readers. You may need to write a biography for a class or decide to write a biography as a personal project. Once you’ve identified the subject of your biography, do your research to learn as much as you can about them. Then, immerse yourself in writing the biography and revising it until it’s best. What I am going to share with you in today’s post is how to write a biography. If you want to know the rules of how to write a biography correctly then this post of ours is essential for you. 


While it’s true that most biographies involve people in the public eye, sometimes the subject is less well-known. But most of the time, famous or not, the person we’re talking about has an incredible life. Although your students may have a basic understanding of How to write a biography, you should take some time before putting pen to paper to come up with a very clear definition of biography.

Before knowing how to write a biography, let’s first understand what a biography is. A biography is an account of a person’s life written by someone else. Although there is a genre called fictional biography, by definition biographies are mostly non-fiction. In general, biographies trace the subject’s life from early childhood to the present day or until death if the subject is deceased. 

Biography writing is not limited to describing the bare facts of a person’s life. Instead of just listing basic details about their upbringing, interests, education, work, relationships, and deaths, a well-written biography should also paint a picture of a person’s personality as well as that person’s life experiences.

Tips and Tricks For How To Write a Biography

1. ask the subject’s permission to write a biography.

Here are the first tips on how to write a biography. Before starting your research, make sure you get your subject’s consent to write their biography. Ask them if they’re ready to be the subject. Getting their permission will make writing a biography much easier and ensure that they are open to information about their lives.

If the theme does not allow you to write a bio, you can choose another theme. If you decide to publish a profile without the subject’s permission, you may be subject to legal action from the subject. 

If the topic no longer exists, you don’t need to ask permission to write about them. 

2. Research primary sources on the topic

Primary sources may include books, letters, photographs, diaries, newspaper clippings, magazines, Internet articles, magazines, videos, interviews, existing biographies, or autobiographies on the subject. Find these resources in your local library or online. Read as much as you can about the topic and highlight any important information you come across in your sources. 

You can create research questions to help you focus your research on this topic, such as: 

What do I find interesting about this topic? Why is this topic important to readers? 

3. Conduct interviews with subjects and their relatives

Interviewing people will turn your research into reality: the people you interview will be able to tell you stories you can’t find in history books. Interview the subject as well as people close to them, such as spouses, friends, business associates, family members, co-workers, and friends. Interview in person, over the phone, or via email.

For in-person interviews, record them with a voice recorder or voice recorder on your computer or phone. You may need to interview the subject and others multiple times to get the documents you need.

4. Visit places important to the topic

Whenever you want to know how to write a biography, to understand the history of the subject, spend time in places and areas that are significant to the subject. This may be the subject’s childhood home or neighborhood. You can also visit the subject’s workplace and regular meeting places. 

You may also want to visit areas where the subject made important decisions or breakthroughs in their life. Being physically present in the area can give you an idea of what your subjects may have felt and help you write about their experiences more effectively.

5. Research the time and place of the subject’s life

Contextualize your subject’s life by observing what’s going on around them. Consider the period in which they grew up as well as the history of the places they lived. Study the economics, politics, and culture of their time. See current events happening where they live or work.

When you studying how to write a biography, ask yourself about time and place: 

What were the social norms of this period? 

What happened economically and politically? 

How has the political and social environment influenced this topic?

6. Make a timeline of a person’s life

To help you organize your research, create a timeline of a person’s entire life, from birth. Draw a long line on a piece of paper and sketch out as many details about a person’s life as possible. Highlight important events or moments on the timeline. Include important dates, locations, and names. 

If you think about how to write a biography You can also include historical events or moments that affect the topic in the timeline. For example, a conflict or civil war may occur during a person’s lifetime and affect their life.

7. Focus on important events and milestones

Major events can include marriage, birth, or death during a person’s lifetime. They may also achieve milestones like their first successful business venture or their first civil rights march. Highlights key moments in a person’s life so readers clearly understand what’s important to that person and how they influence the world around them.

For example, you might focus on one person’s achievements in the civil rights movement. You could write an entire section about their contributions and participation in major civil rights marches in their hometowns.

8. Cite all sources used in  biography

Most biographies will include information from sources such as books, journal articles, magazines, and interviews. Remember to cite any sources that you directly quote or paraphrase. You can use citations, footnotes, or endnotes. If the biography is for a course, use MLA, APA, or Chicago Style citations according to your instructor’s preference.

9. Reread the biography

Check the biography for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Circle all punctuation marks in the text to confirm they are correct. Read the text backward to check for spelling and grammar errors. 

Having a biography full of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors can frustrate readers and lead to poor grades if you submit your work to the class.

10. Show your biography to others to get their feedback

It is a momentous step of how to write a biography. Once you have completed your draft biography, show it to your colleagues, friends, teachers, and mentors to get their feedback. Ask them if they have a good understanding of someone’s life and if the biography is easy to read. Be open to feedback so you can improve the biography and make it error-free. Revise profile based on feedback from others. Don’t be afraid to trim or edit your biography to suit your readers’ needs.

11. Use flashbacks

Flashbacks happen when you move from the present to the past. You can start with the present moment, and then bring in a scene from the person’s past. Or you could have one chapter focusing on the present and one focusing on the past, alternating as you go.

The flashback scene must be as detailed and realistic as the present-day scene. Use your research notes and interviews with subjects to better understand their past to reminisce. 

For example, you can move from a person’s death in the present to reminiscing about their favorite childhood memory.

12. Outline Your Story Chronologically 

This is another important step in how to write a biography is to write an outline that describes your story in chronological order. An outline is a tool that helps you visualize the structure and key elements of your story. This can help you organize your story into chapters and sections. 

You can write your plan in a digital document or draw it with pen and paper. Remember to store your outline in an easily accessible place so you can refer to it throughout the writing process.

What citation style should I use for my biography?

Use MLA, APA, or Chicago Style citations based on your instructor’s preference when citing sources in your biography.

Should I include personal opinions in a biography?

No, a biography should be objective and based on facts. Avoid injecting personal opinions or bias into the narrative.

What’s the difference between a biography and an autobiography?

A biography is written by someone else about a person’s life, while an autobiography is written by the subject themselves about their own life.

Can I write a biography about a living person?

Yes, you can write a biography about a living person with their consent. Ensure you respect their privacy and follow ethical guidelines when writing about them.


Other than creating a sense of closure, there are no set rules about how a biography ends. An author may want to summarize their main points about the subject of their biography. If the person is still alive, the author can inform the reader about their condition or circumstances. If the person has died, inheritance can be discussed. Authors can also remind readers how they can learn from the biographical subject. Sharing a closing quote or about a person can leave the audience with a point to consider or discuss in more detail.

For further insights into writing and to avoid common mistakes, check out our article on Most Common Mistakes in Writing . Additionally, explore the Best Writing Tools for Writers to enhance your writing skills and discover the tools that can assist you. If you’re looking to improve your typing speed and accuracy, our article on How to Type Faster with Accuracy offers valuable tips.

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Biographies are big business. Whether in book form or Hollywood biopics, the lives of the famous and sometimes not-so-famous fascinate us.

While it’s true that most biographies are about people who are in the public eye, sometimes the subject is less well-known. Primarily, though, famous or not, the person who is written about has led an incredible life.

In this article, we will explain biography writing in detail for teachers and students so they can create their own.

While your students will most likely have a basic understanding of a biography, it’s worth taking a little time before they put pen to paper to tease out a crystal-clear definition of one.

Visual Writing

What Is a Biography?

how to write a biography | how to start an autobiography | How to Write a Biography |

A biography is an account of someone’s life written by someone else . While there is a genre known as a fictional biography, for the most part, biographies are, by definition, nonfiction.

Generally speaking, biographies provide an account of the subject’s life from the earliest days of childhood to the present day or, if the subject is deceased, their death.

The job of a biography is more than just to outline the bare facts of a person’s life.

Rather than just listing the basic details of their upbringing, hobbies, education, work, relationships, and death, a well-written biography should also paint a picture of the subject’s personality and experience of life.

how to write a biography | Biography Autobiography 2022 | How to Write a Biography |

Full Biographies

Teaching unit.

Teach your students everything they need to know about writing an AUTOBIOGRAPHY and a BIOGRAPHY.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ( 26 reviews )

Features of a Biography

Before students begin writing a biography, they’ll need to have a firm grasp of the main features of a Biography. An excellent way to determine how well they understand these essential elements is to ask them to compile a checklist like the one-blow

Their checklists should contain the items below at a minimum. Be sure to help them fill in any gaps before moving on to the writing process.

The purpose of a biography is to provide an account of someone’s life.

Biography structure.

ORIENTATION (BEGINNING) Open your biography with a strong hook to grab the reader’s attention

SEQUENCING: In most cases, biographies are written in chronological order unless you are a very competent writer consciously trying to break from this trend.

COVER: childhood, upbringing, education, influences, accomplishments, relationships, etc. – everything that helps the reader to understand the person.

CONCLUSION: Wrap your biography up with some details about what the subject is doing now if they are still alive. If they have passed away, make mention of what impact they have made and what their legacy is or will be.


LANGUAGE Use descriptive and figurative language that will paint images inside your audience’s minds as they read. Use time connectives to link events.

PERSPECTIVE Biographies are written from the third person’s perspective.

DETAILS: Give specific details about people, places, events, times, dates, etc. Reflect on how events shaped the subject. You might want to include some relevant photographs with captions. A timeline may also be of use depending upon your subject and what you are trying to convey to your audience.

TENSE Written in the past tense (though ending may shift to the present/future tense)


Like any form of writing, you will find it simple if you have a plan and follow it through. These steps will ensure you cover the essential bases of writing a biography essay.

Firstly, select a subject that inspires you. Someone whose life story resonates with you and whose contribution to society intrigues you. The next step is to conduct thorough research. Engage in extensive reading, explore various sources, watch documentaries, and glean all available information to provide a comprehensive account of the person’s life.

Creating an outline is essential to organize your thoughts and information. The outline should include the person’s early life, education, career, achievements, and any other significant events or contributions. It serves as a map for the writing process, ensuring that all vital information is included.

Your biography should have an engaging introduction that captivates the reader’s attention and provides background information on the person you’re writing about. It should include a thesis statement summarising the biography’s main points.

Writing a biography in chronological order is crucial . You should begin with the person’s early life and move through their career and achievements. This approach clarifies how the person’s life unfolded and how they accomplished their goals.

A biography should be written in a narrative style , capturing the essence of the person’s life through vivid descriptions, anecdotes, and quotes. Avoid dry, factual writing and focus on creating a compelling narrative that engages the reader.

Adding personal insights and opinions can enhance the biography’s overall impact, providing a unique perspective on the person’s achievements, legacy, and impact on society.

Editing and proofreading are vital elements of the writing process. Thoroughly reviewing your biography ensures that the writing is clear, concise, and error-free. You can even request feedback from someone else to ensure that it is engaging and well-written.

Finally, including a bibliography at the end of your biography is essential. It gives credit to the sources that were used during research, such as books, articles, interviews, and websites.

Tips for Writing a Brilliant Biography

Biography writing tip #1: choose your subject wisely.

There are several points for students to reflect on when deciding on a subject for their biography. Let’s take a look at the most essential points to consider when deciding on the subject for a biography:

Interest: To produce a biography will require sustained writing from the student. That’s why students must choose their subject well. After all, a biography is an account of someone’s entire life to date. Students must ensure they choose a subject that will sustain their interest throughout the research, writing, and editing processes.

Merit: Closely related to the previous point, students must consider whether the subject merits the reader’s interest. Aside from pure labors of love, writing should be undertaken with the reader in mind. While producing a biography demands sustained writing from the author, it also demands sustained reading from the reader.

Therefore, students should ask themselves if their chosen subject has had a life worthy of the reader’s interest and the time they’d need to invest in reading their biography.

Information: Is there enough information available on the subject to fuel the writing of an entire biography? While it might be a tempting idea to write about a great-great-grandfather’s experience in the war. There would be enough interest there to sustain the author’s and the reader’s interest, but do you have enough access to information about their early childhood to do the subject justice in the form of a biography?

Biography Writing Tip #2: R esearch ! Research! Research!

While the chances are good that the student already knows quite a bit about the subject they’ve chosen. Chances are 100% that they’ll still need to undertake considerable research to write their biography.

As with many types of writing , research is an essential part of the planning process that shouldn’t be overlooked. If students wish to give as complete an account of their subject’s life as possible, they’ll need to put in the time at the research stage.

An effective way to approach the research process is to:

1. Compile a chronological timeline of the central facts, dates, and events of the subject’s life

2. Compile detailed descriptions of the following personal traits:

  •      Physical looks
  •      Character traits
  •      Values and beliefs

3. Compile some research questions based on different topics to provide a focus for the research:

  • Childhood : Where and when were they born? Who were their parents? Who were the other family members? What education did they receive?
  • Obstacles: What challenges did they have to overcome? How did these challenges shape them as individuals?
  • Legacy: What impact did this person have on the world and/or the people around them?
  • Dialogue & Quotes: Dialogue and quotations by and about the subject are a great way to bring color and life to a biography. Students should keep an eagle eye out for the gems that hide amid their sources.

As the student gets deeper into their research, new questions will arise that can further fuel the research process and help to shape the direction the biography will ultimately go in.

Likewise, during the research, themes will often begin to suggest themselves. Exploring these themes is essential to bring depth to biography, but we’ll discuss this later in this article.

Research Skills:

Researching for biography writing is an excellent way for students to hone their research skills in general. Developing good research skills is essential for future academic success. Students will have opportunities to learn how to:

  • Gather relevant information
  • Evaluate different information sources
  • Select suitable information
  • Organize information into a text.

Students will have access to print and online information sources, and, in some cases, they may also have access to people who knew or know the subject (e.g. biography of a family member).

These days, much of the research will likely take place online. It’s crucial, therefore, to provide your students with guidance on how to use the internet safely and evaluate online sources for reliability. This is the era of ‘ fake news ’ and misinformation after all!


how to write a biography | research skills 1 | How to Write a Biography |


⭐How to correctly ask questions to search engines on all devices.

⭐ How to filter and refine your results to find exactly what you want every time.

⭐ Essential Research and critical thinking skills for students.

⭐ Plagiarism, Citing and acknowledging other people’s work.

⭐ How to query, synthesize and record your findings logically.

BIOGRAPHY WRITING Tip #3: Find Your Themes In Biography Writing

Though predominantly a nonfiction genre, the story still plays a significant role in good biography writing. The skills of characterization and plot structuring are transferable here. And, just like in fiction, exploring themes in a biographical work helps connect the personal to the universal. Of course, these shouldn’t be forced; this will make the work seem contrived, and the reader may lose faith in the truthfulness of the account. A biographer needs to gain and maintain the trust of the reader.

Fortunately, themes shouldn’t need to be forced. A life well-lived is full of meaning, and the themes the student writer is looking for will emerge effortlessly from the actions and events of the subject’s life. It’s just a case of learning how to spot them.

One way to identify the themes in a life is to look for recurring events or situations in a person’s life. These should be apparent from the research completed previously. The students should seek to identify these patterns that emerge in the subject’s life. For example, perhaps they’ve had to overcome various obstacles throughout different periods of their life. In that case, the theme of overcoming adversity is present and has been identified.

Usually, a biography has several themes running throughout, so be sure your students work to identify more than one theme in their subject’s life.

BIOGRAPHY WRITING Tip: #4 Put Something of Yourself into the Writing

While the defining feature of a biography is that it gives an account of a person’s life, students must understand that this is not all a biography does. Relating the facts and details of a subject’s life is not enough. The student biographer should not be afraid to share their thoughts and feelings with the reader throughout their account of their subject’s life.

The student can weave some of their personality into the fabric of the text by providing commentary and opinion as they relate the events of the person’s life and the wider social context at the time. Unlike the detached and objective approach we’d expect to find in a history textbook, in a biography, student-writers should communicate their enthusiasm for their subject in their writing.

This makes for a more intimate experience for the reader, as they get a sense of getting to know the author and the subject they are writing about.

Biography Examples For Students

  • Year 5 Example
  • Year 7 Example
  • Year 9 Example

“The Rock ‘n’ Roll King: Elvis Presley”

Elvis Aaron Presley, born on January 8, 1935, was an amazing singer and actor known as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Even though he’s been dead for nearly 50 years, I can’t help but be fascinated by his incredible life!

Elvis grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, in a tiny house with his parents and twin brother. His family didn’t have much money, but they shared a love for music. Little did they know Elvis would become a music legend!

When he was only 11 years old, Elvis got his first guitar. He taught himself to play and loved singing gospel songs. As he got older, he started combining different music styles like country, blues, and gospel to create a whole new sound – that’s Rock ‘n’ Roll!

In 1954, at the age of 19, Elvis recorded his first song, “That’s All Right.” People couldn’t believe how unique and exciting his music was. His famous hip-swinging dance moves also made him a sensation!

Elvis didn’t just rock the music scene; he also starred in movies like “Love Me Tender” and “Jailhouse Rock.” But fame came with challenges. Despite facing ups and downs, Elvis kept spreading happiness through his music.

how to write a biography | A4H32CWFYQ72GPUNCIRTS5Y7P4 | How to Write a Biography |

Tragically, Elvis passed away in 1977, but his music and charisma live on. Even today, people worldwide still enjoy his songs like “Hound Dog” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Elvis Presley’s legacy as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll will live forever.

Long Live the King: I wish I’d seen him.

Elvis Presley, the Rock ‘n’ Roll legend born on January 8, 1935, is a captivating figure that even a modern-day teen like me can’t help but admire. As I delve into his life, I wish I could have experienced the magic of his live performances.

Growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis faced challenges but found solace in music. At 11, he got his first guitar, a symbol of his journey into the world of sound. His fusion of gospel, country, and blues into Rock ‘n’ Roll became a cultural phenomenon.

The thought of being in the audience during his early performances, especially when he recorded “That’s All Right” at 19, sends shivers down my spine. Imagining the crowd’s uproar and feeling the revolutionary energy of that moment is a dream I wish I could have lived.

Elvis wasn’t just a musical prodigy; he was a dynamic performer. His dance moves, the embodiment of rebellion, and his roles in films like “Love Me Tender” and “Jailhouse Rock” made him a true icon.

After watching him on YouTube, I can’t help but feel a little sad that I’ll never witness the King’s live performances. The idea of swaying to “Hound Dog” or being enchanted by “Can’t Help Falling in Love” in person is a missed opportunity. Elvis may have left us in 1977, but he was the king of rock n’ roll. Long live the King!

Elvis Presley: A Teen’s Take on the Rock ‘n’ Roll Icon”

Elvis Presley, born January 8, 1935, was a revolutionary force in the music world, earning his title as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Exploring his life, even as a 16-year-old today, I’m captivated by the impact he made.

Hailing from Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis grew up in humble beginnings, surrounded by the love of his parents and twin brother. It’s inspiring to think that, despite financial challenges, this young man would redefine the music scene.

At 11, Elvis got his first guitar, sparking a self-taught journey into music. His early gospel influences evolved into a unique fusion of country, blues, and gospel, creating the electrifying genre of Rock ‘n’ Roll. In 1954, at only 19, he recorded “That’s All Right,” marking the birth of a musical legend.

Elvis wasn’t just a musical innovator; he was a cultural phenomenon. His rebellious dance moves and magnetic stage presence challenged the norms. He transitioned seamlessly into acting, starring in iconic films like “Love Me Tender” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

how to write a biography | Elvis Presley promoting Jailhouse Rock | How to Write a Biography |

However, fame came at a cost, and Elvis faced personal struggles. Despite the challenges, his music continued to resonate. Even now, classics like “Hound Dog” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” transcend generations.

Elvis Presley’s impact on music and culture is undeniable. He was known for his unique voice, charismatic persona, and electrifying performances. He sold over one billion records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling solo artists in history. He received numerous awards throughout his career, including three Grammy Awards and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Elvis’s influence can still be seen in today’s music. Many contemporary artists, such as Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, and Justin Timberlake, have cited Elvis as an inspiration. His music continues to be featured in movies, TV shows, and commercials.

Elvis left us in 1977, but his legacy lives on. I appreciate his breaking barriers and fearlessly embracing his artistic vision. Elvis Presley’s impact on music and culture is timeless, a testament to the enduring power of his artistry. His music has inspired generations and will continue to do so for many years to come.

how to write a biography | LITERACY IDEAS FRONT PAGE 1 | How to Write a Biography |

Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.


We have compiled a sequence of biography-related lessons or teaching ideas that you can follow as you please. They are straightforward enough for most students to follow without further instruction.


This session aims to give students a broader understanding of what makes a good biography.

Once your students have compiled a comprehensive checklist of the main features of a biography, allow them to use it to assess some biographies from your school library or on the internet using the feature checklist.

When students have assessed a selection of biographies, take some time as a class to discuss them. You can base the discussion around the following prompts:

  • Which biographies covered all the criteria from their checklist?
  • Which biographies didn’t?
  • Which biography was the most readable in terms of structure?
  • Which biography do you think was the least well-structured? How would you improve this?

Looking at how other writers have interpreted the form will help students internalize the necessary criteria before attempting to produce a biography. Once students have a clear understanding of the main features of the biography, they’re ready to begin work on writing a biography.

When the time does come to put pen to paper, be sure they’re armed with the following top tips to help ensure they’re as well prepared as possible.


This session aims to guide students through the process of selecting the perfect biography subject.

Instruct students to draw up a shortlist of three potential subjects for the biography they’ll write.

Using the three criteria mentioned in the writing guide (Interest, Merit, and Information), students award each potential subject a mark out of 5 for each of the criteria. In this manner, students can select the most suitable subject for their biography.


This session aims to get students into the researching phase, then prioritise and organise events chronologically.

Students begin by making a timeline of their subject’s life, starting with their birth and ending with their death or the present day. If the student has yet to make a final decision on the subject of their biography, a family member will often serve well for this exercise as a practice exercise.

Students should research and gather the key events of the person’s life, covering each period of their life from when they were a baby, through childhood and adolescence, right up to adulthood and old age. They should then organize these onto a timeline. Students can include photographs with captions if they have them.

They can present these to the class when they have finished their timelines.


Instruct students to look over their timeline, notes, and other research. Challenge them to identify three patterns that repeat throughout the subject’s life and sort all the related events and incidents into specific categories.

Students should then label each category with a single word. This is the thematic concept or the broad general underlying idea. After that, students should write a sentence or two expressing what the subject’s life ‘says’ about that concept.

This is known as the thematic statement . With the thematic concepts and thematic statements identified, the student now has some substantial ideas to explore that will help bring more profound meaning and wider resonance to their biography.


Instruct students to write a short objective account of an event in their own life. They can write about anyone from their past. It needn’t be more than a couple of paragraphs, but the writing should be strictly factual, focusing only on the objective details of what happened.

Once they have completed this, it’s time to rewrite the paragraph, but they should include some opinion and personal commentary this time.

The student here aims to inject some color and personality into their writing, to transform a detached, factual account into a warm, engaging story.


how to write a biography | biography and autobiography writing unit 1 | How to Write a Biography |


  • Understand the purpose of both forms of biography.
  • Explore the language and perspective of both.
  • Prompts and Challenges to engage students in writing a biography.
  • Dedicated lessons for both forms of biography.
  • Biographical Projects can expand students’ understanding of reading and writing a biography.

Biography Graphic Organizer

FREE Biography Writing Graphic Organizer

Use this valuable tool in the research and writing phases to keep your students on track and engaged.


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To Conclude

By this stage, your students should have an excellent technical overview of a biography’s essential elements.

They should be able to choose their subject in light of how interesting and worthy they are, as well as give consideration to the availability of information out there. They should be able to research effectively and identify emerging themes in their research notes. And finally, they should be able to bring some of their personality and uniqueness into their retelling of the life of another.

Remember that writing a biography is not only a great way to develop a student’s writing skills; it can be used in almost all curriculum areas. For example, to find out more about a historical figure in History, to investigate scientific contributions to Science, or to celebrate a hero from everyday life.

Biography is an excellent genre for students to develop their writing skills and to find inspiration in the lives of others in the world around them.


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How to write an Autobiography

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How to Write a Historical Recount Text

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15 Awesome Recount & Personal Narrative Topics

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So you’d like to know how to write a biography. We can help with that! Learning how to write a biography doesn't have to be intimidating. In fact, it can be a lot of fun!

In this guide, we show you how to write a biography from the initial book idea all the way through to publishing your book , and we throw in a free template to help you on your way. 

Ready to learn how to start a biography? Let’s jump right in. 

Get Our 6″ x 9″ Pre-Formatted Book Template for Word or Mac

We will send you a Book Template for US Trade (standard paperback size).

How to Write a Biography in 11 Simple Steps

Here are the steps you need to take to learn how to write a biography:

1. Read other biographies 

Austin Kleon, Author of Steal Like an Artist , says “the writer tries to master words. All of these pursuits involve the study of those who have come before and the effort to build upon their work in some way.”

In other words, if you want to learn how to write a biography, you need to read the best biographies written by other excellent authors!

In this case, it would behoove you to read several biographies – whether historical or celebrity biographies is up to you and your sub-genre. 

A good author to start with? Walter Isaacson . He’s written highly acclaimed biographies on everyone from Abraham Lincoln and Steve Jobs to Leonardo Da Vinci and Elon Musk. 

Once you've read some well-crafted biographies, you'll have a better idea of how to start a biography of your own.

2. Identify your subject

In order to learn how to start a biography, you need to choose who you’d like to write about – if you don’t already have someone in mind.  

The most important factor will be, of course, your interest in the person you’re planning to write about. You’ll spend months (or even years) deep-diving into this person’s history, so you want to choose someone who you’re unlikely to tire of. 

When learning how to write a biography, here are few factors to consider: 

  • How impactful has your potential subject’s life been? In other words, will people care to learn more about this person? 
  • How readily available is information about your potential subject? Biographies require extensive research, so it’s critical to choose someone who has enough information out there to dig into! Consider whether your subject has done interviews, written journals, has family or a partner willing to speak with you, and more. 
  • Are there already books written about your potential subject? Just because there’s an existing biography about the person you’re interested in doesn’t (necessarily) mean you can’t write another one. But if there are two or three biographies, you may want to reconsider. If you do choose to write about someone who has already been well-documented, be mindful about approaching the topic with a new angle or perspective. For instance, there are several biographies about George Washington, but author Alexis Coe wrote one about how Washington isn’t “quite the man we remember.” This brilliant iteration has over 12,000 ratings on Goodreads .
  • Is there a market demand for a book about your potential subject? If you’re learning how to write a biography, you need to be mindful of whether folks will want to read it. Do some research to determine if readers will be receptive to a book about the person you’re interested in. 

Related: Is a Biography a Primary Source?

3. Get permission to write about your subject

We’ll start by stating the obvious. It’s a good idea to get permission to write about your subject, even if you’re not legally required to. For one thing, it’s just good manners. Plus, you’re much more likely to get unfettered access to the information and sources you need to write your book. 

But do you have to get permission? It depends.

In some cases, if your subject is considered a “public figure,” permission may not be required. The definition of a public figure varies depending on your jurisdiction, so you should always consult a lawyer before writing a biography. 

If you do decide to proceed without permission, be mindful of how your book will be received and any legal issues that may arise. That's why we always recommend asking permission from your subject when learning how to write a biography.

Related : Difference Between A Memoir and Biography

4. Create an outline

The next step of learning how to write a biography is to outline your story. It’s critical to outline your biography before you begin writing it. Among other things, it helps ensure you cover every topic you’d like to and get the book in the correct chronological order. It also helps you identify themes that emerge as you organize your ideas. 

YouTube video

Need help creating your outline? Learn how to do it (and take advantage of free templates!) in our guide to outlining a book . 

5. Select a working title (using a title generator) 

Now is the fun part of learning how to write a biography! It’s time to create a working title for your book. A working title is just what it sounds like: it’s a title that works – for now. 

Of course, it’s helpful to have something to call the book as you’re working on it. And it encourages you to think about the message you’d like your book to convey. When your biography is complete, you can always do a little more research on how to write book titles for your specific sub-genre and update your working title accordingly.

Or, you can decide you still love your initial title and publish your book with that one! 

We’ve made it easy for you to develop a working title – or multiple – using our book title generator . 

Don't like it?

6. Write a rough draft 

Okay, now it’s time to start writing your rough draft. Don’t be intimidated; just focus on getting something down on the page. As experts on all things writing and self-publishing, we’ve got a rough draft writing guide to help you get through this phase of writing a biography.

Remember to be as balanced and objective as possible when learning how to write a biography.

Make good use of your primary and secondary sources, and double-check all of your facts. You’ve got this!  

7. Self-edit

There are several different types of editing that we recommend each manuscript undergo. But before you give your rough draft to anyone else to review, you should edit it yourself. 

The first step to self-editing?

Take a break! It’s essential to give your mind some time to recuperate before you go over your work. And never self-edit as you go!

After you’ve completed your break, here are a few things to consider as you edit: 

  • Grammar. This one is self-explanatory and usually the easiest. You can use an AI editor to make a first pass and quickly catch obvious spelling errors. Depending on prompts and your experience with the tool, you can also use AI to catch some grammar and syntax issues as well.
  • Content and structure . This is the time to make sure the bones of your piece are good. Make sure your content flows logically (and in chronological order), no important pieces of information are missing, and there isn’t redundant or unhelpful information. 
  • Clarity and consistency. Keep an eye out for any confusing copy and ensure your tone is uniform throughout the book.
  • Try reading your draft aloud. You’d be surprised at how many errors, shifts in tone, or other things you’d like to change that you don’t notice while reading in your head. Go ahead and do a read-through of your draft out loud. 

8. Work with an editor

Once you’ve created the best draft you can, it’s time to hire an editor. As we mentioned, there are multiple types of book editing, so you’ll need to choose the one(s) that are best for you and your project when learning how to write a biography. 

For instance, you can work with a developmental editor who helps with big-picture stuff. Think book structure, organization, and overall storytelling. Or you might work with a line editor who focuses on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the like. 

There are also specialized copy editors, content editors, fact-checkers, and more.

It’s in your best interest to do a substantial amount of research before choosing an editor since they’ll have a large impact on your book. Many editors are open to doing a paid trial so you can see their work before you sign them on for the entire book. 

9. Hire a book cover designer

Once you’ve worked with your editor(s) to finalize your book, it’s time to get your book ready to go out into the world. So the nest step in learning how to write a biography is to hire a book cover designer to create a cover that grabs readers’ attention (pssst: did you know that all SelfPublishing authors get done-for-you professional book design? Ask us about it !).

10. Get an ISBN 

The next step in learning how to write a biography is getting an ISBN number for your book – or an International Standard Book Number. It’s a unique way to identify your book and is critical for ordering, inventory tracking, and more. 

Bear in mind that each rendition of your book – regardless of when you publish them – will need their own ISBN numbers. So if you initially publish as a softcover and hardcover book and then decide to publish an ebook with the same exact content, you'll need 3 total ISBN numbers.

To get an ISBN, head to and follow the steps they provide.  Or reference our guide right here for step-by-step instructions (complete with photos) on how to get an ISBN number for self-published books.

11. Create a launch plan 

Now is the most exciting part of learning how to write a biography. It’s time to get your book out into the world! You’ll need to map out your plan, schedule events , finalize your pricing strategy, and more. 

And you can't just launch your book in a single day. When you go through all the work of learning how to write a biography, you want your book to succeed – and that requires a strategic marketing plan. Luckily, we have an entire guide to launching a book to help you figure it out. 

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Get your free book template!

Learning how to write a biography can be challenging, but when you have a clear plan and guidance, the process is much easier. We've helped thousands of aspiring authors just like you write and self-publish their own books. We know what works – and how to become a successfully published author faster.

Take the first step today and down the book template below!

And, if you need additional help with learning how to write a biography, remember that we’re standing by to assist you. Just schedule a book consultation and one of our team members will help answer any of your questions about the writing or self-publishing process.

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Blog • Perfecting your Craft

Posted on Jun 30, 2023

How to Write a Biography: A 7-Step Guide [+Template]

From time to time, nonfiction authors become so captivated by a particular figure from either the present or the past, that they feel compelled to write an entire book about their life. Whether casting them as heroes or villains, there is an interesting quality in their humanity that compels these authors to revisit their life paths and write their story.

However, portraying someone’s life on paper in a comprehensive and engaging way requires solid preparation. If you’re looking to write a biography yourself, in this post we’ll share a step-by-step blueprint that you can follow. 

How to write a biography: 

1. Seek permission when possible 

2. research your subject thoroughly, 3. do interviews and visit locations, 4. organize your findings, 5. identify a central thesis, 6. write it using narrative elements, 7. get feedback and polish the text.



Biography Outline Template

Craft a satisfying story arc for your biography with our free template.

While you technically don’t need permission to write about public figures (or deceased ones), that doesn't guarantee their legal team won't pursue legal action against you. Author Kitty Kelley was sued by Frank Sinatra before she even started to write His Way , a biography that paints Ol Blue Eyes in a controversial light. (Kelley ended up winning the lawsuit, however).  

format for writing a biography report

Whenever feasible, advise the subject’s representatives of your intentions. If all goes according to plan, you’ll get a green light to proceed, or potentially an offer to collaborate. It's a matter of common sense; if someone were to write a book about you, you would likely want to know about it well prior to publication. So, make a sincere effort to reach out to their PR staff to negotiate an agreement or at least a mutual understanding of the scope of your project. 

At the same time, make sure that you still retain editorial control over the project, and not end up writing a puff piece that treats its protagonist like a saint or hero. No biography can ever be entirely objective, but you should always strive for a portrayal that closely aligns with facts and reality.

If you can’t get an answer from your subject, or you’re asked not to proceed forward, you can still accept the potential repercussions and write an unauthorized biography . The “rebellious act” of publishing without consent indeed makes for great marketing, though it’ll likely bring more headaches with it too. 

✋ Please note that, like other nonfiction books, if you intend to release your biography with a publishing house , you can put together a book proposal to send to them before you even write the book. If they like it enough, they might pay you an advance to write it.  


Book Proposal Template

Craft a professional pitch for your nonfiction book with our handy template.

Once you’ve settled (or not) the permission part, it’s time to dive deep into your character’s story.  

Deep and thorough research skills are the cornerstone of every biographer worth their salt. To paint a vivid and accurate portrait of someone's life, you’ll have to gather qualitative information from a wide range of reliable sources. 

Start with the information already available, from books on your subject to archival documents, then collect new ones firsthand by interviewing people or traveling to locations. 

Browse the web and library archives

Illustration of a biographer going into research mode.

Put your researcher hat on and start consuming any piece on your subject you can find, from their Wikipedia page to news articles, interviews, TV and radio appearances, YouTube videos, podcasts, books, magazines, and any other media outlets they may have been featured in. 

Establish a system to orderly collect the information you find 一 even seemingly insignificant details can prove valuable during the writing process, so be sure to save them. 

Depending on their era, you may find most of the information readily available online, or you may need to search through university libraries for older references. 

Photo of Alexander Hamilton

For his landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow spent untold hours at Columbia University’s library , reading through the Hamilton family papers, visiting the New York Historical Society, as well as interviewing the archivist of the New York Stock Exchange, and so on. The research process took years, but it certainly paid off. Chernow discovered that Hamilton created the first five securities originally traded on Wall Street. This finding, among others, revealed his significant contributions to shaping the current American financial and political systems, a legacy previously often overshadowed by other founding fathers. Today Alexander Hamilton is one of the best-selling biographies of all time, and it has become a cultural phenomenon with its own dedicated musical. 

Besides reading documents about your subject, research can help you understand the world that your subject lived in. 

Try to understand their time and social environment

Many biographies show how their protagonists have had a profound impact on society through their philosophical, artistic, or scientific contributions. But at the same time, it’s worth it as a biographer to make an effort to understand how their societal and historical context influenced their life’s path and work.

An interesting example is Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World . Finding himself limited by a lack of verified detail surrounding William Shakespeare's personal life, Greenblatt, instead, employs literary interpretation and imaginative reenactments to transport readers back to the Elizabethan era. The result is a vivid (though speculative) depiction of the playwright's life, enriching our understanding of his world.

Painting of William Shakespeare in colors

Many readers enjoy biographies that transport them to a time and place, so exploring a historical period through the lens of a character can be entertaining in its own right. The Diary of Samuel Pepys became a classic not because people were enthralled by his life as an administrator, but rather from his meticulous and vivid documentation of everyday existence during the Restoration period.

Once you’ve gotten your hands on as many secondary sources as you can find, you’ll want to go hunting for stories first-hand from people who are (or were) close to your subject.

With all the material you’ve been through, by now you should already have a pretty good picture of your protagonist. But you’ll surely have some curiosities and missing dots in their character arc to figure out, which you can only get by interviewing primary sources.

Interview friends and associates

This part is more relevant if your subject is contemporary, and you can actually meet up or call with relatives, friends, colleagues, business partners, neighbors, or any other person related to them. 

In writing the popular biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson interviewed more than one hundred people, including Jobs’s family, colleagues, former college mates, business rivals, and the man himself.

🔍 Read other biographies to get a sense of what makes a great one. Check out our list of the 30 best biographies of all time , or take our 30-second quiz below for tips on which one you should read next. 

Which biography should you read next?

Discover the perfect biography for you. Takes 30 seconds!

When you conduct your interviews, make sure to record them with high quality audio you can revisit later. Then use tools like or Descript to transcribe them 一 it’ll save you countless hours. 

You can approach the interview with a specific set of questions, or follow your curiosity blindly, trying to uncover revealing stories and anecdotes about your subject. Whatever your method, author and biography editor Tom Bromley suggests that every interviewer arrives prepared, "Show that you’ve done your work. This will help to put the interviewee at ease, and get their best answers.” 

Bromley also places emphasis on the order in which you conduct interviews. “You may want to interview different members of the family or friends first, to get their perspective on something, and then go directly to the main interviewee. You'll be able to use that knowledge to ask sharper, more specific questions.” 

Finally, consider how much time you have with each interviewee. If you only have a 30-minute phone call with an important person, make it count by asking directly the most pressing questions you have. And, if you find a reliable source who is also particularly willing to help, conduct several interviews and ask them, if appropriate, to write a foreword as part of the book’s front matter .

Sometimes an important part of the process is packing your bags, getting on a plane, and personally visiting significant places in your character’s journey.

Visit significant places in their life

A place, whether that’s a city, a rural house, or a bodhi tree, can carry a particular energy that you can only truly experience by being there. In putting the pieces together about someone’s life, it may be useful to go visit where they grew up, or where other significant events of their lives happened. It will be easier to imagine what they experienced, and better tell their story. 

In researching The Lost City of Z , author David Grann embarked on a trek through the Amazon, retracing the steps of British explorer Percy Fawcett. This led Grann to develop new theories about the circumstances surrounding the explorer's disappearance.

Still from the movie The Lost City of Z in which the explorer is surrounded by an Amazon native tribe

Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with jaguars and anacondas to better understand your subject’s environment, but try to walk into their shoes as much as possible. 

Once you’ve researched your character enough, it’s time to put together all the puzzle pieces you collected so far. 

Take the bulk of notes, media, and other documents you’ve collected, and start to give them some order and structure. A simple way to do this is by creating a timeline. 

Create a chronological timeline

It helps to organize your notes chronologically 一 from childhood to the senior years, line up the most significant events of your subject’s life, including dates, places, names and other relevant bits. 

Timeline of Steve Jobs' career

You should be able to divide their life into distinct periods, each with their unique events and significance. Based on that, you can start drafting an outline of the narrative you want to create.  

Draft a story outline 

Since a biography entails writing about a person’s entire life, it will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You can pick where you want to end the story, depending on how consequential the last years of your subject were. But the nature of the work will give you a starting character arc to work with. 

To outline the story then, you could turn to the popular Three-Act Structure , which divides the narrative in three main parts. In a nutshell, you’ll want to make sure to have the following:

  • Act 1. Setup : Introduce the protagonist's background and the turning points that set them on a path to achieve a goal. 
  • Act 2. Confrontation : Describe the challenges they encounter, both internal and external, and how they rise to them. Then..
  • Act 3. Resolution : Reach a climactic point in their story in which they succeed (or fail), showing how they (and the world around them) have changed as a result. 

Only one question remains before you begin writing: what will be the main focus of your biography?

Think about why you’re so drawn to your subject to dedicate years of your life to recounting their own. What aspect of their life do you want to highlight? Is it their evil nature, artistic genius, or visionary mindset? And what evidence have you got to back that up? Find a central thesis or focus to weave as the main thread throughout your narrative. 

Cover of Hitler and Stalin by Alan Bullock

Or find a unique angle

If you don’t have a particular theme to explore, finding a distinct angle on your subject’s story can also help you distinguish your work from other biographies or existing works on the same subject.

Plenty of biographies have been published about The Beatles 一 many of which have different focuses and approaches: 

  • Philip Norman's Shout is sometimes regarded as leaning more towards a pro-Lennon and anti-McCartney stance, offering insights into the band's inner dynamics. 
  • Ian McDonald's Revolution in the Head closely examines their music track by track, shifting the focus back to McCartney as a primary creative force. 
  • Craig Brown's One Two Three Four aims to capture their story through anecdotes, fan letters, diary entries, and interviews. 
  • Mark Lewisohn's monumental three-volume biography, Tune In , stands as a testament to over a decade of meticulous research, chronicling every intricate detail of the Beatles' journey.

Group picture of The Beatles

Finally, consider that biographies are often more than recounting the life of a person. Similar to how Dickens’ Great Expectations is not solely about a boy named Pip (but an examination and critique of Britain’s fickle, unforgiving class system), a biography should strive to illuminate a broader truth — be it social, political, or human — beyond the immediate subject of the book. 

Once you’ve identified your main focus or angle, it’s time to write a great story. 

Illustration of a writer mixing storytelling ingredients

While biographies are often highly informative, they do not have to be dry and purely expository in nature . You can play with storytelling elements to make it an engaging read. 

You could do that by thoroughly detailing the setting of the story , depicting the people involved in the story as fully-fledged characters , or using rising action and building to a climax when describing a particularly significant milestone of the subject’s life. 

One common way to make a biography interesting to read is starting on a strong foot…

Hook the reader from the start

Just because you're honoring your character's whole life doesn't mean you have to begin when they said their first word. Starting from the middle or end of their life can be more captivating as it introduces conflicts and stakes that shaped their journey.

When he wrote about Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild , author Jon Krakauer didn’t open his subject’s childhood and abusive family environment. Instead, the book begins with McCandless hitchhiking his way into the wilderness, and subsequently being discovered dead in an abandoned bus. By starting in medias res , Krakauer hooks the reader’s interest, before tracing back the causes and motivations that led McCandless to die alone in that bus in the first place.

Chris McCandless self-portrait in front of the now iconic bus

You can bend the timeline to improve the reader’s reading experience throughout the rest of the story too…

Play with flashback 

While biographies tend to follow a chronological narrative, you can use flashbacks to tell brief stories or anecdotes when appropriate. For example, if you were telling the story of footballer Lionel Messi, before the climax of winning the World Cup with Argentina, you could recall when he was just 13 years old, giving an interview to a local newspaper, expressing his lifelong dream of playing for the national team. 

Used sparsely and intentionally, flashbacks can add more context to the story and keep the narrative interesting. Just like including dialogue does…

Reimagine conversations

Recreating conversations that your subject had with people around them is another effective way to color the story. Dialogue helps the reader imagine the story like a movie, providing a deeper sensory experience. 

format for writing a biography report

One thing is trying to articulate the root of Steve Jobs’ obsession with product design, another would be to quote his father , teaching him how to build a fence when he was young: “You've got to make the back of the fence just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know. And that will show that you're dedicated to making something perfect.”

Unlike memoirs and autobiographies, in which the author tells the story from their personal viewpoint and enjoys greater freedom to recall conversations, biographies require a commitment to facts. So, when recreating dialogue, try to quote directly from reliable sources like personal diaries, emails, and text messages. You could also use your interview scripts as an alternative to dialogue. As Tom Bromley suggests, “If you talk with a good amount of people, you can try to tell the story from their perspective, interweaving different segments and quoting the interviewees directly.”



How to Write Believable Dialogue

Master the art of dialogue in 10 five-minute lessons.

These are just some of the story elements you can use to make your biography more compelling. Once you’ve finished your manuscript, it’s a good idea to ask for feedback. 

If you’re going to self-publish your biography, you’ll have to polish it to professional standards. After leaving your work to rest for a while, look at it with fresh eyes and self-edit your manuscript eliminating passive voice, filler words, and redundant adverbs. 

Illustration of an editor reviewing a manuscript

Then, have a professional editor give you a general assessment. They’ll look at the structure and shape of your manuscript and tell you which parts need to be expanded on or cut. As someone who edited and commissioned several biographies, Tom Bromley points out that a professional “will look at the sources used and assess whether they back up the points made, or if more are needed. They would also look for context, and whether or not more background information is needed for the reader to understand the story fully. And they might check your facts, too.”  

In addition to structural editing, you may want to have someone copy-edit and proofread your work.



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Importantly, make sure to include a bibliography with a list of all the interviews, documents, and sources used in the writing process. You’ll have to compile it according to a manual of style, but you can easily create one by using tools like EasyBib . Once the text is nicely polished and typeset in your writing software , you can prepare for the publication process.  

In conclusion, by mixing storytelling elements with diligent research, you’ll be able to breathe life into a powerful biography that immerses readers in another individual’s life experience. Whether that’ll spark inspiration or controversy, remember you could have an important role in shaping their legacy 一 and that’s something not to take lightly. 

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format for writing a biography report

Teaching Students to Write Biography Reports

Biographies are many students’ first glimpse at history. It is one of my favorite units to teach every year. It is a great opportunity for students to read, research, use technology, and write!

If you’re teaching students to write biography reports this year, then check out how I like to break it down!

format for writing a biography report

Breaking Down Writing a Biography Report (Grades 2-5)

Writing these types of reports is part of the Common Core writing standards for Grades 2-5 as well as many other states’ standards. There are several steps to take as you teach your students to write a biography report.

The first step ALWAYS: Introduce Biographies

Before I even begin to teach my students how to write a biography, I like to read several from our school library.

For second and third grade students :

  • Have several biographies in the classroom and give students time to explore the books. Then discuss: What did you notice about all these books? How are they the same? How are they different?
  • Discuss genre and introduce biographies.
  • Then, I would read them biographies about many different people.

For fourth and fifth grade students :

  • Make a class anchor chart discussing what you already know about biographies. Look for gaps in understanding, and make sure students know the main characteristics of a biography.
  • Then, read several different biographies about the same person with a focus on the different information each biography shared, as well as what information was the same. Did all of the biographies have the characteristics we listed on our anchor chart?

This type of introductory lesson allows them to hear how biographies are written and to notice similarities across the various texts.

It is important to make note of the characteristics that biographies have so that when students write their own, they already have an understanding of how they are written!

format for writing a biography report

Once students have been exposed to biographies, you can begin to teach about writing them.

Discuss Text Structure of Biographies

Depending on the grade you teach, you may not necessarily call it “text structure,” however it is important for students to understand that most biographies are written in a chronological/sequential way.

Since we are writing about someone’s life, it wouldn’t make sense for the report to be out of order.

While we go over this, I like to create a timeline with my students.

Mentor texts are important to use when teaching your students to write biography reports.

If you are using my biography writing units, I recommend:

  • Using the mentor text to create a timeline of the subject’s life. You can do this on the board or on chart paper.
  • Use the research text to create a timeline of the subject’s life (this is the person the students will write about, and a text is included in the units). For older students, you may choose to have them fill out the timeline on their own.

How to Write an Engaging Introduction for the Biography Report

At the beginning of the report, students should write an engaging introduction that includes one (or both) of two main components.

The introduction should include one (or both) of these components:

  • Introduce the subject with their full name and birth information or
  • Briefly preview what they are most famous for

Remember, at the beginning of the biography report, students should write an engaging introduction that includes one (or both) of two main components.

Practice writing a variety of introductions and have students choose the one they like the best. ( TIP: Model some poorly written introductions as well , and discuss why those are not a good fit!)

Crafting the Body Paragraphs of the Biography Report

When teaching your students to write biography reports, it is important to explain to them what the body paragraphs should include.

The body paragraphs should include the major events in the person’s life.

Read over the body paragraphs from your mentor text and discuss what was included and what was not included. What was included in the timeline you created? What did you leave out?

Timelines are an excellent tool to use when teaching your students to write biography reports.

You can make a T chart with your students and discuss what are major events in your own life, and what are not.

Writing a Conclusion for the Biography Report

Most conclusions in a biography end with the person’s death.

While this can be noted, it’s important for students to understand that they shouldn’t just end their report with “and then they died in 1894”. It is more important for them to end their report with the legacy of the person.

To help students understand what a person’s legacy means:

  • Review and write legacies of other famous individuals from biographies you have read to your class.
  • Ask them what their person is most known for (and review their introduction).
  • Ask them how this person has impacted other people.

If you are looking for resources for teaching your students to write a biography report, check out my writing units.

format for writing a biography report

These units also include a Google Slides option so you can teach the whole unit digitally!

Preview the grades 2-5 biography writing units here:.

Get resources for teaching your Grades 2-5 students to write a biography report here.

format for writing a biography report

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Assignment Biography: Student Criteria and Rubric for Writing

Researching an Individual Aligned to Common Core Writing Standards

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  • M.A., English, Western Connecticut State University
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The genre of  biography can also be categorized in the sub-genre of  narrative nonfiction/historical nonfiction. When a teacher assigns a biography as a writing assignment, the purpose is to have a student utilize multiple research tools to gather and to synthesize information that may be used as evidence in a written report about an individual. The evidence gained from research can include a person’s words, actions, journals, reactions, related books, interviews with friends, relatives, associates, and enemies. The historical context is equally important. Since there are people who have influenced every academic discipline, assigning a biography can be a cross-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary writing assignment. 

Middle and high school teachers should allow students to have a choice in selecting the subject for a biography. Providing student choice, particularly for students in grades 7-12, increases their engagement and their motivation especially if students select individuals they care about. Students would find it difficult to write about a person they do not like. Such an attitude compromises the process of researching and writing the biography.

According to by Judith L. Irvin, Julie Meltzer and Melinda S. Dukes in their book  Taking Action on Adolescent Literacy:

"As humans, we are motivated to engage when we are interested or have real purpose for doing so. So motivation to engage [students] is the first step on the road to improving literacy habits and skills" (Chapter 1).

Students should find at least three different sources (if possible) to make sure the biography is accurate. A good biography is well-balanced and objective. That means if there is disagreement between sources, the student can use the evidence to state that there is a conflict.  Students should know that a good biography is more than a timeline of events in a person's life.

The context of a person's life is important. Students should include information about the historical time period in which a subject lived and did her/his work. 

In addition, the student should have a purpose for researching another person's life. For example, the purpose for a student to research and write a biography can be in a response to the prompt:

"How does this writing this biography help me to understand the influence of this person on history, and quite possibly, this person's impact on me?"

The following standards-based criteria and scoring rubrics can be used to grade a student-selected biography. Both criteria and rubrics should be given to students before they begin their work. 

Criteria for a Student Biography aligned to Common Core State Standards

A General Outline for Biography Details

  • Birthdate /Birthplace
  • Death (if applicable).
  • Family Members.
  • Miscellaneous (religion, titles, etc).


  • Schooling.Training.
  • Work Experiences.
  • Contemporaries/Relationships.

Accomplishments/  Significance

  • Evidence of major accomplishments.
  • Evidence of minor accomplishments (if relevant).
  • The analysis that supports why the individual was worthy of note in their field of expertise during his or her life.
  • Analysis why this individual is worthy of note in their field of expertise today.


  • Statements made.
  • Works published.

Biography Organization using the CCSS Anchor Writing Standards 

  • Transitions are effective in assisting the reader to understand shifts.
  • Ideas within each paragraph are fully developed.
  • Each point is supported by evidence.
  • All evidence is relevant.  
  • Important terms are explained to the reader.
  • Purpose of each paragraph (introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion) is clear.  
  • Clear relationship between topic sentence(s) and paragraph(s) that came before is evident.

Grading Rubric: Holistic Standards with Letter Grade Conversions

(based on extended response Smarter Balanced Assessment writing rubric)

Score: 4 or Letter Grade: A

Student response is a thorough elaboration of the support/evidence on the topic (individual) including the effective use of source material. The response clearly and effectively develops ideas, using precise language:

  • Comprehensive evidence (facts and details) from source materials are integrated.
  • Relevant, and specific clear citations or attribution to source materials.
  • Effective use of a variety of elaborative techniques.
  • Vocabulary is clearly appropriate for the audience and purpose. 
  • Effective, appropriate style enhances content.

Score: 3  Letter Grade: B

Student response is an adequate elaboration of the support/evidence in the biography that includes the use of source materials. The student response adequately develops ideas, employing a mix of precise and more general language:  

  • Adequate evidence (facts and details) from the source materials is integrated and relevant, yet the evidence and explanation may be general.
  • Adequate use of citations or attribution to the source material.  
  • Adequate use of some elaborative techniques.
  • Vocabulary is generally appropriate for the audience and purpose.
  • The style is generally appropriate for the audience and purpose.

Score: 2 Letter Grade: C

Student response is uneven with a cursory elaboration of the support/evidence in the biography that includes the uneven or limited use of source material. The student response develops ideas unevenly, using simplistic language:

  • Some evidence (facts and details) from the source materials may be weakly integrated, imprecise, repetitive, vague, and/or copied.
  • Weak use of citations or attribution to source materials.
  • Weak or uneven use of elaborative techniques.
  • Development may consist primarily of source summaries.
  • Vocabulary use is uneven or somewhat ineffective for the audience and purpose.
  • Inconsistent or weak attempt to create the appropriate style.

Score: 1 Letter Grade: D

Student response provides a minimal elaboration of the support/evidence in the biography that includes little or no use of source material. The student response is vague, lacks clarity, or is confusing:

  • Evidence (facts and details) from the source material is minimal, irrelevant, absent, incorrectly used. 
  • Insufficient use of citations or attribution to the source material.
  • Minimal, if any, use of elaborative techniques.
  • Vocabulary is limited or ineffective for the audience and purpose.
  • Little or no evidence of appropriate style.
  • Insufficient or plagiarized (copied without credit) text.
  • Off-topic. 
  • Off-purpose.
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English/Lang Arts / History/Geography / Middle School

How to Write a Biography Report

Biographies are a great way to learn about history, music, art, science, and so much more! They are a window into not only a life, but I time period. They offer the chance to see the world through that person’s life, a would be first hand account of what life was like at that time. Reading biographies and learning how to write a biography report can be a fun and gentle approach to learning.

I remember a time with my oldest (who is now graduating from high school) that we used biographies as the core of our history learning. It allowed us to learn about time periods, movements, inventions, social roles, and so much more. Reading biographies and writing reports also worked with English/Language Arts skills such as spelling, vocabulary, grammar, punctuation. Plus, I remembering loving the more gentle, easy way of learning.

For this reason I am giving bibliographies another go around with my soon to be 5th grader. We will be Using the Who Was Biographies for our homeschool history. I created fun notebooking style biography sheets {You can get them for free here .) and plan to use them with a combination of timelines, photos, and free form writing to create a history notebook based on biographies.

Since we will be using biographies as our spine, I thought it would be good to compile a list of questions and things to consider when reading and then writing a biography report.

When writing a biography report, no matter who the person and what they have accomplished, there are certain things you want to be sure to touch on. Here is a list of questions and thoughts to get your child going with their report. These details will help them organize their thoughts and ensure they have covered the important topics in their biography report.

  • Include a drawing of your character, the title of the biography, and the author of the biography.
  • Tell the date and place where your character was born and raised.
  • Describe the early life of your character. Things like where their grew up, their education, family, and jobs.
  • Tell about what kind of person he or she was. What was it about your character that helped him or her to succeed? Did your character know what he or she wanted to become in the future? How did your character prepare for his or her future?
  • Tell about the work your character did. Tell why his or her contribution was important, why the work was important. Did he or she invent something or teach others? How did he or she change the world? What lasting effects did your character have on the lives of others?
  • What should we all know about your character? How do we benefit today from him or her? What do you think was the most impressive thing about your character?
  • Tell how your character has inspired you. In what ways would you like to be him or her?

For many of these questions and more in worksheet form check out this FREE Biography Worksheet Printable

For a more in-depth look at writing a biography report (more of high school level and beyond) check out this article on How to Write a Biography

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Biography Research Report

Report generator.

format for writing a biography report

Compare “He died at his birthplace” with “He spent the remainder of his days in the place where he took his first gasp of air.” Which of those sentences does poetic justice on the life of our John Doe? A good biography report paints a person’s life with the same brio and vibrancy, a facsimile of how the person lived.

A biography research report requires extensive research on the person and a writer’s creative touch to put to life an otherwise mere list of facts. Even if the information is presented in a digestible format, the entire narrative does not abandon accurate data. The essay will usually put the spotlight on the pivotal instances of the person’s life that makes him or her noteworthy.

Things To Remember

Unlike autobiography, you are writing about someone else. That isn’t an assignment that you take lightly. As scribes that document a person’s time on Earth, you should put life into the biography. A person’s time is limited, but a biography immortalizes him or her.

Do your research

With its birth during the 5th century BCE , a biography is first a historical account of a person’s life before an entertaining read. Poets and scribes wrote praises for the lives of famous personalities in the Ancient World. Today, extensive research is necessary before drafting a biographical essay . Authors should avoid misrepresenting facts for a good story.

Illustrate, don’t state

Speak of your subject in a titillating soiree of information that engages your readers’ senses. The news of the death of the subject’s greatest love should be as if frost started to spread inside your readers’ chest during the warmest afternoon of May, that every breath makes them wince as if they were breathing broken glass.

Don’t alienate the readers

You should write with your audience in mind. A wordsmith should avoid employing ostentatious and magniloquent words for the mere satiety of one’s fancy. If the words do nothing to augment the anecdote of a person’s life and only exist to bloat the author’s ego on his presumed astuteness, they do not belong in the narrative .

7+ Biography Research Report Examples

The following are biography report examples that you may find useful in your assignment.

1. Biography Report Template

Biography Report Template

  • Google Docs

2. Biography Book Research Report Example

Biography Book Research Report Example

Size: 110 KB

3. Biography Research Project Report Example

Biography Research Project Report Example

Size: 554 KB

4. Sample Biography Research Report Example

Sample Biography Research Report Example

Size: 25 KB

5. Author Biography Research Report Example

Author Biography Research Report

6. Basic Biography Research Report Example

Basic Biography Research Report Example

Size: 482 KB

7. Cereal Box Biography Research Reports Example

Cereal Box Biography Research Reports

Size: 61 KB

8. Formal Biography Research Report Example

Formal Biography Research Report Example

Size: 590 KB

9. Standard Biography of Research Report Example

Standard Biography of Research Example

Size: 650 KB

Preparing Your Report

Whether you are in middle school, high school, college, or you have already graduated, at some point in your life, you will be asked to write a biography about someone important to you or the community. Writing non-fictional essays can be challenging, especially since it needs prior research about the subject. You would have to be knowledgeable about a topic to expound on it.

Before anything, you have to draft an outline . Outlines are like task maps that get you from point A to point B. They don’t contain all the specifics of the topic, but they provide a reliable framework on what you need to do. Hence, they can be called a rough sketch. You can start with the biography research questions which you can generate ideas from later on. You can also identify important phases in the life of your John or Jane Doe and work his or her biography with those dates.

2. Introduction

Normally, writers will start from the moment the subject is born. A common mistake the new writers make after conducting their research about the subject is just avalanching facts and figures into the reader’s way. Instead of saying that he or she was born on April 24, 1997, you can start by describing what the town or city would have been like on that day. Then you lead the readers to the home of our little John or Jane. Try making the audience feel involved in the story, rather than just being spectators.

Remember, biographies are factual historical accounts. When writers are writing about someone famous, they tend to pour in praises about his or her life. Instead of dressing the subject as a saint, make the audience see that this personality is also like them. Don’t immortalize someone as a god who could do no wrong. Show that despite the human side of our John or Jane Doe, he or she made choices that landed him or her this biography that you’re preparing.

4. Conclusion

In our lives, death can mean the end. But that doesn’t have to be the case for our biography. Instead of cutting the narrative at the point when he or she died, speak about the ripples the subject has made in his or her life that affected the people around him or her. Show how he or she has touched the lives of others. Make the conclusion memorable for your audience.

The first draft should not be your final draft. Review what you prepared and check for possible revisions. There might be errors you missed the first time. You can have your friends or colleagues check your biography report. Go over the entire thing several times to make sure that the report’s quality is ready for submission.


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BioProject: Formatting Your Biography and Source Notes

Note: To understand how one should use the English language in the document, please refer to the SABR Style Guide .

Before you hand in your finished biography for editing and review, please adhere to the following guidelines as much as possible. If you cannot get your word processing program to do these things, or don’t know how to, please contact the SABR office our our project and we will try to help you. The closer you can get to these guidelines, the better.

1. Use margins of 1 inch all the way around.

2. The manuscript should use Times New Roman, 12-point font.

3. The title of the biography (the subjects name) should be centered, bolded and in all caps on the first line, followed by the author’s name of the second line. Like this:  

   BABE RUTH By Tom Meany

4. The entire manuscript should be left justified (no indenting), and single spaced. There should be a blank line between each paragraph—do not use double-space formatting at the end of the paragraph—just hit the enter key twice to create a blank line:

Babe Ruth hit a lot of home runs and ate many hot dogs. I am now typing the first paragraph and am approaching the end of the second sentence. I will now end the paragraph. Now I am typing the second paragraph. Babe Ruth was an orphan for a time, etc.

5. The rest of the document should be a series of left-justified single-spaced blocks separated by blank lines. If there is an extended quote that needs to be set aside, leave that left-justified still with quotes around it. It will be posted properly.

6. At the end of your biography, you should have a list of sources or a source description. Begin the section with the single word Sources in bold, followed by a blank line.

7. It is important that all biographies list all of the sources consulted in preparing the article. You can use a simple list, or you can use end notes, or you can use both. If you use any quoted material, it is essential that the specific source for this quote is identified with an endnote.

Your source list should be a list with as much information as you can provide. Please see the section below entitled “ List of Sources ”.

8. A description of sources used could be used instead, and would look like this:

In preparing this biography, the author relied primarily on a sizeable stack of clippings from McNally’s file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, New York. Also helpful were Retrosheet;; Doug Brown’s article “Dave McNally—A hard man to convince,” in the June 1969 issue of Sport ; and John Eisenberg’s oral history of the Orioles, From 33rd Street to Camden Yards .

9. When you use endnotes, please use the built-in feature in Microsoft Word, which automatically links the superscript in the text with the note at the bottom. This makes it much easier to add and remove notes later, and formats very well on the web. I will add a note here by clicking the “References” tab in Word, and then clicking “Insert Endnote”. 1 If I do it again, I get another note. 2 Please see the End Notes section below.

10. We ask all authors to help enhance your articles as they appear on the SABR website and making them more interactive for future readers by using Microsoft Word’s hyperlink function to link to SABR biographies whenever a player’s name appears in your article. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to do so .

If you have a photo you would like to use, please insert it as a JPG image at the top of your biography when you send it to your editor. In the Acknowledgments or Sources section of your article, please include full credit or caption information. Click here for more information on how to select appropriate (and legal!) images for your SABR article.

A. List of Sources

Your list of sources must be in the following order. The following examples are intended to suffice

Books, book chapters, book sections

by author name, alphabetically by last name
  • Eisenberg,  John.  From 33rd Street to Camden Yards (New York: Contemporary Books, 2001), 33-34.
  • Johnson, Lloyd and Miles Wolff, ed.  The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (Baseball America, 1997).

Newspapers or Magazines (in this order)

by author name, alphabetically by last name by article title, alphabetically by newspaper or magazine name only, alphabetically
  • Allen, Maury. “Dave McNally: pioneer for free agency,” New York Post , November 3, 1983.
  • Jackman, Phil. “Cuellar Shines Again,” The Sporting News , June 19, 1971.
  • Jackman, Phil. “McNally Named Legion Grad of Year,” The Sporting News , June 26, 1971.
  • Time, January 12, 1972.  
  • Chicago Tribune.
  • San Francisco Chronicle.

Online Sources

by author by article title or page name by site name by URL name
  • Finkel, Jan. “Stan Musial,” SABR Baseball Biography Project,, accessed January 3, 2012.
  • Treder, Steve. “Marse Joe’s Last Hurrah,” The Hardball Times, , accessed December 23, 2011.

Archives / Documentary fragments / Other materials

alphabetized according to repository name
  • Baseball Hall of Fame Library, player file for Wee Willie Keeler.
  • New York Public Library.
  • US Census Bureau, 1930 US Census.

Personal Correspondence

face-to-face interviews phone interviews written correspondence email correspondence
  • Brooks Robinson, telephone interview with author, April 16, 2010.
  • Babe Ruth, email correspondence with Fred Lieb, August 4, 1940.

B. End notes

End notes should begin with the number 1. Please use Microsoft’s built-in end note feature if you use Word. It makes it much easier to edit, and much easier to post on our website. End notes should use the same style as above, but can use shortened form if a particular source is used repetitively.

Ibid is used to cite the same source as the previous note. Do not use either “op. cit.” or “loc. cit.” Instead use the shortened form of the note, as in note 4 and 5 below.

Ted Patterson, The Baltimore Orioles: Four Decades of Magic from 33rd Street to Camden Yards (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 2000), 117. Curt Smith, The Storytellers: From Mel Allen to Bob Costas – Sixty Years of Baseball Tales from the Broadcast Booth (New York: Macmillan, 1995), 204. Brooks Robinson and Jack Tobin, Third Base Is My Home (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1974), 20-29. Patterson, The Baltimore Orioles , 40. Robinson and Tobin, Third Base Is My Home, 54-55. Rick Maese, “Yea for York,” Baltimore Sun, April 5, 2008; Patterson, xi. Robinson and Tobin, Third Base Is My Home, 92. Larry Stone, “The Most Wonderful Days I Ever Had,” Rain Check: Baseball in the Pacific Northwest , Mark Armour, ed. (Cleveland: SABR, 2006), 106. Robinson, Third Base Is My Home, 126. Ibid. C. Joseph Bride, Bob Brown, and Phil Itzoe, eds, Baltimore Orioles 1966 Yearbook ( Baltimore: Baltimore Baseball Inc., 1966), 10.

1 There. I am now adding a note.

2 A second note to match the first.

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