These are highly detailed and complex instructions...take the time to read through all of the content on this page in order to orient you to the expectations I have of this assignment.

biography logo

Although we are not engaging in the type of Biography story telling that you might see on TV, we are, indeed understanding the important of biography and what it tells us about human development.

Biography Analysis is a research method utilized in the study of Human Development. By hearing, writing, reading, and analyzing the specific life stories of individuals we gain a unique insight into the diversity, and similarity, of our life stories.

In this class you will be engaging an individual, age 65 or older, in an extended interview...documenting their lives and, just possibly, learning a lot more about your own!

It is my hope that someday I will be able to produce a television show similar to the real "Biography". I want to call it "Maine Biography" and it want to feature just regular people, like the individuals you are going to interview in this class. I wish to show that even those "regular" people often lead very remarkable and interesting lives!

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this week's material, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate key interviewing skills, information gathering, and history taking
  • Analyze key concepts in human development from the perspective of a case study
  • Apply these analyses to a process of self-analysis
  • Write a life span biography

About the Biography

Through the entire course you will be required to engage and interview an individual of your choice aged 65 or older. This person can be related to you. In addition to the interview process to write the person's biography you will also be asking them specific questions related to the content of the course.

The point of this aspect of the class is to provide a point of reference for understanding how individuals change over time by conversing with an individual who has undergone many of these changes already. This activity also provides us with a point of reference in discussing the ďHistorical ClockĒ or the ways in which being born in a particular time in history impact normal human development.

Biography Proposal

Prior to beginning your interview, you need to get your subject approved by me. There is a brief quiz called "Bio Proposal" in the course. The following questions are on the proposal:

  1. The interviewee's name is:
  2. I know this person because:
  3. I am confident that this person will be able to provide enough information to meet the criteria of this project (T or F)
  4. I understand that it is my responsibility to ensure that the life story I get is detailed enought to meet the criteria for this project (T or F)
  5. If this person does not meet the age requirement for the project, justify your choice of this person here. If they do you may leave this section blank or pose any specific questions to me here.

Conducting the Interview

Probably the most common question I get in this assignment is "Are you going to provide us with questions?" or "What do I ask about?"

In this project you become an investigator into the person's life. Your job is to document their life as they would like it to be told. You can ask questions, but it is usually better to have them just recall events in their lives.

You will then put together a paper that tells their story! And it is just that ...a story. What a person remembers is usually related to what is important to them. So, the story will tell the important things that happened in their lives that shaped how they experienced and lived their lives. You should see theory and the material we are studying cropping up all over the place in your story. In fact, most of what we know about human development we got from studying lives!

Here is my perspective...

If you are really dealing with someone in the later part of their lives they are at the stage in their life where Erikson identified the need to conduct a Life Review. Many elderly people are tying together the threads of their lives and integrating them into a whole.


So, since the goal of the BIOGRAPHY itself is to get the STORY...then you simply ask them to tell you stories.

The stories will be out of order so the REAL task of this assignment is to put them in order!

Since you want to cover the whole lifespan you might end up asking questions like this:

  1. What was it like growing up back then?
  2. What was school like when you first went there?
  3. What was your first job like?

These types of questions get people going on more stories and help fill in the gaps. Your biography itself though, should flow like a single should not read like a question-answer interview.

In addition, there will be times during the class where I'm going to have you ask them about specific aspects of their development...this may lead to more stories and more details about thier lives.

Application of Class Concepts

It is expected that you will be engaged in this interview while the class is in session over the course of several weeks. I will ask you to complete assignments and discussions in class that reflect what you have learned from this person in relation to the content of the course.

I may also ask you to ask your subject specific course related questions that you will then share in the class.

Submitting the Biography

Towards the end of the class you will be submitting a complete written biography of this individual. This paper is simply the story of this personís life written as any other biography. It is NOT an analysis paper, nor is it a psychology paper of any kind. It is simply the personís life story, as they would have it written. This aspect of the class allows you to exercise your creative and linguistic skills.

The paper should tell an entertaining and captivating story of your subjectís life. Details are often the best parts of a personís life story so do not skip these. Considering that your subject must be 65 years or older, there is usually a LOT to tell, so I expect these papers to be long.

Please Note ...I do not expect to see ANY of the "psychology" related concepts in the story itself...the story stands alone as simply the story of the person's don't see that in the show Biography and you don't see that in any books about people's lives...just focus on the story.

In this section you are going to find specific information related to the actual Biography document (length, format, etc.) and the manner in which you are to submit the document.

Criteria for the Document

Below are the specific criteria for submitting the Biography to me:

  • Title page with your name, course name, date, and the name of the person being interviewed
  • MINIMUM 18 pages in length
  • Imbedded pictures are great but they must be relevant to the story that is taking place. Do not place them all at the end of the document and do not send them to me as separate files
  • Placing lots of pictures into the document to achieve the minimum length of the paper will not be acceptable
  • Papers will be formatted with 12 point font, Times New Roman font style, double spaced, with reasonable margins (If papers do not appear to comply with these criteria, I will reformat it.)
  • Papers must be submitted ELECTRONICALLY through one of the means listed below. NO PRINTED DOCUMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED.
  • You are encouraged to share the final document with your subject and even pursue publishing...this is a large project and it is worthy of being shared

Please Note: When you submit a paper in person, printed staple the title page to the front of the paper and the entire thing is one document, right? When you create this Biography DO NOT send a separate file that is your "Title Page"...the Title Page should be the first page of the Biography document.

File Formats

We all use different computers and different programs for writing papers. In order to ensure that I can read your paper I have listed below the file formats that are acceptable to me:

  • MS Word (preferred document type, any version of Word)
  • RTF (or Rich Text Format...however, images that you embed in the document may not remain)
  • PDF (or Portable Document File, this is the file type that you open with Acrobat Reader
  • Make sure you don't send files in WordPerfect or Works format...I am not able to read these...however, each of these programs allows you to save your documents in RTF format.

Please Note: It is up to YOU to get these files to me in the correct sure you can do so prior to submitting the actual document

Naming the File

When you send me the file document electronically it is important that you label the file correctly. What I mean by "labeling the file" is that you need to name the actual document in a specific way (in addition to having a title page with your name on it)

The naming convention is going to be as follows:

(Last Name)(First Name Initial)-Bio.doc

If I were sending a file I would name it:


Files that do not meet this naming convention will NOT be accepted. Files that do not have a title page will NOT be accepted.

Submitting the File to Me

You will be submitting this file to me through the Drop Box in Blackboard. If you have included pictures in your Biography the file may be too large and we will have to explore other ways for you to get the file to me.


I find it inappropriate to actually grade the story of a life so the paper will be graded the number of pages (and, of course, the quality of the writing). I know this seems petty, but it is all that can be done and it will provide you with incentive to get a LOT of story from the person. (the number of pages excludes pictures and the title page)

  • 18 pages (or more)-----100
  • 16-17 pages-----90
  • 10-15 pages-----80
  • Less than 10 pages-----Zero

Publishing and More

If you are interested in publishing your work the following websites can help you in creating a book version of your biography!

Veterans History Project

If your biography subject is a veteran, of any war, the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress is interested in stories, letters, and other collections in order to create a lasting record. Click the graphic above to visit the website to get more information.