Wednesday, March 24, 2021

 

When your journal article gets accepted or you are preparing for a public presentation, you will often be asked for a short academic biography. For many people, these academic bios are more difficult to write than a dissertation. How do you sum up yourself and your work in 3-5 sentences? What do you need to include? What should you leave out?

What You Should Do       What You Should Avoid      Longer Bios       Structure       Know Your Audience       What Not to Do

What You Should Do

  1. Start with your full name followed by your current position, your general interests, and your current project, keeping them all very brief.
  2. If you are within a year of receiving a prestigious award, mention that as well.
  3. Finally, finish with a sentence that’s personal: add a hobby, a pet’s name, the city you live in—whatever you are comfortable with that is personal but not too private.

What You Should Avoid

  1. Avoid speaking in the first person, i.e., don’t use “I.”
  2. Don’t divulge details beyond your current position.
  3. In a longer bio of multiple paragraphs, you may add more awards and information about your master’s and bachelor’s degrees, but not in a short bio. Moreover, don’t add anything that happened before grad school—including your place of birth. For example:

Hi! My name is Scott. I was originally born in Vermont and now I’m a professor at North Yankee University in Fargone, New York (in upstate New York). I study antelopes’ migration patterns and their impact of native grain growth. My interest in antelopes began as a teenager when I first saw one in the wild. I did my undergrad degree in biology at SUNY and my masters and UCLA and my PhD in Forestry at Hunter College.

The above example is far too casual and Scott’s work and current position are overshadowed by all the other random details. This can be written in a much better way:

Scott Sampson is a professor of Wildlife Biology at North Yankee University. His work focuses specifically on the migration patterns of antelope and their impact on the growth of native grain. His favorite place to do research in his backyard, which opens to the Akron National Forest.

This improvised version is concise, relevant, and makes Scott’s bio appear professional while giving a short description of his personal details.

Longer Bios

For longer bios, follow the same basic rules, but go into a bit more depth about your work, your education, and your future projects or interests. You may also consider adding a line about your immediate family. But as always, leave the personal details for a short and friendly mention at the end of the bio.

Mostly, your bio will be used by someone to introduce you at a conference or public event so if you write your bio using these tips, you will help them give a smooth and accurate introduction. Remember that the bio is the first thing that people know about you so pack it full of the most important things about yourself!

Structure

In a short biography, you will be limited to just a few sentences or a short paragraph. It is important that you include just the basic information about yourself. One of the main objectives of a biography is to emphasize your accomplishments. This will provide the reader with an overall idea of your background. This information need not be too detailed. Additionally, a biography is written in the “third person.” This means that you should avoid using “I” and present yourself as though you are reading someone else’s biography. The sentences below provide examples of the appropriate format.

Starting with the basic information about yourself and include the following:

  • Full name: How often do you write your full name? There could be others with the same name and you want to distinguish yourself from them.
  • Position: Your position at your academic institute lets the audience know more about your background and interests. If you are a graduate student, it will be impressive that you have been asked to present your research or that you have been published.
  • Institution: It is important that you acknowledge your organization or institution.

This information should be presented in a prose format in the actual academic biography, not bulleted as here. For example, the piece might begin with the following sentence:

“Joseph Tiberius Schmoe is a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota.”

You can follow this introductory sentence with information about the main areas of your research. For example:

“Mr. Schmoe conducted research on the social structure of the Bonobo monkeys (Pan paniscus) in the Congo Basin of Central Africa.”

After these introductory sentences, you can add other details, such as how long you’ve been studying the species. You can add a hypothesis and how your research differs from that of others. You might also include some research milestones.

Short academic biographies are usually about 35–50 words. However, long biographies can range from 100 to 400 words. These would include more detail and the context would be different. For example, in a longer biography, you might include the following:

  • Academic degrees
  • Specific academic projects
  • Awards and/or honors
  • Published pieces
  • Personal interests
  • Hobbies
  • Background

Longer academic biographies can be used on a personal website or be a part of the job application. This is usually not the format for conferences and seminars.

Know Your Audience

Although you must limit your biographical information, you can still gear it towards the audience or reader. Keep in mind the following three specifications:

  • Your audience: Who is going to read your biography? Are they conference attendees or funding sources?
  • The context: Will the biography be printed in a journal or in a conference proceeding? Will it be posted on a university or corporate website? Wil it be shared in events such as disciplinary conventions. Read biographies of your peers for reference.
  • The purpose: Why are you being asked for a biography? Are you meeting with other researchers in the same field? Are you meeting with clients or funders?

These three main points will help you choose the information that would be most relevant to those reviewing it. It will also help you create a specific writing tone or style for that audience.

What Not to Do

You don’t have much space to write about yourself so make it count. Be sure that you are succinct and relevant. The following should be heeded:

  • Avoid using humor. In short biographies, there is no space for it but be careful with it even in long biographies. You can include some humorous stories aside from your biographical information on your webpage.
  • Avoid very personal information. This is especially important at a conference. Your first impression is important and you want people to remember you for your accomplishments. Be professional.
  • Avoid providing too much information. Present the information concerning your current position, research, or employment. Information about your past, such as high school, is not necessary.

Remember to keep your writing somewhat formal.

*The information in this page is provided by Enago Academy