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What is a biographical precis?
A detailed definition and explanation to get you started in using this versatile writing format.

How will my biographical precis be evaluated?
Here are some guidelines to the grading of your effort.

How do I write a biographical precis?
Text instructions
How do I write a biographical precis?
Interactive tutorial  (requires Flash plugin)
Can I see an example of a biographical precis?
Of course. Three are available:
- Douglass
- Lao Tzu
- Annotated Example
What is the assignment?
How do I submit my assignments?
How do I read for this format?
a printable reading guide to help you read and write for the biographical precis format.

How do I write well-formed citations and references?
A brief guide to citation form with examples and a link to the Citation Machine.



  Biographical Precis: Annotated Example

Below is an example of a well produced biographical precis with the directions for the format correlated with the example text. This annotated example is produced so that you may examine how each step in the directions is satisfied by a writer. The red lettering indicated the formatting instructions, the black lettering indicates the example for that step, and the purple lettering provides an identification of a key part of a format step to the place that it occurs in the example. In order to learn the biographical precis format very well, I recommend that you take the other examples provided, separate the sentences, and order them with the format instructions as is the example below.

Lao Tzu

1. Name of the person, life span birth-death in parenthesis, is/was a [geographical identifier] [major field identifier] who is known for her/his contributions to [field a] and [field b].
Lao Tzu (604-531 BCE) was a Chinese philosopher who founded a school of thought, Taoism, that became an primary influence in Asian philosophy and religion.

2. Name’s major works are: [title a], [title b], [title c], [title d], [title e].
Lao Tzu’s only known written work is a book of brief passages titled Tao Te Ching, which may be translated as The Law and Way of Natural Goodness.

3a. In field a, s/he [rhetorically accurate verb] [a brief description of the what the person did in that field].
In philosophy, Lao Tzu promoted ideas about the nature of the universe, the human place in the universe, and the nature of good and evil; these ideas are among the most lasting and influential ideas in history.

3b. In field b, s/he [rhetorically accurate verb] [a brief description of the what the person did in that field].
In religion, Lao Tzu created through his philosophy, the basis of Taoism, a religion that currently has about 20 million followers.

4. A characteristic quote from Name’s [type of work] [title of work] is; quote [reference for the quote].
Lao Tzu’s teaching that the best way to live is in conformity to nature, as found both inside and outside of the individual, is well expressed in this quote from philosophical and religious book, Tao Te Ching; "abominate the use of force, for it causes resistance, and loss of strength, showing the Tao has not been followed well" (Tao Te Ching, Passage 30, from DeBary, 1960).

5. A reasoned statement relating this person's thought/life/work to your own thought/life. A statement identifying an aspect of person's thought/life/work [logically accurate conjunction] a statement of the aspect of your thought/life that is so related.
I feel a strong connection to what Lao Tzu says about violence because I try to live according to a philosophy of non-violence.

6. What I want to know about Name is [a statement of one point that you want to know more about or feel that you could gain a better understanding of].
I would like to know more about how, in Lao Tzu’s view, people can live more in accordance with nature.

7. References: use standard bibliography style (APA or MLA) to reference your sources. Use multiple sources, compare them, and reference all that you use (i.e. get information from, not just look at).
Taoism. 1995. Religious
Daoist Religion. 1960. Franciscus Verellen, Nathan Sivin, et al. In DeBary, ed., Sources of Chinese Tradition, Second Edition. New York,: Columbia University Press.


  2003 © Jon Dorbolo