IQ Home




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
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.



  Biographical precis: how is it evaluated?

The biographical precis that you produce for this course will be graded and given a point value toward your final grade. Three main criteria are at work in the grading:

1. Does the submitted biographical precis accurately fit the stipulated biographical precis format? If parts of the format are left out, that will affect the point value.

2. Does the content of the submitted biographical precis thoughtfully represent the importance of the philosopher under consideration? Writing in this format takes significant mental effort. It will not do to simply cut & paste fragments of other commentaries into the format or just paraphrase what they say. The task of this form of writing is one of synthesis. You must research the philosopher under consideration, draw together what you have learned about them, and express your knowledge using the prescribed format. This method requires you to make choices and judgments. Please realize that it is painfully obvious to someone who spends their life doing philosophy when an assignment is merely a transfer of information, rather than a thoughtful commentary. Don't be afraid to take some risks, individuality of thought is valued here. Just be prepared to back up your claims .

3. Are the references properly cited? Do the references relevantly relate to the content? The differences between a hastily tossed off biographical precis and a well-thought-through instance always shows in the references section. You probably cannot cut & paste your way to proper citation. Moreover, the point of references is to provide then sources of your thinking and writing. The references given need to bear some relation to the content of the biographical precis. It will not do to write the biographical precis then go fishing for impressive looking references as a last touch (sorry, but I've seen enough of this practice to need to be up front about it at the onset). The purpose of the biographical precis is not to impress us with apparent knowledge, but to provide an end product of actually reading and research. Of course your knowledge of the subject matter is limited (that's why this is an introduction course!) Just be secure that genuine effort is recognizable and will be valued. Go with what you know.

Below are some instances of proper APA citation form.

Reference: Single-Author Book:
Alverez, A. (1970). The savage god: A study of suicide. New York: Random House.

Reference: An Edited Volume:
Stanton, D. C. (Ed.). (1987). The female autograph: Theory and practice of autobiography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Article or signed chapter in an edited volume:
Pepin, R. E. (1998). Uses of time in the political novels of Joseph Conrad. In C. W. Darling, Jr., J. Shields, & V. B. Villa (Eds.), Chronological looping in political novels (pp. 99-135). Hartford: Capital Press.

Stand-alone web document, no author identified, no date:
GVU's 8th WWW user survey. (n.d.). Retrieved August 8, 2000, from

*If the author of a document is not identified, begin the reference with the title of the document.

Document available on university program or department Web site:
Chou, L., McClintock, R., Moretti, F., & Nix, D. H. (1993). Technology and education: New wine in new bottles: Choosing pasts and imagining educational futures. Retrieved August 24, 2000, from Columbia University, Institute for Learning Technologies Web site: http://www.ilt

Parenthetical Citation:
The APA system of citing sources indicates the author's last name and the date, in parentheses, within the text of your composition. A typical citation of an entire work consists of the author's name and the year of publication.

Charlotte and Emily Bronte were polar opposites, not only in their personalities but in their sources of inspiration for writing (Taylor, 1990).

Use the last name only in both first and subsequent citations, except when there is more than one author with the same last name. In that case, use the last name and the first initial.