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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: what is it?

The biographical precis is a highly structured five to eight sentence paragraph that records the essential elements of an individual’s biography with an emphasis on their influence on the world. The information given in a biographical precis includes, the person’s name, their life period, their national or social affiliation, the major fields with which they are identified, the field(s) to which they contributed, the titles of their major works or accomplishments, descriptions of the contributions that they made to each relevant field, a quote that belongs characteristically to (or about) that person, and a statement of what aspects of that person remain to be learned about. Each of the five to eight sentences requires specific information. It is necessary to adjust the grammar of each sentence to properly convey the information contained.

The primary purpose of the biographical precis is to provide a means by which any thinking person may produce a concise and accurate account of another person’s influence on the world. History is the expended story of individuals. An educated mind must have a sense of what key people have thought and done, and what difference they made. The biographical precis offers a method by which an individual’s effort can be researched and presented in a brief, informative way. A complete biographical precis can be written onto a single page or even an index card. By collecting and saving these encapsulated records of research, you can quickly develop a working knowledge of significant historical figures in any area of human endeavor. Most important, the biographical precis must be performed to become personal knowledge. Reading precis will give the same information as can be had by books and web pages. The key is to put the information together in a way that makes sense to you. When that is accomplished, the knowledge gained will be yours rather than a mere reflection of someone else’s writing. The biographical precis form must be learned and practiced, but what is learned by it is a way of understanding how people, their ideas, and actions transform the world.

Lao tzu

  2003 © Jon Dorbolo