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Is an autobiography a primary source?

how to write autobiography using primary sources

An autobiography is a primary source. Authors of autobiographies are direct witnesses of the events and time described in the narration. Even though autobiographies are usually written after these events happened, they are still categorized as primary sources given the first-hand information, like letters or photographs, they provide.

➡️  What is a primary source?

➡️  What is a secondary source?

➡️  Is a letter a primary source?

For example, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944 and is one of the world’s most famous autobiographies. This book, although edited, provides direct evidence of Anne Frank's experiences and is, therefore, considered a primary source.

Book cover of Diary of a young girl by Anne Frank

On the other hand, fictional autobiographies are not primary sources in the same sense as legitimate autobiographies. These would be secondary sources when compared to real autobiographies. However, if your research was about fictional biographies and the focus was on their literary interpretation, then they could be primary sources.

Frequently Asked Questions about autobiographies as primary sources

No, an autobiography is a primary source. Authors of autobiographies are direct witnesses of the events and time described in the narration.

Yes, a Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela is a primary source.

Yes, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin is a primary source.

Yes, the Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi is a primary source.

Yes, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is a primary source.

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how to write autobiography using primary sources

How to Write an Autobiography With Step-By-Step Guide and Tips

31 July 2023

last updated

An autobiography contains personal knowledge that dwells upon a unique life experience that impacted the writer’s personality or perspective. Basically, autobiographers identify exciting topics that relate to human lives. Also, autobiographies serve different purposes, like college assignments or applications, and sharing human life experiences. In this case, great autobiographers brainstorm to develop the life story topic and gather adequate evidence to prepare the essay. Then, the writing process involves developing an outline that contains a working thesis. Besides, writers prepare drafts of an autobiography by using the framework and make necessary revisions to enhance their work’s overall quality. In practice, outstanding writers rely on peer review to identify possible errors that may lower the autobiography’s quality. Moreover, compelling autobiographies must contain adequate details and supporting evidence that helps readers create imagery of the activity described. Hence, people need to learn how to write an autobiography to provide good papers.

General Aspects of Writing an Autobiography Essay

Autobiographies refer to papers based on personal knowledge, which dwell upon a unique life experience that significantly impacted the writer’s personality or perspective. Basically, an autobiography is different from a biography since an individual gives his or her account. In this case, scholars write autobiographies for various reasons, like college assignments or applications, and sharing their own life experiences. Moreover, writing autobiographies requires adequate skills and planning. In turn, one must select an interesting topic and provide clear and accurate explanations. However, these factors make the process of creating autobiographies complicated when compared to other college essays.

How to write an autobiography

Structure of an Autobiography

Practical autobiographies must follow a precise structure that contains the title, introduction, body, and conclusion. Firstly, the title should be short and correct, while the opening paragraph should offer the main points and should create a set of the events discussed. In some other cases, one can state the main issues directly. Then, a good idea is where writers use a non-chronological order when describing specific functions to make the narrative thought-provoking. Besides, using transitional words enhances the overall flow of the narrative. In turn, the conclusion developed should sum up the main issues discussed in the body. Hence, the unique structure of an autobiography enhances the communication of intended ideas.

Definition of an Autobiography

An autobiography refers to a narrative of an individual’s life story. For instance, an autobiography is a personal essay that offers an individual’s unique and felt experience as a written by that person. Basically, this description distinguishes autobiographies from other scholarly articles and biographies. Statesmen, politicians, writers, artists, and celebrities are ordinary people who write autobiographies. However, any person can give an account that encompasses memoirs, testimonials, historical and eye-witness accounts, and other important life events. Hence, autobiographies may contain different topics that interest writers.

Academic Standards

Practical autobiographies should have to meet specific academic standards to achieve higher grades. For instance, one should include catchy titles, an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Basically, these sections allow a scholar to develop a clear argument and present thoughts that reveal a sympathetic main character. Moreover, readers expect autobiographies to have a vivid depiction of scenes, emotional tension, a sense of conflict, and a satisfying ending. As a result, these elements enhance the quality of an autobiography and lead to higher outcomes.   

Step-by-Step Guide on Writing an Autobiography

Step 1: definition of a topic.

Writers should take the necessary preparation steps before writing autobiography essays. Basically, the first preparation step is the definition of a topic. In this case, one should brainstorm for possible ideas that can lead to a new issue. Besides, this phase allows writers to recall the events that they intend to use in the essay. In turn, the topic should contain catchy words that attract the reader’s attention.

Step 2: Making Notes on the Topic

The second step in preparation involves making notes on the topic identified. For instance, one should write down all the main ideas related to the problem. This step relies on brainstorming to recall concepts about the life experiences discussed in the topic. The writer should identify the most relevant details that relate to the life-changing event. Besides, one should group related ideas. Therefore, one must make adequate notes that relate to the autobiography’s topic.

Step 3: Defining the Target Audience

Thirdly, one should consider the target audience’s needs. In particular, prudent writers take time to consider the nature of the intended audience. Basically, the step involves reviewing the level of knowledge and life experiences. Also, autobiographies prepared for college admission or testing should have a standard grammar that meets academic expectations. Then, essays prepared for the general public should contain simple language that readers with different goals can understand. In turn, outstanding autobiographies include events that interest the target audience. Besides, having adequate background information about intended readers allows autobiographers to structure essays to meet their needs. Therefore, quality autobiography essays satisfy the requirements of the target audience.  

Step 4: Seting Up the Stage

The step in setting up the stage for an autobiography is finding sources of information. For example, autobiographies should contain compelling and accurate details and evidence. In this case, writers should find reliable sources that can support the main arguments presented in essays. Moreover, some of the places that one should consider for findings sources include the college library and the Internet. However, autobiographers must consider using evidence from credible sources . In turn, peer-reviewed journal articles, published books, and scientific reports are reliable sources that one should find. Hence, an autobiographer should consider gathering adequate evidence from credible sources to support the essay’s significant arguments.

Step 5: Taking Notes from Sources

The step for writing an autobiography involves taking notes. For example, writers should gather relevant details from the sources identified. In this case, the information identified must relate to the topic developed early. Besides, such sources should support life-changing events considered by autobiographers. Then, one should write down shorts notes and identify correct bibliographic details of sources. In turn, prudent writers revise records to ensure that they remain relevant to the topic. Moreover, the review process helps organize related ideas, select the most compelling arguments, and identify gaps in the evidence. Hence, right notes play a crucial role in promoting the quality of an autobiography essay.

Step 6: Creating an Outline

An autobiographer should use recorded notes to create an outline for the essay. In practice, the essay outline provides the overall structure of the actual piece. Basically, writers should include a brief introduction, a working thesis statement , and main points in the body section. In turn, compelling outlines contain a conclusion that restates the thesis and summarizes the main points. Then, the rough essay structure provides a clear picture of the intended essay. Moreover, autobiographers should include all the relevant details that relate to the topic. Therefore, writers should use the gathered evidence to prepare autobiography’s outline.  

Step 7: Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Prudent autobiographers create an annotated bibliography by using the sources identified. For example, an annotated bibliography’s primary goal is to summarize the main points from scholarly sources and determine their significance to the topic. Besides, autobiographers state how each source will contribute to writing the essay. In particular, this step plays a crucial role in ensuring that authors have adequate background information about the topic. Therefore, autobiographers should create an annotated bibliography of all the scholarly sources identified during the researching stage.

Step 8: Preparing to Writing

Setting up the stage for writing an autobiography is crucial in ensuring that writers organize ideas used for writing. In this case, prudent writers take full advantage of this step to ensure that they develop a clear outline that reveals the flow of significant ideas and concepts. Also, one should make necessary revisions to ensure that intended essays meet the required criteria. In turn, this step provides an opportunity to fill the possible knowledge gaps identified in the outline. Hence, adequate preparation leads to the actual writing stage, which makes preparing the final essay easier.  

Step 9: Writing

The writing process begins with creating a draft of an autobiography essay. Basically, writers prepare an actual autobiography essay, which includes all the sections. In this case, the strategy’s primary goal is to ensure that one organizes all the ideas into a complete paper. Moreover, the procedure helps to identify all the opinions that enhance the essays’ overall flow. In turn, writers should not mind spelling mistakes and other grammatical errors at this stage. Therefore, one should begin the writing process by preparing the first draft of an autobiographical essay.

Step 10: Consolidating Evidence

Autobiographers should consolidate the evidence gathered earlier to prepare the draft. For instance, one should consider using all the facts presented in the outline. In this case, valid selections should include necessary citations. Moreover, one must use accurate and relevant supporting evidence throughout the body of the essay. In turn, combining all the facts and arguments to a draft allows one to determine the flow of ideas. Therefore, writers must consolidate all the points and pieces of evidence in the selection by following the outline.

Step 11: Revising the Sources

The next step in the writing process involves revising the sources. For example, some sources may fail to provide strong evidence of arguments presented in the draft. In this case, autobiographers must consider reviewing such sources to ensure that papers contain compelling evidence. Then, prudent writers find new references to replace old ones that fail to suit the readers’ needs. Besides, one should not use sources that exceed five years from the date of publication. In turn, recent sources contain valuable and up-to-date information relating to a specific topic. However, one should consider only credible sources of evidence where necessary. Therefore, one should consider reviewing the sources and their relevance in supporting the main arguments presented when writing an autobiographical essay.

Step 12: Altering the Outline

The next step in the writing process involves altering the outline of an autobiographical essay. For instance, writers read through their papers several times to ensure that it meets assigned requirements. In this case, autobiographers should alter outlines to capture changes made in first drafts. Basically, the process may involve adding some points and eliminating those that appear irrelevant. Then, one must consider some of the essential factors that should include the flow and clarity of ideas presented in the draft. In turn, revised outlines should ensure that facts presented follow an order that excites the audience. Therefore, one should use the draft essay to review and modify the framework of an autobiography essay.

Step 13: Revising a Thesis

Prudent writers consider revising the working thesis of an autobiography essay. For instance, a working thesis should entail a summary of the facts presented in the piece. In most cases, scholars add essential ideas in body paragraphs when writing. Basically, the failure to revise the thesis statement makes the essay vague as a reader may fail to experience a good flow of ideas when reading through the article. In turn, autobiographers should read through the piece to grasp the main concepts and revise the central argument to ensure its clarity. Also, one of the best strategies to rewrite the thesis statement is through peer reading. In this case, scholars should give a different person the draft essay to read and make constructive criticism, which can improve the thesis statement. Therefore, autobiographers should revise central arguments to ensure that it captures all the main ideas.

Step 14: Rechecking the Quality

Autobiographers should take the writing stage seriously since it determines the quality of the overall essay. Basically, the most outstanding autobiographers prepare more than one draft. In each step, they revise all the elements to enhance the overall quality of the piece. Besides, scholars focus on the structure of paragraphs and sentences. Therefore, one must consider making several revisions to improve the overall quality of an autobiography essay.

Step 15: Wrapping it Up

The next step involves revising initial drafts to develop final essays. For example, autobiographers should consider changing compositions thoroughly to eliminate all possible flaws. At this stage, one should focus on reducing grammatical errors and the clarity of sentences. In turn, outstanding essays have minimal spelling errors and wrong tenses. Therefore, one must concentrate on revising an autobiography essay to ensure that it meets the required perfection level.

Step 16: Editing

Autobiographers should edit autobiographical essays to ensure that it meets the structural requirements. Basically, different colleges have varying needs when writing essays. In this case, writers must ensure that final papers meet the requirements. Then, some of the elements that one must consider include spacing, page margins, title page, numbering, and sources. Moreover, prudent biographers access the college requirements in advance and ensure that their works meet set criteria. Hence, the following are other factors that a scholar should consider when editing an autobiography essay.

  • Topic sentence – Each paragraph must begin with a topic sentence that relates to the thesis statement.
  • Evidence – Each paragraph should contain relevant evidence to support the topic sentence. In this case, autobiographers should consider using real-life cases in each section. Besides, one must provide adequate explanations to ensure that the audience understands the intended meaning in the narrative.
  • Concluding sentence – Each paragraph should end with a sentence that summarizes the main points discussed. In practice, the last sentence contains a transition that links it to the next section.
  • Peer-reviewing – Prudent scholars identify peers who can critique final drafts. In this case, writers must rely on feedback from several peers to make final revisions. However, one must determine if critiques remain relevant to the topic before making final adjustments.
  • Reviewing of the thesis statement – The thesis statement should be the last item that an autobiographer must revise. Basically, this strategy resembles the previous stage in preparing the draft. In this case, one should ensure that the thesis statement remains clear and relates to all the body paragraphs.

Techniques for Writing a Better Autobiography

Autobiographies play an essential role in informing the audience of more information about individuals. Hence, one should follow the following tips when writing different types of autobiographies.

1. Getting the Necessary Motivation

Great autobiographers rely on their motivation to create outstanding essays. For instance, one must select an interesting topic to write an autobiography. Hence, internal motivation allows writers to generate more ideas about the issue. 

2. Developing a Core Concept

Successful autobiographers have a central idea that unifies the overall narrative. In this case, one must consider some of the fundamental concepts that should include persevering love, faith during the challenging times, and strategies that led to success, among other inspiring themes. Moreover, writers should determine one reoccurring theme, which can weave continuity and interest throughout the essay.

3. Recalling Interesting Memories

One should think about different exciting periods in their lives when writing autobiographies. For instance, successful autobiographers focus on unleashing essential memories that may appear unique to the target audience. In some other cases, such memories should allow readers to discover new meanings in their lives.

4. Using Writing Tools

Successful autobiographers should use writing available writing tools to prepare their essays. For instance, some of the useful tools include books that provide a step-by-step guide on how to write outstanding autobiographies. As a result, essay guides allow writers to follow various steps in completing areas that remain unclear.

5. Maintaining Clarity

Great autobiographers ensure that their work has an impressive flow. For instance, one should read written parts loudly to identify awkward phrasing or wordy sentences. Throughout the writing process, scholars should use this strategy to ensure that the entire works have a unique flow of concepts.

6. Showing the Audience

The primary goal of an autobiography is to show the audience as opposed to telling them. Basically, outstanding autobiographies contain vivid explanations of various concepts. In this case, one should use figurative language and similes, among other tools, to create imagery throughout the narrative. Moreover, precise and accurate facts play an essential role in ensuring that readers understand intended messages. Hence, autobiographers should focus on showing how certain events impacted individuals’ lives.

Possible Mistakes and Solutions when Writing an Autobiography Essay

Students make mistakes when writing autobiographies, which makes them score poor grades. The following are the common flaws that people make when preparing their essays.

  • Failing to prepare in advance – Autobiographies are complex papers when compared to ordinary essays. Basically, failing to make in advance may lower the overall quality of papers. In this case, learners should take adequate time to prepare for their writing process.
  • Vagueness – Most students focus on many ideas in their autobiography essays, which make their work vague. Hence, one must focus on a single topic throughout an autobiography.
  • Inadequate evidence – Most students do not consider the use of external evidence when writing their autobiographies. From a practical perspective, autobiographies require adequate scholarly evidence to support the main arguments. In turn, one should gather enough information concerning the topic before starting the actual writing process.

Example of Writing an Autobiography with a Simple Outline

I. introduction.

My name is Michael Jones, and I was born on the 28 th of July, 1995, in Long Beach, California. In particular, my parents were Eddie Jones and Juliet Jones. My mother passed on in 2015 at the age of 57 from lung cancers, which resulted from her regular smoking habits. My father passed on in 2018 at 60 from multiple organ failure caused by excessive smoking and alcohol consumption. Although I grew up in a family that used abused drugs heavily, I have managed to restrict myself from such unhealthy behaviors.

II. Body Paragraphs

A. background information.

I was exposed to smoking and drinking at a young age in my family. Uncontrolled smoking and drinking forced my parents to divorce in 2015 when I was ten years of age. I opted to live with my mother since she was caring and less violent. My father remarried and lived with my stepmother until his death. My mother’s smoking habits intensified as she tried to cope with the stress caused by the divorce. I lived with her until the doctor diagnosed her with cancer, and she passed shortly after. Watching my mother suffering due to the terminal condition stressed me to the extent that I considered engaging in drugs.

B. Describing an Issue

I experienced chronic levels of stress as I took care of my mother. I some instances, I felt that taking hard drugs like cocaine was a suitable way of dealing with the challenges. However, I managed to contain the strong urge to take drugs. I felt that I have a bright future that required me to take serious steps in my life. Through the intervention from a non-governmental organization, I managed to attend high school, where I passed my examinations well. Hence, developing a healthy self-control level enabled me to cope with the temptation of engaging in drugs.

III. Conclusion

In summary, I grew up in a family where smoking and drinking alcohol was the norm. My parents were alcohol and cigarette addicts. Their irresponsible behaviors with the drugs caused them to have chronic illnesses. Their actions caused me to develop constant levels of stress, which increased the urge to use drugs. However, I managed to control my feelings and focus on making my life better.

Summing Up on How to Write a Good Autobiography Essay

Autobiographies are essays that contain personal knowledge, which dwells upon a unique life experience that impacted the writer’s personality or perspective. Basically, autobiographers identify exciting topics that relate to their lives. Moreover, scholars write autobiographies for different reasons, like college assignments, and applications, and sharing their own life experiences. In practice, outstanding autobiographers consider the following concepts:

  • Brainstorm to develop the autobiography topic.
  • Gather adequate evidence to prepare the essay.
  • Develop an outline that contains a working thesis.
  • Make the draft of an autobiography by using the outline.
  • Revise the draft of an autobiography with the outline.
  • Edit the draft of an autobiography to obtain a final version.
  • Rely on peer review to identify possible errors that may lower the quality of an autobiography.
  • Focus on a single life event throughout the essay.
  • Give adequate details and supporting evidence that helps readers to create an imagery of the event described.

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how to write autobiography using primary sources

How to Write an Autobiography 2023: Format + Writing Tips

how to write autobiography using primary sources

The world is eager to hear your story, which is one that deserves to be told. The options are unlimited when you have a blank sheet and a pen in your hand. It might be both thrilling and terrifying at the same time, but don't allow your fear of writing an autobiography to deter you!

Writing about your life has a lot more to it than meets the eye. It's a fantastic chance to get to know yourself and learn how to talk to new people - two important life skills that can be used in a lot of other contexts. It will also be helpful to you as a writer. It's normal for writers of books, papers, and different attempts to deliver their own self-portraits to acquaint themselves with the crowd.

Although it could appear challenging to write a successful autobiography, this is only true when you don't know how to approach the work. Our term paper writing services have included important guidelines, tips, and recommendations on this page to help you while you write. By the end of this post, you'll be able to fearlessly get started on writing your own life story.

What Is an Autobiography

It is essential to define what an autobiography is and specify the various forms before we can move on to our writing advice. An autobiography is a self-written work depicting the author's life story chronologically. These narrative-style articles can serve a variety of purposes, depending on the type of writing. You can also look at other narrative essay topics on our blog for endless inspiration.

There are typically four categories of autobiographical writing:

  • An autobiography is a lengthy and thorough account of the author's life. Everything from birth to the present is covered in this type of writing. Frequently, the reason for composing a life story is: to convey a person's life story to a large audience, to leave a mark, to reconcile one's past, or to preserve one's memories.
  • Autobiographical essay for college – Typically, this type of autobiographical writing is submitted with the rest of your application. This essay aims to present yourself to admissions officers and persuade them that you are a good fit for their educational establishment.
  • Memoirs – The only difference between memoirs and autobiographies is that memoirs do not have to cover a person's entire life. Instead, you can focus on a memoir's most exciting and significant past events and include as many details as possible.
  • Personal essay – This is the last and shortest form of autobiographical writing. Simply put, it is a self-portrait essay. This type of essay, unlike others, is more personal and emotional; sharing your personal experiences is necessary. Such a paper typically focuses on a single event, period, individual, etc. In schools and colleges, this is a common type of academic assignment.

Because of their distinct characteristics, each type may necessitate a different strategy. As a result, the purpose of this article will be to specifically discuss how to write a autobiography about yourself effectively.

Autobiography Example

As was mentioned earlier, reading a few good examples of autobiographies can give you an additional burst of inspiration and help find the right tone for your own writing. And you will say 'Yes, I can do my paper'! Here are a few brilliant examples to help you generate fresh ideas to get rolling:

As mentioned earlier, reading a few good examples of autobiographies can give you an additional burst of inspiration and help you find the right tone for your writing. And you will say, 'Yes, I can do my paper'! Here is a brilliant sample to help you generate fresh ideas on how to write an autobiography example:

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Autobiographical Essay Structure

Although the exact format of an autobiography will depend on the chosen type of writing, there are some basic principles to bear in mind.

autobiographical essay structure

First, similar to any other kind of essay, an autobiographical one should consist of three main blocks:

So, how to start autobiography? The introduction of any text has three main objectives: to introduce the reader to the topic of your text, to present your core idea, and to drive the reader's attention (i.e., to make them want to read further). Therefore, this part of your text should be concise and straight to the point. As a rule, intros should be between one to three sentences long.

A good way to make your introduction for autobiography example flawless is to outline your general portrait and to make an intriguing statement that will encourage the reader to continue reading.

The body of your text is its main and biggest part, which basically tells your story. Unlike the intro or conclusion, the body doesn't have any specific requirements in terms of length. You can make it as long as you need to uncover the main events of your life. The only rules applicable to this section of your text are that should be:

  • Well-structured – each paragraph should focus on a specific event or a period of time;
  • Clear – make sure your text is easy to read and understand;
  • Logical – since you are writing an autobiography, it is vital to present facts in a logical sequence and with smooth transitions between every paragraph.

An introduction is what makes people interested in your story and engages them to read the whole thing, but the conclusion is what leaves a lasting impression. Therefore, you want to know how to end an autobiography. The conclusion of your autobiography is a great place to assess your life, consider the lessons you've learned, and state how they took you to where you are now. Like your intro, your conclusion shouldn't be too long. Keep it clear and concise for a good story.

Creating a proper title page is essential to writing an interesting story. Just like selecting a font and font size, title page requirements could vary based on the standards of the institution you are writing for. However, there are some commonly established rules for making a title page. The following information usually goes on the title page:

  • Your phone number
  • Date of creation
  • Class, you are writing this for (optional)

The title and the author section must always be separate from the contact information and the rest. It's usually located in the middle of the paper, while the rest of the info goes in the bottom right corner.

This is an approximate autobiography template. In the following parts of our guide, we will focus more on the details and tips on writing an autobiography flawlessly.

Literary Forms of Autobiography

Let’s examine the literary forms of autobiography:

Literary Forms of Autobiography

Autobiographies with a central topic frequently go beyond just telling a person's life narrative. Through this storytelling style, the author may be attempting to communicate particular ideas or thoughts that they feel are important to share. Again, the objective is to express your views and opinions.


An author of a religious autobiography is someone who has or has had a relationship with God. Before being redeemed by God, the individual goes through several events and circumstances. They could also discuss their actions before being rescued.


In an intellectual autobiography, you describe your path and the significant events that shaped who you are today. You consider the factors influencing your viewpoint and share them with the audience. The person reading this is curious about how you became who you are.

The goal of a fictional autobiography is to accurately depict the author's experiences. To preserve people's identities, as some of it has been fabricated. Actions in this kind of autobiography may be inflated or altered for artistic reasons.

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How to Start an Autobiography: 8 Steps for the Writing Process

Writing your life story can be quite frustrating. Many people find it hard to look at themselves from a different angle. However, if you are up for the challenge, these tipWriting your life story can be quite frustrating. Many people find it hard to look at themselves from a different angle. However, if you are up for the challenge, these tips will guide you through the step-by-step process of how to start an autobiography essay:

Step 1: Find an Example

The first thing you should do before you rush to begin writing is to study one or a few examples of autobiographies written by famous people. This step has several purposes: to get a clear example of what a flawless autobiography should look like, to grasp the general tone, autobiographical format, and structure—applicable to this form of writing, and to get inspired.

Just in case you have no idea whose autobiography to start with, here are a few inspiring examples:

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
  • Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
  • The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
  • A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
  • Dreams from my Father, Barack Obama

Step 2: Write Down Your Most Important Memories

Your next step is to remember everything that matters to you. Think of remarkable people, unique experiences, key events, and other things that have influenced your life the most. Recall all the worthwhile details and make a list of them.

Step 3: Pick One Point You Want to Focus On

Generally, you would have to write about your whole life in an autobiography. However, since we are focusing on tips for great essay writing about your own life, you have to pick a focus point.

In an autobiographical essay, you must focus on a single event, person, memory, place, etc. Therefore, you should pick one point from your list. It can be hard to decide what to write about, so consider the most engaging for your readers.

Step 4: Ask the Right Questions

Writing about your own life can be confusing. You may find it hard to brainstorm ideas and maintain inspiration. To make sure that you won't get stuck wondering what ideas to include in your essay, here is a list of questions that should set you on the right track:

  • How would you describe yourself with three adjectives?
  • What famous quotes describe you and your life best?
  • What is the ethnic and social background of your family?
  • Who and what made you who you are today?
  • What are your biggest achievements so far?
  • What are your main goals?
  • What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your key values?
  • What are your worst and best memories of your childhood?
  • What has been the most memorable day for you?
  • What are your relations with your family members?
  • What is the most vital life lesson you've learned so far?
  • What fault could you never forgive yourself or others for?

Answering these questions should help to find inspiration and generate brilliant ideas for your autobiographical essay writing.

Step 5: Create a Detailed Outline

Although many people skip this step, writing a good outline can make the writing process simpler and more productive. There are plenty of reasons that indicate the importance of planning. Most importantly, making a proper autobiography format helps you follow the right structure and sequence and helps ensure that you won't miss out on important details.

Here is a sample outline of autobiography template that can come in handy:

  • Basic background information that engages readers
  • Thesis statement – main idea and key points‍
  • Thesis statement
  • Supporting ideas (details, facts, reasons, and a smooth transition between every idea)
  • Summary - use this outline for every paragraph in the main body. Include at least three paragraphs.‍
  • Restate your thesis statement
  • Summary of all key ideas
  • Conclusion (lessons you've learned, personal thoughts, etc.)

Step 6: Write Your First Draft

Once you have a specific plan in mind, you can create your first draft. Follow your outline to ensure you don't miss anything important, and don't rush.

Step 7: Proofread!

Although many people neglect its importance, proofreading is the key to success. It doesn't matter how interesting your story is if the text contains mistakes. Therefore, allocate enough time for proofreading and carefully check your essay for spelling, punctuation, grammar, style, and other mistakes.

Step 8: Ask for a Feedback

When you write an autobiography, no matter how carefully you proofread your text, there is always a chance that you've missed out on something important. That's why asking someone else to read your essay and share their thoughts is always a good idea. In addition, you can request help from close friends or family members. They should be able to look at your autobiography differently and notice things you haven't.

Writing Techniques to Use in an Autobiography

Here is a list of useful techniques for writing an autobiography for students.

  • A clear narrative

Remembering that autobiographies are still literature is important when discussing them. There should be a unifying storyline to link all of these experiences, regardless if they may not adhere to traditional creative narrative techniques. It should seem like a tale rather than just a series of disconnected incidents.

  • Attention to detail and key points

Detail-oriented autobiographies are advisable. We read this book to learn about the writer's unique history and expect interesting facts and key points from the subject's life. For reference, what career did they pursue, and where did they receive an education? 

  • Chronological order 

The majority of autobiographies are written in the following order: birth, childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, maturity, and senior years. Remember that this sequence does not always apply to all autobiographies. Autobiographies can be quite extensive and exhaustive, covering every aspect of a person's life.

The Perks of Writing About Your Life Story

When you write a good story of your life, it'd be great to include:

  • Helps you establish your place 

You don't need to be well-known or a professional writer to document your life's journey. Not all legacies are intended to reach a broad audience. Instead, most people leave behind a legacy in family history that is more humble in scope—with the people they have a lasting impact on.

The entire autobiography will be passed from one generation to the next. Admittedly, life events written on paper cannot easily be wiped out. A life story is a perfect tool for establishing one's auWhen you write a good story of your life, it'd be great to include the following:

The entire autobiography will be passed from one generation to the next. Admittedly, life events written on paper cannot easily be wiped out. A life story is a perfect tool for establishing one's authority in the realm of the earlier days.

  • You can reflect on your life lessons and learn more about yourself.

An autobiography is a form of learning about oneself. It allows the writer to delve into their experiences and reflect on their lives. As an outcome, self-knowledge develops while the adventure gains clarity. The detailed account gives the audience a window into the enchanted self-exploration process. Perhaps, the readers will also find their route due to this journey. Read a little about the reflective essay ; it will be helpful.

  • It can be a powerful tool for therapy.

The writing process of an autobiography involves the writer examining their feelings at different points in their own life. But the process of writing an autobiography looks back on the author's life with the advantage of retrospect. The recovery period might then start as a result. Numerous sensations, both good and bad, abound in human psychology. Ultimately, writing helps to clear up such feelings and attain awareness.

  • You are given a fresh feeling of direction.

An autobiography gives the author a chance to consider their life's purpose. Additionally, it enables the reader to evaluate their own. It helps people determine the meaning of their lives. Life, as we experience it, frequently feels frustratingly disjointed. It seemed more like a collection of mismatched storyboards from several movies than the storyline of a cohesive movie.

Writing your life story might help your life feel more linked and worthwhile. One of the main advantages of writing your story is this. A fresh insight, appreciation, and even tenderness for your life are brought about by reliving your past and viewing it from a distinct viewpoint.

Top Tips to Make Your Autobiography Look Flawless

Hopefully, our guide will show you the right way and help you get started. Now, here are a few more tips to help make your essay perfect:

Keep it short. You don't need to write your full biography, so there is no need to write a long piece. Try to keep your essay clear and concise.

Write from the first-person perspective. While it may be inappropriate in other papers, first-person narration is perfect for autobiographical essays. After all, you are telling your life story, so it is necessary to make it personal.

Search for examples. Even if you have never dealt with this type of task before, looking at some autobiographical sketch examples will help you get some ideas about autobiographical writing. Here are a few good examples to look at:

  • The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Mahatma Gandhi
  • Chronicles, Vol 1, Bob Dylan
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • Agatha Christie: An Autobiography, Agatha Christie
  • Autobiography of Mark Twain, Mark Twain
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King
  • The Road Ahead, Bill Gates
  • Faster than Lightning, Usain Bolt
  • A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  • My autobiography, Charlie Chaplin

Don't make it trivial . You shouldn't be afraid of adding your personal voice to this piece. If you make your essay trivial and follow a standardized writing pattern, it can turn out dull.

Add vivid details. Since this writing is meant to be emotional, you should add as many sensory details as possible. By adding such information, you will keep your readers even more engaged as they will be able to feel and see every part of your life story.

Did all of these tips on how to write your autobiography make you overwhelmed? Then order an essay to make your life easier! In case you have already written your work, you can always ask us to ' edit my essay ,' and we'll do it asap. Don't waste any more time and get help from the top service, which incorporates many talented and professional essay writers .

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Is a Biography a Primary Source? Details Every Author Should Know

POSTED ON Oct 1, 2023

Shannon Clark

Written by Shannon Clark

Is a biography a primary source? Good question.

When writing for an audience, adding relevant quotes, excerpts, and data provides credibility to your work. Primary sources reign supreme because information that comes from the original source leaves little room for error. In our digital age, where so much information is repeated from website to website, it's easy for data to be mistyped, quotes to be misattributed, and information to just be wrong.

It's similar to the group game, Telephone, that kids play. One person starts the game by whispering a phrase into the person's ear next to them. The phrase is repeated until it gets to the last person who says the phrase out loud to see if the message changed. When I played it as a little girl, the phrase hardly ever came out like the original. We run the same risk when we copy statistics or information from random websites that aren't the primary or original source.

In the first half of this article, we'll answer the question, “Is a biography a primary source?” define what the answer means, and then take a closer look at why biographies are categorized as such. In the second part, we’ll look at what to consider before writing one.

Table of Contents

So, is a biography a primary source.

The short answer is no. In most cases, a biography is considered a secondary source; however, there’s a little more to it than that.

A primary source is a first-person account (e.g., direct quote, diary entry) or the original source of information (e.g., a research organization that creates original data for an industry.).

A secondary source is a third-party account where the person or company sharing the information, got it from somewhere else. As I mentioned in the Telephone example, the problem with secondary sources is that since they aren't the first hands to touch the information, there's no guarantee that it's correct. Primary sources aren't always available, but if you have a choice between the two, do the extra research to find the primary source. It will pay off in the long run.

A biography is a third-person account of another person’s life, written by a biographer whose name appears on the cover. The subject of the biography can be living or deceased and the work can be authorized or unauthorized. For these reasons, biographies are classified as secondary sources. 

The rare occasion when a biography can be used as a primary source is when the biographer is the subject of the content being written. For example, if one were to write an article that analyzed the works of the American biographer Jean Strouse, her biographies, Alice James: A Biography or Morgan: American Financier would be considered primary sources. The source status of her biographies changes from secondary to primary because it is her writing that's being analyzed not the personal knowledge of what she wrote (unless that was part of the review).

What’s the Difference Between an Authorized and an Unauthorized Biography? 

With an authorized biography, the subject of the work is either involved in the writing process or they’ve given permission for the biographer to write the book. The biographer works with the person to ensure that the information included is correct and approved. This can include talking to close family members and friends to get a more well-rounded, objective view of the person's life.

Unauthorized biographies are not approved by the subject. Anyone can write an unauthorized biography about anyone they’d like. You don’t need permission, and the final book doesn’t have to be approved to be published; however, unauthorized biographies can be seen as less reliable than approved ones. Content presented as fact may come into question exposing the work to libel, invasion of privacy claims, and other legal issues. To be clear,  biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs can all be vulnerable to legal claims, so tread lightly when writing them. 

According to the Writer’s GPS: A guide for navigating the legal landscape of publishing by intellectual property attorney Matt Knight, securing life story rights is key to protecting yourself and your book from legal claims. Regarding life story rights, he says the following:

Life story rights are a collection of legal rights held by an individual regarding a story about someone's life. The purpose for securing these rights or the permission to use the facts of someone's life is to protect the writer and publisher from being sued for defamation, invasion of privacy, or the misappropriation of the right to publicity. Life story rights agreements, depending on the breadth of the contract language, allows the writer to use and potentially change or dramatize the life story for entertainment purposes (whether in print or on screen). Knight, M. (2020). The Writer’s Legal GPS: A Guide for Navigating the Legal Landscape of Publishing (A Sidebar Saturdays Desktop Reference) . Sidebar Saturdays Desk Referen.

If you're considering writing a biography (authorized or unauthorized), it's important to understand potential liability issues and how they can impact you as the writer.

It's interesting that for every authorized biography, it is not uncommon to find many unauthorized ones. For actress Elizabeth Taylor, the book on the left (below) was released in December 2022 and listed as “ the first ever authorized biography of the most famous movie star of the twentieth century, Elizabeth Taylor “; however, I found many biographies listed for her over the years (I stopped counting at 20).

Is A Biography A Primary Source - Images Of Authorized And Unauthorized Images Of Elizabeth Taylor Biographies.

Is it Possible to Write a Biography about Yourself? 

No. If you write a biography about yourself it is called an autobiography (different from a memoir). If you get a ghostwriter to write it, it is still an autobiography. Autobiographies are primary sources because they are first-hand accounts based on the subjects' memories and recall of past experiences. 

Is A Biography A Primary Source? - Image Of &Quot;I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings&Quot; By Maya Angelou

Unlike a biography, the subject of the autobiography is viewed as the author , whether they wrote it or used a ghostwriter. Autobiographies are considered subjective compared to biographies since they are a single person's account of events (not friends, family, or other third-party references like with a biography.)

How do You Write a Biography About Someone Who Has Passed?

As previously mentioned, if you can get permission to write the biography, do so. If the person is deceased, look for a representative, like a family member, or an executor of their estate. It’s important to share with them your plan for writing the person’s life story and hopefully get the green light to move forward. Getting approval can open the door to accessing archives and other personal details about the person to create a more in-depth work. This can include personal photos, diaries, and other information. Compare this to an unauthorized biography where you may only have access to what has already been talked about or uncovered. 

If the person passed a long time ago, getting permission might be a challenge, but you can still write the biography. Just do your research, save your notes, and try to write a biography that is thorough, objective, and professional. Prioritize primary sources over secondary and cite all of your sources to add credibility. It may be tempting to try to rush through the process, especially when you've been staring at the same information day after day, but doing a thorough job can pay big dividends.

In the writing of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Trajedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer , it took author, Martin J. Sherwin, 25 years to complete the work. The first 20 years were spent doing interviews and collecting over fifty boxes of archives (some received through the Freedom of Information Act). The last five years he partnered with author Kai Bird to complete the work . While it doesn't take every biographer that long to write a biography, it does add a weighty perspective to what writing an in-depth book about someone's life could entail.

Is A Biography A Primary Source - Image Of Pulitzer Prize Winning Biography American Prometheus By Kai Bird And Martin J. Sherwin.

Whether you write an authorized or unauthorized biography, the quality and objectivity of your writing are what matter most. Although biographies are considered secondary sources, it doesn’t mean that they can’t make a significant contribution to the tapestry of a person’s public life record. 

Seek out the permission of the person you want to write about if they are living or their family or representative if they are incapacitated or deceased. People’s life stories are personal, so the best advice from one writer to another is to write their stories with the same respect you’d want someone to write yours. This will add a strong entry to your book portfolio, save you a lot of headaches in the long run, and help keep you out of a courtroom.

Note: In this article, we touched on nonfiction life stories, but there are also biographical novels (fictitious) and autobiographical fiction that are not within the scope of this article. For more information on creative nonfiction, start here . 

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What Kind of Primary Sources Do You Think the Writer of a Biography Uses?

  • October 15, 2023

Table of Contents:

  • What Is a Biography's Main Source?

Different Types of Primary Sources:

Personal letters and diaries:, interviews and histories:, autobiographies:, photographs and visual images:, official documents and records:, contemporary news sources:, personal belongings:, audio and video recordings:, social media and a presence online:, conclusion:.

What Kind of Primary Sources Do You Think the Writer of a Biography Uses?

When taking on the difficult process of writing a biography, the author must carefully go through this huge world of primary materials to piece together a complete, accurate consideration. 

The writer of a biography or autobiography writer uses these original materials as the basis for constructing a detailed and compelling account of the subject’s life and accomplishments.

These primary sources, which may include letters and diaries to interviews and government records, are significant because they provide unique and direct information about the person being profiled. 

What Is a Biography’s Main Source?

In a biography, a primary source is a report or an original document that proves events, situations, or people connected to the person being studied. It is a source made or put together during the time being studied or by people who saw or took part in the events being written about.

Biographies can use letters, diaries, interviews, journals, photos, objects, audio and video recordings, and even the subject’s social media accounts as primary sources. These sites give clear information about the person’s life, thoughts, feelings, connections, and accomplishments.

Using sources, a writer of a biography tries to get true and real information about the subject. Therefore, it lets them write a full and detailed story about the person. Primary sources are the main parts of a biography. They give the writer the information they need to learn more about the person’s life and create a clear and interesting picture of them.

When writing a biography, the biography writing services need to use some first-hand sources to get correct information about the subject’s life. Primary sources are first-hand reports or original papers that directly prove events, situations, or people. These sources are very helpful for getting to the heart of a person’s life and writing a full story about them.

Biographers find letters and diaries among the most useful sources. These personal and private papers show what the person was thinking, feeling, and going through. 

Writers can learn more about a person’s goals, connections, and important life events by reading their works. Personal letters and diaries bring the subject to life because they are real and honest. However, this lets the writer create a lively and interesting biography.

Interviews with people who knew the subject or interacted with them are another important main source for biographers. These sources give different points of view, and stories, that help paint a full picture of the subject. Interviewees can be family members, friends, coworkers, and others who know the subject and can give useful information about their lives and attitudes.

A biography writer often needs to use autobiographies written by the people they are writing about. These personal accounts tell the story of the subject’s life from their point of view.  Also, it gives the writer a chance to learn more about their thoughts, experiences, and views. They are still good ways to learn about the subject’s thoughts, goals, and reasons.

Photos and other visual images can be useful sources when writing a biography. They show the person’s life story through pictures of important events, people, and places. Photographs not only show how the subject looks, but they also make us feel something and give the story more meaning. The writer of a biography carefully looks at these visual sources to find important details they can add to the biography.

Biographers need official documents and records, like birth certificates, marriage licenses, and law documents, as their first sources. These papers give facts about the person’s life, such as times, places, and court procedures. They back up what the biography says about the person and show that the story is true.

Modern news sources, like newspapers, magazines, and journals, can tell you much about how the subject is seen in public and affects society. Biographers, including short story writers , look at news stories and interviews. Also, reviews to discover how the person they are writing about was seen during their lives. These sources give a bigger picture and help shape the story by highlighting the subject’s arguments.

Personal items that belong to the subject can give you a sense of their life and character. These sources are clothes, accessories, furniture, and personal things. Biographers can learn more about the subject’s life, hobbies, and tastes by looking at these things. It makes the overall picture more complete.

The writer of a biography can hear and see the person they are writing about in action through audio and video recordings. Interviews, talks, classes, and acts are sources. Biographers can capture their charm, habits, and communication style by examining the subject’s voice, movements, and facial expressions. Similarly, this gives the biography more depth and makes it seem more real.

In the digital age we live in now, they use social media and online presence as their main resources. Many information on these platforms, like personal posts, podcasts, etc. Therefore, Biographers look at a person’s online appearance to learn about their public image and social ties. Social media sites can tell you a lot about a person’s ideas, views, and how they connect with others.

Biographers use a wide range of sources to tell the story of their subjects. Whether the writer of a biography is in personal emails, journals, interviews, or formal records, these sources give important information about how the person thinks, feels, and acts.

Therefore, the biography tries to create a lively and accurate picture of the subject. Also tries to focus on their journey, achievements, and the social, cultural, and political points that shaped their lives. Biographers work hard to find and understand these main sources. 

So that they can write true stories that capture the beauty of lives and leave a lasting mark on our understanding of history as a whole.

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Primary sources are research materials that bring history to life. They document history as it happened or close in time. The variety of primary source content and formats is diverse. When you text, tweet, send an e-mail, or take a selfie, you are creating a primary source! From diaries to photographs to real-time blog posts, these sources can be historically compelling, as they provide tangible evidence of people, places, and events.

A primary source is an artifact, document, diary, manuscript, autobiography, recording, or any other source of information that was created at the time under study. As you begin to examine primary sources, there are essential questions that you should consider. Not all questions work with all primary sources, and you may discover other questions as you go along. Keep in mind that no research project relies on just one single document or source.

Primary sources are firsthand accounts and evidence of people, places, and events. They exist in a variety of formats in all disciplines. Examples range from traditional print and written texts (autobiographical books, diaries), to non-written works (art, music, and recorded interviews), to social media (real-time Instagram posts and tweets!).

Secondary sources are interpretative works or analyses produced through researching, consulting, and studying primary sources. Examples include books and articles written from a historical perspective (later in time), reviews, textbooks, biographies, and indexes.

Tertiary sources are summaries of topics and subjects compiled from a variety primary and secondary sources. Examples include timelines, chronologies, bibliographies, directories, handbooks, and encyclopedia entries, such as Wikipedia.


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  1. What Books Did Helen Keller Write?

    Keller’s bestselling autobiography, published in 1903, tells the story of the first 22 years of her life.

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    Generally, primary sources are considered as documents or footage that was created during the time of an event. If no primary sources are available, other sources can be considered primary for this purpose.

  3. What Is the Difference Between a Primary and Secondary Source?

    A primary source refers to documentation or material presented by parties that were directly present or involved in the referred subject, while a secondary source refers to documentation derived from the opinion or views of primary sources.

  4. Write your autobiography using only primary sources. Attach a copy

    Write your autobiography using only primary sources. Attach a copy of the primary source you used when you submit your autobiography​

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