Writing the Brief Academic Bio: A Genre Study

My Digital Writing class and I currently have something big in the works. I’m hoping to be able to share more the details of that project with you soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d talk a little bit about a related piece of writing I’m working on now: the brief academic biography.

This is a genre most often needed when preparing a work for publication or submission to a conference. At first glance summarizing your academic-self in 50-100 words might SOUND really easy, but surprise! It’s for sure NOT.

grumpy cat making ironic shocked face

Source: pixshark.com… and of course Grumpy Cat.

If anything, it is more challenging than the longer academic bio or CV (see my blog post on CVs herebecause it is so condensed. You are forced to be entirely thoughtful of your content and syntax, right down to the word level. No fluff here.

Unfortunately, as a Master’s student, I’m in the awkward position of not having yet done a significant amount of scholarship in my field — or even necessarily having established exactly what that field is. So unlike a PhD student, postdoc, or professor, I don’t have a particularly meaningful body of research to refer to in the bio. My solution? Do a little recon on some typical conventions of the genre (specifically, the brief academic biography of grad students) to find out what is considered kosher to include and what isn’t. Here’s what I found:

DO:

  • Begin by providing your name, current institution, and position at that institution (obligatory). This is simply a genre standard, for obvious reasons. When it doesn’t apply (because you have already graduated, for instance), the options seem to be either stating what your institutional affiliation previously was, and/or your present employment situation, especially as it relates to your degree.
  • Link to external personal sites where relevant (optional). Some grad students and academics will include links to their academic Twitter, blog, or professional website in their bios. Unless you have an external page like this (I don’t; sorry, kids, but I just don’t think Breaking Grad (School) fits the bill), it’s not worth it. I will most certainly NOT be linking to my personal Twitter account where I mostly talk about all the bad TV I watch…
  • Mention your academic interests (optional). This is my solution to the aforementioned problem of not having produced a meaningful body of scholarship at this point in my career. By indicating my academic interests, I can at least flesh out my academic career thus far for my readers, while also pointing to some possible directions for my future work.

DON’T:

  • Bring up your undergrad. This was a tough one for me, since I was pretty inclined to mention my undergraduate institution and major. However, in looking at several examples, I discovered that it’s just not done by grad students in this particular genre. The point here is to keep it brief, so if you’re a grad student, save your undergrad info for your CV.
  • Discuss irrelevant employment. The only time scholars make reference to their extra-academic jobs is as they apply to the accompanying article. So while I may touch on my experience in designing writing programming for graduate students in my graduate assistantship, I will not talk about my part-time job at a veterinary hospital.

Those are my thoughts so far, although I’m still revising my bio for this particular project. What’s YOUR experience with the brief academic bio? Would you include something I haven’t mentioned here? Leave something out I’ve suggested? Let me know in the comments!

Cheers,
Megan

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One thought on “Writing the Brief Academic Bio: A Genre Study

  1. I sometimes add some personal information if it is relevant to the project. For example, I currently working on something where mentioning that I am a survivor of sexual assault is relevant to the overall project.

    My biggest recommendation: have other people look at it first. You may think things are important that other people don’t or you may not include something that other people think you should!

    Like

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