• Offered by School of History
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject History
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Melanie Nolan
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Autumn Session 2014
    See Future Offerings

Biography has grown considerably in popularity in recent decades and is utilised in a variety of ways in academic contexts and in mainstream publishing. It remains a loosely defined genre, so the task of writing a biography presents a range of challenges. This course will give students a thorough grounding in the biographer’s craft, focusing on the practical challenges of planning, researching, writing and publishing a life story.

A biography might serve a range of different purposes, depending on the theoretical perspective of the biographer and the life trajectory of her subject. This course will examine how these issues shape biographical practice. Students will consider common research challenges, which might range from assembling an archive from diverse and meagre sources, to negotiating a monumental personal archive of almost forbidding scale. Attention will be given to how biographers present a life in a literary form, and the strengths and weaknesses of chronological and thematic approaches to biographical narrative. Other practical issues such as ethical dilemmas and publishing challenges will also be canvassed. As a whole, the course is designed to equip students with the practical skills and knowledge required to undertake a biographical research project.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand issues facing leading biographers in writing and publishing biography.
  2. Demonstrate critical thinking in the uses of biography and life stories in the social sciences, humanities and public contexts.
  3. Show knowledge of research collections available to biographers in libraries, archives and online.
  4. Think critically about alternative approaches to the biographical form.
  5. Demonstrate a grasp of ethical dilemmas in biographical research and writing.
  6. Develop networks to assist in research and professional development.

Indicative Assessment

Reflective Essay (2000 words, 40%) [Learning Outcomes 1, 6]

Critical Essay (3000 words, 50%) [Learning Outcomes 2-5]

Participation in online discussion forums (10%) [Learning Outcomes 1-6]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Students are expected to spend approximately 130 hours on this course, working through the reading program, contributing to online discussions and completing the assessment tasks.

Prescribed Texts

No prescribed texts. Readings for each module will be provided at the beginning of the course.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Students continuing in their current program of study will have their tuition fees indexed annually from the year in which you commenced your program. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee Description
1994-2003 $1542
2014 $2478
2013 $2472
2012 $2472
2011 $2424
2010 $2358
2009 $2286
2008 $2286
2007 $2286
2006 $2286
2005 $2286
2004 $1926
International fee paying students
Year Fee
1994-2003 $3618
2014 $3762
2013 $3756
2012 $3756
2011 $3756
2010 $3750
2009 $3618
2008 $3618
2007 $3618
2006 $3618
2005 $3618
2004 $3618
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Autumn Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4600 01 Apr 2014 18 Apr 2014 18 Apr 2014 30 Jun 2014 In Person N/A

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