Writing a brief biography to accompany a conference paper proposal or published article is a genre unto itself. While people approach the bio in a variety of different ways, key features are crucial to the bio for very specific reasons. The bio lets you present yourself to an audience of interested researchers in a small sound bite. Often you are constrained by a limited word count, so you will have to pick and choose what material you include. I’m not opposed to the cutesy or personable bio, often crafted in the first person, in which the person refers to their animals (which I am always a big fan of!), family members, or pastimes. However, such a bio often overlooks why the academic bio is important in the first place: establishing credibility, allowing readers to find you if they are interested in your research, and advertising your research interests.
First, the bio should ideally be written in the third person as if someone else is writing it for you. It will then be aligned with the majority of bios out there, and an editor or conference organizer won’t need to edit it for consistency. Second, it should indicate your highest degree (or the highest that you are working on, for example, Ph.D. candidate) or your current position and current place of work or study. This part is to situate you. If someone is intrigued by your work and realizes that you are finishing an M.A., they may contact you to suggest you undertake further study at their university. Similarly, if someone wishes to find you to ask further questions about your research or to suggest a collaboration, they might be able to find you with your highest degree and last place of work/study, even if you are no longer there. If you are an Assistant, Associate, full Professor, or librarian you don’t need to list your degree, just your position and place of work. Similarly, if applicable, it’s important to indicate that you are an independent scholar or a non-traditional academic.
Next, it is important to list the general areas of your research interest so people can see the perspective from which you are approaching the subject at hand. Though you probably have many interests, tailor them to the specific audience. If I am submitting something to a general academic audience, I might write “her interests are feminist theory, women’s writing, particularly Canadian, and children’s literature.” If I am submitting to a literary audience, I would include “particularly the works of L.M. Montgomery.” Follow up the general interests with a brief list of recent or significant publications. Again, you can target these to the audience or to the type of presence you wish to have. If you have some academic publications but wish folks to know that you are also a creative writer, for example, ensure you include the creative works and identify them as such. I will reiterate that other researchers are very interested in who you are, what your academic background is, and what related work you have undertaken. And, only if there is space remaining, you can add something fun, such as “she lives in lovely Wolfville, Nova Scotia, with her partner and two Siamese cats, Selkie and Kipling”!
Submitted by Laura Robinson, Dean of Arts, Professor of English and Theatre, Acadia University
Next (March 29, April 5): “Preparing to Present a Conference Paper,” by Tara Parmiter
Banner image of PEI waves. Anne Victoria Photography, 2018