Biography Writing Project,
Women's Autobiographies of the American West
The Project:One of your writing assignments this semester will be to read a Western woman's autobiography and then prepare a brief (500-750 word) biographical introduction to the text. After consulting the bibliography of Western women's autobiographies, choose one (in consultation with the professor). Read that autobiography, and gather information about the author's life from the text itself. Then, you will supplement that information with secondary information gathered in the library. This is a research project on a limited scale. You will need to spend some time in the Library Reference Department as well as on the internet gathering information; be careful about what information you choose to believe (especially with the information from the internet). You should also see if there are books written about the author you choose, or if the text she wrote has a body of critical work about it. If the author you choose is a writer, you will need to find information about her work. If she is a rancher or a shopkeeper, you will need to contextualize her within that world.
The Biography Project:At the end of your research, you should have gathered biographical information -- birth and death, occupation(s), family information, etc. -- for your autobiographer. You will base your introduction to the text on this research, as well as your own reading of her autobiography. What is surprising and interesting in the text? You want to produce something which others who are interested in Western women's lives will find useful because it provides background to and context for the text and because it points out interesting aspects in the text. This information will be supplemented with a note on sources (similar to the "Further Readings" sections in the Western Women's Reader, documenting your sources for the information you include, and presented in Chicago Manual of Style format.
The Historiography Project:You will also submit, separately and in hard copy only, a diary of your research process, listing the sources you consulted (even if they didn't yield anything) and the library resources utilized; this should also include a list of search terms used on internet search engines as well as the names and URLs of the engines used. There is no word-limit on this submission, but it should satisfy the professor that you have a command of basic research methods in women's history, and that you have sought corroborative evidence for the text even if you don't find much. Your grade on the research portion of the project will be based on your efforts and your diligence, rather than solely on your results. This section of the assignment is the historiographical project which is due T 19 December, in combination with a brief (1-2 page) statement of what you sought and what you found.
Submitting the Work in Electronic Format:The final results of the biographical project will be published on the class website, with your name attached to your writing. Because of this, take extra care with the editing and fact-checking of your work, so that you will make a good impression. The introductions will be submitted in hard copy and on 3.5" PC floppy disk saved in any of the following formats: WP 6.0 or earlier, MSWord, or RTF. Mac users may submit their essays in hard copy and via email. Please consult your professor if there is any difficulty.
Prepared by Professor Catherine Lavender for History/Women's Studies 389 (Themes in American Women's History: Women in the American West), The Department of History of The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York, Fall Semester 1998. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified: Wednesday 3 October 2000.