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ENGL404 A Topic in English Language

Biography has been a popular form of writing for more than two centuries. This class will introduce students to key examples of biography and offer a platform for writing and publishing original biographical works. Students will contribute to Dunedin’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature while learning more about New Zealand’s literary history and about practical publishing.

There will be three main assignments - students will create:

  1. A Wikipedia page for a notable New Zealand individual
  2. One or two biographical articles for the Dunedin City of Literature
  3. A longer work of biographical writing in the style of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Suggested topics will be available for all three assignments, though students are encouraged to contact the paper co-ordinator in advance with their own ideas. The goal is to complete the class with two and possibly three published or publishable works.

Paper title A Topic in English Language
Paper code ENGL404
Subject English
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,206.91
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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72 points from ENGL 311-368, EURO 302

Teaching staff

Paper Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Thomas McLean

Paper Structure

The initial weeks of the class will focus on topic selection, outside readings related to biography and research on your selected figures. At the same time, we will begin preparing articles for Wikipedia and the Dunedin City of Literature. Research and writing of a longer biographical study will take up the remainder of the paper.

Teaching Arrangements

The class will meet weekly for a 2-hour seminar.


All readings will be available through Blackboard, though most of students' time will be focused on independently researching the content of their various projects.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete ENGL 404 will be able to:

  • Locate source materials, both published and archival
  • Discuss and analyse aspects of Dunedin's literary history
  • Identify the features of good, publishable writing
  • Evaluate critically and provide constructive feedback on the writing of others
  • Reflect on and respond to feedback on their own writing
  • Collaborate with others in addressing the conceptual and practical challenges of a large group project
  • Understand the many tasks required in writing, editing, and publishing a book
  • Understand the contractual agreements, intellectual property rights, and ethical obligations in research and publishing

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system