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The following types of material are biographical:
- Straightforward accounts of the life of a person (character, thought, and activities).
- Accounts of limited periods or aspects of the life of a person (e.g., Goethe as a government official). Collections of materials that serve as a source of or substitute for an account of a life. These include: (1) collections of correspondence unless they clearly relate to a particular subject or to an event not in the life of the writer (2) journals and diaries and (3) memoirs or reminiscences. Collective biographies.
- Literary criticism if more than half of the work is biographical.
- A work about a ruler and his or her reign if the ruler's life is given considerable attention.
- A work about a doctrine or movement if the work is largely biographical.
The following are not biographical:
- Documents relating to a person's life (birth, marriage and death certificates, commissions, diplomas, etc.). Obituaries, funeral orations, eulogies.
- Collections of portraits unless accompanied by substantial biographical description.
- Interviews and conversations.
- A vita within a work does not qualify the work as biographical. However, a biographical work may have a vita.