Writing and New Media (WRNM) 605

Creating Life Histories (Revision 1)


WRNM 605 focuses on three types of life history documentation: oral histories, memoirs, and autobiographies. The readings cover the cultural and historical issues inherent in developing these formats, ethical practice, and on learning some strategies about how to research, conduct, and write these formats. The course is intended to be both academic and practical in nature, to meet the needs of program students in MAIS and students from the general public who seek instruction in these forms of creating personal and family histories.

Course Structure

Each unit has a set of objectives and three discussion questions for which the professor responds to student answers. Students are required to answer 20 discussion questions over 13 units of readings, with a minimum of one question answered each week to obtain their full marks (20% of course grade). The other three assignments provide ample opportunity for students to explore their particular interests in creating life histories, with assessment feedback from the course professor. The course contract is six months for individualized study, so students have sufficient time to develop a project and to complete all course requirements. The units for each format are:

  • Oral history: Units 1-5
  • Memoir: Units 6-9
  • Autobiography: Units 10-13

Course Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify and analyze ethical, cultural and historical issues related to the creation of oral history, memoir, and autobiography.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the differences between the three types of life documentation and the methods used to create them.
  • Articulate the concepts of and issues implicit in memory and of memory-making, both individual and collective.
  • Research and evaluate some of the available online resources for creating life histories.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and skills for recording, critiquing and writing life histories.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.
The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Assignment Submission Deadline Weighting
Assignment 1 - Reading Responses Throughout the course 20%
Assignment 2 - Oral History Resources Review Before you proceed to Part 2 15%
Assignment 3 – Read and Review a Memoir Before you proceed to Part 3 25%
Assignment 4 – Project At the end of your course contract 40%
Total   100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Most of the course materials for WRNM 605 are provided in the course website. In addition, students will receive the following textbooks by mail:

Barrington, Judith. Writing the Memoir. (Second edition). Portland, Oregon: The Eighth Mountain Press. 2002.

Janesick. Valerie J. Oral History for the Qualitative Researcher. New York: The Guilford Press, 2010.

Kinew, Wab (2017) The Reason You Walk. Toronto: Viking.

Llewellyn, Kristina R., Alexander Freund, and Nolan Reilly (eds.). The Canadian Oral History Reader. Montreal: McGill- Queens, 2015.

Rainer, Tristine. Your Life as Story. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, May 19, 2017.