Role/Writer’s Purpose: Your goal as the writer is to present a new or surprising perspective on what you are profiling. Audience: Someone who may be interested in your subject. Genre: Magazine or newspapers article/online post. Student Learning Outcomes: Synthesize ideas from a variety of sources. (B, C) Integrate inquiry-based research into writing processes. (A, B, C) Produce analytic texts that effectively address different rhetorical situations. (A, B) Task: Write a 1000 word (minimum) essay that provides a firsthand account of a person, place, event, institution, or other thing. Overview: Why do writers use the “profile”? Magazines and newspapers are usually filled with profiles that tell us about interesting people, places, and activities. They’re usually called “human interest” stories. They are interesting to us because they take us behind the scenes of familiar places, giving us a glimpse at their inner workings. The writer usually conveys an interesting interpretation or perspective that gives us something interesting or something provocative to respond to. They may be interesting to us, also, because they introduce us to the exotic—peculiar hobbies, unusual professions, and bizarre personalities. The writer may attempt to probe the social, political, moral significance of our institutions by closely profiling them. About the Profile: The purpose of the profile essay is to present the subject vividly to your readers. Your role is to supply a well-defined, well thought-out perspective, to orchestrate your presentation of the details so that your essay conveys a particular attitude towards your subject—your interpretation of it. The profile essay, therefore, is very much part expressive, part objective; it’s an interesting hybrid between the two. It’s expository in that you want to inform your readers about your subject—you want readers to learn something about your subject they might not have known otherwise—your unique observations and/or analysis. At the same time you are also conveying a kind of personal interpretation, a personal perspective, your own attitude towards this subject; so in that sense, it’s expressive. It shares many features with autobiographical and biographical writing—you can use narrative, anecdote, description, dialogue—yet it also differs significantly: autobiography is about remembered experience whereas profile is (usually) about newly acquired observation—acquired firsthand or through research. This kind of writing helps you practice the field research methods used across many disciplines: observing, interviewing, and note taking are all techniques commonly used by investigative reporters, social scientists, and naturalists. The challenge once you’ve acquired your materials is to analyze and synthesize what you’ve gathered effectively—to give it shape in an essay that communicates a dominant impression. Basic Features of the Profile An intriguing, well-focused subject: a person, place, or activity. The familiar or the exotic. Even the mundane can look interesting if you look closely and have a unique perspective to offer. Whatever your subject, you goal is to bring out its uniqueness, show what’s amazing or fascinating about it to you. A vivid presentation: particularize instead of generalizing. Instead of writing about “teenagers” in general, a profiler will show us a vivid portrait of one in particular, and leave it to readers to draw their own generalizations, if they wish. A dominant impression: convey your personal interpretation or impression of your subject, your own special insights—what you’ve gained by having spent time observing the scene and talking to people. This interpretive element is what separates the profile as a “genre” from other forms of descriptive and narrative writing, like biography. Select your details carefully and arrange them in such a way that they convey your attitude. An engaging and informative plan: you are master of ceremonies; you control the flow of information—how much and in what order. What do you want your readers to fully understand? Some general ideas for writing profiles: events, places, people Attend a special event, or see an ordinary event in a special way (a peace rally, a college party) and closely observe the place, the people, and the activities to write a profile of the event…try avoiding obvious events like concerts or sporting events unless you have a fresh perspective to share or a definitive reason for wanting to profile this particular event—did something make it extra special? Go to a familiar place (the patio, a lounge, the library, a favorite hangout) and closely observe the details of the physical space, the people, and the kinds of activities going on to write a profile of the place. Think of a unique person you know, or someone you know about, who has an unusual or interesting hobby or personality and write a profile about this person. You may even conduct an interview… Closely observe someone from a different generation, or in a certain occupation, and write a profile of that person or that occupation based on an interview you conduct… Write a profile of someone already well known, but present this individual from your own unique perspective. Guidelines: Keep in mind the following: Use strict 3rd person perspective. Use at least three credible sources: one from the DSC library database (look for sources that do not contain obvious bias and are professional and not personal or commercial), one of your choice, and one an interview. Use signal phrases to identify the sources that you used, and include in-text citations and a Works Cited page. Follow MLA conventions for formatting your paper (double space, paragraph form, proper headings, etc.). Do not write about a family member (too close to be truly objective), someone famous (unless you know them personally), or someone deceased (no opportunity for field research). You must be able to conduct an interview or observation for this paper. Originality report must be 20% or less.
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