A profile describes a person—not just in general, but with a particular focus. You might focus on a person's interesting job, hobby, or lifestyle. You might write about someone who has made a major contribution to his or her community, company, place of worship, or organization; someone who has overcome a problem such as anorexia or a learning disability; or someone who played a significant role in your growing up. You could profile a person you do not admire: an abusive parent, for example, or a childhood friend who joined a violent gang.
Your information should come from personal knowledge or interviews, not from written sources (unless your instructor suggests otherwise). For this assignment, you may use the word I (as the writers of the sample papers have done) unless your instructor prefers that you write only from the third-person point of view (he, she, it, one). Aim for an essay from 500 to 1,000 words long—two to four typed pages, double-spaced.
Tips on profiling a person
- Consider interviewing the person you plan to profile, perhaps along with the person's friends or colleagues. Prepare for an interview by jotting down a list of questions. Avoid questions with yes/no answers or those that encourage vague rambling. Instead, pose questions that will elicit specific facts, anecdotes, and opinions that might add a meaningful dimension to your paper.
- As you collect details about your subject, jot down some notes. Then look through those notes for what journalists call an "angle": a way of focusing your material on a central idea or dominant impression.
- In your introduction, pique readers' interest in your subject and then sum up your central idea or dominant impression in a thesis. Do not omit the thesis unless your instructor says that for this assignment a thesis may not be necessary.
- In the body of your paper, use facts, details, and examples to illustrate the truth of your central idea; do not rely heavily on generalizations. When possible, quote your subject's spoken words to bring the person's character to life.
- End your paper by stressing the significance of the person you have chosen to profile.
Working the Water (attached)