Profile Essay

English 1101: Rhetoric & Composition Fall 2020 Week 9 – October 19-November 2, 2020 D. L. Davenport –


Dear All,


Please see below for Weeks 9-10 assignments. As we navigate our way through the Four Chief Modes of Discourse (description, narration, argumentation, exposition), our next stop is exposition. To that end, we will work the next two weeks on composing a Profile Essay. Make sure you read the assignment document carefully and completely. It is absolutely essential that you read the two sample essays I include below (please don’t skip this).

In addition to the profile essay, I have also included information regarding Proctor U, a new program for proctoring exams that involves you directly. Read the information carefully for Assignment 2 and complete. We will also have a practice run in the next couple of weeks to test your knowledge of this program.

All assignments listed on this document are due no later than Monday, November 2, 2020 @ 11:59 pm.  Don’t wait until the last minute to begin work on this. Both assignments for the week count as test/major grades.

Let me know if you have questions.


Take care and have a nice week,




Assignment 1


The Profile Essay (counts as test/major grade)


Compose an essay of 3-4 pages – 1,000-1,500 words – about an intriguing person, place, or activity in your community. Choose one of the two following options: (1) a profile of an event, a place, or an activity; or (2) a profile of an individual based on one or two interviews.  Observe your subject closely, and then present what you have learned in a way that both informs and engages readers.

Please read the following profile essays as models. They can be found at the URLs listed below.

· “I’m Not Leaving until I Eat This Thing” by John T. Edge

· “The Last Stop” by Brian Cable


*Do not profile celebrities or other well-known, high-profile individuals, places, or events. If you are not sure about your choice of profile topic, then make sure you ask me.

Papers failing to follow this requirement will receive a grade of zero.


Basic Information

Magazines and newspapers are filled with profiles.  Unlike conventional news stories, which report current events, profiles tell about people, places, and activities.  Some profiles take us behind the scenes of familiar places, giving us a glimpse of their inner workings.  Others introduce us to the exotic—peculiar hobbies, unusual professions, bizarre personalities.  Still others probe the social, political, and moral significance of our institutions.

Profiles share many features with autobiography, such as narrative, anecdote, description, and dialogue.  Yet profiles differ significantly from autobiography.  Whereas an autobiographer reflects on a remembered personal experience, a profile writer synthesizes and presents newly acquired observations.  In writing a profile, you practice the field research methods of observing, interviewing, and note-taking, commonly used by investigative reporters, social scientists, and naturalists.  You also learn to analyze and synthesize the information you have collected.

A profile is a special kind of research project.  Profiles always involve visits: meeting with a person or going to a place.  Profile writers take notes from observations and interviews and may pick up reading materials at a place they are profiling.  They may even need to conduct library research to gather information about the history and specialized aspects of a place or an activity.



· Are based on a writer’s newly acquired observations.

· Take readers behind the scenes of familiar places or introduce readers to unusual places and people.

· Provide information while at the same time arousing readers’ curiosity.

· Present scenes and people vividly and concretely through description, action, and dialogue.

· Reveal an attitude toward their subjects and offer—implicitly or explicitly—an interpretation of them.

· Create a dominant impression of the subject.




Purpose and Audience Considerations

      A profile writer’s primary purpose is to inform readers.  Readers expect profiles to present information in an engaging way, however. Whether profiling people, places, or activities, the writer must meet these expectations.  Although a reader might learn as much about a subject from an encyclopedia entry, reading the profile is sure to be more enjoyable.

Readers of profiles expect to be surprised by unusual subjects.  If the subject is familiar, they expect it to be presented from an unusual perspective.  When writing a profile, you will have an immediate advantage if your subject is a place, an activity, or a person that is likely to surprise and intrigue your readers.  Even if your subject is very familiar, however, you can still engage your readers by presenting it in a way they had never before considered.

A profile writer has one further concern: to be sensitive to readers’ knowledge of a subject.  Since readers must imagine the subject profiled and understand the new information offered about it, the writer must carefully assess what readers are likely to have seen and to know.

Profile writers must also consider whether readers are familiar with the terminology they want to use.  Because profiles involve information, they inevitably require definitions and illustrations.  Since profile writers are not writing technical manuals or textbooks, they can choose to define only terms that readers need to know to follow what is going on.  Some concepts or activities will require extended illustrations.


Summary of Basic Features


1.  An Intriguing, Well-Focused Subject:

The subject of a profile is typically a specific personplace, or activity.  And, although profiles focus on a person, a place, or an activity, they usually contain all three elements—certain people performing a certain activity at a particular place.

Skilled profile writers make even the most mundane subjects interesting by presenting them in a new light.  They may simply take a close look at a subject usually taken for granted, or they surprise readers with a subject they had never thought of.  Whatever they examine, they bring attention to the uniqueness of the subject, showing what is remarkable about it.


2.  A Vivid Presentation:

Profiles particularize their subjects rather than generalize about them.  Because profile writers are interested more in presenting individual cases than in making generalizations, they present their subjects vividly and in detail.

Successful profile writers master the writing strategies of description, often using sensory imagery and figurative language—the senses of sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing, and figures of speech such as simile and metaphor.

Profile writers often describe people in graphic detail.  They reveal personal habits and characteristic poses.  They also use dialogue to reveal character.


3.  A Dominant Impression

Readers expect profile writers to convey a particular impression or interpretation of the subject.  They want to know the writer’s insights into the subject after having spent time observing the scene and talking to people.  Indeed, this interpretation is what separates profiles from mere exercises in description and narration.

To convey a dominant impression, writers carefully select details of scene and people and put these details together in a particular way. They also express an attitude toward the subject, an attitude that can be implied through details or stated explicitly.  For example, a writer may express admiration, concern, detachment, fascination, skepticism, amusement—perhaps even two or three different feelings that complement or contradict one another.

Writers also offer interpretations of their subjects.  An interpretation may be implied or stated directly.  It can be announced at the beginning, woven into the ongoing observations, or presented as a conclusion.  In combination with carefully orchestrated details and a clearly expressed attitude, these interpretations give readers a dominant impression of the subject being profiled.  The effort to create a dominant impression guides all the writer’s decisions about how to select materials and how to organize and present them.


4.  An Engaging and Informative Plan

Successful profile writers know that if they are to keep their readers’ attention, they must engage as well as inform.  For this reason, they tell their stories dramatically and describe people and places vividly.  They also control the flow of unfamiliar information carefully.  Whether the overall plan is topical or chronological, writers give much thought to where unfamiliar information is introduced and how it is introduced.

Profiles present a great deal of factual detail about their subject.  However, the information can be woven into the essay in bits and pieces—conveyed in dialogue, interspersed throughout the narrative, given in description—rather than presented in one large chunk.

Parceling out information in this way makes it easier to comprehend: Readers can master one part of the information before going on to the next.  Perhaps even more important, such control injects a degree of surprise and thus makes readers curious to know what will come next. Controlling the information flow may, in fact, help to keep readers reading, especially when the essay is organized around topics or aspects of the information.

      Narration may be even more important, for it is used by many profile writers to organize their essays.  Some profiles even read like stories, with suspense building to a dramatic climax.  Writers can organize their narratives to develop and sustain suspense and drama.


Topics for Profiles

Before you list possible subjects, consider realistically the time you have available and the amount of observing and interviewing you will be able to accomplish.  You will have about a week to plan and write up one observational visit or interview, so this should determine what kinds of subjects will be appropriate for you.  Consult with your professor if you need help defining the scope of your writing project.  When you list subjects, consider every subject you can think of, even unlikely ones.  Consider unfamiliar subjects – people, places, or activities you find fascinating or bizarre or perhaps even forbidding.  Take risks.  People like to read about the unusual.



· Anyone with an unusual or intriguing job or hobby – a private detective, beekeeper, classic-car owner, dog trainer, yard sale pro, local band or musician, mortician, EMT, artist, chef, concert groupie,

· A prominent local personality – parent of the year, labor organizer, politician, consumer advocate, television or radio personality, community activist

· A campus personality – ombudsman, coach, distinguished teacher

· Someone recently recognized for service or achievement

· Someone whose predicament symbolizes that of other people (e.g., the immigrant experience, health/wellness, surviving on a budget/economy, struggling to make ends meet, the American Dream, perseverance in troubling times, work ethic/hard work pays off, etc.)



· A weight-reduction clinic, tanning salon, body-building gym, health spa, nail salon

· A used-car lot, old movie house, used-book store, antique shop, historic site, auction hall, flower show, farmers’ market, yard sales

· A hospital emergency room, hospice, birthing center, psychiatric unit

· A local diner; the oldest, biggest, or quickest restaurant in town; a coffeehouse

· The campus radio station, computer center, agricultural research facility, student center, faculty club, museum, newspaper office, health center

· A book, newspaper, or magazine publisher; florist shop, nursery, or greenhouse; pawnshop; boatyard; automobile restorer or wrecking yard

· A recycling center; fire station; airport control tower; theater, opera, or symphony office; refugee center; orphanage; convent or monastery



· A citizens’ volunteer program – voter registration, public television auction, meals-on-wheels project, tutoring program, animal welfare program, arts council,

· An unconventional sports event – marathon, Frisbee tournament, chess match, Special Olympics

· Folk dancing, rollerblading, rock climbing, poetry reading


A Final Thought: What a Profile is Not


     What is a profile? It’s a written snapshot taken from a particular vantage point, which provides readers with a unique vision of the subject. A profile is not . . .

> a simple report of everything you observe at a place

> an advertisement for the place (in fact, your profile may be quite negative)

> an essay primarily about you (although you will, of course, be a part of the essay)





Assignment 2 (counts as test/major grade)


Coastal Pines Technical College requires that all courses delivered in an online setting must administer at least one proctored assignment/event each semester, which has typically been the Final Examination administered in person on a CPTC campus. In an effort to create the optimal environment for this, the college has a new plan in place to fulfill this mandate. Please read through the Student Tips & FAQs document regarding Proctor U. Your Final Examination, along with another practice assignment, will be administered through Proctor U and it is essential that you understand the policy and procedure for accessing this new program. I am sharing this with you now so that you become acquainted with the program and understand that you will be required to complete a few steps with your computer/laptop prior to the scheduled proctored assignments/testing, in addition to other requirements. So . . . your assignment for this is as follows:

· Read carefully the Student Tips & FAQs found at the link below. Make sure you watch the videos as well. Note: It might be a good idea to print a hard copy of the document and highlight/annotate. Personally, I like to have a paper copy of important documents, especially if the stakes are high (but, then again, I am a bit old-school). In this case, the stakes are high for you because it involves your Final Examination and can seriously impact your grade if you get left behind.

· After you have read the document and watched the videos, respond to the questions/prompts below on a Word document (or your usual word-processing program) and upload to the appropriate folder our course Blackboard page. 1. According to the video, what browser extension must you add/download to your computer? 2. How will you know that you have downloaded the extension? That is, what icon will appear on your Chrome browser tab at top right of your screen? 3. What types of identification are allowed to confirm your identity? 4. Will you need a webcam? 5. Can you use a tablet, IPad, Chromebook, or phone to take your Proctor U exam? 6. Where do you plan to take your Proctor U/proctored exam? Be specific. 7. What is one essential requirement for choosing where (i.e, the environment/the actual place) you will take your exam? Explain. 8. How long will it potentially take to receive a grade for your proctored exam? 9-10. Send me at least two questions that you have about the procedure for interacting with Proctor U that aren’t answered on the Student Tips & FAQs.

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