Autoethnography is a genre of writing

Purpose: To relate your in-group experience to a specific research question, suggesting how the research and your experience work together to answer the research question. You should focus primarily on the research (at least 60% of the paper) and use telling details/anecdotes from your experience (at least 20% of the paper).


Audience: Social scientists and other academics who are interested in in-groups and academic research. This should primarily be a formal, academic paper.


Sources: 5 sources including at least 4 scholarly sources.


Documentation: APA (You do NOT need to do an Abstract, nor does it apply to your word count)


Length:  7+ pages (at least 2100 words), not including your bibliography nor any long quotes.




Autoethnography is a genre of writing that explores the researcher’s personal experience and connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings through research. Though this assignment includes personal and reflective aspects, you will need to do more than simply tell your audience about yourself and your in-group. An autoethnography is not merely a personal narrative nor is it simply a story. It must be thoroughly researched and penetrating in its insight. The personal elements can be an entrance point, a frame, a lens, but the substance of a good paper will consist of scholarship, not anecdotes.


You should begin by both identifying an in-group that you are a part of and a specific research question that pertains to the in-group. Begin by listing all the in-groups that you are part of and then brainstorming areas of scholarship that relate to those in-groups. You may want to pick the most important in-group that you are part of or you may want to pick the most interesting research question. No matter your choice, there must be recent (within the last ten years for most sources) academic research on the topic. Narrow to two or three possible research topics and then see what research you can find on each.


You will use a combination of scholarly and popular source material. You need at least five sources in total, four of which must be recent (within the last ten years) scholarly articles from peer-reviewed journals or books. The remaining source may be scholarly or a high quality popular sources (articles, books, documentaries, published narratives, an interview, etc.), but you should primarily focus on your academic sources in your paper.


The sources you include should demonstrate or analyze aspects of your group, bring perspective to your own experiences and reflections, and help to answer your research question. You are welcome to include more than five sources if you so desire.


We will discuss how to pick an in-group to focus on, but you will be also be doing a presentation based on this paper, so you should pick a group membership that you feel comfortable discussing with the class.


Organization and Development of the Paper


There is no one “right” way to organize an autoethnography; these can be creative texts that weave together different genres of writing. You may choose to follow a “traditional” thesis-driven academic essay or go with a more creative approach (though you will need to include academic elements when you discuss your sources). No matter what organizational strategy you choose, you should have an identifiable central claim somewhere in the paper that answers the research question and relates the research to your membership in the group.


By including your personal experience in the paper, you will tell your reader about your in-group and relate your experience to the research. Is there a particular moment that defines why you relate to this group? Is there a memory that always reminds of how you define yourself as a member of this group? Use telling details to draw a full picture of your group and your experience with it. Be sure to connect these experiences to your research.


The research portions of the paper will seek to understand the connections between you, your group, and your research. You will integrate your own experiences with the findings of scholars who have studied your in-group and the focus/research question you have chosen. You should use the academic research to answer your research question and to support your claim. You will also be looking at how your involvement in this in-group has affected you, the way you interact with society, or how your identity adheres to or diverges from the perceived conventions of your in-group and how this relates to the wider academic research on the topic.


It’s important to remember that this is not simply an exploration of yourself and your history, though that is certainly part of it. You are approaching this as a social scientist; you should include your personal experiences but they are only a part of what you should be looking at.


Research and Evidence: For this project, you will combine evidence from a variety of sources: your personal experience as a member of your group and at least four scholarly sources that help you analyze your experience. Since you are writing as a social scientist, your scholarly sources should preferably be recent (within about the last ten years) and from a social science peer-reviewed journal or book. You may supplement these sources with relevant, credible popular resources that add to your description and analysis of your group without detracting from your scholarly ethos. Examples included published narratives, popular articles from national, respected publications, documentaries, association websites, group forums, blogs, etc.


As you integrate source material into your autoethnography, make sure to 1) signal material (use authors names to attribute) sufficiently for readers to understand when and how you are using sources, and 2) to connect it to your experience with follow-up analysis. Think rhetorically about what can be paraphrased and what may be useful to quote. Follow APA citation guidelines. You may also conduct an interview with a relevant member of your in-group for one of your sources–this must be cited in the paper as a personal communication, but it will not appear on the References.


Global Features: You have several choices to make in organizing your autoethnography.  First, you must decide how to balance your narrative with your analysis, either by 1) creating separate body sections—subtopics that organize the paper into parts that include both experience and research; or 2) by separating the personal and academic sections of your paper. You must also decide on an organizing logic for the order of your sections (e.g. advantages/disadvantages, specific effects, chronological, topics, etc.).  We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of your options in class.


Whatever structure you choose, to achieve your rhetorical purpose, you will need to balance describing your personal experience with analysis of scholarly findings about your group. As you describe, try to “show” more than you “tell,” using specific memories and experiences to show readers what your membership has been like. You will also need to connect your experience to your research.


As you analyze, connect the personal to the sociological, examining what scholars have found about your group, your research focus, and how your membership has affected you. Your introduction should engage readers with your group and your purpose (autoethnography), ending with an informational thesis outlining your approach. Your conclusion should state your main finding about your relationship with society (as a member of this group) and reflect more broadly on this finding, raising questions for future social science research.


Local Features: As a social scientist, your tone throughout should be reflective and thoughtful; an biased or sensational tone would damage your ethos. Your narrative should be concrete and descriptive, while your analysis should use sociological terminology and concepts to deepen insights. Strive for clear, specific prose that follows the conventions of Standard Written English.


You must strive to be scholarly, even in discussing your personal experiences; you should take the same analytical approach with your own history that you do with your supporting documents.


Be sure to document fully using either APA citation format. Failure to properly document your sources, to provide in-text citations (including page numbers), or to properly use quotation marks will result in failure (a zero) for the paper.


In addition, your topic must be approved, and last minute topic changes are not allowed. A paper that is submitted on an unapproved topic will not be accepted.