Observation and interview are two important aspects of a profile essay. This type of essay can be about a place, a person, or an event, but it is more than just a description. The profile essay also usually includes the writer's interpretation of the person, place, or event. It is because of this interpretation that almost any subject can be suitable for a profile essay.
If the profile essay is about a person, it doesn't necessarily have to be someone well known. For example, profile essays may be used as assignments in college composition courses in which two classmates partner up and write profiles about each other. They must prepare interview questions, conduct the interview, and then arrange the information in a way that provides what is known as a dominant impression. This is usually the interpretation of the profile subject that the writer wants to convey. Doing this type of essay in this context not only provides students with an opportunity to improve their interviewing and writing skills but can introduce them to their classmates as well.
Interviewing may also be used if the profile essay is about a place or an event. In this case, interviews may be conducted with people who are familiar with the place or event in order to get background information and opinions. Another way to gather impressions in this situation is to go to the place or attend the event and record observations. This may include observing the actual setting itself, as well as observing the people who inhabit the place or attend the event.
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A profile essay should include specific ideas and details rather than generalizations. In other words, including descriptive detail provides a stronger dominant impression for the reader. Details about a person being profiled may include a character sketch, while details about a place may include a vivid description about what the place looks like or how it affects the senses. The point of view the writer is trying to convey helps determine which details the writer chooses to include in the essay.
There are many different writing devices that can be used in a profile essay. In addition to description, some of these may include anecdotes — or stories about the person, place, or event — narrative, and dialogue. It is important to take careful notes when interviewing if dialogue or direct quotes are going to be used in the profile essay, as they should be exactly what was said by the person being interviewed.
A unique aspect of profile essays is that they are both objective and subjective. This means that, while the writer is stating facts to inform the reader about the person, place, or event, he or she is also conveying a perspective to the reader. One way to learn more about profile essays is to read profiles and interviews. These will demonstrate how the writer uses a combination of facts and observation to convey an impression.