An autoethnography can be defined as "an analytical/objective personal account" that is "about the self/writer as part of a group or culture." This type of essay usually includes an attempt to see oneself as others might and is always an attempt to explain one element of self to another. (Bennett). This type of essay seems to have some of the same characteristics of a narrative essay and definitely answers the question “What is I?” in depth.
The professor of communication and sociology at the University of South Florida, Carolyn Ellis, states that “Autoethnographic forms feature concrete action, emotion, embodiment, self-consciousness, and introspection portrayed in dialogue, scenes, characterization, and plot. An ethnography can be described as a “social science method of qualitative research that describes human social phenomena…” The word “auto” translates to “self”, therefore, an autoethnography is written when “the researcher becomes the primary participant/subject of the research in the process of writing personal stories and ethnographic narratives.” (“What is Autoethnography?”)
This type of essay allows students to write freely and expressively, sometimes basing opinions on personal experiences. Because it is not all based on research and instead, prior knowledge from experience, some students are finding these much easier to write. The writer can think of a topic that is personal to him/her and then develop research questions related to that topic of interest.
Bennett, Susan. “Susan Bennet of Autoethnography.” The Way of the Program. 01 07 2004. Humboldt State University. 31 Oct 2007 <http://www.humboldt.edu/~cpf/autoethnography.html>.
“What is Autoethnography?” Autoethnography in First-Year Writing. 2006 University of Wisconsin-madison. 01 November 2007 .