A profile essay is a type of essay that centers on one person, place, or event. One of the most common profile essay assignments is one in which the author “profiles” a certain person, offering information about who that person is and why they are important, so it is similar to an informative essay in its goals.
Main characteristics and purpose
The main purpose of a profile essay is to present an objective profile of a person, group, or basically anything in a way that readers find interesting and informative. The profile essay can be either factual, presenting information based on direct observation and research, or it can be fictional, presenting information based on the author’s imagination.
When you write a profile essay, present the subject in a manner that is both objective and subjective. Objective information presents the facts without any type of interpretation, while subjective information presents the facts with some type of interpretation.
The characteristics that make a good profile essay:
- Focusing on a single individual, group, or place
- Including a detailed description and explanations
- Offering insight into the subject’s importance, meaning, or significance
- Utilizing a variety of research methods (interviews, surveys, observation, etc.)
- Showing behind-the-scenes information that others may not be aware of
If you want to find out more about essays in general, check our or other guide: Academic Essay Definition
How to write a profile essay
There are a few things to keep in mind when writing a profile essay. First, choose a subject that is interesting to you and that you have some knowledge about. It is also important to make sure that the subject is someone or something that can be adequately described in a short essay.
Next, you will need to do some research on your subject. This can be done through interviews, observation, or surveys. Once you have gathered your information, you will need to organize it in a way that makes sense and is easy for readers to follow.
Note: If you want to know how to write an essay in general, we suggest checking out our corresponding guide: How to Write an Essay.
Choosing a topic and developing a thesis statement
When writing a profile essay, you can choose not only a person as your profiling subject but also a place or an event. Profiling a place can be especially interesting, as it will allow you to explore the history and culture of the area. If you are profiling a person, you will want to focus on their personality, accomplishments, and any other unique characteristics that make them interesting.
However, before deciding on the final subject, consider if you have the time and resources to do the necessary research. You will need to have access to the subject in order to interview them and observe their behavior. In addition, you will need to be able to find enough information on the subject to write a comprehensive essay.
Ideas for profiling people:
- A person with an unusual job (e.g., a professional clown, a pet psychic, etc.)
- A person who has overcome adversity (e.g., a homeless person, a person with a disability, etc.)
- A person with an interesting hobby or talent (e.g., a competitive eater, a quilter, etc.)
- A prominent person in your community (e.g., the mayor, a police chief, etc.)
Ideas for profiling places:
- A local business (e.g., a family-owned restaurant, a mom-and-pop shop, etc.)
- A historical landmark in your town or city
- A local festival or fair
- A commonly unpleasant place (e.g., the DMV, the dentist’s office, etc.)
- A rarely visited place in your town or city (e.g., an abandoned building, a remote park, etc.)
- A place you like to go to (e.g., your favorite store, your grandmother’s house, etc.)
Ideas for profiling events and activities:
- A sporting event (e.g., a marathon, a football game, etc.)
- A musical performance (e.g., a concert, a school play, etc.)
- A community service project (e.g., a food drive, a park clean-up, etc.)
- A volunteer event (e.g., working at a soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, etc.)
- An annual event in your town or city (e.g., a parade, a festival, etc.)
Various Essay Topics – here, you will find a list of different essay topics divided by essay type and educational level.
Once you have decided on a subject, you will need to develop a thesis statement. Your thesis statement should briefly summarize the main points you will be making in your essay. This should be a brief sentence that sums up the main point of your essay. For example, your thesis might be “John Doe is an interesting person because of his work in the community and his dedication to his family.”
Keep in mind that your goal is to provide an accurate and insightful portrayal of your subject. Avoid writing a paper that is purely flattering or one that only focuses on the negative aspects of your subject. Instead, strive to provide a balanced and fair portrayal to come up with a successful profile essay.
Creating an outline of the essay
Once you have decided on a topic and developed a thesis statement, you will need to create an outline for your essay. This will help you determine the main points that you want to include in your paper. An outline should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Here’s an example of a simple but detailed outline of a profile essay about a person:
Subject: A profile of my high-school History teacher, Mr. Smith.
- I. Introduction
- A. Hook: Describing how Mr. Smith has impacted my life in a positive way.
- B. Background information: When I first met Mr. Smith, I was a sophomore in high school. He was my History teacher, and I quickly developed a respect for him as an educator and a person.
- C. Thesis statement: Through his teaching, mentorship, and personal example, Mr. Smith has instilled in me a love of learning and a desire to make a difference in the world.
- II. Body paragraphs
- A. Topic sentence: Mr. Smith’s dedication to his students is evident in the way he teaches.
- B. Supporting details: He makes sure that we understand the material, but he also challenges us to think critically about the world around us.
- C. Topic sentence: Mr. Smith is more than just a teacher; he is also a mentor.
- D. Supporting details: He has taken an interest in my personal life and career goals, and he has helped me to stay on track when I’ve faced challenges.
- E. Topic sentence: Mr. Smith is a role model to me in the way he lives his life.
- F. Supporting details: He is a man of integrity who treats others with respect, and I strive to emulate his example in my own life.
- III. Conclusion
- A. Restating the thesis: I am grateful to have had Mr. Smith as a teacher and mentor, and I know that his influence will continue to be a positive force in my life.
- B. Closing thoughts: Mr. Smith has made a lasting impact on me, and I will always remember the lessons he taught me both in and out of the classroom.
Writing the profile essay
The outline example above shows a simple essay structure consisting of five parts (an intro, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion). However, a profile essay can be written in a more free model of organization, which makes it somewhat similar to narrative or descriptive essays in this regard.
The main difference is that while narrative and descriptive essays are typically written in the first person, a profile essay is usually written in the third person. This is because you want to maintain an objective, unbiased perspective when describing your subject. However, if you are a part of the story, it is okay to write in the first person to show that you were involved in the scene.
Some profile essays will take the form of a point-by-point list of facts about the person, also known as a topical approach. This might be appropriate if you are writing about someone who has many different facets to their life (for example, a celebrity or public figure). The outline we presented earlier is an example of such an approach.
Another common way to structure a profile essay is to write it in the form of a story. This might be appropriate if you are writing about someone who has done something newsworthy or has an interesting backstory. In this approach, you will typically start with a brief introduction of the subject, followed by a series of events or anecdotes that illustrate its different aspects.
For example, if you are profiling an event, you might choose to write in chronological order, starting with the preparations and leading up to the event itself.
Or, if you are profiling a person, you might start with their childhood and then move on to their adult life.
In a profile essay about places, you can either write about different parts of the place in separate paragraphs (for example, the history, geography, and culture), or you can choose to write about the place as a whole.
Note: The number of body paragraphs is usually higher than three in such essays due to the narrative writing nature.
The introduction of a successful profile essay should give the reader an idea of who you are writing about. You will need to provide basic background information about your subject, as well as any significant facts that will help to introduce it. You can also start with a hook, a good way to keep the readers interested in your essay.
Introduction example of a profile essay about a local Hippotherapy center:
Did you know that horses can help people with physical, emotional, and mental health problems? That’s what Hippotherapy is – using horses to help people heal. And there’s a place right here in our town where you can experience it. The Harmony Horse Center is a non-profit organization that provides Hippotherapy services to people of all ages. Founded in 2006, the center has helped countless people in our community improve their physical, emotional, and mental health.
Your body paragraphs will be the meat of your profile essay, so you will need to choose the most interesting and relevant facts about your subject. These should be arranged in a logical order – for example, if you are writing about someone’s life, you might start with their childhood and move on to their adulthood. Or, if you are writing about a place, you might start with its history and then move on to its present-day features.
Here’s what the first body paragraph of that Hippotherapy profile essay may look like:
If you’ve never heard of Hippotherapy, you’re not alone. I hadn’t either until I started researching for this profile and went to the center myself. Once it was in view, I saw the barn and the arena and knew exactly what it was. As I approached, I could hear the horses neighing and the sound of hooves against the ground. I walked in and was immediately greeted by the staff. They were all so friendly and welcoming, and they answered all of my questions about Hippotherapy.
To end a profile essay, write a conclusion that ties all of the different elements of your essay together and leaves the reader with a strong impression of your subject. You might want to reiterate and rephrase some of the key points that you made in your body paragraphs, or you might want to briefly describe what your subject’s life is like now. You might also want to include a call to action – for example, if you are writing about a cause that you care about, you might encourage the reader to get involved.
The conclusion of that Hippotherapy profile essay might look like this:
Hippotherapy is an incredible experience, and the Harmony Horse Center is a wonderful place to try it. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in Hippotherapy or who is looking for an alternative form of therapy to check out the center. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and welcoming, and the horses are absolutely gorgeous.
When writing a profile essay, remember to:
- Choose an interesting subject: Your subject should be someone you’re curious about and want to learn more about.
- Stick to a clear organizational pattern: The introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion should all serve a specific purpose and support your topic.
- Show your role as a writer from the start: You should either write in the first person and show your direct participation or write in the third person to maintain a more objective perspective throughout the essay.
- Interweave quotations and evidence with your narrative: Strengthening your argument with direct quotes from your subject or secondary sources will make your essay more convincing.
- Conduct research: You will need to do some research on your subject in order to write a well-rounded essay. This can include interviews, observation, and secondary sources.
- Create an outline: As with any type of essay, you will need to create an outline of your thoughts before you start writing. This will help you to organize your ideas and ensure that your essay flows smoothly.
- Use details and sensory language: A profile essay should be written with plenty of detail and usage of descriptive and sensory language. This will help to paint a picture of your subject for the reader.
- Reveal the significance of your subject: In addition to providing information about your subject, you should also explain why they are important or interesting.
- Have a clear angle: Your profile essay should have a clear angle or focus so that it is not just a general overview of your subject. Analyzing what most people think about your subject will help you pick a good angle.
- Cite your sources: Be sure to cite any interviews, observations, or secondary sources that you use in your essay, following the conventions of the situation style in the assignment.
- Edit and proofread: As with any type of writing, be sure to edit and proofread your essay before you submit it. This will help to ensure that there are no errors and that your essay is well-written.
- Anoka Ramsey Community College – Portfolio #1: Profile Essay
- Washtenaw Community College – Profile Essay (Assignment Sheet)
- Ohio State University – ENGL 1113 Essay 2: Profile (Assignment Sheet)