There are three options to writing this autoethnographic paper:

       You may write an autoethnographic paper entirely about your volunteer experiences, the volunteer organization, and the history it belongs to.

       You may write an autoethnographic paper that combines (bridges) your personal autoethnography with your volunteer autoethnography (focusing more on the volunteer than on the personal).

       Or, you may write two autoethnographic papers: one on your volunteer experiences/organization and a separate paper about your personal autoethnography.


Whatever you choose to write about must be written autoethnographically. Whatever story you choose to write about, make sure to have a clear purpose or message of the story in mind. In addition, every autoethnographic paper should be sociological in nature. C. Wright Mills conceived of the sociological imagination as “… the vivid awareness of the relationship between personal experience and the wider society” (1959:6). This kind of thinking allows you to “… grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society” (1959:6).



1)    Introduction

a.     Hook the reader.

b.     What is this paper about?

c.     What historical/macro phenomena (a.k.a. “issues”) does this paper deal with?

d.     What connections are there between historical analysis and your autoethnography (i.e. connections between “issues” and “troubles”, or connections between history and biography, macro and micro, etc.)? Don’t go into detail yet; just give the reader a preview of what’s to come (regarding linkages between historical phenomena and (auto)biographic experiences).

e.     Briefly tell the reader what you are going to do in this paper (first you will provide an historical analysis, then an autoethnography of your volunteer experiences, then explain the sociological significance of your paper, etc.).

2)    Historical analysis

a.     History of the social forces that created the conditions which in turn made the organization you volunteered at necessary in the community.

b.     History of the social forces that created the conditions that impacted/affected/influenced you and your experiences.

c.     Brief review of literature on the social phenomenon you are examining.

3)    Autoethnographic writing

a.     Before writing, have a scope in mind. Meaning, know what the overall goal of your paper is. Proceed writing autoethnographically with this overall goal in mind. Also and relatedly, write your autoethnography with your historical analysis in mind (specifically the phenomena uncovered/focused on in your historical analysis – your historical analysis must connect or “link up” with your autoethnography).

b.     Chronological story of your recalled memories of your volunteer experiences (and/or of your personal story).

c.     Include beginning, middle, and end.

d.     Hook the reader in the beginning.

e.     Tell an engaging story that the reader won’t want to stop reading.

f.      Reread your autoethnography. Answer these questions:

                                               i.     Do your historical analysis and autoethnography “link up”?

                                             ii.     Is your autoethnography connected to the overall purpose/goal of the paper?

4)    Conclusions

a.     How does this paper – particularly the linkages between the historical analysis and the autothnography – demonstrate Mills’s conception of sociology (specifically his ideas about the connections between “history and biography”)?

b.     In one sentence, what is your definition of sociology? How does this paper demonstrate/support/refute that definition/conception?

c.     What are the three most important lessons from this paper?



       Minimum of 10 citations/sources (peer-reviewed academic articles or books).

       Papers must be at least 10 double-spaced pages of TEXT (or five single-spaced pages). This does NOT include abstract, title page, references, etc. It must be at least 10 double-spaced pages (or five-single-spaced pages) of “body” or text. This is approximately 2,500 words. Anything less will receive an automatic 20-point deduction. For each ½ page less than 5 single-spaced pages, I will likely deduct an additional ten points. (If you choose option #3, cut this requirement in half for each of the two papers; i.e. each mini-paper must be 5 double-spaced [or 2.5 single-spaced pages] of text).

       Include a title page, abstract page (150-200 words), and references page(s).

       In-text citation and bibliography format. While ASA is preferred, I will not penalize you if you use another format (APA, MLA, etc.). However, you must be consistent throughout entire paper (bibliography included). I will take points off if you aren’t consistent.

       Use 12 point Times New Roman font and name the submission file as follows: LastnameFirstinitial.

       You must use Microsoft Word or PDF.

       For in-text citations and bibliography entries, I recommend you use this website: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/resources.html

       When in doubt, cite! Remember why we cite: Because we must give credit to the people who came up with the ideas and research we are using for our own work. If you don’t cite (or even make an attempt to cite), your work will be seen as fraudulent and an attempt to deceive. You are expected to give proper citations according to proper formatting protocols. But, when in doubt, just attempt to cite by giving the author’s last name and the year of the publication. An improperly cited sentence is better than not citing something you should cite.

       You must conduct actual research on the “social phenomenon” that you are examining using peer-reviewed academic articles or books (a minimum of ten sources – but better to have more if you want a higher grade). There are many different academic search engines you can use to find peer-reviewed academic articles and books. I typically use Google Scholar:



You can find other search engines here:


In addition to Google Scholar, I like “Academic Search Complete”. It’s on the above site (https://library.buffalostate.edu/az.php). After clicking on it, you will be asked to enter your Buff State username and password. I believe this is your email login credentials.


       NO plagiarism. See my policy on the syllabus if you don’t understand what non-obvious (and obvious) plagiarism means. You are all expected to know what plagiarism, in all of its forms (including subtle and non-obvious), means by now. Ignorance will not be a legitimate defense and you will receive a zero if any plagiarism is detected. If you have any questions related to plagiarism, contact me.

       Absolutely no spelling or grammatical mistakes. USE SPELL CHECK!


Additional Rubric

·      Is it an interesting and compelling story that makes me want to continue reading?

·      Does the story have a clear message? Do the parts of the story support this overall message?

·      Does the writing bridge together the “history” with the “biography”? Meaning, do you connect a historical analysis with your personal experiences and reflections? Are the connections between these two things clearly and persuasively communicated?

·      Does the story flow and transition easily and fluidly? Do the parts connect with each other? Or does each paragraph/section exist independently on their own?

·      No spelling or grammatical errors whatsoever.

·      Each paper must be a minimum of five single-spaced pages OF TEXT (not including title page, bibliography page, etc., etc.), 12-point font, Times Roman Numeral, 1-inch margins, start at the top of page 1, go to the bottom of page 10 of text.


Every paper – regardless of which option you choose – should have a section in which you explain how the story you are writing about connects to a larger societal/historical issue. If, for example, you choose to write about a time where you were out walking on the street at night with your friends, just hanging out enjoying the cool summer evening. You were having fun, just like any summer night with your friends, when all of a sudden, an angry old White (Italian) man comes out of nowhere and starts yelling and screaming at you. He’s claiming you left a mess of some sort on his property. What the hell? You have no idea what he’s talking about. The lines in his face, the flares in his nostrils, the awkward stares from onlookers. You have no idea what this man is talking about. Perhaps you would connect that story to one of several possible “overall issues” including but not limited to:


·      The history of relations between Italians and People of Color in that particular neighborhood.

·      The history of crime in that particular neighborhood.

·      The history of demographic changes in that particular neighborhood.


When writing about your volunteer organization and experiences, you will connect your experiences to whatever issue it is that you are involved in. For example, suppose you are volunteering at an afterschool program. I would do some research on the history of public schools in Buffalo, maybe starting in the 1950s, and taking it up to the present day. What roles have race, racial segregation, and racial inequality played in the experiences of Buffalo public school students, past and present – and how do these things contribute to the demand for an organization like the one you are volunteering at? Maybe you will want to think about and investigate how White Flight impacted the quality of resources provided in Buffalo public schools including but not limited to the quality of teachers and principals. How do these histories/historical moments explain what is going on in Buffalo public schools today – and, thus, how do they connect to the demands and pressures put on your non-profit organization?


Or perhaps you are volunteering at an organization that is providing services of some kind to a particular Buffalo neighborhood, like the West Side. You might do research on things like: Who lives in this neighborhood (races, ethnicities, religions, ages, education levels, median income levels, gender, single vs. married, etc., etc.). What is the history of this neighborhood? Have these same people always lived here? What else is there about this neighborhood (historically and currently) that may impact the organization you volunteered in, as well as the experiences you had volunteering there?


The point is I want each of you to “bridge” your lived experience to the larger society and history in which your lived experience belongs. Your story (whether you write about your volunteer experiences or not) probably feels like it is “your” story and your experiences. And that is true, to an extent. But it is also part of a wider story, a history that affects many more people than just you. Suggested length of this section: about 25-33% of entire paper.



1.     Write concisely, write concisely, write concisely, write concisely, and lastly, write concisely! Treat each word that you write like a scarce resource that you have a limited amount of. This may sound like a long paper and you therefore may be tempted to try to fill up pages with unnecessary words and sentences. But if you have worked hard this semester and put a lot of thought into the writing of this paper, you will realize two things: number one, you have a lot to say in this final paper; and number two, you will learn that ten double-spaced pages is, in fact, a very small amount of space. So again, treat each of your words like a scarce resource/commodity that you have a limited supply of. I only want to read concisely written papers, in which every word and every sentence is telling me something important. If I see any “filler” or “fluff” sentences (attempts to achieve the word minimum without really saying anything of substance), this will be my queue that this might be a poorly written paper.

2.     Communicate a clear story/message.

3.     Revise, revise, revise, and revise again.

a.     Grammar

b.     Spell checking

c.     Clarity (every sentence makes sense grammatically and conceptually – ask if you don’t understand what this means)

d.     Is this your best work?

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