How to Write an Autobiography for Sociology
Sociology students write autobiographies to evaluate their personal stories from a sociological perspective. This involves choosing specific events and relating them to society and culture. The purpose of writing a social autobiography is to develop sociological imagination, or the method of viewing yourself within society and culture as a whole.
The first step for the sociological autobiography is generating ideas. In his book "The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction," Dinty W. Moore suggests making a list of circumstances from your life that you would like to further explore. Since the purpose of the writing is to view your story from a sociological perspective, focus on events that have some social or cultural significance. During the course of the essay you explore an event and try to make sense of it with sociological imagination, or how your experience relates to the social world. Choose an event about which you feel comfortable exploring so deeply.
To make sociological meaning out of the events you choose for your autobiography, frame the experiences around certain sociological issues, such as gender or race inequality. You probably did not endure the experience simply so you could write about it later; therefore, at the time of brainstorming for the autobiography, use hindsight to make meaning out of the incident. Focus on your chosen sociological issue, and try to step out of the event as if you are an observer. "Take notes" of the experience from the perspective of the issue; for example, note how the occurrence relates to gender inequality.
At least some parts of an autobiography are in narrative form; for the sociological autobiography, use vivid narrative for the events that connect to your chosen issue. Include a conflict, in this case sociological forces that lead to a problem in your life. These problems can be related to having to conform to others' rules, speaking out against a group or even arguing with yourself. Hopefully the resolution of the conflict leads to some epiphany, or an event that significantly impacts your life. For the sociological autobiography, use hindsight to write about a social or cultural lesson you learned as a result of the experience.
Quality writing takes time. Bring your reader into the scene by choosing dynamic verbs and sensory descriptions. Engage readers with plot conventions such as scene and climax. Use appropriate sociological language in your narrative, especially in the analysis of how the story relates to culture and society. Start early so that you have time for both self-reflection and proof-reading. Choose events and issues that matter to you personally so that your natural enthusiasm shows through. Most importantly, check your writing carefully for errors and lack of clarity. Let your sociological autobiography create an evocative image of your socio-cultural perspective of your life.
Nadia Archuleta has a B.A. in English writing. She spent five years working abroad and has traveled extensively. She has worked as an English as a Foreign/Second Language teacher for 12 years.