Autoethnography: My Attempt at an Understanding

I really don’t have any experience with autoethnography. My experience with university projects thus far has always had me looking from a critical point of view by further removing all of my emotions, ideas, essentially removing myself entirely from the task I was researching. I had this drilled into me through high school and it has only been through university that this idea of a ‘correct’ writing style was challenged.

The article written by Ellis et al. defines autoethnography as “an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (Ellis. C et al, 2011). This method challenges prior techniques of research and writing as it “treats the research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act” (Ellis et al, 2011).

What I found interesting and important from the reading in regards to trying to understand how to write an autoethnography was the differences between autobiographies and autoethnographies. The reading by Ellis explains that an autobiography “should be aesthetic and evocative, engage readers, and use conventions of storytelling such as character, scene, and plot development and/or chronological or fragmented story progression” (Ellis. C et al, 2011)


An autoethnography which should have the purpose of creating a “thick description” of a culture. The purpose of this description is to help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders, and is created by (inductively) discerning patterns of cultural experience—repeated feelings, stories, and happenings—as evidenced by field notes, interviews, and/or artifacts.” (Ellis. C et al, 2011)

It’ll be interesting to explore the idea that writing with personal context isn’t exactly the wrong way to research and write, that it’s just different and maybe in that way it’ll open up my writing to a new audience. I think the main problem I will face is balance, balancing between personal input and critical research. My writing has always ever been strictly one or the other, e.g. high school assignments vs. my travel diary that I wrote in through my travels overseas.

This next task should be both interesting and challenging for me through my research and writing. My writing has been challenged since my first year of university so this should be fun!



Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1, <>.



  1. I like the way you broke down the topic of autoethnography in terms of the reading, but also about how it will affect you personally in your own research, and projecting your future ideas of this research. While I have been exposed to some autoethnographic research techniques in the past, I totally understand the struggle off getting personally involved with research; something that seems really ‘wrong’ compared to the way we have been taught to be critical in research and analysis. Great writing 🙂


  2. I wholeheartedly agree that striking the perfect balance between the personal and the analytical will be a challenge. We do need to keep in mind the importance of keeping our research, in the words of Ellis et al (2011) “meaningful, accessible and evocative” to ensure that we maximise the opportunity for us to empathise with others. Good job!


  3. I feel the same as you as I have never written about personal experience in a critical way. The differences between autoethnography and autobiographies is an interesting point you mentioned from the reading and this understanding will help write and analyse your personal experience when using this methodology. Good luck!


  4. Hi! I feel like there are quite a lot of us who feel the same way, it’s difficult to include yourself and your feelings and thoughts to research because it’s something that we (or at least I) were told not to do. Finding out how to do this will be an interesting process, which will hopefully come in handy with other subjects or research down the road. Overall I think your attempt at understanding autoethnography is great, from this post you seem to have a grasp and understanding of what it will entail. The way you broke it down was quite helpful to me as I’m still struggling a tad figuring it out. Good luck!


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