MA Portfolio Guidelines
An MA portfolio is intended as a representation of the diverse work and capabilities you have developed during your graduate program. It must be crafted carefully to persuade the targeted audience, namely your committee members, of what you have learned during your time in the program and that you are able to situate this work in your chosen area of specialization. You should think critically about what sample work you select for inclusion and how you organize it for readers.
Perhaps more important than the sample materials contained in your portfolio is the written reflection you do on that work. Reflection means being able to look back at your work and articulate what you learned through the process of developing that work. This reflection is a significant part of the overall argument of your portfolio. It is a demonstration of your understanding of the role individual projects played in your development as a writer, thinker, and practitioner, as well as how your programmatic experiences as a whole shaped your preparation for future work. For your introductory reflective essay and written introductions to individual sections you should apply rhetorical approaches to shape materials in purposeful, informative and persuasive ways.
Additionally, you should employ principles of visual and information design to facilitate usability and aesthetic appeal. Consider the layout of your materials, your choice of folder/binder and paper, your use of images, and the overall design of your materials. You should also include a table of contents to orient readers to the portfolio's materials, as well as a curriculum vita (CV) or resume.
Finally, you may choose to create either a print or an online version of your portfolio depending on your familiarity with needed technology and your professional or academic interests beyond the MA program. No matter which format you choose, you will need to prepare four copies of your materials (one for each committee member and one for the English department library).
Some Suggestions for Structure and Materials to Include
Keep in mind that the portfolio is a representative sample of your work, not a catalog of everything you have done. You will need to select the best five to eight examples of your work, make a case to your readers about why these are of value to you, and demonstrate that you understand how what you learned and produced is situated in the areas you have studied.
Perhaps the most important document in your portfolio is the introductory reflective essay. This document has several crucial functions. It should:
- Give readers a sense of how you got to this point, what you got out of the program, and where you plan to go from here using what you have learned
- Provide an overview of the material in the portfolio and a rationale for what you selected and how you organized it
- Reflect on the specific work included in the portfolio and how it demonstrates your academic and/or professional development
You should develop some type of organizational structure for presenting your work. Not only does this make it easier for readers to maneuver through the material, it also demonstrates your ability to contextualize your work and to illustrate connections between different courses, projects, and subject areas. Each sub-section (or individual item) within your portfolio should have a short (1-3 page) introduction that ties each piece together and helps to convince readers of its value.
There are any number of ways to arrange your materials, but some examples of how previous students have structured their portfolios include:
- by disciplinary or subject areas- Rhetoric, Design, Technical Communication, Composition, Cultural Studies, Literacy, etc.
- by type of document- seminar papers, electronic documents, document design and multimedia (on CD or DVD), technical materials, reports, proposals, short responses, etc.
- by programmatic experiences- coursework papers, internship projects and reports, teaching materials (including teaching philosophies, syllabi you have developed, sample assignments)
- by type of project or approach- Client-based projects, academic papers (possibly including sections for courses inside and outside of the department), multimodal projects
Although not required, including a section with some of the following components may assist you in adapting your portfolio for application to PhD programs or professional positions:
- Curriculum Vita or Resume
- Teaching Philosophy
- Non-academic, practice-based work samples (i.e. materials created for internships, client-based work, or non-duty hour assignments such as creating handbooks for the Writing Program, working as a Writing Center Coordinator, developing projects for the Design Center, etc.
- An organized list of courses taken to fulfill the MA program requirements