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Portfolio Guidelines


The Portfolio Option

The portfolio will contain revised projects from two previously completed graduate courses (in most instances, this should be the final, or capstone, project for the course). The student may choose to include critical work, creative work or a combination of the two. The student should choose one of the following formats for the portfolio:

  • Critical Portfolio. Two substantially revised critical essays originally produced in graduate coursework. Each revised essay should be approximately twenty pages in length.
  • Creative Portfolio. A substantially revised body of creative work consisting of content originally produced in at least two graduate courses. The creative work may consist of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screenwriting or digital media. The creative work should total approximately thirty-five to forty pages.
  • Combination Portfolio. A substantially revised critical essay of approximately twenty pages, along with approximately fifteen to twenty pages of substantially revised creative work, which may include fiction, poetry, nonfiction, screenwriting or digital media. The contents of the portfolio must come from work submitted during graduate coursework.

Revision of Portfolio Materials

Revised critical work should incorporate the following elements as deemed appropriate by the advising faculty member:

  • Writing. The student significantly improves upon structure and style.
  • Research. The student expands engagement with secondary research.
  • History. The student deepens the historical context.
  • Theory. The student develops the theoretical context.
  • Contribution to the discipline. The student provides an expanded sense of how the paper intervenes in its field.
  • Other suggestions from the advising faculty member.

Revised creative work should incorporate the following as deemed appropriate by the advising faculty member:

  • Style. The student revises syntax, diction and grammar for rhetorical effect; sentences should do what they mean.
  • Structure. The student revises the form to create a sense of tightness and alignment with the other layers of craft, including sentence style, imagery, tension, etc.
  • Elements of genre. The student revises scenes, dialogue, characterization, figurative language, imagery, etc., with an eye toward precision and detail.
  • Tension. The student strengthens conflict through the modification of pacing; this aspect, too, aligns with other layers of craft, including structure, style, imagery, etc.
  • Insight. The student develops overall themes of the piece in order to illuminate the human condition.
  • Other suggestions from the advising faculty member.

Portfolio Contents

The Portfolio must contain the following:

  • A table of contents.
  • A five- to six-page reflective introduction. In this introduction, the student should provide an account of his or her growth as a reader, writer and scholar since beginning the M.A. program. The student should describe his or her trajectory within the program, as well as the critical, creative or methodological skills gained along the way. It should describe the contents of the portfolio, explaining the revisions made and how they broadened the student’s knowledge of the subject matter or craft.
  • The revised work.
  • Original versions of the work submitted for class (not included in overall page count).
  • A curriculum vitae or resume (in consultation with portfolio advisor, the student should tailor the document to a specific post-degree goal—for example, publication of creative work, professional writing, teaching, publishing or further graduate study).

Purely creative portfolios must contain the following additional materials:

  • A two-page statement including a one-sentence biographical statement, a one-paragraph biographical statement and a statement of publication objectives for work included in the portfolio.
  • A one-page sample cover letter suitable for active submission.

Choosing the Portfolio Co-Advisors and Forming the Portfolio Committee

Students who complete a portfolio will submit revised projects from two previously completed graduate courses. They should ask the faculty members who taught those courses to serve as their co-advisors on the portfolio. If the same faculty member taught both courses in which the student completed the projects, the student will have only one portfolio advisor.

In consultation with their portfolio co-advisors, students should choose an additional English and Interdisciplinary Studies department faculty member to serve on their portfolio committee (or, when one faculty member oversees both project revisions, the student should choose two additional English and Interdisciplinary Studies department faculty members to serve on their committee). Because the student will be examined on coursework as well as questioned about the project during the oral exam, it is essential that the committee members not all be drawn from the same content area. Rather, the three committee members must represent at least two of the following three content areas: 1) British literature; 2) American literature and 3) rhetoric, writing or theory.

Completing the Portfolio

Upon securing the portfolio advisor(s), the student should begin working on the portfolio, submitting drafts and revising accordingly. When the portfolio is near completion, the student should take steps to schedule the oral exam. The student should schedule the oral exam well in advance to accommodate committee members’ schedules. The oral exam must be completed by the Graduate School’s capstone component deadline.

The student should submit hard copies of the portfolio to all committee members at least ten working days prior to the oral exam. Along with the project, the student must also provide committee members with hard copies of a detailed reading list based on coursework taken. To assist with the completion of the reading list, the student should save copies of syllabi from all courses taken.

Registration for and Assessment of ENGL 788: Master's Research Problems/Projects

Students who choose the portfolio option must register for a total of two credits of ENGL 788: Master’s Research Problems/Projects, one with each of their co-advisors. They should do so during the semester in which they are completing the portfolio. Students will be evaluated on the completion of their project revisions. In situations where one faculty member taught both courses in which the student completed the projects to be revised for the portfolio, the student should register for both research credits with that faculty member.