The Infamous Master’s Portfolio

I’m starting to take a look down the semester, thinking about putting together my Master’s Portfolio, and I realized this would be a great post to share. I know I’m not alone in needing to do my homework to get this portfolio turned in on time and what is required to go into it. So, my friends, I give you a handy-dandy source on the greatest hits of the Master’s Portfolio requirements.

What You Need:

  1. A revised and expanded seminar paper (or final project) and the earlier draft of this paper, which includes your professor’s comments. (So now is a good time to track down those final papers from the fall semester!)
  2. Two additional seminar papers or final projects
  3. A ten-page critical preface (more on this below)
How It’s Evaluated:
  1. Graduate level research and writing skills
  2. Thoughtful response to your professor’s comments on your revised essay
  3. Critical awareness of your writing’s value in a context outside of the classroom
  4. Your portfolio is read on a Pass/Fall basis

Check out the English Department page for more information on the requirements, the evaluation process, and some advice for putting your portfolio together.

Here’s a few tid-bits to get you started. First things first, you’ve got to pick those papers. How to choose? It’s a good idea to meet with one of your professors to help you decide. Don’t just choose the papers you’ve gotten the best grades on; look for papers that have really meant something to you. Which are the most central to your research interests?

Second, the revision process. Remember, you’re only revising one of the papers in your portfolio. This revision, however, should be substantial. Start with the comments from your professor, though of course you are not limited to these. Think about your paper in a context beyond that of the class for which you wrote it. Is this a paper you would be proud to submit to a conference or a journal? Do not just fix your typos and a source or two. How does your paper engage in a professional, critical conversation?

Finally, the critical preface. This is your opportunity to evaluation your development as a graduate student and budding professional scholar. You’ll need to reference the samples in your portfolio, but do not just summarize these papers. Discuss your intellectual development using the samples as reference points. The Department website offers the following questions to think about as you write:

  • What intellectual advances have you made?
  • What critics or critical schools do you tend to use and why?
  • How has your relationship to interpretation or reading changed?
  • How has your teaching changed?
  • How have your writing practices changed?
  • How has your sense of audience changed?

There’s also a link to a sample critical preface, which you can view here.

Portfolios are due April 15, 2012. If you have questions, feel free to email Dr. Mentz or stop by during his office hours this semester.

About Steve Mentz 650 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and early modern literature at St. John's in New York City.

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