Portfolio Explanation - Harper

As you know, for the rest of the semester you will be compiling a second portfolio of your work. As we compile the portfolio, you will be learning about specific strategies for argumentation. While we will read, discuss, and write about some common topics, you will decide which media and "American" culture topic or topics to write your arguments about. You should, at this point, already be well on your way to writing on a particular topic or topics. You will have several opportunities for feedback from a number of sources: workshops, conferences, intervention drafts, etc. You will also have plenty of time for research and revisions, providing you keep up with deadlines.

On April 27, you will turn in all the work you have done (research, collecting, notes, homework, drafts, etc.), along with the final draft(s) of the paper(s) you have selected as your best work.


Research, but mainly experience, has shown me that writers learn and perform best when they have multiple opportunities to try, fail, learn, think, get feedback, and revise. I would also argue that the only way to learn to write is by doing so. Compiling a portfolio gives you such opportunities. You will have several weeks to write arguments as you learn more about argument. Then you will choose your best work, revise and polish it, and receive grades for both the work you do (process) and the quality of your best work (final papers).

What will be in the portfolio?
Everything you write between now and April 27. Your goal is to show the step-by-step process you took in learning and writing as you compiled the portfolio. All homework, freewriting, research materials, notes, drafts, and workshop materials get turned in. As always, you will identify your final draft(s) of your best work and include them as well.

How will the portfolio be graded?
You grade will have two parts. Part one is process, and that includes showing all the work you have done. There will be certain minimum requirements that will be discussed later. Some people will do more than the minimum. If you meet the minimum requirements, you get an 'A' on process. If things are missing or deadlines haven't been met, your grade will be reduced accordingly. Part one accounts for 20% of your portfolio grade. Part two is the final papers. These are worth the other 80% of your portfolio grade. The minimum requirement is 12 pages, as I have informed you. (You may exceed the minimum if you discuss your plans with me in advance.) You may meet the minimum requirement for final papers in the following ways:

  • One twelve-page paper
  • Two six-page papers
  • One four-page and one eight-page paper
  • Three three-to-five page papers

These papers will be graded on criteria for effective argumentation and academic writing in general. We will learn about and develop these criteria as we go.

What kind of feedback will we get?
You will continue to work together informally and in planned workshops in class. You may also choose to work with classmates or others outside of class. These "others" may include Writing Center consultants. In addition, I will comment on intervention drafts. These are drafts you may submit to me for quick-turnaround, focused comments. You may submit intervention drafts to me on the dates specified. I will read these drafts quickly and make note of the one or two most important areas I feel you need to address first in revision. Consider my comments but one source among many, and please do not expect me to point out everything you might need to revise. The sheer volume of drafts to read precludes my spending more than 10-15 min. on any draft. And regardless of what feedback you get or from whom, remember that it's your paper and the decisions for its execution must necessarily rest with you.

Some important general requirements:

  • Everyone will be required to attend all workshops with at least one rough draft.
  • The last day to submit intervention drafts is April 20.
  • Photocopies of all written sources used must be submitted in the final portfolio.
  • All intervention and workshop drafts must be typed.

When do we begin?
You already have begun! Continue thinking about issues, problems, and controversies related to media and "American" culture. Reflect on what you have read and written so far this semester, and on future discussions, readings, observations and research. Start keeping a record or log of assignments as they are assigned. This will help those of you who have a hard time staying organized and remembering "exactly what needs to be included."

When you have questions, write them down and ask me about them in person, in class, over the phone, by e-mail ... etc.