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New Mexico State University RPC Master’s Portfolio Style Guide RPC Master’s Portfolio Style Guide -

New Mexico State University RPC Master’s Portfolio Style Guide

RPC Master’s Portfolio Style Guide

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Part One: Textual Style



Introductory Essay



A. Content


B. Audience


C. Grammar and Style


D. Jargon


E. Gender Bias



Choosing the appropriate samples






B. Reflect goals


C. Exhibit genre knowledge/breadth


III. Introductory essays for each sample of work


IV. Ethics



Part Two: Visual Style



Printed Portfolio



A. Cover Page


B. Table of Contents


C. Introductory Essay and Sample Essays


D. Other Additions





A. Graphics


B. Page Length


C. Medium


D. Color scheme


E. Organization


F. Background


G. Navigation


H. Technology


I. Testing usability


Part Three: Suggestions from the Faculty








III. Tone


IV. Choosing writing samples






Memorable portfolios (for positive or negative reasons)


VII. General comments


Part Four: Resources

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Part One: Style

II. Introductory Essay



1. Purpose

The purpose of the portfolio is to show through your coursework what you have learned, and how you will plan to use this knowledge in your career. Some instructors will suggest you use a “past, present and future” model; however, it is important to remember that you must not only discuss your experiences, but that you synthesize the experience with what you have learned. Here are some things to keep in mind as you do this:

Mix personal reflections with academic observations. This will allow you to show, through examples, that you understand the material you have learned. It will also be more interesting to read how your book learning has come to life in your experience in the classroom or with a client, for example.

It is helpful to provide context for your committee members regarding what brought you to the program, but keep this to a minimum of what is relevant to your argument (see personal background).

Don’t just show what you have done, show why it is important. Committee members want to know how you have synthesized the information in which you have gathered through your work.

Develop your own argument. Committee members do not want a recount of outside sources.

You don’t have to solve all the queries you pose. It is ok to end your argument with more questions than answers.

Describe how you will apply your ideas to future endeavors.

2. Personal background

Limit what you say here to include personal background only— illustrating how it put you on the road to where you are today. This does not mean that you should write three pages about your

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childhood dreams—just give enough to provide context. For example, if you worked for a few years before returning to school for your master’s degree, include how your work experience affected your choice to join the program, the work you are illustrating in the portfolio, your internship, or your career goals.

3. Persuasion

Write to persuade. Your object here is to convince the committee that you have, indeed, achieved what you say you have. You have

learned the principles and skills of the program, incorporated them into your own ideas and goals, and created a plan to meet these goals. Therefore you are not being completely objective. Take a position – one that is pro-you. Use the following steps from our friend Aristotle:

a. Ethos: Show your competency and credibility through your work and your language. In addition, your presentation and your writing will show you are serious about the project.

b. Logos: Your message should be stately clearly and supported by evidence – your work and your evaluation of how this is meaningful. Try outlining your evidence beforehand. And keep your tone confident.

c. Pathos: This is where your personality comes through. Remember, the committee is comprised of people who have emotions and opinions. While you are executing your message and maintaining credibility, lend some charisma and appeal to your portfolio. Add some details and descriptive language.

4. Reflection/analysis

Once more: Presenting the work is only half the portfolio. Analyze your work, what it means to you, and how it is a refection of your studies.



1. Know your audience

You have handpicked your committee members and should be aware of their tastes, opinions, and styles. Think about this as you assemble your portfolio. Anticipate their reactions to your wording and the samples you choose. This does not mean that you need to say whatever you think they want to hear, but be conscious of to

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whom you are communicating with. This will help in many of your judgment calls, including humor, samples, and writing style.

2. Be open to critique

Remember that critique is a good thing. You have chosen the members of your committee because you respect their opinions. They will have suggestions and comments about your portfolio. Be receptive. While you may not agree with everything they say—do take it into consideration. Also, ask for critiques throughout the entire process. Show your first draft to a fellow graduate student and to one of your committee members and see what they have to say.

C. Grammar and Style




Academic vs. informal style


This is an academic document, but your writing should not be overly academic or difficult to read. Strive for a professional style that is clearly written to ensure the proper delivery of your message.

The key to professionalism is in balancing an academic and engaging tone. Keep your audience in mind and this will help

guide your tone. While your committee does not want your tone to reflect that of a conversation with your best friend, they also do not want to read page after page of dense material that has the style of

city ordinance. Use a personable and confident tone to remain professional.




Attitude and emotion

Before you begin, decide how you want to treat both your subject and your audience. This may change as you begin to write, but it is

a good thing to keep in mind from the beginning. The tone will

affect your choice of words and style—remember, be professional. You may know your committee members well and decide to write with a tone of familiarity, but keep in mind this is not an informal e-mail or friendly discussion after class. Stay credible and professional. If you feel emotional about a piece of work because it is personal to you, you can still share this with your committee members while remaining professional. They want to see your portfolio as unique to you, without it being cutesy or flippant.

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Humor can be a very effective tool in engaging your readers, as long as it does not dominate your document. Again, your committee wants to see your personality shine through your work, but make sure your humor is appropriate. Have others read your work to assess this. Here are a few helpful reminders when it comes to humor:

Consider the subject matter of your document. If you are introducing a serious piece of your work, say, on AIDS, humor may not be the best tool.

Remember that humor is subjective. You may think it’s hysterical, but will each of your committee members agree?

Don’t use humor just for the sake of using humor. Use it for the sake of enhancing your document.

Avoid sarcasm.

Don’t overdo it. Your readers did not buy tickets to a comedy show; they are interested in your ideas.

If you think it’s appropriate, don’t be afraid to include a little humor.

2. Diction

a. Active verbs/voice

Unless you are using a passive voice as a conscious style choice, use active verbs. They will make your work more energetic and powerful, while passive sentences tend to be longer and more ambiguous. Remember, you are trying to keep each committee member engaged, even though they are all reading several pages from several students.

b. Clarity

Be clear. You will not impress committee members with wordy sentences that are confusing. Once you think you are clear, have at least one other person review your work to make sure they, too, think you are being clear. Avoid overloaded sentences, which include too much information for the reader to easily follow.

c. Clichés

Some people love a good cliché. However, many people dislike reading them, especially in an academic setting. Use

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clichés sparingly, if at all. For example, “It goes without saying” that “in this day and age” committee members do not want to hear you say you “put your nose to the grindstone.” Try to use your own words to show what you mean, and demonstrate your abilities.

d. Nominalizations

Scan your essays for nominalizations. Because they require a noun and a verb instead of just the verb form, nominalizations make your writing wordy. For instance, instead of saying “I was involved in the creation of product x” you could say, “I created product x,” or “My group and I created product x.”

e. Contractions

Contractions affect the rhythm of sentences, and thus add to the style of the writer’s voice. Although contractions can be seen as too conversational, most writers, even in formal contexts, will contract words such as don’t, can’t, couldn’t, it’s, aren’t, and they’re. The use of contractions should parallel your voice at any given time. Read through your essay and count your contractions. See if the use is appropriate in each case by supplanting the two full words. If it changes your intended voice, leave the contraction. Just make sure your sentences are not overwrought with them.

f. Correct usage of Latin abbreviations

We commonly use Latin abbreviations and tend to interchange them when they do not mean the same thing. The following list will help you use these abbreviations correctly


id est

that is


exempli gratia

for example

et al.

et alia

and others



so forth



in the same place or cited just before


Anno Domini

in the year of the Lord





Nota Bene

take notice, note well




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g. Redundancy/repetition

Do not use more words than necessary to express your idea. Therefore, delete words, sentences, and phrases that are unnecessary and repetitious. It may help to read sentences aloud. If you come across one that you trip over, examine whether there are too many words. Can you say it more concisely? Why say “at this point in time” instead of “now”, or “because of the fact that” when “because” will do?

Repetition of certain words, however, can emphasize an idea and add to the rhythm of a sentence. Try not to use repetition too often as it will detract from your objective of emphasizing, and will instead be monotonous.

h. Figures of speech

Committee members want to see what you have learned from the program and why it is significant to your future plans. Figures of speech can add color to your language to make your description a little more fresh and meaningful. However, like many other writing tools we have mentioned, do not overdo, and make sure that your figures of speech enhance clarity, not confuse. Have someone else read your essays to assess clarity. Here are two typical figures of speech.

1. Simile: a comparison of two unlike things, typically marked by use of "like", "as" or "than". Aristotle said that good similes give an "effect of brilliance", but be careful because many clichés are similes (sly as a fox). Your simile should be your own creation.

2. Metaphor: an indirect comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects that, in its simplest form, uses "is a" to join the subjects. A metaphor implies the comparison, whereas a simile explicitly says it. Because metaphors can also be cliché (a dead metaphor), they should also be your own creation.

i. Elegancies

Elegancies are words or phrases that sound more elegant than the words they replace: “consume” rather than “eat”, or “retire” rather than “go to bed”. Impress the committee

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with your work and your ability to synthesize your graduate experience, not with fancy words that don’t add meaning. Also, make sure you use words correctly.

3. Sentences

a. Known-new pattern

Prepare your reader for what information is to come by beginning sentences with known information – what the reader can recognize as relevant – and following it with the new. Your committee wants to easily follow your ideas. Help them along the way.

b. Sentence variety

Students often think the longer the sentence, the more academic. Your readers do not want to wade through pages of complex sentences. Value the short sentence for its ability to add emphasis to an idea. Include a variety of sentences – simple, compound and complex – to create your desired rhythm.

c. Placing emphasis

In academic settings, writers also tend toward periodic sentences, which hold all the information until the very end of a long sentence. These are good for adding emphasis or climax to the end of sentence, but should be tightly structured since readers have a difficult time holding the information in memory until the “punch line.” In contrast, loose sentences are complex sentences where the main idea comes first. Try to include both kinds of sentences for effective rhythm and to keep your readers engaged.

d. Fragments, comma splices and run-on sentences

Please check your essay for these common mistakes, especially if you have had difficulty with these problems in the past. This document is a final product, a culmination, of your graduate education. Do not spoil it with errors in grammar. Have someone read your document to check for typos, and errors in grammar and spelling. You can also do an automated search through your word processor for commas. Look at each comma and make sure it is strong enough to hold the pause, and if not, replace it with a period.

4. Punctuation

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Again, check your punctuation. Then, have someone else check your punctuation. Aside from using proper grammar (we have

provided a resource list at the end of this study guide) here are some style choices regarding grammar.


Refrain from using exclamation points. You don’t want to sound like a cheerleader. If you do decide to use one, make sure it is warranted. Ask whoever is reading your first draft if it is appropriate.

Avoid using quotation marks for emphasis.

Dashes have their allure, but use sparingly. Check your essay for dashes and replace excessive dashes with commas or parentheses (again, you can do a search for dashes on your word processor, just as you did for the commas).




Paragraph topic sentence

State your central idea of a paragraph in a topic sentence, which is most often the first sentence, but can be placed anywhere in the paragraph. Putting your topic sentence at the end of the paragraph will give it extra emphasis and can also serve as a summary or conclusion. The other sentences should support this topic with relevant information and evidence. Topic sentences are a key element in developing coherent paragraphs. You may also use a transition from the previous paragraph in this topic sentence.



Make your paragraphs coherent by organizing your ideas, creating a logical argument that makes sense from idea to idea. Outlining your thoughts before you begin writing will help. Coherent paragraphs have a beginning, middle, and an end. Repeat key words and ideas to emphasize your main points and create rhythm, but remember that too much repetition leads to monotony. Transitional words and phrases will help you create flow from idea to idea. Here are some transitional words and phrases categorized by the type of paragraph:

cause and effect: consequently, therefore, accordingly, as a result, because, for this reason, hence, thus

comparison or contrast: similarly, also, in the same way, likewise, although, at the same time, but, conversely, even so, however, in contrast, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, otherwise, still, yet

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example: for example, for instance, in fact, indeed, of course, specifically, that is, to illustrate

purpose: for this purpose, for this reason, to this end, with this object

sequence: furthermore, in addition, moreover, first, second, third, finally, again, also, and, besides, further, in the first place, last, likewise, next, then, too



You may be listing in some way what you have learned, or how you have synthesized this learning. Enumeration can be helpful in establishing these observations in an orderly way. It can be done in various ways, either through a list, or by stating supportive points (first, second, third…). You can also achieve this in a more subtle way, by introducing the next idea with a transitional phrase (see examples of transitional phrases under sequence above). Be consistent in whichever format you choose.

D. Jargon

1. Discourse terms

You will likely be using terms you have learned through the discourse of the graduate program. Knowledge of the discourse is expected and encouraged, but be aware of your audience. If you are discussing your web design project, for example, be sure to use terms the entire committee will understand, or define these terms either in the document or in a glossary. This applies to abbreviations and acronyms as well. Do not use your knowledge as a tool to exclude anyone in your committee. As with elegancies, make sure you use these terms correctly or they will hurt, rather than help, your argument.



Do not string together pretentious words in long convoluted sentences to impress your committee. This only makes your documents tedious to read, and you lose the opportunity to express your meaning.

E. Gender Bias

Avoid what can be interpreted as sexist language. Here are some examples of how you can do this (Kolln).

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1. Use the plural:

Every writer can revise his sentences to be gender neutral. Writers can revise their sentences to be gender neutral.

2. Use “he or she” if you are going to use it only once.

Every writer can revise his or her sentences to be gender neutral.

3. Avoid “his” as a determiner:

The writer can keep his gender bias out of it.

The writer can keep gender bias out of it.

4. Eliminate the problem subject:

Every writer can keep gender neutrality in mind when choosing pronouns.

5. Rewrite the adverbial clause as a relative (who) clause When a person buys an orange, he should buy Sunkist A person who buys an orange should buy Sunkist.

6. Change the point of view:

First person: As writers, we should be gender neutral. Second person: When you buy an orange, you should by Sunkist.

II. Choosing the appropriate samples

D. Number

Choose 5 or 6 max. Your focus should be on quality, not quantity. Your samples should be representative of your time and what you have learned while in the program.

E. Reflect goals

If your career goal is web design, make sure you include digital work, in addition to academic writing. Include professional writing or projects that are relevant to your intended career and coursework. If you plan to teach, include examples of your pedagogical materials. Plan on grant writing? Make sure your portfolio includes at least one grant proposal. Plan on working in a non-profit sector? Include that Web site you volunteered to design.

F. Exhibit genre knowledge/breadth

On the same note, your portfolio should not be too heavy in any one specific area. Show off all of your talents. Demonstrate to your committee, and perspective employers, the breadth of your different talents. If you plan on going into web design, include a research paper. Here are some areas in which you can add variety:

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Research vs. non-research oriented

Analytical vs. descriptive

For depth, choose some larger or more complex projects. This will show you can explore a single, smaller topic in great depth.

III. Introductory essays for each sample of work

Everything that applies to the reflective/introductory essay applies here, just in a more condensed medium. In addition, here are some things to keep in mind that are specific to the essays that introduce each sample work.

Introduce each work and why it is important to you. Give context for what is to come, and why you felt you needed to showcase it.

Mention the connections this project has with coursework, and with the other pieces in your portfolio.

Use details. What was your motivation for creating this project? Why is it important to you and your portfolio?

Use rationale for decisions you made in creating the document.

IV. Ethics

It is important to remember that your portfolio is both a professional and academic product. The issue of ethics comes up often in both professional and academic realms and must be taken quite seriously. Understand that the use of another’s thoughts, ideas, works, concepts, or any other intellectual or physical property should be duly noted in your portfolio. This includes projects that you have complied and used in your portfolio that were created in a group effort. It is your responsibility to insure that the work that you complete and submit is yours or documented as someone else’s.

When you are using quotations from other sources it is imperative that you document the sources thoroughly. This includes your Works Cited list.

Ensure that you have properly expressed your use of material and sources that are not your own.

All work including, results, programs, and art must be recognized.

Plagiarism is a result of falsifying or misleading citation.

The presentation of another person’s work is considered plagiarism and will result in disciplinary actions.

Do not include work that you yourself did not complete.

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Part Two: Visual Style

I. Printed Portfolio

The printed portfolio should be a testament of your capabilities and skills that you acquired while in the program. The final project should be completed with a great deal of attention. Do not throw this together at the last minute. While the information that you provide in the sample works and essays are important, it is equally important to keep in mind the presentation. Include the following items:

A. Cover Page

Your cover page should consist of a number of elements, all of which will allow your committee to identify your portfolio as yours. These elements are:






Keep in mind that the purpose of the coverage is to inform your readers that the portfolio belongs to you. So keep this in mind when creating the document’s design. Align all information to the center of the page, do not use any special fonts (such as script) that are difficult to read, and do not add an images that could be considered inappropriate or unrelated.

B. Table of Contents

Because this will more than likely be a lengthy document, you will need to implement a table of contents. A table of contents will be the key to the organization of your portfolio, allowing the individual who is viewing your portfolio to better an understanding of the portfolio’s origination. Clearly mark the delineation between the following sections:

Master Program of Study

Reflective Essay

Introductory Essays

Sample Works

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C. Introductory Essay and Sample Essays

The formatting of you introductory essay should follow the same rules of that of any other academic piece of writing.

i. Citation - MLA, APA, or what?

Which is the best format to use? Well, that is up to you. You should use the writing format in which the majority of your writing samples have been created. This will allow for an overarching sense of cohesion and fluidity within your portfolio.

ii. Headers & Footers

The use of a header and footer is encouraged when creating a printed portfolio. The header should consist of your last name aligned completely to the right, while the footer will contain the page number centered in the page. This will aid the reader with accessibility of your document.

iii. Organization

The organization of you portfolio is a crucial part of its construction. Your portfolio should contain all requirement in a logical and organized manor. Do your best to ensure the fluidity of you portfolio. You don’t want t confuse your reader.

iv. Visual Design

a. Fonts

Style: There is a general rule of thumb when it comes to picking fonts: Pick a font that your user can read. As mentioned before, what is the purpose of creating this portfolio if no one can read it? While you may think you are asserting your individuality by using that really cool new font, or you think script font is classy, most people cannot read it without a great deal of trouble. It is best if you stay in a family of fonts that are easily read. Here are a couple of ways in which to insure your portfolio is legible.

Fonts in the Sans and Sans Serif families are usually the best way to go. These include fonts such as Arial and Times New Roman.

While you can use ornamental fonts in areas such as headings, it is best to avoid them in any body of text.

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Do not use “All Italic” or “All Capital” in the body of your text. This makes for a painful read.

Do not use a font that is smaller than 11 points

If using colored a background or paper, make sure that there is high contrast between the color of the font and what it is printed on.

Color: Please do not use any other color for the font of you main textual documents than black; any other color will make all your work difficult to read, and could irritate you committee members.

b. Line spacing

Double Spaced

c. Alignment

Left Aligned

d. Headings

Use headings if it is certain that they will aid in the flow and cohesion of you essays.

e. Separating each section of work

Please use appropriation forms of separation when constructing your portfolio. Dividers that are handwritten, or do not adequately separate and indicate the division of you portfolio are unexcitable. Take the time and effort to ensure that you work is properly separated and labeled.

f. Paper

Choose paper that is a little better quality than normal copy paper for you portfolio. Again, this is a professional document that will determine you graduation form the program, and possible something you will give future employment aspects…so spending a little extra money for good paper will only be a plus.

Be weary of color paper—while it can give your portfolio a little pizzazz—it can be distracting if you use it to freely. A good rule of thumb it to keep you document such as the essays and sample on plain white paper, but use the color paper for dividers and such.

g. Duplexing

Duplexing or two sided copies is a big NO…Do not Duplex you portfolio! While it will save you money it make for a difficult time when you are reading and editing.

h. Graphics

Graphics can be a great way to living up you portfolio…but only if they are used sparingly and with

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caution. It is important to keep in mind the professionalism that you portfolio should convey, and the use of images like you kitty cat, while special to you, will not accomplish that the overall goal. Just keep the graphics relevant.

D. Other Additions

Along with these required materials you can include items such as,

Curriculum Vita or Resume

Teaching Philosophy

Non-academic, practice-based work samples (i.e. materials created for internships, clients, 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, or reviewing and corresponding with authors via Puerto)

An organized list of courses taken to fulfill the MA program requirements (Sheppard)

Also, some individual like to acknowledge their committee, this is not required, but can be a nice gesture. Just keep it appropriate.

II. E-portfolio:

As the years go by, it is becoming a popular choice to negate the use of a material or printed portfolio, and go with an electric portfolio. Electronic portfolios, which can be more time-consuming in the beginning, are a great way to demonstrate your knowledge of Web site and graphic design, and get your work out into the “real world”. If you do choose to create an e-portfolio, remember: “You will need to submit a working copy on CD to each committee member for the purposes of reviewing and archiving”(Sheppard). If you choose to complete an online portfolio, there are a number of issues regarding the design of the site to keep in mind. Design, Order, Layout, Color Palette, Background, and Navigation, each of which are discussed in greater detail below, will have certain aspects that will need to be addressed in order to create an e-portfolio that will truly shine.

The creation of the design of your site can be both the greatest and worst part of the entire process. It is part of the process where you can let your creativity run wild – almost. Just keep in mind the few concepts below when creating your site regarding and you will build a user-friendly and stunning portfolio. That will be a testament of your abilities.

A. Graphics

It is best to remember that this is a professional document and that the graphics should reflect as such. The use of subtle graphics is a great idea for sprucing up any dull portfolio, but there is a limit to the types of

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images and graphics that you should use. You must remember that the look of the document is just as important as the content. The overall look of the document is comparable to a first impression; if your portfolio is lacking in or has obnoxious graphics, you can guarantee a less than great first impression. Graphics are suggested since document design is of great importance and because graphs, illustration, diagrams, and images can take a dull portfolio and bring it to life.

However, please take note of the following suggestions in regard to the incorporation of images and graphics.

i. Be sure that you use the graphics with a grain of salt; that means no outlandish images unless they have specific meaning to your portfolio. Be selective of the images that you choose. Do not use any unless they have purpose and relevance to your portfolio.

ii. When using images and graphics that you do not own make sure to site the owner. It is still plagiarism if you do not give credit where credit is due!

iii. When using graphics such as charts, make sure that the entire chart is legible and that they are fully understandable.

iv. Charts and graphs should be on the same page as the text to which it refers, this goes for both the printed and e-portfolio. You do not want your audience to have to go searching for anything.

Tables, Bar Graphs, Line Graphs, Pie Graphs, Diagrams

Photographs, Images, Illustrations

Accurate Labeling

B. Page Length

Page length is an important aspect to remember when you are constructing you e-portfolio, and needs to be kept in mind throughout your construction process. Typically, the more scrolling that users of your site have to do the less they will want to look at it. So, keep this in mind when you are creating your pages; try breaking the information up into logical smaller portion or use a different medium to present your work.

C. Medium

When creating your e-portfolio it will be important that you keep in mind the ways in which users will be viewing you work. Often times it will not be appropriate for you to put your samples in an HTML format (e.g. long papers that will create excessive and irritating scrolling), but instead you will want to choose the proper medium/program that will optimize the users experience. By changing your samples medium you will be insuring

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your users ability to see the document as it was meant to be seen, and allow for you users (committee) to have an easier times editing, commenting, and printing your documents.


Documents that have been created in Microsoft Word are better formatted and linked as PDFs due to the differences and issues that have been caused by the multiple version of Word. By changing the format you are insuring your document will maintain its original formatting, and easier download.

D. Color scheme

Choosing the right color scheme is one of, if not, the most important part in creating your e-portfolio. Many times individuals focus on the ideas of the design and the logo of the portfolio, and give no second thought about which colors to use. And believe it or not there are good colors and there are bad colors, and choosing the right ones can make or break an e- portfolio.

Finding the right color scheme can be a difficult task because not everyone has that artistic eye; however, there are many ways in which you can get around your lack of artistry. Before you begin, try writing out a list of your favorite colors, and more than likely a number of them will be colors that will work for any Web site. Look for inspiration that is out in the world; nature is a great way to find colors that are suitable and pleasing to the eye. There are ideal color palettes all over the place that already have been chosen for you; it is just up to you to find the ones that you feel will best suite your portfolio. But remember, there are bad colors. Keep in mind that anything that is in the electric and neon families probably will not be a great idea, since the majority of people have a hard time seeing these colors.

"Research reveals all human beings make a subconscious judgment about an…item within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone."


So do the research! Sit down for a couple of hours and surf the web. Look at everything that you can think of. When you find colors that you like write them down. Once you have created a list you are on your way. Simply go to a website that has a color wheel (such as, and find those colors. The majority of color wheel sites will have a chart that will allow you to see colors that are suitable together, and that will work well. Simply choose the ones that you like, and you are good to go.

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When you get to the design portion of your site, remember to set your color palette to “web safe” colors. This will save you a lot a trouble when you begin launching your site on multiple web browsers. By using the web safe colors, you are lowering the risk of other computers having to substitute any of the colors on your page, thus changing your color palette completely. Choosing the right color scheme is one of, if not, the most important part in creating your e-portfolio. Many times individuals focus on the ideas of the design and the logo of the portfolio, and give no second thought about which colors to use. And believe it or not there are good colors and there are bad colors, and choosing the right ones can make or break an e-portfolio.

Key points to remember when choosing your color palette:

Electric and Neon colors usually do not work for websites and e- portfolios

Choose colors that are appropriate for a e-portfolio

Limit your color palette to three or less colors

Choose colors that are complementary (use the color wheel)

Avoid using colors that will be difficult for individuals with vision disabilities to see. Combinations such as Red and Green, or Blue and Red can be problematic for individuals who are colorblind.

When using photos and images in any of your works look for color in those images that will could use for your background or fonts that would be complementary to the colors that can be found in the photos and images.

E. Organization

The organization of your e-portfolio is a vital step in the process, and should be one of the more simple parts of the design. The idea of the site is to allow your viewers to explore the number of required elements with a great deal of ease. You don’t want to have them searching all over your site looking for Easter eggs. (Easter eggs are non-disclosed links on a page that are meant to be hunted). So, the best idea is to really keep the site as simple as possible, making sure that you have everything labeled accordingly, and easy to find. Nothing irritates a viewer as much as having to hunt for the information of a site. Use buttons and links that clearly look like buttons and links. And, like it is said with real estate: Location, Location, Location! The location of the links on your site is crucial, and should be in a place that the viewer will easily find. Sure there are sites out there that try to make a break from the norm, but those sites are oftentimes found to be irritating and disorganized, leaving the viewer with a sense of displeasure.

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Limiting the number of links and keeping the organization of the site simple is the key to a successful portfolio. Remember, the less clicking and searching viewers have to do, the happier they will be. Your portfolio site should consist of only the needed number of pages. Making the user click through three pages to get to a specific point is excessive, and will probably drive the user crazy. The rule of thumb is no more than three clicks to get anywhere. This should be an easy task since your site will contain a limited number of pages: Homepage, Reflective Essay, Introduction to Sample Works, and Sample Works.

G. Background

There is really very little that needs to be mentioned about the background of an e-portfolio, or Web site for that matter. The idea of the portfolio is to showcase your work and development throughout the program, and this cannot be done if an individual is unable to read it.

Problems typically occur when individuals use dark or bright colors or an image(s) as a background. This can be problematic for a number of reasons. First, certain colors do not make for appropriate backgrounds. When you use dark colors as background, you will have to use light colored text, which can be very difficult to read. This also happens with bright colored text, when individuals use an equally bright (electric yellow) or light colored (white) font. Both situations can make for a very difficult read. With images, however, the problem comes in the number of colors in the image. Text that is easy to read throughout the majority of the page becomes illegible once the text runs over portions of an image that are the same color as the text. This leaves the reader with a sense of confusion.

To avoid this, try and make your background white, or use a natural or neutral tone. If you feel that you must use dark or bright colors, or images as a background, just make sure that you use a color of text that will insure its legibility.

H. Navigation

Along with the organization, you must constantly keep in mind the navigation of the site. Oftentimes people get lost in the concepts of their design dreams and forget about the usability of the site. We have all fallen victim to the idea that the artist’s dream is more important than the user; however, this dream usually ends quickly. There is only one true reason that anyone builds a Web site and that is to inform the user, and how are they going to do that if they cannot find the information?

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Navigation is one of the most important aspects when you are building your site. From the very beginning to the very end of the design process, navigation is of utmost importance. There are a number of simple rules that you can follow when planning and constructing your site that will make your life a lot easier in the end.

Make all hyperlinks obvious to the users.

Clearly label graphics and images used as buttons and links to insure that the user knows that it is a link or button.

Remember to use appropriate color that will help the users clearly distinguish links.

Be sparing with Flash software as it can make distinguishing links difficult.

Make clear distinctions between text and links.

Most of all, everything in your site should be reachable within 3 clicks.

Ask people to test the usability of your site. They should check for dead links and review your site to make sure it is appropriate (specifically images and colors) and understandable (legible fonts and clear navigation).

I. Technology

i. Video

With the advent of faster speeds of the Internet and technological advancements of the computer world, a slew of newer and oftentimes better mediums are appearing in e-portfolios. The use of video has become one of those technologies that individuals are starting to incorporate into their portfolios. And, while technology like this is great to use, (like everything else in the Web site construction world) there are certain rules you must follow if you use this medium.

Always keep in mind your audience and the type of technology they will be using to access your portfolio. Using a video clip that is 100MB might make your users a little irritated when they have to wait for five hours for your video to download because they use a dial-up connection. Second, while video can be a fun and creative way to get and keep the attention of your audience, just make sure there is true purpose to the video, and that you are not putting video on the site just because you can. Useless video can be considered cumbersome and irritating, and a great way to get people to stop looking at your site. Finally, remember to keep the subject matter relevant to your site and your purpose for creating the site.

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ii. Audio

Audio is a lot like video and can also be a great addition to any e- portfolio, if used properly. Many of the same rules apply to audio that applies to video. Do your best to keep your audience in mind when making your audio choices. The one thing to remember with any new technology is that you can get enough of a good thing. Make sure that there is a purpose to your audio file, and that you’re not just using it because you can. Take into consideration the differences in technologies that are out there, and the types of Internet speeds that your audience will be using to view your site.

iii. Download time

More and more people have access to higher speeds of Internet, but there is still a large portion of the population still using Internet connection that is slow by today’s standards. This is an issue that you must keep in mind when designing your site. While it is cool to have lots of the Flash software, photos, and video and audio files, they have a tendency to slow the downloading process. Try your best to keep your audience in mind when you are adding all the bells and whistles.

J. Testing usability

It is necessary, when creating an e-portfolio that you keep in mind your need to do usability testing throughout the construction process. Usability testing will aid you in figuring out what works, and more importantly, what does not work on your site. Use your fellow classmates, friends, and loved ones as your testers; create a small survey that will allow for the rating of any issues you think your site may need to address (e.g. navigation, color, readability, images, and feel).

Part Three: Suggestions from the Faculty

I. Content:

I personally appreciate personal touches--people using their own photograph or drawings or their favorite ones or other elements that set the portfolio apart from other portfolios (in positive ways).

I appreciate substantial reflection and discussion both in the introductory essay and the individual introductions to the pieces included. I appreciate students' acknowledging strengths and weaknesses (what can be done differently).

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I appreciate rationale for decisions made in creating the documents.

I appreciate hearing connections to course work and the thinking that went into the projects, their context for being created in the first place, and so on.

Presentation and design is important. Take time and care with its preparation and have a professional looking final document that is organized in a way that makes sense.

If the bulk of your work is web-based or digital, use an e-portfolio format so committee members can more easily view your work.

I look for questions more than answers.

I'm looking for engagement. I want a substantive reflection on what people have learned from the program and how they hope to use what they learned. That doesn't mean, however, that people should be overly formal. I'm looking for a mix of autobiography and discussion of scholarly texts or practical experiences that have influenced their development.

II. Format

I personally don't like when pages are encased in individual plastic slips because then I can't make notes on/in the pages. I believe that in general the portfolios should be presented with a spine that announces the contents & author, just as books do. Some other types of identifiers could be used if someone isn't presenting the portfolio in a binder - so that people can readily see what the document is.

Formatting for both hardcopy and online/e-portfolios should take into account design principles learned and gained from the program and outside reading. Some of my students who have done e-portfolios have turned in a cd but it isn't accessible any more. I don't know why.

Those who do e-portfolios should definitely provide something such as a cd/dvd because websites may come and go (so websites could be supplemented with the cd or dvd).

Those who choose the e-portfolio should ideally keep in mind principles of effective online delivery.

I don't think there are any recurring problems [with format]. The main thing is for each student to pay attention to presenting their portfolio in a professional manner. For the most part, I think students are successful with this. I do wonder occasionally about the choice of images they include (not sure if this is format). This goes for both paper and e-portfolios.

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With e-portfolios, students should make sure that access to the portfolio will remain available.

III. Tone

I look for a confident, professional yet personable/personal tone, which leaves some room for some small amount of humor if that reflects the person and how the person wants to be perceived.

I mainly look for an academic tone with some reflection and personal engagement on the part of the writer. Some humor could be appropriate but I would suggest avoiding sarcasm that is supposed to be humorous.

I don’t want to work hard to read it. It shouldn’t be overly academic.

IV. Choosing writing samples

I would go for breadth and depth. I would choose to reflect my abilities to compose and create in a wide variety of ways (genre-wise, media-wise, research vs. non-research oriented, creative or informal or formal, analytical vs. descriptive, and so on).

For depth, I would choose some larger or more complex projects showing how I can explore a single, smaller topic richly and in great depth.

One is to make sure that the choices reflect their goals in completing their master's degree and are representative of their entire experience. I definitely want to see academic writing but also professional writing/projects—especially if that is a focus – and pedagogical materials if that's a focus.

V. Jargon

Once I have seen dense use of language to discuss theoretical concepts which seem to work against conveying the student's authority.

VI. Memorable portfolios (for positive or negative reasons)

Memorable qualities include when students can synthesize information from whatever area they are working in and apply that to their own argument. Negative attributes are when students mainly report on outside sources rather than developing their own argument and/or thinking critically about applying ideas.

The bad one I remember was sloppy and ill formed. Seemed quite thrown together. The positive ones are too many to note, but mostly they stand out as representative of the individual, a snapshot of the person I've worked with.

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Again, the best essays mix and match personal reflections and academic observations. They illustrate a students' robust engagement with the academic process.

VII. General comments:

I do not appreciate getting a copy of the portfolio with short notice.

Be open to critique.

Part Four: Resources

I. Grammar Resources Jones, Dan. (1998). Technical writing style. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kolln, Marth. (2007). Rhetorical grammar. 5 th edition. New York: Prentice Hall.

O’Connor, Patricia T. (2003). Woe is I: The grammarphobe’s guide to better English in plain English. 2 nd edition. New York: Riverhead Books.

Truss, Lynne. (2003). Eats, Shoots & Leaves. New York: Gotham Books.

II. Web Design Resources

Goto, Kelly. (2004). Web Redesign 2.0: Workflow that Works. Berkely: Peachpit Press

Smith, Herb J. (2006) Portfolio for Technical and Professional Communicators. New York: Prentice Hall.

Williams, Robin. (2002). Web Design Workshop. Berkeley: Peachpit Press.

Williams, Robin. (2003) The Non-Designers Design Book: Berkeley: Peachpit Press

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