A complete writing portfolio will contain no fewer than 3 or more than 5 samples of their writing from your Carleton courses that collectively demonstrate the writing abilities listed below. Transfer students may also submit pieces from courses at their previous schools, though it’s strongly recommended that you include at least one piece you wrote at Carleton, if possible.

The pieces in your portfolio must come from at least three different departments or programs, and you may not submit more than one paper from a single class.

Some pieces will meet several requirements, which is why as few as 3 may be adequate. It’s also okay — encouraged, even — to have multiple pieces that meet any given requirement (e.g. two or more thesis-driven essays).

It’s important to note that the pieces in your portfolio do not need to be “traditional” academic essays, as you might expect to write in a humanities course. Lab reports, literature reviews, short reading responses, proof, and may other types of assignments can be included in the portfolio. In fact, we encourage students to submit a variety of types of writing, to demonstrate the breadth of their writing abilities.

In addition to these 3–5 samples of writing, you will need to write a brief (500–1000 words) reflective essay, in which you examine how you have developed as a writer since your first term at Carleton. This essay will often be the first thing your faculty reviewers read when they examine your portfolio. The reflective essay cannot be used to fulfill any of the evaluation criteria for the portfolio (i.e. observation, interpretation, analysis, use of sources, and thesis-driven essay), but it will allow you to give your reviewers insight into your progress as a writer and set the tone for their evaluation of your work. More information on the reflective essay. The reflective essay does not count towards the total page count for the portfolio, nor does it count as one of your 3-5 essays from Carleton courses.

The total number of pages in the portfolio should be no fewer than 10 and no more than 30.* This total does not include illustrations, charts/graphs, bibliographies, or your reflective essay.

All of your portfolio materials will be submitted to a dedicated Moodle site, which you should receive access to at the beginning of the term your portfolio is due.

*In practice, the minimum page limit is much more important than the maximum limit. If your portfolio is a bit longer than 30 pages, after all the exceptions are taken into account, it is unlikely to cause a problem. However, a portfolio with less than 10 pages of content is very unlikely to pass.

Ability Requirements:

The essays in your portfolio must illustrate six specific writing abilities:

  1. Observation: the ability to describe sensory information (i.e. sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations) in ways that serve the purpose of the piece
  2. Interpretation: the ability to make and support significant claims about individual texts or primary sources
  3. Analysis: the ability to make significant connections between different texts or primary sources
  4. Thesis-Driven Argumentation: the ability to articulate a clear and effective thesis and to develop that thesis fully and consistently throughout a piece
  5. Use of Sources: the ability to identify, document, and use appropriate secondary sources in a piece
  6. Use of Standard Written English: the ability to articulate your ideas clearly in English and to make language choices that are effective and appropriate for the piece

When you submit your portfolio, you will have the opportunity to designate which essays you’re submitting to represent each of these abilities. So, for example, you might designate two essays as examples of Interpretation but only one as an example of Observation. The only exception to this is ability #6. By default, all of the the pieces in your portfolio that are written in English will be used to assess your ability to use of standard written English.