sense of despair and confusion
Example Portfolio Letter – Student #1
Dear Portfolio Reviewers,
Far be it from me to say that you are about to read what I consider some of the best work I have written to date, but I certainly would not be lying if I said so. I am incredibly proud of my problem and rhetorical analysis essays, not just for the final products but for the steps I took to get there. Much like an essay, my process had a slow beginning, an arduous middle, and a hard-worked-for end, and I am going to take you through it with me now.
Upon reading the prompts for each essay, however many weeks apart, I felt the same overwhelming sense of despair and confusion. What problem did I have that I could write an essay on that wasn’t strictly me complaining, and why would anyone want to read it to begin with? What exactly is a rhetorical analysis and what topic could I possibly choose? I eventually settled on a topic for each, not entirely sure if it was even going to be worth examining, and began the writing process. Even after more than a year in college, I have yet to shake that unfortunate high school tendency to churn out a draft without any planning or preparation. It is what has always worked best for me, and my true ability to write rears its head in the revision process anyway.
For the problem essay, a letter to the editor addressing unsafe driving and how it can be self-regulated, I thought about how frustrating my morning commute is every day and I built on my personal experience to engage with the audience. For the rhetorical analysis essay, which compared an academic article about gossip and a corresponding popular article, I relied on my experience as a science student in research to discuss the accuracy of the popular science article and where it differed from the academic article. With those experiences and thoughts in mind, I began to write my first drafts. I read and reread whatever resources were made available to me in class, I did little bouts of revising as I went, and I continually referred back to the prompt to make sure I was really answering the question put in front of me. While it was a struggle at times, I knew that with feedback and the revising process, I would end up writing excellent final products.
While I may not have shed the curse of churning out crappy first drafts, I have come to recognize that they are indeed crappy and need revision. I believe the feedback my instructor provided has been a huge help to me in the revising process. It is always constructive, never critical, and it illuminates weaknesses in my writing that I could not have imagined were there. The first thing I did when I revised my papers was to make whatever changes my instructor suggested. Then I would read the essay aloud, and find places where the wording was awkward or the ideas didn’t necessarily fit in with the rest of the essay.
Once I had made those changes, I would make an outline in reverse to see whether or not the essay was structured logically, if my thesis was present throughout the body of the essay, and if my conclusion was relevant but not redundant. If there seemed to be a problem with the essay after outlining it, I would rearrange things or add new ideas to make it more logical and well structured. Lastly, I double-checked my spelling and mechanics, and asked a friend to read it and make sure that it at least made sense to someone other than me. My final reading of each essay proved to me that I had written something that addressed the prompt, made a point and supported it, engaged with the audience appropriately, and that I was proud of.
It is my sincere hope that in reviewing my portfolio it becomes apparent the amount of effort I put into writing and revising my essays. While effort may not be a criterion for grading, it has enabled me to produce essays that I find to be meritorious on the rubric.