MA Portfolio Guidelines

Example Signature and Title Page (Word Document)
Example Signature and Title Page (PDF)

The MA portfolio consists of two substantial pieces of work initiated in or completed for graduate courses here at UT Dallas. Students can meet this major writing requirement for the degree by choosing one of the following options:

(1) Two research papers, each between 20 and 30 pages in length, in a format and of a quality that might meet publication requirements in an appropriate professional journal. The papers do not need to be related to each other.

(2) A creative project (such as a performance, a series of paintings, a translation, a collection of poems or short stories) of a quality that might allow performance, exhibition or publication as well as a scholarly essay of 20 to 30 pages addressing the creative work. (See the program's Statement on Creative Projects for MA and PhD Degrees in Arts and Humanities.) The creative work in the portfolio must be presented to the public prior to the portfolio defense, whether as an exhibition, performance, reading, or electronic presentation.

When it established this requirement (in lieu of the earlier master's thesis) in 1995, the faculty assumed that most students would need to revise papers or projects originating in courses for later inclusion in portfolios. Using their professors' constructive criticisms and suggestions, students should aim for genuine professional quality. While the finished work need not be submitted officially for publication or for wider public exhibition or performance, the potential for such presentation is the principal criterion for success with the portfolio.

Deadlines for proposals, defenses, and final submissions

Graduate courses and portfolio projects

The faculty recommends that students in the MA program choose their courses carefully to include seminars and studios/ensembles that require or encourage longer research papers and/or creative projects--ones that would presumably offer possibilities for revision and inclusion in portfolios. Most course descriptions available on-line each semester indicate whether instructors expect or accept such papers or projects. Students wishing to undertake the creative portfolio must have successfully completed at least two studios, ensembles or workshops related to the proposed medium.

To determine if papers or creative projects are of potential portfolio quality, students should seek the guidance of their advisers and other faculty members. The professors in whose classes the initial work is generated normally go on to become members of the master's committee that officially oversees the portfolio, so their assessments should be most helpful from the outset.

While there is no official course designated in the catalog for completion of the portfolio, students must be registered in at least one course during the semester they defend a portfolio or graduate. If they rely on considerable faculty advice and critical reading of revisions for the portfolio, they are expected to enroll in independent study courses (HUAS 6398 or HUHI 6398 or HUSL 6394) for that purpose.

The master's committee and the portfolio proposal

The portfolio supervisory committee consists normally of three tenured or tenure-track members of the Arts and Humanities faculty, no more than two of whom may be from the same section (HUAS, HUHI or HUSL) of the graduate program. Students may, in consultation with the committee, designate one faculty member as chair or the two faculty members in whose courses the papers originated as co-chairs.

The Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies must approve the membership of the master's committee and the substance of the proposed portfolio before a student may proceed to write and defend the portfolio. To gain approval, the student submits a Proposal for a Master's Portfolio, download the proposal form as a Word document here or as a PDF or pick one up in the Arts and Humanities Dean's Suite (JO 4.510).

The three faculty members must sign the form, both to indicate that they agree to serve on the committee and to confirm the viability of the papers or projects.

The proposal is turned in to the Associate Dean but will be forwarded to the Graduate Studies Committee only if the student has finished the required course work or is in the process of completing the required course work and has fulfilled the foreign-language requirement.

On the form, the student should describe each paper or project in a brief but substantive statement of about 200 words (hand-written forms are not accepted). This formulation should indicate the purpose and argument of the work concisely, in terms that enable the GSC to grasp its intellectual or artistic intent and also to judge the appropriateness of the proposed faculty committee to the research or creative work for the portfolio. Should the intellectual relationship of the committee members to the proposed papers not be immediately clear, students are encouraged to attach an explanatory memorandum to the proposal.

The GSC then evaluates the portfolio proposal according to an established set of criteria.

Defense of the portfolio

When all three members of the committee agree that the papers or project are substantively ready for defense, the student supplies each professor with a clean copy of the complete portfolio in proper format. Another copy of this penultimate draft should be delivered to the Arts and Humanities Graduate Coordinator (JO 4.510), who will ensure that the portfolio is open for faculty inspection at least three working days before its defense. The chair or co-chairs of the portfolio committee authorize the Graduate Coordinator to arrange for a public defense, the date and location of which is then announced to all Arts and Humanities faculty and graduate students by e-mail.

The chair or co-chairs preside over the defense, a one-hour session that begins with a 10- minute student presentation on the general goals and themes of the portfolio papers or projects. Only this initial portion of the defense is open to the public. While the subsequent discussion between the candidate and the supervisory committee focuses primarily on the student's research or creative work, questions may address related aspects of the general field or creative medium.

After the formal defense, the portfolio committee will meet in camera to vote on granting the master's degree and on recommending the student's admission into the doctoral program. The results of its vote are reported to the University's Dean of Graduate Studies through the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in Arts & Humanities.

A committee vote to accept the portfolio (either as it stands or with specified revisions) and to recommend award of the master's degree must be unanimous. If a majority votes in favor of acceptance, however, the Associate Dean (in consultation with appropriate faculty members) will review the portfolio and reach a final decision on either awarding the degree or returning the work for revision.

If the portfolio is rejected, the student will have an opportunity to revise and resubmit it. The committee or the Associate Dean will provide written comments on its weaknesses and recommendations for its improvement. The student will then have one semester to complete revisions and resubmit the work. Should the portfolio be rejected a second time, the student will be terminated from the program without a master's degree.

The committee must also vote a recommendation concerning continuation of the student into the PhD program. A majority vote is sufficient for a positive or negative recommendation.

Approved portfolios are then submitted to the Arts and Humanities office by the published deadline, but they do not become part of the McDermott Library collection. Completed portfolios are available to be read in the office of the Graduate Advisor (JO 4.128).

Format of the final portfolio

Citations of primary sources and secondary works in the papers as well as the bibliographies (or lists of "Works Cited and Consulted") should conform to the recommendations in standard style manuals, either the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or Kate L. Turabian's Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Studying the practice of a major academic journal in the field may also be helpful. Parenthetical citation, rather than footnotes or endnotes, should be used whenever possible.

Once a student and the supervisory committee have decided upon the style of research presentation and the mechanics of form, accuracy and consistency are crucial matters, not only required but also checked by the program.

Students with creative projects in the visual and performing arts should submit documentation of the work exhibited or performed (i.e., digital images of works of art, MP3s of musical compositions, or DVD of performances) to the supervisory committee and as part of the final version of the portfolio.

The format of the portfolio submitted to the Arts and Humanities office must conform generally with the University's standards for theses and dissertations. Good quality bond paper (100% cotton content, 16- to 20-pound weight), the standard 8 1/2 - by 11-inch sheet size, conventional margins and type styles (with 10 to 12 characters per inch for the text itself) are usual in all academic work and are required for the portfolio.

Students submit the final copy to the Arts and Humanities office in velo binding, with a clear front and blue vinyl back cover (available at most copy centers). Inside, the signature page for the supervising committee comes first; then a standard title page precedes each paper or writing project. Appended are examples of the signature and title pages. The two papers are separated by a single blank sheet and are paginated individually (at the bottom and center of each page after the first).

Students are urged to consult Alice Salazar (Alice Salazar) at the Arts and Humanities graduate desk about any questions or problems concerning the format and to bring the penultimate draft for her review before preparing the final version for submission.