This portfolio represents a sampling of my work as a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing program, housed in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
On Professionalism and Professional Writing
As an introduction to my technical writing portfolio, I should mention that I never intended to study writing. Actually I didn’t really know what I wanted to study. I liked grammar and editing, but that was because I liked being right. I had a sense of style and liked designing documents and making websites, but I didn’t know how that would ever manifest into a career. I was smart, bright, good with computers, etc., but I already knew that computer science wasn’t for me. I liked doing work, which is an important thing to know about oneself, and I wanted to do something practical with my life. More than anything, I simply wanted just to be a professional, but what does that even mean?
Professionalism is a tricky concept and one that is often oversimplified to “I know it when I see it,” but it turns out that definition is remarkably spot-on and accurate. Professionals do in-fact know it when they see it. They are themselves a discourse community whose membership is limited to others recognized as professional. There is no test; just a dress code. Professionals pride themselves on things like looking nice, being on-time, and doing things the “right” way.
This self-fulfilling definition of professionalism is a good example of rhetoric and rhetorical situations at work. Here we have an audience, professionals, and a setting (or context), the workplace. For aspiring professionals often the only way to get noticed is to look and act the part. Someone once put it to me another way: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
It’s remarkable that there aren’t more rules than that when it comes to being a professional, or to being a good rhetor. And the same goes for the documents we write. Professional writing doesn’t necessarily follow a set list of rules about how to write, what the formatting should be, etc., instead those things take care of themselves. All that is important in professional writing is being constantly aware of what “professional” is and how to communicate with those whose standards.
About the Portfolio
The purpose of this portfolio is to show my growth as a technical communicator and as a professional. There are four major sections: Information Architecture, Design, Usability and Analytics, and Teaching. A current resume is also included. Each section has its own reflective statement and a listing of artifacts, usually two or three per section. Each artifact also has a reflection of its own to provide context. I should mention that there are artifacts that I no longer consider flattering and are not representative of my recent quality of work. Nevertheless I am proud of those pieces for what they were when I created them and I include them here because they show growth and add detail in this narrative.
As I began assembling the pieces for this portfolio an alternate architecture or framework became apparent to me, one that mirrors the university mission. In addition to the four major sections of my work (outlined above), I’ve also tagged the pieces as Teaching, Research & Scholarly Activity, and Service to the Community. While I have no immediate plans to continue my graduate education at the doctoral level, the idea has crossed my mind. If or when I decide to continue down the path to professorship, thinking about my work in those terms will become increasingly important.
Other structural possibilities are present, and an Index is included to aid in the discovery of like topics within my portfolio.
The portfolio itself is created using WordPress, a free and open-source content management system. The theme is responsive and mobile-friendly, meaning the layout should adapt to whatever device views this website.
My portfolio committee consists of Dr. George Jensen, Dr. Dave Fisher, and is chaired by Dr. Karen Kuralt. My portfolio defense is scheduled for Monday, December 17, 2012 in SUA 102.