Samples of Three Prefaces from First-Year Seminar Portfolios

According to the faculty's Manuscript Guide, the preface serves as the portfolio's introduction by telling the story behind the compositions collected in your portfolio. The ultimate goal of the preface is reflection. While examining the process by which you have written your compositions, you should also consider how this work has affected your development as a writer. You can describe your inspiring moments, the stumbling blocks you encountered, and the discoveries you made about your texts and yourself.

The preface plays a critical role in each portfolio. It is the first essay your audience will read and will significantly influence how they read your other papers. The preface should be a well-developed, cleanly written self-examination. But it is also a personal essay, which entitles you to illustrate your unique style of thinking and writing.

Although you are free to organize this essay in many different ways, your preface should include:

  • A reflective commentary on your writing. What does this portfolio demonstrate about you as a writer? What did you learn from doing these papers? During the fall term, has your writing significantly changed in terms of style, organization, development of ideas, precision of expression, etc?
  • A detailed history of the development of at least one paper. How did the paper evolve and change as it progressed through the revision process? What advice was offered by various readers and how was this advice used in helping to produce the final draft? Were there significant differences in how these papers were written or did they all follow a similar path in their evolution?

The links on this page provide samples of three prefaces from award-winning portfolios submitted in recent years. These prefaces are not offered as precise models for how to write this essay, but perhaps these examples will suggest issues worthy of discussion and strategies for effectively communicating your experiences. We would encourage all first-year students to bring their prefaces by the Writing Center for a conference. Because of the potential impact of this essay, it can help to have a brainstorming session (if you are apprehensive about how to begin this essay) or a close reading of a working draft (perhaps to consider how your manuscript might be read and interpreted by faculty readers).

Please note: in order to condense the prefaces into [manageable size for a webpage], we have done some editing and altered the margins, font size, and spacing.

Full-Length Samples

Blue Portfolio Preface

Red Portfolio Preface

Green Portfolio Preface


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E-mail Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.