Creating a Portfolio

Quick revise

Creating a Portfolio

Here you will find some advice on completing your Applied Science portfolio. Remember to check back with your teacher to ensure you're covering everything you need to.

Ideas behind your Portfolio

The idea behind your research project is not to produce a booklet several hundred pages thick with loads of waffle, but to show you know what you're talking about and how you would go about applying the science you've learned to solving a real-world problem.

Depending on how your school organises the project, you might be given a scenario to investigate, or you might get to choose what to investigate. Interesting though a project on genetic engineering on superhumans might be, it's not going to tie in to the topics directly.

The thing everyone starts with is a project to investigate. Where do you go from there? The portfolio needs to show you can start with a question, think about a way to solve it, then build on your initial thoughts to produce a workable plan.

From this plan, you carry out your investigation and then draw some interesting and valid conclusions. Then you should evaluate what you've done. Click back to the main sections and I'll take you through how to do this.

Ideas for your portfolio and things to remember
  • Solving a robbery - traces left at the crime scene included fingerprints, DNA, and toolmarks
  • Solving a murder - where was the person drowned? Water collected from the lungs did not match the water in the bath - where was he killed?
  • Testing fruit juices to see which is the best for you - vitamin C content, concentration and dry content tests
  • Which rubber would make the best sole for trainers? Strength, flexibility and durability testing

These are just some ideas that people have used - I'm sure there are many more.

So, onto the important things to remember. Say you were going to investigate which fruit juice was better for you. In order to get full marks for the portfolio, you would need to consider the following:

  • You are unlikely to get full marks if you don't have a quantitative test - that's one with numbers. If you could draw a graph of some of your results, you're probably okay. Examples might include titrating to find the concentration of vitamin C, or looking at the refractive idex of glass.
  • You need to think about yourself as a scientist, not a school pupil. When writing the report, think about why a scientist would do this test, not you. "I am investigating whether this claim on the packaging is valid as a food scientist" NOT "I need to do some coursework and this looked good."
  • When writing the plan, the introduction, risk assessment and so on should be in the future tense. Yes, by the time you do the final write-up you will probably have done the experiment, but you are supposed to have acknowledged the risks before you started the investigation. If you write in the past tense, you will lose marks. Say that you "will wear safety glasses as I am working with concentrated acid," and not "I wore glasses because..."
  • If you have used any secondary sources, list them in a bibliography at the end. Otherwise, it's just copying. The report should be in your own words - so no copying and pasting. There's no excuse for plagiarism - and if you get caught, you're in real trouble. If you wanted to say, "I'm using this method because Mr X used it when he did something similar," you should include a reference to where you read this. It's okay to state that "Nike test their shoes like this... so I will use this method (and then rephrase the method/use a method you can do in school)" if you include a reference to the Nike website you read it off. Referencing is a skill - you'll get some of the higher marks if you can do it properly.
The Introduction
You should include the following in your introduction:


  • State the problem you are investigatng. For example, "I am investigating the claim made by a company that fruit juice X is better than anything else."
  • Explain why the question needsinvestigating. For example, " a food scientist, I need to ensure that any claims made by manufacturers are true. This is because advice may be misleading and might lead to harm to the general public. If orange juice was better than fruit juice X, people would be spending money on nothing/getting no benefit/etc."
  • Describe the role of the scientist doing the investigating. For example, "The reason my role is important is..."

A brief, but complete, plan of what you will do. For example:


  • As the crime of scene officer, I need to collect these pieces of evidence without contaminating the crime scene.
  • Once I have collected the evidence, I will analyse them as follows:
  • The fingerprints will be compared against the police criminal database and/or against the suspects' fingerprints
  • Ion testing will determine what the yellow powder is
  • pH testing will decide the pH of the water in the lungs
  • Titration will be used to determine the concentration of the acid in the water in the lungs, assuming it proves to be acidic from the previous test.

It is probably a good idea to include a timeline of when you expect to complete each stage of the report, e.g. collect evidence by X, analyse evidence by Y, complete report by Z and present to the appropriate authority by W. It will look neater (and will be easier to edit) if you put it in a table.

The Risk Assessment and Method
The risk assessment should include all hazardous materials including any practical equipment you use. For example, care should be taken when handling burettes. Include a section on how you will minimise each risk.


For the method, you should detail how to carry out each and every test you're going to carry out. Remember to write it in the future tense - "I will do this," not "I did this." Your report will be neater if you split the method into the different tests you are going to use and then bullet point, step by step, what you are going to do.

Your Results
Include all of your results. These might be photographs of a crime scene, tables showing how much acid it took to neutralise an alkali - whatever, include them all.


If there are any calculations to do, do them here. For example, taking the average pulse rate, titration calculations or working out the refractive index.

Draw any relevant graphs.

A good idea is to write a quick conclusion after each set of results - this makes it easier to refer back to later. For example, if you've carried out flame tests, you could state that "because it was purple, I think it is...".

Summarise what you have found out. Try to explain what these results mean. What does purple signify in a flame test - why is this relevant to the investigation? What does it mean if the fingerprint matches?
Explain what importance this has for the real world - a few examples are below of what you might have to think about:

What steps would you advise the food standards agency to take if a manufacturer had been lying about the safety of their product?

As a forensic investigator, what will your report to the court look like? Who did the crime, according to the evidence? Do you have enough to convict the person for sure, or could it be someone else?

Is this really the best material to make the sports top out of? Have you exhausted all other options?

Once you're sure you've covered all this, make sure you've referred to the real world - in the last example, an easy way would be to say you'd recommend to the sports firm you work for that they should switch to using wool because it keeps athletes warm, if that's all you found it (please don't write that!).

Now check the report with your teacher.