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Skills for Learning: Reflective Writing

Overview

Reflection is an academic method of recording and evaluating your experiences, skills or learning. Reflective writing combines your emotions, thoughts and subject knowledge. Like other types of academic writing, reflection includes research and analysis of others’ ideas, and it follows a specific structure.

We run interactive workshops to help you develop your reflective writing skills. Find out more on the Skills for Learning Workshops page.

We have online academic skills modules within MyBeckett for all levels of university study. These modules will help your academic development and support your success at LBU. You can work through the modules at your own pace, revisiting them as required. Find out more from our FAQ What academic skills modules are available?

Reflective writing structure and content

During your degree, you might be asked to write a reflective journal, log or essay. There are many different models available to help you structure your reflective writing.  For more information about some of the models, download the Reflective Writing Models Worksheet.

Record, reflect, analyse and action: a generic structure for reflection

Most of the models contain similar elements. A generic structure: 'record, reflect, analyse and action' is a helpful starting point. These stages are similar to those in most of the academic reflection models. Click on the sections below to find out more about each element of this generic structure. 

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Record

Describe the scenario, incident, concept, issue or course that you will reflect on. What happened? When did it happen? Who was involved? How were they involved?

Top tips! Keep descriptions short and include information that’s relevant to your reflection only.

Reflect

  • What are your thoughts about the way you reacted to/addressed the incident?
  • How did you feel?
  • What are the pros and cons of the situation?
  • What did you learn from the situation?

Top tips! Be honest in your reflections. They are an opportunity for you to demonstrate your development. Explain what you did well and what you could have done better.

Analyse

  • How would you examine or explore the reasons behind the situation?
  • Use theory, concepts and ideas to help you interpret the situation. How do these relate to your experience? The real marks come here!.
  • Have your experiences been explored by other academics or practitioners? If so, how do their experiences compare to yours?
  • Based on others’ theories, what might you change next time you are in the same situation?

Top tips! Reflective writing is an academic task. It is crucial to link your experiences to theory. How can theory help you unpick a situation or experience? Does your experience help you to understand and evaluate the theory?

Deepen your reflection by including evidence of critical thinking.

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Action

  • What is your action plan for responding to such incidents in future?
  • How will the situation (and your evaluation of it) inform your future decisions, actions and thinking processes?
  • How can you put into practice what you’ve learnt?

Top tips! Consider how you could repeat your successes and learn from your mistakes.

 

Reference List / Bibliography: a complete list of all the sources used.

List all the sources that you have consulted in the process of your research. Your reference list or bibliography must follow the specific guidelines for your discipline. Check your module handbook if you are unsure.

Check module requirements

Depending on the type of reflection you’re doing, your assignment structure may vary. You might be expected to use a particular model for your assessment. If you are unsure which structure to follow, check your module handbook or ask your tutor.

To decide what to include:

  1. Think about which issues, challenges or successes are most important. Which examples best demonstrate your development and learning?
  2. Find examples of reflective writing in your subject area. What can you learn from their structure and content? How have published writers introduced theory alongside their personal experiences?

Download the Questions for Reflective Writing and Reflective Writing Worksheets to help you get started.

Reflective writing style and language

Reflective writing differs from other types of academic writing. In reflection, you should use emotive, personal language and include your opinions and thoughts. Be expressive and specific in your language – for example, if you felt ‘good’, were you excited, enthused or confident? Make sure your language remains formal and professional, even when expressing your thoughts and feelings.

Reflective writing, like all other types of academic writing, needs to be based on evidence. While an essay will be based on what you’ve read, a reflective piece will be based on evidence from your experiences and your reading.

Whenever you discuss your personal experience, emotions or thoughts, you should write in the first person (e.g. ‘I think...’). Yet, when you write about the topic more generally or include theory, you should use the third person (e.g. ‘Bhabha argues...'). Use reporting verbs to explain or comment on information from published sources. Download our Reporting Verbs Worksheet to help you.

If you have previously completed a reflective assignment, review the feedback you received. Download our Feedback Action Plan Worksheet to help you.

You can also watch a recording of our interactive workshop on this topic below. We recommend engaging with each activity fully to get the most from them. All recordings including this one can be found on the Skills for Learning Workshops page.

Artificial intelligence tools

Before using any generative artificial intelligence or paraphrasing tools in your assessments, you should check if this is permitted on your course.

If their use is permitted on your course, you must acknowledge any use of generative artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT or paraphrasing tools (e.g., Grammarly, Quillbot, etc.), even if you have only used them to generate ideas for your assignment or for proofreading.

Activity

Links

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This is because Skills for Learning live events have finished for this academic year. You can find recordings of sessions that ran this year on a range of topics on our Building on Feedback page.

Skills for Learning FAQs