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.

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 Reflective Writing Models from our Resources & Worksheets. However, the generic structure 'record, reflect, analyse and action' is a helpful starting point. Click on the sections below to find out more about each element of this generic structure.

Reflection writing 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.

Depending on the type of reflection you’re doing, your assignment structure may vary. Not all reflections will follow this exact structure. 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?

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. 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...').

Activity