What is Reflective writing?
Reflective writing is: Reflective writing is not:
your response to
events or new information
your response to thoughts
a way of thinking to
explore your learning
an opportunity to gain
a way to achieve clarity
and better understanding
of what you are learning
a chance to develop and
reinforce writing skills
a way of making meaning
out of what you study
just conveying information,
instruction or argument
pure description, though
there may be descriptive
straightforward decision or
judgement (e.g. about
whether something is right
or wrong, good or bad)
a standard university essay
(Adapted from the University of New South Wales, Sydney)
What can you discuss in your reflective writing?
Your perceptions of the topic.
Experiences, ideas and observations you have had, and how they relate to the topic.
What you found confusing, inspiring, difficult, interesting and why.
Questions you have
Conclusions you have drawn.
How you: solved a problem, reached a conclusion, found an answer, reached a point of
Possibilities, speculations, hypotheses or solutions.
Alternative interpretations or different perspectives on what you have read or done in
relation to the topic
Comparisons and connections between what you are learning and: your prior knowledge
and experience; your prior assumptions and preconceptions; what you know from other
courses or disciplines.
How new ideas challenge what you already know.
What you need to explore next in terms of thoughts and actions.
Before you write, you need to think and reflect. Start by drawing up a Mind map.
Mind mapping is a technique that can help you expand your thinking, structure your ideas and make
connections. You can use a Mind map to plan your assignment and arrange items to create the
structure of your writing.
What is a mind map?
How to start your mind map
- Write your topic in the centre of a blank page.
- Draw related ideas on ‘branches’ that radiate from the central topic. When you get a new idea,
start a new branch from the centre. Include any ideas, topics, authors, theories, experiences
associated with your topic.
- Map quickly, without pausing, to maintain a flow of ideas. Associate freely and do not self-edit; at
this stage anything and everything is OK.
- Circle the key points or ideas. Look at each item and consider how it relates to others, and to the
topic as a whole.
- Map the relationships between the ideas or key points using lines, arrows, colours. Use words or
phrases to link them.
As it concerns your thoughts, reflective writing is mostly subjective. Therefore, in addition to being
reflective and logical, you can be personal, hypothetical, critical and creative. You can comment
based on your experience, rather than limiting yourself to academic evidence.
Reflective writing is an activity that includes description (what, when, who) and analysis
(how, why, what if). It is an explorative tool often resulting in more questions than answers.
A reflective task may allow you to use different modes of writing and language: descriptive
(outlining what something is or how something was done); explanatory (explaining why or
how it is like that); expressive (I think, I feel, I believe).
You can usually use personal pronouns like ‘I’, ‘my’ or ‘we’
Keep colloquial language to a minimum (e.g., kid, bloke, stuff)
Reflection on a reading or topic
A reflection based on a reading consists of your analysis of your reactions to the reading: what it
made you think about; whether it helps you understand the topic. Did it make you research further
because it was so new, interesting, exciting, or complex? You may also discover that you find
yourself writing on how a reading opened up your thinking about writings on the same topic by
Students should try to identify their own values, attitudes and beliefs that they think underlie their
reactions to the readings and to reflect on how these might affect their learning and changes or
affirmations in beliefs.
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