Reflective thinking and writing

Reflective writing tools

There are many different tools you can use to record reflective thought. Probably the most commonly used is Word. However, you can capture reflective thinking in different ways, from blogging through to video journals. When choosing a reflective writing tool for academic work that needs to be assessed, check with your course lecturer which format(s) you are allowed to use.

Word

Word doesn’t really need any introduction. However, if you’re new to using Word and would like some guidance, visit Microsoft Office’s support pages for Word which contain online tutorials, or visit one of the university’s Learning Resource Centres and speak to a member of the Helpdesk Team.

Support pages for Word (Weblink opens in new window)
Learning Resource Centres (Weblink opens in new window)

When you’re faced with your first blank page and you’re not sure where to start, download 'Questions to help reflection' which will give you some useful prompts:

Questions to help reflection (Word doc)

Excel

This great tool has been developed here at Solent University by Dr Carolyn Mair. The structured spreadsheet gives you a simplified approach to recording reflections by encouraging you to answer some prompts. You can also use the spreadsheet to sort similar entries. For example, you can look at how you reflected on a particular topic such as essay writing.

If you download and save the spreadsheet below you can enter comments in the cells. Students at Solent who have used this spreadsheet have found it enhances their performance.

If you have any questions regarding the spreadsheet please contact Carolyn at carolyn.mair@solent.ac.uk.

Reflection spreadsheet (PDF)

Online journals: blogging

Online journals can be recorded in text, video or audio. The benefit of having your reflections online is that you can share it with other people and get their feedback. Students, academics, business people and even celebrities keep blogs where you’ll often find they’re writing reflectively.

There are many free blogging websites, the most common are Wordpress, LiveJournal and Blogger. If you’re feeling creative you could also record your reflections using video or audio and then share them with the world via sites such as YouTube, Vimeo or AudioBoo.

The downside is that sharing reflections online might actually restrict what you write, as it is writing in a public rather than personal space.

Wordpress (Weblink opens in new window)
LiveJournal (Weblink opens in new window)
Blogger (Weblink opens in new window)
YouTube (Weblink opens in new window)
Vimeo (Weblink opens in new window)
AudioBoo (Weblink opens in new window)

myPortfolio

myPortfolio is an online space available to Southampton Solent University students and staff. You can use it to help with Personal Development Planning, creation of CVs and portfolios and as a space to reflect. Within myPortfolio you have your own journal/blog tool. Read the journal tutorial for further guidance and there’s a step by step activity on setting up a work placement journal. With myPortfolio you can also choose who can view your journal.

For an example of how to use myPortfolio with your reflective writing, visit Daisy Doolittle’s presentation reflection. It’s a good example of how you can structure your reflection and include elements such as documents and videos.

myPortfolio (Weblink opens in new window)
Journal tutorial (Weblink opens in new window)
Setting up a work placement journal (Weblink opens in new window)
Daisy Doolittle’s presentation reflection (Weblink opens in new window)

Other

The above list is by no means complete. Recording reflective thoughts can take many forms, such as photo journals, fictional stories, poetry or paintings.

It may also be that you use one tool for critical reflective incidents (an annotated image), another for a course (journal in myPortfolio) and another for a reflective writing assignment (spreadsheet). Select your tool depending on the situation. Check with your course lecturer for academic work that needs to be assessed.