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Reflective writing

What is reflective writing?


Reflection model: experience, reflect, action. What? So What? Now What?
Figure 1: Jasper’s (2003) ERA model & Driscoll’s (2007) questions combined.
  • A basic pattern (see above) involves describing what occurred, reflecting on why this might be significant and what has been learnt, and thinking about your next actions.
  • Focus on key events rather than trying to cover everything.
  • This could include positive or critical incidents ‘which we interpret as a problem or challenge’ (Bassot, 2016, p. 42).
  • You can learn more about reflective writing in the video below from Hull University.
Video on reflective writing
Example Reflective Phrases (opens in a new window)

1. Reflective journals

  • Similar to a diary, it records your thoughts on a weekly or regular basis.
  • Gibbs’ (1888, cited in William, Woolliams and Spiro, 2016, p. 91) cycle can aid detailed reflection.
  • Description: What happened?
  • Feelings: What were you thinking or feeling?
  • Evaluation: What was good or bad about the experience?
  • Analysis: What sense can you make of the situation?
  • Conclusion: What else could you have done?
  • Action: If it arose again, what would you do?
More info on Gibbs' Cycle (opens in a new window)
Gibbs' reflective cycle: description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion, action plan.
Figure 2: Gibbs’ reflective cycle
Reflective journals guide


Set aside regular times for reflection; this will help you to remember events more clearly.

2. Sketchbooks

Example of a sketchbook page by Grayson Perry.
Figure 3: Grayson Perry’s Sketchbook
  • Sketchbooks may include initial drawings and ideas, design development, sources of inspiration, technical information, material samples and experiments.
  • Overall, they act as a space to ‘pause, record, reflect, move on’ (Greenless, 2005, p. 13).
  • As part of recording, use annotation to document process (what materials, processes or techniques were used), analysis (why you did it) and evaluation (how effective it was).
Annotating sketchbooks guide

3. Evaluations

  • Evaluations reflect back on a completed project; this may include stages such as aims, research, experimentation and final outcomes.
  • They also involve considering both strengths and weaknesses.
  • Try the SWOT analysis framework to get started.
SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.
SWOT analysis example questions
Evaluations guide

Sources consulted

  • Bassot, B. (2016) The reflective journal. 2nd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Driscoll, J. (ed.). (2007). Practicing clinical supervision: a reflective approach for healthcare professionals. Edinburgh: Balliere Tindall.
  • Greenless, K. (2005) Creating sketchbooks for embroiderers and textile artists. London: B. T. Batsford.
  • Jasper, M. (2003) Beginning reflective practice. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd.
  • Moon, J. (2006) Learning journals. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.
  • Stobart, J. (2011) Extraordinary sketchbooks. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.
  • The Guardian (2016) Inside Grayson Perry’s sketchbook. Available at: (Accessed: 22 May 2019).
  • Williams, K., Wolliams, M. and Spiro, J. (2012) Reflective writing. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Image to represent a list of eBooks available about reflection.


Try these resources available on Ebook Central:

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