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Writing a critical reflection

SEB104 Reflection on interview with a Scientist

Reflective writingWhat is it? What does it mean to reflect?

Reflecting on an experience involves drawing on current understandings to think deeply and purposefully about what can be learned from the experience.

The purpose of academic or professional reflection is to transform practice in some way, whether it is the practice of learning or the practice of the discipline or the profession.

Generally, a reflection is written in 'first person' (e.g. I/ me/ we/ us) and the writer discusses in detail their personal thoughts, feelings, reactions to or opinions about the subject.

I've done my interview. How should I approach writing the reflection?

One way to approach writing a reflection piece is to follow a simple 3 step procedure:

  1. describe the issue or experience;
  2. explore your response to it;
  3. consider what you've learnt from the experience and how you might apply that new knowledge in future practice.

For ideas on how to organise ideas into sentences, look at the resource link below.

A commonly used structure for reflective writing is the "4 Rs".  They are:

  • Report on the experience;
  • Relate the experience to your previous knowledge or personal experiences, thoughts, feelings, etc.;
  • Reason why your thoughts are this way;
  • Reconstruct with what you've learnt and look to the future.

NOTE: you don't necessarily have to write 4 distinct paragraphs, but using this formula will help organise your ideas coherently. See the slide show below for some prompting questions for each of the 4Rs.

'4Rs' prompt questions - click through the slides

Clarifying reflective writing

Reflective writing IS:

  •  your response to experiences, opinions, events or new information
  •  your response to thoughts and feelings
  •  a way of thinking to explore your learning
  •  an opportunity to gain self-knowledge
  •  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
  •  written in the first person

Reflective writing is NOT:

  •  navel-gazing, pure opinion or simply an emotional response
  •  just conveying information, instruction or argument
  •  pure description, though there may be descriptive elements
  •  straightforward decision or judgment (e.g. whether something is good or bad)
  •  simple problem-solving
  •  a summary of course notes
  •  a standard university essay