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  • Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning

Research in learning sciences illustrates the many benefits of reflective writing. When provided with clear and authentic prompts and given repeated opportunities to think about their course work and educational, professional, or clinical experiences, students are better able to retain and transfer learning to new contexts. Reflective writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously, enabling students to deepen their component skills and conceptual understanding within a specific field of study while also developing their metacognitive knowledge of their own learning habits and practices. In effect, while reflection involves looking back, it also serves as a mental rehearsal for future practice.

Why should I assign reflective writing?

Because the act of reflecting requires retrieval, elaboration, and generation of information, it can make learning more durable for students, as Brown, Roediger III, and McDaniel demonstrate in Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (2014). Simply worded prompts—such as What went well? What could have gone better? What other knowledge or experiences does this remind you of? and What other strategies might you use next time to get better results? (210)— encourage students to actively monitor their learning processes, which can then cue them to maintain or adapt their strategies in other contexts. Reflective writing prompts can also be used to cue students to think about their conceptual learning: What do I already know? What do I wonder? What do I want to find out? How does this new information relate to the old stuff I thought I knew? How does this new knowledge impact other things I think I know? As detailed by Ambrose et al. (2010 ), becoming more “consciously competent''—developing component skills, becoming fluent with them, and applying them to relevant contexts—enables mastery of concepts (95).

Beyond the rich gains it provides students, reflective writing can also yield valuable insights for instructors about how to adjust their teaching, their course designs, and their assignments to address student-identified areas of struggle. 

How and when should I use reflective writing?

Reflective writing can take many different forms, including routine entries in lab, design, or fieldwork notebooks, revision memos , and blog and video postings; and it can range from brief, informal assignments (such as one-minute papers , muddiest points , or exit slips ) to formal components of large capstone-level projects. Reflective writing can even be used beyond one’s course to integrate and deepen learning across the curriculum when integrated with eportfolios . 

Building window reflection

Regardless of its form or length, reflective writing is most effective when it is integrated into the design of a course, when it supports key learning aims, and when it is intentionally sequenced within an assignment—that is, when its purpose and relevance are clear to students. If students are asked to reflect on their learning experiences only once at the end of a course, they might approach such a task as a course evaluation or a generic description of their learning experiences. 

Providing specific and purposeful reflective activities throughout the semester—before a unit of study, during or after a course lecture or class discussion, or before and after an exam—can help students identify challenges and setbacks along with developing strategies for overcoming them. For example, Dr. Mary Pat Wenderoth assigns weekly learning paragraphs in her large physiology class in order to (1) have students identify their preconceptions about biological systems so those preconceptions can be challenged and prevented from interfering with their learning; (2) develop students’ conceptual frameworks to better retain factual knowledge; and (3) offer practice in metacognition.

Here are seven ways to integrate authentic and purposeful reflective writing.

How do I respond to and assess reflective writing?

Reflective writing can generate quite a bit of reading for instructors. However, responses to reflective writing can be brief, synthetic, and periodic. For more developed reflective writing assignments, such as those described in five and six above, instructors will want to allot more time for providing feedback, and they should consider developing a rubric that identifies the key criteria used to evaluate the reflective writing. Members of the Writing Across the Curriculum team are pleased to consult with instructors on developing reflective assignments and assessments.

For the majority of reflective tasks students do, instructors can respond with a strategy of minimal marking (pdf) and a simplified grading scheme (credit/partial credit/no credit). Since a primary goal of reflective writing is for the student writer to become more aware of their own learning and writing processes, instructors can respond in ways that affirm students' insights and encourage their ongoing efforts of reflection and transfer. While such responses can be brief, they are vital and should be timely. Responses can be written, oral, or presented in audio-video formats, depending on the medium.

Here are four ways to ensure responses to reflective writing are timely and manageable.

How can I foster authentic reflective writing?

For some students, reflecting on their learning may be difficult, and it may be an unfamiliar practice based on socio-cultural backgrounds and schooling histories. For neurodivergent students, reflective activities may require additional or modified instructions and different ways of responding to a prompt. To accommodate all learners and to demonstrate the value of reflective writing, instructors should consider the following:

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Research methodology

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Methodology and methods are two terms which have been used interchangeably often by scholars. The practice is unfortunate because they are not the same. The former refers to philosophy and the latter refers to technical procedures applied to conduct research. The word methodology comprises two nouns: method and ology, which means a branch of knowledge; hence, methodology is a branch of knowledge that deals with the general principles or axioms of the generation of new knowledge. It refers to the rationale and the philosophical assumptions that underlie any natural, social or human science study, whether articulated or not.

Simply put, methodology refers to how each of logic, reality, values and what counts as knowledge inform research.

On the other hand, methods are the techniques and procedures followed to conduct research, and are determined by the methodology (i.e. sampling, data collection, data analysis and results reporting, as well as theories, conceptual frameworks, taxonomies and models). Even the focus and intent of the research, and the actual research questions themselves, are shaped by the methodology (McGregor, 2010).


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In methodology we study the various steps that are generally adopted by a researcher in studying his research problem along with the logic behind them. It is necessary for the researcher to know not only the research methods/techniques but also methodology. (Kothari, 2004).

The following are the systematic analysis of the principles of methods, rules, and postulates employed in research which define methodology: 1. Formulating the Research Problem

The definition of research question is the most important step when undertaking any research as they give direction to the research method applied (Yin, 2003).

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Sebastian et al, (2011) explains that it requires an open mind while framing the research question. At the same time the researcher is required to familiarize with potential research methods and build awareness of their requirements. A researcher must examine all available literature to get himself acquainted with the selected problem.

2. Literature Review A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period. Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of the field is essential to most research papers. Literature reviews provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic and can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone. They also provide a solid background for a research paper’s investigation. Depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant (The Writing Center, 2010-2013). For purposes of literature review abstracting and indexing journals,conference proceedings, government reports, books etc must be tapped depending on the nature of the problem.

3. Developing a Working Hypothesis Hypothesis is a statement of the predicted relationship between two or more variables. As a reseracher you do not know about a phenomenon but you do have a hunch(theory) to form the basis of certain assumption or guesses. You test these by collecting information that will enable you to conclude if your hunch was right. The verification process have one of the three ouytcomes, right, partially right and wrong. Without this process of verification, you cannot conclude anything about the validity of your assumptions. Hence hypotheses is a hunch, assumption, suspicion, assertion or an idea about a phenomenon, relationship or situation, the reality or truth of which you do not know. These hypotheses form the basis for enquiry (Slideshare, 2013).

4. Preparing Rearch Design Research design is the arrangement of conditions for collection and analysis of data in a particular manner that aims to combine relevance to the research purpose with economy in procedure (Slideshare, 2013). In order to develop a complete research design it is valuable to understand the nature of the point from philosophical point of view. Failure to think through philosophical issues can seriouly affect the quality of management resesearch (Eaterby-Smith et al, 2008). The steps involved in research design according to (Umesh) are: a) The means of obtaining the information

b) The availability and skills of the researcher and his staff (if any) c) Explanation of the way in which selected means of obtaining information will be organized and the reasoning leading to the selection. d) The time available for research

e) The cost factor relating to research i.e. the finance available for the purpose

5. Determining Sample Design Sample design is a definite plan determined before any data are actually collected for obtaining a sample from a given population. The sample design to be used must be decided by the researcher taking into consideration the nature of the inquiry and other related factors. According to Statistics and Probability Dictionary, (2013) a sample design is made up of two elements: 1. Sampling method. Sampling method refers to the rules and procedures by which some elements of the population are included in the sample.

Some of the common sample methods used are simple random sampling, stratified sampling and cluster sampling. 2. Estimator. The estimation process for calculating sample statistics is called the estimator. Different sampling methods may use different estimators. For example, the formula for computing a mean score with a simple random sample is different from the formula for computing a mean score with a stratified sample. The “best” sample design depends on survey objectives and on survey resources.

6. Data Collection According to Basic Tools for Process Improvement, Data Collection, (1998-2013) data collection is obtaining useful information on key quality characteristics produced by your process. Data Collection enables a team to formulate and test working assumptions about a process and develop information that will lead to the improvement of the key quality characteristics of the product or service. In summary, data collection helps to establish a factual basis to making a decision. For one to collect data uniformly, you will need to develop a data collection plan.

The data collection plan developed should answer the following question: 1. Why do we want the data? What will we do with the data after we have collected them? You must decide on a purpose for collecting the data 2. Where will we collect data? The location where data are collected must be identified clearly. 3. What type of data will we collect? In general, data can be classified into two major types: attribute data and variables data 4. Who will collect the data? Those closest to the data, the process workers, should collect the data 5. How do we collect the right data? Collect data that best describe the situation at hand.

7. Data analysis Eisenhardt, (1989) explains that analysis is an interactive process started with the development and presentation of an initial set of theoretical propositions based on evidence from the first phase of data collection, during field work and the theoretical assumptions associated with the theoretical framework. According to Kothari, (2004) the term analysis refers to the computation of certain measures along with searching for patterns of relationships that exist among data-groups. Thus ‘in the process of analysis, relationships or differences supporting or conflicting with original or new hypotheses should be subjected to statistical tests of significance to determine with what validity data can be said to indicate any conclusions.

The process operations in data analysis are: a. Editing: it is a process of examining the collected raw data to detect errors and ommsisions and to correct these where possible. b. Coding: it refers to the process of assigning numerals or other symbols to answers so that responses cab be put into a limited number of categories or classes. c. Classification: it is the process of arranging data in groups or classes on the basis of common characteristics. d. Tabulation: it is to arrange data in some kind of concise and logical order.

8. Hypothesis Testing Hypothesis testing refers to the formal procedures used by statisticians to accept or reject statistical hypotheses (What is Hypothesis Testing, 2013). Statisticians follow a formal process to determine whether to reject a null hypothesis, based on sample data (Statistics and Probability Dictionary, 2013). This process is called hypothesis testing. An hypothesis test consists of four steps. a) Formulate the hypotheses. This involves stating the null and alternative hypotheses. The hypotheses are stated in such a way that they are mutually exclusive.

That is, if one is true, the other must be false; and vice versa. b) Identify the test statistic. This involves specifying the statistics (e.g., a mean score, proportion) that will be used to assess the validity of the null hypothesis. c) Formulate a decision rule. A decision rule is a procedure that the researcher uses to decide whether to reject the null hypothesis. d) Test the null hypothesis. Use the decision rule to evaluate the test statistic. If the statistic is consistent with the null hypothesis, you cannot reject the null hypothesis; otherwise, reject the null hypothesis.

9. Interpretation Interpretation refers to the task of drawing inferences from the collected facts after an analytical and/or experimental study (Kothari, 2004). The task of interpretation has two major aspects viz., (i) the effort to establish continuity in research through linking the results of a given study with those of another, and (ii) the establishment of some explanatory concepts. Interpretation is considered a basic component of research process because of the following: a) It is through interpretation that the researcher can well understand the abstract principle that works beneath his findings.

Through this he can link up his findings with those of other studies, having the same abstract principle, and thereby can predict about the concrete world of events. Fresh enquiries can test these predictions later on. This way the continuity in research can be maintained. b) Interpretation leads to the establishment of explanatory concepts that can serve as a guide for future research studies c) Researcher can better appreciate only through interpretation why his findings are what they are and can make others to understand the real significance of his research findings. d) The interpretation of the findings of exploratory research study often results into hypotheses for experimental research and as suich interpretation is involved in the transition from exploratory to experimental research. 10. Report Writing

Features of Good report, (2013) defines a report as a piece of informative writing that describes a set of actions and analyses any results in response to a specific brief. A quick definition might be: “This is what I did and this is what it means.” Kothari, (2004) outlines the following as different steps in writing a report: a. Logical analysis of the subject matter: thre are two ways in which to develop a subject (i) logically and (ii) chronologically. The logical development is made on the basis of mental connections and associations between the one thing and another by means of analysis. It contains materials from the simple possible to the most complex structures. Chronological development is based on a connection or sequence in time or occurrence, the directions for doing or making follow the chronological order. b. Preparation of the final outcome: outlines are the framework upon which long written works are constructed.

They are and aid to the logical organisation of the material and a reminder of the points to be stressed in the report c. Preparation of the rough draft: the researcher writes down what he has done in the context of his study. He will write down the procedure adopted by him in collecting the material for his study along with limitations faced, the technique of analysis adopted, the broad findings and generalizations and the various suggestions he wants to offer regarding the problem concerned. d. Rewriting and polishing the rough draft: while rewriting and polishing, one should check the report for weaknesses in logical development or presentation.

He should also see whether the material presented as it is presented , has unity and cohesion. In addition the researcher should give due attention to the fact that in his rough draft if he has been consistent or not. He should check the mechanics of writing-grammar, spelling and usage. e. Preparation of the final bibliography: the bibliography , should contain all the works which the researcher has consulted. f. Writing the final draft: while writing the final draft, the researcher must avoid abstract terminology and technical jargon. Illiustrations and examples based on common experiences must be incorporated in the final draft as they happen to be most in communicating the research findings to others.

The format suggested below is the same as that used in most published papers as laid down in Guide to Writing Research Reports, (2013). 1) Title: The title should provide a single line description of the study. In many cases, the title will mention the independent and dependent variables. Your title should be a brief, but accurate reflection of the content of the report 2) Abstract: The abstract is a short summary of the report. It should contain a brief description of the rationale and of the method, results and discussion sections. It should be a comprehensive but concise summary of the whole report which will enable readers to decide if they wish to read any further.

A useful rule of thumb is to try to write four concise sentences describing: (1) Why you did it, (2) What you did, (3) What results you found and (4) What you concluded. Write the abstract after you have written the rest of the report. 3) Introduction (Why you did it): The Introduction should present the reasoning behind the particular study which you are describing. This means that the reader, having read the introduction, should feel able to anticipate what your study will involve and should allow someone who is not an expert to understand why you did this study. For this reason the introduction will begin at a general background level and progress through to the specific reasons for and aims of the study. This will normally include a review of past work in the area and an explanation of the theoretical or practical reasons for doing the study. 4) Method (How you did it): In the method section, you describe the essentials of how you gathered your data.

This section must contain enough information for the reader to be able to repeat the study, but should exclude any irrelevant details. It explains about the (i) research participants, (ii) apparatus used, (iii) materials used, (iv) design and (v) procedure. 5) Results (What you found out): Begin this section with a description of how you treated your data. This means that you should describe what you got from all of the responses that were made by each participant to the scores that were analyzed. Follow the description of the treatment of the data with a clear, concise summary of the data using descriptive statistics. 6) Discussion (What you think it means): This is the section in which you interpret the results of the study and discuss their meaning. It is important that your discussion relates to the issues raised in the introduction, since this presented the reasons for conducting the study and the results should provide more details about these issues.

You should link the arguments made in this section with the issues and research hypotheses raised in your introduction section. In particular: (i) How do your results compare with your research questions and/or predictions? (ii) How do your results compare with relevant published results? (iii) What are the implications for future research? 7) References: Should contain all the works which the researcher has consulted. 8) Appendices: You should include here all material that would have been obtrusive or damaging to the ‘flow’ of the report itself, and not just use it as a bin to contain things you wished to say but could not fit into the main report. Therefore, the contents of the Appendices usually consist of raw data, statistical formulae and computations, lengthy protocols, examples of stimuli and details of stimulus preparation, etc Bibliography

1. Basic Tools for Process Improvement, Data Collection. (1998-2013). Retrieved September 15th, 2013, from Balance Scorecard institute, Strategy Management Group: http://www.balancedscorecard.org/portals/0/pdf/datacoll.pdf 2. Eaterby-Smith. (2008). Management Research: An Introduction. SAGE publishers Ltd. 3. Eisenhardt, K. (1989). Building Theories from Case Study Research. Academy of Management Review , 14 (4) 532-550. 4. Features of Good report. (2013). Retrieved September 15th, 2013, from University of Reading, Malaysia: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Essays/sta-featuresreports.aspx 5. Guide to Writing Research Reports. (2013). Retrieved September 15th, 2013, from University of Essex, UK: http://www.essex.ac.uk/psychology/department/A-Z_files/GUIDE%20TO%20WRITING%20RESEARCH%20REPORTS.pdf

6. Kothari. (2004). Research methodology: Methods and Techniques Second Edition. Jaipur,India: New Age International Publishers Limited. 7. McGregor, J. A. (2010). Paradigm, Methodology and Method: Intellectual Integrity in Consumer Ccholarship. International Journal of Consumer Studies 34 . 8. Sebastian Reiter, G. S. (2011). Strategy for Delayed Research Method Selection: Deciding Between Grounded Theory and phenomenology. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods Volume 9 . 9. Slideshare. (2013). Retrieved September 14th, 2013, from Slideshare.Inc: http://www.slideshare.net/rao_sahab/hypothesis-12915876?from_search=1 10. Slideshare. (2013). Retrieved September 14th, 2013, from Slideshare.Inc: http://www.slideshare.net/sagar_sambare/research-design-13174653?from_search=4 11. Statistics and Probability Dictionary. (2013). Retrieved September

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Research methodology

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“The overwhelming burden of writing my first ever reflective essay loomed over me as I sat as still as a statue, as my fingers nervously poised over the intimidating buttons on my laptop keyboard. Where would I begin? Where would I end? Nerve wracking thoughts filled my mind as I fretted over the seemingly impossible journey on which I was about to embark.”

Reflective essays may seem simple on the surface, but they can be a real stumbling block if you're not quite sure how to go about them. In simple terms, reflective essays constitute a critical examination of a life experience and, with the right guidance, they're not too challenging to put together. A reflective essay is similar to other essays in that it needs to be easily understood and well structured, but the content is more akin to something personal like a diary entry.

In this guide, we explore in detail how to write a great reflective essay , including what makes a good structure and some advice on the writing process. We’ve even thrown in an example reflective essay to inspire you too, making this the ultimate guide for anyone needing reflective essay help.

In a reflective essay, a writer primarily examines his or her life experiences, hence the term ‘reflective’. The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to provide a platform for the author to not only recount a particular life experience, but to also explore how he or she has changed or learned from those experiences. Reflective writing can be presented in various formats, but you’ll most often see it in a learning log format or diary entry. Diary entries in particular are used to convey how the author’s thoughts have developed and evolved over the course of a particular period.

The format of a reflective essay may change depending on the target audience. Reflective essays can be academic, or may feature more broadly as a part of a general piece of writing for a magazine, for instance. For class assignments, while the presentation format can vary, the purpose generally remains the same: tutors aim to inspire students to think deeply and critically about a particular learning experience or set of experiences. Here are some typical examples of reflective essay formats that you may have to write:

A focus on personal growth: A type of reflective essay often used by tutors as a strategy for helping students to learn how to analyse their personal life experiences to promote emotional growth and development. The essay gives the student a better understanding of both themselves and their behaviours.

A focus on the literature: This kind of essay requires students to provide a summary of the literature, after which it is applied to the student’s own life experiences.

What do I write about?

As you go about deciding on the content of your essay, you need to keep in mind that a reflective essay is highly personal and aimed at engaging the reader or target audience. And there’s much more to a reflective essay than just recounting a story. You need to be able to reflect (more on this later) on your experience by showing how it influenced your subsequent behaviours and how your life has been particularly changed as a result.

As a starting point, you might want to think about some important experiences in your life that have really impacted you, either positively, negatively, or both. Some typical reflection essay topics include: a real-life experience, an imagined experience, a special object or place, a person who had an influence on you, or something you have watched or read. If you are writing a reflective essay as part of an academic exercise, chances are your tutor will ask you to focus on a particular episode – such as a time when you had to make an important decision – and reflect on what the outcomes were. Note also, that the aftermath of the experience is especially important in a reflective essay; miss this out and you will simply be storytelling.

reflective essay on methodology

It sounds obvious, but the reflective process forms the core of writing this type of essay, so it’s important you get it right from the outset. You need to really think about how the personal experience you have chosen to focus on impacted or changed you. Use your memories and feelings of the experience to determine the implications for you on a personal level.

Once you’ve chosen the topic of your essay, it’s really important you study it thoroughly and spend a lot of time trying to think about it vividly. Write down everything you can remember about it, describing it as clearly and fully as you can. Keep your five senses in mind as you do this, and be sure to use adjectives to describe your experience. At this stage, you can simply make notes using short phrases, but you need to ensure that you’re recording your responses, perceptions, and your experience of the event(s).

Once you’ve successfully emptied the contents of your memory, you need to start reflecting. A great way to do this is to pick out some reflection questions which will help you think deeper about the impact and lasting effects of your experience. Here are some useful questions that you can consider:

– What have you learned about yourself as a result of the experience?

– Have you developed because of it? How?

– Did it have any positive or negative bearing on your life?

– Looking back, what would you have done differently?

– Why do you think you made the particular choices that you did? Do you think these were the right choices?

– What are your thoughts on the experience in general? Was it a useful learning experience? What specific skills or perspectives did you acquire as a result?

These signpost questions should help kick-start your reflective process. Remember, asking yourself lots of questions is key to ensuring that you think deeply and critically about your experiences – a skill that is at the heart of writing a great reflective essay.

Consider using models of reflection (like the Gibbs or Kolb cycles) before, during, and after the learning process to ensure that you maintain a high standard of analysis. For example, before you really get stuck into the process, consider questions such as: what might happen (regarding the experience)? Are there any possible challenges to keep in mind? What knowledge is needed to be best prepared to approach the experience? Then, as you’re planning and writing, these questions may be useful: what is happening within the learning process? Is the process working out as expected? Am I dealing with the accompanying challenges successfully? Is there anything that needs to be done additionally to ensure that the learning process is successful? What am I learning from this? By adopting such a framework, you’ll be ensuring that you are keeping tabs on the reflective process that should underpin your work.

Here’s a very useful tip: although you may feel well prepared with all that time spent reflecting in your arsenal, do not, start writing your essay until you have worked out a comprehensive, well-rounded plan . Your writing will be so much more coherent, your ideas conveyed with structure and clarity, and your essay will likely achieve higher marks.

This is an especially important step when you’re tackling a reflective essay – there can be a tendency for people to get a little ‘lost’ or disorganised as they recount their life experiences in an erratic and often unsystematic manner as it is a topic so close to their hearts. But if you develop a thorough outline (this is the same as a ‘plan’) and ensure you stick to it like Christopher Columbus to a map, you should do just fine as you embark on the ultimate step of writing your essay. If you need further convincing on how important planning is, we’ve summarised the key benefits of creating a detailed essay outline below:

Now you’re familiar with the benefits of using an outline for your reflective essay, it is essential that you know how to craft one. It can be considerably different from other typical essay outlines, mostly because of the varying subjects. But what remains the same, is that you need to start your outline by drafting the introduction, body and conclusion. More on this below.

Introduction As is the case with all essays, your reflective essay must begin within an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The point of having a ‘hook’ is to grab the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning. You must portray the exciting aspects of your story in the initial paragraph so that you stand the best chances of holding your reader’s interest. Refer back to the opening quote of this article – did it grab your attention and encourage you to read more? The thesis statement is a brief summary of the focus of the essay, which in this case is a particular experience that influenced you significantly. Remember to give a quick overview of your experience – don’t give too much information away or you risk your reader becoming disinterested.

Body Next up is planning the body of your essay. This can be the hardest part of the entire paper; it’s easy to waffle and repeat yourself both in the plan and in the actual writing. Have you ever tried recounting a story to a friend only for them to tell you to ‘cut the long story short’? They key here is to put plenty of time and effort into planning the body, and you can draw on the following tips to help you do this well:

Try adopting a chronological approach. This means working through everything you want to touch upon as it happened in time. This kind of approach will ensure that your work is systematic and coherent. Keep in mind that a reflective essay doesn’t necessarily have to be linear, but working chronologically will prevent you from providing a haphazard recollection of your experience. Lay out the important elements of your experience in a timeline – this will then help you clearly see how to piece your narrative together.

Ensure the body of your reflective essay is well focused and contains appropriate critique and reflection. The body should not only summarise your experience, it should explore the impact that the experience has had on your life, as well as the lessons that you have learned as a result. The emphasis should generally be on reflection as opposed to summation. A reflective posture will not only provide readers with insight on your experience, it’ll highlight your personality and your ability to deal with or adapt to particular situations.

Conclusion In the conclusion of your reflective essay, you should focus on bringing your piece together by providing a summary of both the points made throughout, and what you have learned as a result. Try to include a few points on why and how your attitudes and behaviours have been changed. Consider also how your character and skills have been affected, for example: what conclusions can be drawn about your problem-solving skills? What can be concluded about your approach to specific situations? What might you do differently in similar situations in the future? What steps have you taken to consolidate everything that you have learned from your experience? Keep in mind that your tutor will be looking out for evidence of reflection at a very high standard.

Congratulations – you now have the tools to create a thorough and accurate plan which should put you in good stead for the ultimate phase indeed of any essay, the writing process.

reflective essay on methodology

Writing your essay

As with all written assignments, sitting down to put pen to paper (or more likely fingers to keyboard) can be daunting. But if you have put in the time and effort fleshing out a thorough plan, you should be well prepared, which will make the writing process as smooth as possible. The following points should also help ease the writing process:

– To get a feel for the tone and format in which your writing should be, read other typically reflective pieces in magazines and newspapers, for instance.

– Don’t think too much about how to start your first sentence or paragraph; just start writing and you can always come back later to edit anything you’re not keen on. Your first draft won’t necessarily be your best essay writing work but it’s important to remember that the earlier you start writing, the more time you will have to keep reworking your paper until it’s perfect. Don’t shy away from using a free-flow method, writing and recording your thoughts and feelings on your experiences as and when they come to mind. But make sure you stick to your plan. Your plan is your roadmap which will ensure your writing doesn’t meander too far off course.

– For every point you make about an experience or event, support it by describing how you were directly impacted, using specific as opposed to vague words to convey exactly how you felt.

– Write using the first-person narrative, ensuring that the tone of your essay is very personal and reflective of your character.

– If you need to, refer back to our notes earlier on creating an outline. As you work through your essay, present your thoughts systematically, remembering to focus on your key learning outcomes.

– Consider starting your introduction with a short anecdote or quote to grasp your readers’ attention, or other engaging techniques such as flashbacks.

– Choose your vocabulary carefully to properly convey your feelings and emotions. Remember that reflective writing has a descriptive component and so must have a wide range of adjectives to draw from. Avoid vague adjectives such as ‘okay’ or ‘nice’ as they don’t really offer much insight into your feelings and personality. Be more specific – this will make your writing more engaging.

– Be honest with your feelings and opinions. Remember that this is a reflective task, and is the one place you can freely admit – without any repercussions – that you failed at a particular task. When assessing your essay, your tutor will expect a deep level of reflection, not a simple review of your experiences and emotion. Showing deep reflection requires you to move beyond the descriptive. Be extremely critical about your experience and your response to it. In your evaluation and analysis, ensure that you make value judgements, incorporating ideas from outside the experience you had to guide your analysis. Remember that you can be honest about your feelings without writing in a direct way. Use words that work for you and are aligned with your personality.

– Once you’ve finished learning about and reflecting on your experience, consider asking yourself these questions: what did I particularly value from the experience and why? Looking back, how successful has the process been? Think about your opinions immediately after the experience and how they differ now, so that you can evaluate the difference between your immediate and current perceptions. Asking yourself such questions will help you achieve reflective writing effectively and efficiently.

– Don’t shy away from using a variety of punctuation. It helps keeps your writing dynamic! Doesn’t it?

– If you really want to awaken your reader’s imagination, you can use imagery to create a vivid picture of your experiences.

– Ensure that you highlight your turning point, or what we like to call your “Aha!” moment. Without this moment, your resulting feelings and thoughts aren’t as valid and your argument not as strong.

– Don’t forget to keep reiterating the lessons you have learned from your experience.

A further tip – using wider sources

Although a reflective piece of writing is focused on personal experience, it’s important you draw on other sources to demonstrate your understanding of your experience from a theoretical perspective. It’ll show a level of analysis – and a standard of reliability in what you’re claiming – if you’re also able to validate your work against other perspectives that you find. Think about possible sources, like newspapers, surveys, books and even journal articles. Generally, the additional sources you decide to include in your work are highly dependent on your field of study. Analysing a wide range of sources, will show that you have read widely on your subject area, that you have nuanced insight into the available literature on the subject of your essay, and that you have considered the broader implications of the literature for your essay. The incorporation of other sources into your essay also helps to show that you are aware of the multi-dimensional nature of both the learning and problem-solving process.

Example reflective essay

If you want some inspiration for writing, take a look at our example of a short reflective essay , which can serve as a useful starting point for you when you set out to write your own.

Some final notes to remember

To recap, the key to writing a reflective essay is demonstrating what lessons you have taken away from your experiences, and why and how you have been shaped by these lessons.

The reflective thinking process begins with you – you must consciously make an effort to identify and examine your own thoughts in relation to a particular experience. Don’t hesitate to explore any prior knowledge or experience of the topic, which will help you identify why you have formed certain opinions on the subject. Remember that central to reflective essay writing is the examination of your attitudes, assumptions and values, so be upfront about how you feel. Reflective writing can be quite therapeutic, helping you identify and clarify your strengths and weaknesses, particularly in terms of any knowledge gaps that you may have. It’s a pretty good way of improving your critical thinking skills, too. It enables you to adopt an introspective posture in analysing your experiences and how you learn/make sense of them.

If you are still having difficulties with starting the writing process, why not try mind-mapping which will help you to structure your thinking and ideas, enabling you to produce a coherent piece. Creating a mind map will ensure that your argument is written in a very systematic way that will be easy for your tutor to follow. Here’s a recap of the contents of this article, which also serves as a way to create a mind map:

1. Identify the topic you will be writing on.

2. Note down any ideas that are related to the topic and if you want to, try drawing a diagram to link together any topics, theories, and ideas.

3. Allow your ideas to flow freely, knowing that you will always have time to edit your work.

4. Consider how your ideas are connected to each other, then begin the writing process.

And finally, keep in mind that although there are descriptive elements in a reflective essay, we can’t emphasise enough how crucial it is that your work is critical, analytical, and adopts a reflective posture in terms of your experience and the lessons you have learned from it.

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Reflection on Teaching Methodology

reflective essay on methodology

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