Reflective Writing

What is reflective writing?

  • Reflective writing involves documenting, questioning and assessing your practice.
  • It is usually written in the first person (I, me, my) because it discusses personal experiences.
  • 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).
  • A basic pattern (see below) involves describing what occurred, reflecting on why this might be significant and what has been learnt, and thinking about your next actions.


Reflective model adapted from Jasper (2003) and Driscoll (2007)


Where will I use reflective writing?

1. Reflective journals

  • Similar to a diary, it records your thoughts about events or experiences.
  • Think about highs, lows and future actions.
  • Reflective journals can track your progress and aid writing personal statements or CVs.
  • Gibbs’ (1888, cited in William, Woolliams and Spiro, 2016, p. 91) cycle can aid detailed reflection. See the sequence below.
  • 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?
    Gibbs' Reflective Cycle

    Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle


2. Sketchbooks

Example of a sketchbook page

Example: 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).


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 (below) to get started.



Study Skills Toolkit
These study guides have prompt questions for reflective journals, annotating sketchbooks and writing an evaluation


The following sources were used for this page:

  • Bassot, B. (2016) The reflective journal. 2nd edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Greenless, K. (2005) Creating sketchbooks for embroiderers and textile artists. London: B. T. Batsford.
  • Moon, J. (2006) Learning journals. 2nd edn. 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.