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Both in traditional and online classrooms, journal entries are used as tools for student reflection. By consciously thinking about and comparing issues, life experiences, and course readings, students are better able to understand links between theory and practice and to generate justifiable, well-supported opinions. This kind of writing assignment is meant to be interactive, as students engage with ideas and experiences that bring about questions, comparisons, insights, criticisms, speculations, and tentative conclusions. Although somewhat less formal than essays or other course writing assignments, journal entries should still construct a coherent narrative, use complete sentences, be grammatically correct, and be scholarly in tone. Below are some tips for writing a successful journal entry
Read Prompt Carefully
Look for the assignment's purpose, mode of reflection, particulars, and formatting requirements:
a. Purpose: What questions, life experiences, events, or course readings are you being asked to reflect on?
b. Mode of Reflection: Make sure you know what mode of reflection the writing prompt is asking you use. Are you being asked to compare/contrast, describe, highlight thoughts/feelings, issue opinions (agreement/disagreement), draw conclusions, or ask questions?
c. Particulars: What is the word limit? When is the due date and time? What sources are you expected to draw on?
d. Formatting: What formatting has your instructor requested? If no specific formatting is indicated, follow general APA guidelines.
Critically Reflect and Organize
a. Before beginning to write, make sure you have read all of the required readings with a critical eye.
b. After reading, spend some time jotting down your reactions, ideas, and responses to the reading. Jot notes down about specific elements, examples, or experiences you would like to include in your journal entry.
c. After you have constructed these notes, choose to write about the ideas that best answer the questions and that you can easily support.
d. Organize these ideas into a clear narrative structure or outline by logically piecing together your ideas in a way that clearly addresses the instructor’s prompt.
Construct a Draft
a. Although a journal entry does not need a formal thesis sentence, making your central idea clear early on is important.
i. A great way to begin crafting this main idea sentence is to think about the "mode of reflection" you are using and the examples you are using. Write a sentence that explains these clearly and concisely to your readers.
b. Make sure that you introduce each new idea with a topic sentence. Follow that topic sentence with information or evidence that justifies your opinion, reflection, speculation, criticism, or agreement.
c. Between individual sentences and between complete paragraphs, inserting frequent and appropriate transitions will help readers easily follow your narrative from one idea to the next.
Review and Revise
After writing your jounal enty, review your ideas by asking yourself:
a. Is my main idea clear and relevant to the assigned topic?
b Does my journal entry demonstrate evidence that I have read and thought critically about required readings, experiences, events, or issues?
c. Have I proposed a unique perspective that is supported well?
d. Do I support my claim with required readings or other credible outside sources?
e. Have I used a scholarly tone, complete sentences, and adhered to other specific assignment requirements?
f. Have I self-edited my response for grammar, style, and structure?
Improve Your Writing Skills
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