Reflective writing: conclusion & action plan

time to complete: 15-20 minutes

Academic culture has become an action-oriented culture. This means that observations and analyses should result in action or suggestions for action. You may notice in your research and studies that very often academic articles end with suggestions for further study or comments on the applicability of certain theories and concepts. Similarly, when researchers apply for grants to fund their research, they need to show how their work will effect positive change and improvement in their field. This is why we see reflective writing being increasingly more used in undergraduate and postgraduate assignments.

Conclusion & Action Plan

This section should focus on the result of synthesizing your evaluation and analysis. After you have described an experience and the resulting feelings, analysed those feelings in terms of their cause and placed them in the wider theoretical context, you will need to draw conclusions about this experience and show:

  • what you have learned
  • how you will act in the future in similar situations

This may be a challenging section for you because it requires that you employ your highest cognitive function: to create. You are expected to create a unified, meaningful experience out of all the parts discussed earlier, and to create a plan of action that is informed by this experience, so that you both reinforce and repeat what you did well, and alter what you did not do so well.

These are some questions that may help you with this section. They are presented in a way that shows the connection between Conclusion and Action Plan:

ConclusionAction Plan

What have I learned from this experience?

How would this experience have been more positive for everyone involved?

What will I do differently next time?
What skills do I need in order to handle situations like these better?How will I develop these skills?
What else could I have done?
How will I make sure I act differently next time?

What language do I need?

The reflection until now has been about the past i.e. What happened? How you felt? Why did it matter? and about the past and present academic context of the experience i.e. How does it fit with current ideas?

The conclusion is all about how your present is influenced by this past and the action plan is all about the future. The language will reflect this. Below are tenses you will need to use:

I now know that I tend to get carried away on the research trail, looking up ideas that are not immediately relevant to my paper, and thus waste precious time. For my next research project, I will make a list of key ideas and I will only read around those.

From the theories on cognitive processing discussed above, it is evident that I would possibly have understood the concepts in the seminar better if I had participated more actively through discussion and note taking. In the seminars scheduled for the rest of the semester, I am going to keep a notepad in front of me to encourage me to take notes, and in the breakout rooms I will aim to speak at least twice.

Also, remember to use…

In the future, …

From now on, …

…  in my future practice.

… in my next project.

Next time, …

I will / am going to / am planning to …

In a similar situation, I would…

It is important / essential / necessary / useful to…

I need to enhance my understanding of…

I will improve the quality of…

I will develop this skill

I must extend my knowledge of…

This will help me gain further insight into…

I will be more flexible / critical / efficient / thorough / assertive/ decisive / careful / willing… 


The following two examples are not directly from science and engineering but from reflections by teachers of science in teacher training contexts. This is because scientific discourse functions under the premise that the feelings of a scientist are not or should not be a variable and have no effect on their research. Therefore, reflection may be an informal process in the field of science but it is not formalized or normalized.

Example 1 – Reflection by teacher of mathematics

I was impressed [by] Euler’s solution process to the Konigsberg’s Bridges problem. … It was really out of the sphere of my imagination to represent the “islands” and the “shores” as “points” (nodes or vertices) and the “bridges” as “arcs” (“lines”) without loss of generality. Now, I am highly satisfied and convinced with Euler’s approach to the problem. In fact, this initiated me to see solutions to problems from different perspectives. The thoughtful reflection and arguments with colleagues and the teacher helped me understand how much mathematical problems demand perseverance and keen attention.

Adapted from Weldeana and Abraham (2014)

Example 2 – Undergraduate student entry in a reflective journal as part of a mathematics course on methods

September 16 … Brandon

Having witnessed the horror and tragedy of the World Trade Center first hand, and then living in a gymnasium for a week, had left me searching for the existence of any logic, any order. Learning that mathematics is a science of pattern and order that relies on logic, I have found something stable upon which to grasp. I have tested this logic by using the example: 1 + 1 = 2; 2 + 2 = 4; 4 + 4 = 8; 8 + 8 = 16; etc. up to 65,536 + 65,536. I have found two patterns so far and am eager to continue. Knowing there is a pattern to mathematics is nothing short of an epiphany for me. I have looked mathematics in the eye and shook its hand. Although we are not best friends, at least we are no longer mortal enemies.

Adapted from McVarish (2009)

Task: Use the words/phrases to complete the gaps in the extracts below. These two extracts have been taken from the Conclusion & Action Plan section of reflective writing assignments.

Civil Engineering

Cybernetics & Electronic Engineering