What is reflective writing?

time to complete: 10-15 minutes

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing is a piece of writing for academic, professional or personal purposes, in which you describe an experience and analyse it in order to show what you have learned from it. The process of writing itself will also help you learn from the experience.

Let’s look at some examples of reflective writing from various disciplines. For now, you can read the extracts and identify the experience the student is reflecting on.


This reflective piece uses Johns’ model of structured reflection (2004) to examine what influenced my decisions during a care intervention and explores theoretical frameworks on decision making to establish how decisions are reached. The care intervention was carried out whilst I was a student on an older adult inpatient unit. I had been inspired by a journal article written by a mother who used Prouty’s Contact Work (Prouty et al. 2002) to improve her relationship with her son who suffered from Schizophrenia (Clarke 2005). I thought that this person centred approach to engagement fitted with Kitwood’s (1997) ideas about positive engagement in dementia care which have had a strong influence on the National Service Framework for Older adults (Department of Health 2001). I wanted to see if this new approach would work when delivering personal care to a person suffering from dementia. The work was with a client who, as required by local trust policy and NMC guidelines (NMC 2003) will be known as Peter for the purpose of this case study.


During the year the chemistry meetings held were very useful to my project, any issues that came up could be discussed with more experienced chemists and advice on any action to take was given. Not only did I learn more about the chemistry I was doing but also about other chemistry going on within the group, some of the aspects of which I could apply to my own chemistry. Other aspects such as purification techniques were also discussed early on with more experienced chemists. New pieces of equipment were also talked about at the meetings when a member of the team had used it. For example, when the H-cube first arrived in the lab, it was used by one member in a hydrogenation reaction. This piece of equipment greatly improved this type of reaction, and as a result it is becoming common practice to use the H-cube for hydrogenation reactions.


Term 2 was a shock to me. It was an intellectually confusing phase and it shook my beliefs and raised plenty of doubts as I appreciated the postmodern view on strategy. As useful as this revisionist paradigm was in raising important issues and bringing about new ideas to me, I now have more questions to ask!

The post-modern view applies different lenses to look at and deconstruct strategy. What’s the purpose of doing so? Isn’t business just about creating value? Being scholars and applying these lenses distracts us from business’s true purpose – profit maximization! Why philosophize about a vocation?

Over time, I have learnt the value of ‘unlearning’ and relearning strategy, as this paradigm requires. Strategy as presented in Term 1 was described as if it was an unambiguous moral code, a recipe-book for success.

Like any other type of academic text, you will notice variations between reflective pieces of writing in different fields or contexts. A reflection for a nursing module may be different from a reflection for a module in education. It all depends on the module’s assessment requirements, of course, as well as the reflective model used. It is therefore very important that you check your assessment rubrics/criteria in order to understand what kind of reflective writing you are asked to do.

We will examine the language and organisation of reflective writing later on, but for now let’s check whether you can identify reflective writing from other types of academic writing.

Task: Read the two extracts below and answer the question. Then, read our explanation below.

Extracts in this task adapted from the British Academic Written English corpus via Sketch Engine

The first extract discusses the limitations of discourse analysis methodology, and more specifically interviews. There aren’t any references to the writer’s experiences, context, actions, thoughts or feelings. 

The second extract is an example of reflective writing. As you might have noticed, the writer uses the first person pronoun ‘we’ (8 times) to refer to their team and describes their actions/decisions e.g. we had piloted, we were trying, we should have led, etc.


The extracts on this webpage come from the British Academic Written English (BAWE) corpus, which was developed at the Universities of Warwick, Reading and Oxford Brookes under the directorship of Hilary Nesi and Sheena Gardner (formerly of the Centre for Applied Linguistics [previously called CELTE], Warwick), Paul Thompson (formerly of the Department of Applied Linguistics, Reading) and Paul Wickens (Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes), with funding from the ESRC (RES000-23-0800).”