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Bishwajit Mazumder
Nursing Instructor
Dhaka Nursing College, Dhaka
E. mail: mbishwa@rocketmail.com

Journaling is the process of writing about our experiences, thoughts, and
feelings. Studies have found that if we express feelings about a time in our lives that
was very traumatic or stressful, our immune function strengthens, we become more
relaxed, and our health may improve. Writing about these processes helps us organize
our thoughts and create closure to an event that our minds have a tendency to want to
suppress or hide. Journaling can be done in the privacy of the home and requires only
pen and paper. There are many different ways to express emotions. Journaling is
simple and inexpensive and can be done independently. Moreover, Reflection is
growing in importance as a means to promote a learner-centered environment where
the learner is encouraged to learn through the practice of nursing with subsequent
reflection. When students are in uncertain new situations, they are expected to use
focused thought to apply learned principles to clinical situations and critically
evaluate their performance and decisions, rather than focusing on technical
knowledge in isolation (Thomas J. Hendrix, 2012). Reflective journals are considered
by (most) faculty members to be essential in fostering an understanding of course
concepts and application of concepts to clinical practice. Another aspect to consider is
adding structure to the reflective journal, which is thought to promote reflection in
nursing students. In an effort to promote learning and promote proficient reflection,
nurse educators have developed models or guidelines to assist students to analyze
their clinical experiences (Nielsen, 2009).

What is journaling ?
It is the practice (usually daily once or more often) of writing down thoughts,
feelings and other things. Journaling is, for many people, an effective way to release
stress, review the day, assess thoughts and other things helpful to stress relief and self
The Purpose of Journaling
The most basic purpose of journaling is: to express your thoughts in
written form. While your thoughts are floating in your head, you dont really have a
good grasp of them, or how they relate to each other. By writing your thoughts down,
you can manage ideas as though they are building blocks that you can rearrange to
form the structure that you want. This is almost impossible to achieve if you are
simply thinking, without writing.
Writing is what brings clarity, and journaling is the process you use to express your
thoughts in written form (Haider, 2008).

Types of journaling
There are several types of journaling including
Stream of Consciousness
Thought Provoking
Illustrative Discovery Journaling
Gratitude Journaling
Reflective Journaling
Stream of ConsciousnessStream of Consciousness writing is when you use your journal to write down
anything that you are feeling. This type of writing is most helpful in working through
something you are struggling with including emotional, social, and health challenges.
Stream of Consciousness writing usually involves fast, easy and non-stop writing.

Thought Provoking JournalingThought Provoking Journaling is a slow thoughtful writing and takes time to
record what you want to say. This type of journaling begins with a subject matter in
mind, and you write about that issue or experience. You can use this type of journaling
to record personal goals or special projects you are working on. You can also write
down personal successes already accomplished.
Illustrative Discovery JournalingIllustrative discovery journaling is a method which uses visual pictures to
record emotions and thoughts. Illustrative discovery journaling can benefit those with
a more visual learning style by using images, drawings, magazine cutouts, and other
visually creative ways to express themselves.
Gratitude JournalingGratitude journaling is a method of journaling which utilizes self-reflection
to take notice of and find value in daily achievements and lifes gifts, both big and
small. It can be helpful to create a separate journal which only contains things you are
grateful for. Some people have found it helpful to establish a time each day to write in
this journal, such as before bed, to make sure to always appreciate daily success.
Some people have even tried to write 100 things they are grateful for each day; even
small thing like shoes and a pencil could be worth your gratitude (Celano, 2011).
Reflective Journaling
A reflective journal is a means of recording ideas, personal thoughts and
experiences, as well as reflections and insights a student have in the learning process
of a course. In addition to the demands of a typical written assignment (e.g. able to
give definition on concepts, demonstrate basic understanding of course materials),
reflective journal requires the students to think more deeply, to challenge their old
ideas with new incoming information, to synthesize the course materials they have
learnt into their personal thoughts and philosophy, and also to integrate it into their
daily experiences and future actions. The benefits of the reflective learning process
are usually accumulated over a period of time, in which the students usually show a

series of developmental changes, personal growth and changes in perspectives during

the process (Chan, 2009).

Principles of Reflective journal Writing

1. Reflective journal writing is an opening: a way to explore what we can
become without being judged. Stories are a gift to ourselves and others, and
express the uniqueness of individuals and their circumstance as well as the
common ground they share.
2. What we bring to an experience is essential to our understanding of what
occurs. This is influenced by our past, our future, and out present world-views.
3. A deeper understanding enables us to integrate former learning with
experiences, to form relationships between parts of knowledge, and to search
for meaning.
4. We reflect because issues arise that need consideration both before and after
we act. As nurses, we are agents of history for ourselves and others.
5. Critical reflection promotes an understanding of diversity in beliefs, values,
behavior, and social structures.
6. Reflection is not a political act. Because reflective writing is a personal
journey, students are to write only what they feel comfortable sharing.
7. Journal writings are not right or wrong, simply places to discuss movement in

8. Journals are confidential between the student and the instructor (Tabatha
Hecker, 1996).

Process of journaling (Writing Process)

Once you select a topic and complete enough research to commit yourself
at least tentativelyto your stance toward that topic, you are ready to begin writing.
Prewriting: Analyzing your audience, determining your purpose in writing, limiting
the scope of what you will cover, and generating potential content.
Drafting: Making a case and structuring your evidence for that case.
Revising: Putting yourself in the place of the reader, rethinking your approach, and
making changes that will improve your case.
Polishing: Editing and proofreading to eliminate errors and improve the coherence
and readability of your presentation.
The recursive, rather than linear, nature of the writing process helps writers produce
stronger, more focused work because it highlights connections and allows for
movement between research and the phases of writing. Writing doesn't have to be a
one way path (The Writing Process).

Figure: The writing process

Special consideration for journaling

The following observations on where problems may arise following the receipt
of a paper in a journal office. It is not an exhaustive list but illustrates the type of error
frequently made by the submitting author. It is presented as questions that I feel
authors should ask themselves before mailing the paper to a chosen journal.
1. Is your topic appropriate to the journal?
Advice: Familiarize yourself with the journal to which you are submitting work. Find
out the type of topics that are published from reading a selection of past issues. Go to
the journal website to check the aims of the journal and its target readership.
2. Is the work you describe valid, original, educational and/or of interest to the
readership of the journal to which you are sending it?
Advice: Know your subject; know the literature, so that you can clearly make the case
for what is new and of interest on the topic you have chosen.
3. First impressions count! Have the title and abstract been carefully crafted?
Advice: Think very carefully about the title. It should be brief, accurate and
descriptive. It should attract a reader to the paper. The abstract should follow the same
rules but, in addition, should follow the guidelines of the journal. Remember that, if
the paper is published, it is likely that the majority of readers of your paper will not go
beyond the abstract.
4. Have you written clearly and with economy?
Advice: Get another experienced author (or editor) to read the final draft of the paper
before submitting to get another view on the quality of the writing and to identify
areas of repetition.

5. Has the literature been adequately reviewed?

Advice: Again you must know your subject and all of the literature - not just the local
literature written in a familiar language. You may be dismissive of some previous
work published however it should always be included in your review and any
shortcomings identified and described politely!
6. Have all of the authors agreed the text?
Advice: Sometimes, particularly where authors are in different countries, this may
take an effort but it must be done for sound legal reasons, which protect authors as
well as publishers. Never forge a signature.
7. Has an experienced author read your paper before submission?
Advice: Always get another view on the presentation of your work. If you follow this
advice it will probably avoid obvious problems in the text and reduce delays in the
acceptance of the paper.
Finally, remember the Six-draft Rule! Every paper will need to go through at
least six drafts before acceptance and that, it is better to do the majority of this
redrafting before submission. So, put the paper aside for a couple of weeks and then
read it again before submitting it. You will be amazed how many errors in grammar
and spelling you will detect (Jones, 2003).

Theory congruent with journaling

In more formal reflective writing, where your work is being assessed, it is
important to use a framework. There are several formal models of reflection which
can be used. A model commonly used in the health professions is Gibbs model of
reflection (1988). An outline of this model is given here, with a breakdown of the
types of questioning involved at each stage, to give an idea of the depth that effective
reflection requires.

Gibbs' model of reflection (1988)

Expected outcomes
1. Clarify your thoughts and feelings: Do you ever seem all jumbled up inside,
unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your
thoughts and emotions will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
2. Know yourself better: By writing routinely you will get to know what makes
you feel happy and confident.
3. Reduce stress: Writing about anger, sadness and other painful emotions helps
to release the intensity of these feelings.
4. Solve problems more effectively: Typically we solve problem from a leftbrained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found
by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other
capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly
unsolvable problems.

5. Resolve disagreements with others: Writing about misunderstandings rather

than stewing over them will help you to understand anothers point of view.
And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict.
In addition to all of these wonderful benefits, keeping a journal allows you
to track patterns, trends and improvement and growth over time.

Journaling strategies
When considering how to start journaling, it can be important to choose the
medium that best suits your needs such as a notebook, computer, mobile
device/smart-phone, etc. You may also want to choose the type of journal (gratitude,
illustrative discovery journal, reflective journal). You can also consider what type of
writing instrument (type of pen, pencil) works best for you. It can be helpful to
consider reading a few books on journaling to get ideas about how you could enhance
your own journaling. Since a journal is deeply personal, you may want to consider if
you will share your journal with anyone. Some people never share their journal
because it is too personal while others benefit from sharing their writing with close
friends, family, and even therapists. Some people join a journal club to discuss their
own process with others, and work on strategies to keep journaling ongoing. It may
also be helpful to have a time each day to journal so as to condition yourself to the
routine of writing (Celano, 2011).

Advantages of Reflective Journaling


Active learning - The process of reflection encourages the students to take the
initiative to be active, self-driven; allows individual learner to explore
concepts and ideas in relation to their thoughts and feelings from different
perspectives. Students can become independent thinkers through the practice
and to enable themselves to solve various problems on their own.

Understanding the progress of students - Reflective journals provide good

opportunities for teachers to gain better understanding into how the students


think and feel about the course, and the learning progress of the students
throughout the course, which will eventually enhance the students learning

Improving writing skills - Writing reflective journals can involve students in a

new form of writing which they may not have a chance to experience in the
past. This exposure can bring out improvement in students writing skills.

Freely expressing personal views and criticizing of one-self - Reflective

journal assignments provide the platform for students to freely express what
they think and feel about the course and their learning process, and also
promote their expression of ideas, personal experiences and opinions. This is
an ideal place for students who are generally not willing to speak up in classes
and tutorials to express themselves.

Enhance critical thinking and creativity - The process of self-reflection

enhances the development of critical thinking skills among students when they
relate their knowledge to real world issues. It can help students develop their
creativity and a questioning attitude towards different issues and problems.

Disadvantages of Reflective Journaling


Difficult for objective marking Due to the subjective nature of reflective

assignments, it is rather difficult for assessors to be objective and have
consistent grading. Different assessors when marking may have quite a large
discrepancy in their judgment of different types of work.

Time consuming for grading The context of reflective writing can often be
very wide, and involves a wide range of concepts, issues, and perspectives. As
a result, it often takes considerable amount of time for assessors to read and
grade students works.

Confidentiality As students have to disclose their personal and private views

and information in their reflection, some of them may be unwilling to honestly


disclose their real perspectives. They may be concerned that what they wrote
will significantly affect the grade they receive.

Clear guidelines needed Many students may not be familiar with the
procedure of writing reflective assignments and may feel very lost when
working on it for the first time. Teachers have to give clear guidelines to
students about what should be included in the reflective journals, what can be
learnt from writing it, as well as how they will be graded (Chan, 2009).

Reflective writing is a powerful technique that incorporates the personal
experiences and the knowledge gained through readings, classroom discussions, and
clinical practices. Students find journaling especially helpful because it gives them an
opportunity to have an intimate dialogue with their instructors. Through writing
weekly entries and reflections, students learn how to organize their thoughts and
actions according to their own world-view. It is a practice that searches for new
mediums of discourse for Nurses, and attempts to integrate past and present
experiences to determine future Nursing actions. Journaling, as a reflective learning
medium, particularly in circumstances where there is a limited student/facilitator
contact, does appear to enable engagement in reflection and learning for a prolonged
and continuous period of time. It offers great promise in terms of promoting important
and relevant skills, and providing at least a partial solution to large, impersonal
classes. However, journal useand particularly the reflective thinking aspect it
requires and buildsdevelop the kinds of interpersonal and professional skills.

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Haider. (2008). A Quick Start Guide to Journaling.

Jones, M. L. (2003). Writting a paper for journal sumission & some key to success.
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and Evaluation. Journal of Nursing Education, Volume 48, no. 1,
Tabatha Hecker, J. A. (1996). Reflective Writing in Nursing. Colleborative Nursing
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The Writing Process. 225 South 6th Street, 9th Floor, Monneapolis, MN 55402:
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Thomas J. Hendrix, M. O. (2012). Nursing Students Perceptions of Reflective
Journaling: A Conjoint Value Analysis. International Scollerly Resesarch Network, ISRN .