Workflow for reflective writing

Don’t know where to start with your reflective writing? This workflow might help you.

Step 1: Figure out what you’re writing about

Responding to a critical reflection prompt or question

Sometimes you might have a critical reflection prompt or an explicit question to respond to. In these cases, you should start by splitting the critical reflection prompt into its component parts.

Let’s look at an example:

What is an online community? What characteristics do they have? Where do they occur? Provide examples, including communities you are part of (if you are part of communities).

Now this is an easy one, because I’ve broken it up into a series of questions. This prompt has four parts:

  1. What is an online community?
  2. What characteristics do they have?
  3. Where do they occur?
  4. Examples

Now we know what we’re working with.

Defining your own topic

If you’re defining your own topic, you might find it useful to write yourself a question to respond to. Alternatively, make a list of sub topics you need to cover.

Step 2: Read / watch the learning resources

Did you read and watch all of the learning resources related to this topic? If the answer is no, hit pause on your writing now and go and work through them all. You can’t write these posts by pulling stuff out of your head. You’ve got to do some work.

If you want to do really well, you need to do your own independent research. Head to the library website and start searching. Follow up on items in the reference lists of the materials we’ve provided. Scour professional blogs.

Step 3: Define the key concepts

Make a list of all the key concepts related to the prompt or your topic, then define them. Start with the learning materials, but you also might need to do some extra reading.

The important thing to remember is that no matter how simple the concepts and how much you think you might know about them, you really need to go to the literature to find definitions. Sometimes words mean different things in different contexts. You need to make sure you’re using the right definition for the context. There might also be theoretical concepts you need to define. Make sure your definitions are informed by relevant literature, and that you don’t simply define terms using the common definitions of words that you might find in a standard dictionary.

When you find definitions, try to paraphrase them. You might like to combine definitions or provide more than one. If you’re having trouble paraphrasing, it’s okay to quote them.

Make sure you cite your sources using contextual hyperlinks.

Step 4: Brainstorm

Make a list of everything you can think of that you might want to say on the topic.

I usually do this in whatever application I’m writing in, but if you’re a visual thinker, you might like to draw a mind map. There are heaps of free online mind mapping tools and lots of cheap apps. My favourite free web-based mind mapping tool is Popplet (and there’s an app too).

Step 5: Organise

Based on your brainstorming, come up with some headings that will form a basic structure for your post and put them into a logical order.

You might decide to keep these headings, or you might just use them as a writing tool and scrap them later.

Step 6: Write under each heading

Focus on getting all your ideas down. You can come back through and tidy up later.

Writing in tiny bites is a good way to segment your thinking and to make the process seem less onerous. Write in bites instead of one whole big piece.

Step 7: Review what you’ve written and revise the structure

Go back over the work you’ve written and check the structure.

Make sure you have:

  • one idea per paragraph
  • a topic sentence that outlines the content of the paragraph
  • a logical flow from paragraph to paragraph and section to section.

At this point, you can make a decision about whether you want to keep the headings you created earlier or scrap them.

Step 8: Add references

Do you have supporting references for all of your arguments? If not, add them in.

Step 9: Add examples

Have you got illustrative examples to support the arguments you’ve made?

Step 10: Add images

Add interest to your post by including images that illustrate concepts or otherwise relate to the content.

Make sure you don’t infringe copyright! Use Public Domain or Creative Commons licensed images. And don’t forget to cite them!

Check out 53+ free image sources for your blog and social media posts for some places you can find images, or head straight to my personal favourites:

Step 11: Get someone else to proofread for you

Every time you do a piece of written work, you should get someone else to read it before you submit.

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