Writing a reflective essay on the research process is an opportunity for you to think back on what you have learned, to recognize your achievements and to identify the challenges that you faced. It is your opportunity to describe your research strategy, process, and what you learned from it.
Use the reflective essay to communicate specifics about your improved understanding and use of library services, resources, and collections as they applied to your paper or project. Explain what advancements you see in your ability to conduct research and what skills, techniques or strategies you have learned.
Some prompting questions that may help you reflect on the process that you followed in your research are:
Consider the process: how you crafted your thesis, selected your search tools, developed search techniques, and chose which Library collections to explore.
Consider your sources: the types and formats that you chose, how deeply or widely you explored your topic area, how you evaluated and selected materials, and how carefully you cited what you selected.
Pulling it all together: how you used these sources to support your thesis and what original ideas stemmed from the synthesis of your research.
Writing reflectively involves critically analyzing an experience, recording how it has impacted you and what you plan to do with your new knowledge. It can help you to reflect on a deeper level because the act of getting something down on paper often helps people to think an experience through.
There are many ways to approach reflective writing. One such method is the D.E.A.L. model:
Describe your experience objectively. If you were formulating you topic, you might describe the various topic you considered, what you thought about each of them, why you discarded certain topics and how you finally arrived at your chosen topic. If you were searching for information, you might describe what database you used, what search terms you used, what results you got, whether they were useful and how you changed your search terms to get better results. If you were evaluating you search results, you might describe why you thought each source was useful/not useful and/or why you thought each source was reliable/not reliable.When you read through and analyze your chosen sources, you might record how each sources contributes to your research: does it represent a certain conclusion? Does it use an interesting methodology? Does it have useful facts or data? Does it have a useful quotation? When you are writing your paper, you might describe what part of the paper you were writing.
Examine and evaluate your research process by considering the following questions:
Articulate and Learn
Use your responses to the prompts above in both the “Describe” and “Examine” sections of this reflection template to create a thoughtful essay wherein you articulate what you have learned.Each of the following questions should be addressed in your essay:
Description - Describe in detail the part of the research process you were working on and what you did.
Feelings - Try to recall and explore the things that were going on inside your head while you were researching or writing. How you were feeling when you began your research session? How did the process make you feel and why? How did you feel about the outcome/results you obtained?
Evaluation - Try to evaluate or make a judgment about what has happened. Consider what was good about the experience and what was bad about the experience or didn’t go so well.
Analysis - Break the event down into its component parts so they can be explored separately. What went well; what did you do well; what did others do well; what went wrong or did not turn out how it should have done; in what way did you or others contribute to this.
Conclusion - This differs from the evaluation stage in that now you have explored the issue from different angles and have a lot of information to base your judgment. It is here that you are likely to develop insight into you own and other people’s behavior in terms of how they contributed to the outcome of the event. Remember the purpose of reflection is to learn from an experience. Without detailed analysis and honest exploration that occurs during all the previous stages, it is unlikely that all aspects of the event will be taken into account and therefore valuable opportunities for learning can be missed. During this stage you should ask yourself what you could have done differently.
Action Plan - During this stage you should think yourself forward into encountering the event again and to plan what you would do – would you act differently or would you be likely to do the same?
According to the Rolfe Framework, The questions ‘What?, So what? and Now what? can stimulate reflection:
... is the problem/difficulty/task/goal?
... was my role in the situation?
... was I trying to achieve?
... actions did I take?
... were the results?
... was good/bad about the experience?
...does this tell me/teach me/imply/mean?
...did I base my actions on?
...other knowledge can I bring to the situation?
...could/should I have done to make it better?
...is my new understanding of the situation?
...broader issues arise from the situation?
Now what ...
...do I need to do in order to improve my results?
...broader issues need to be considered if this action is to be more successful?
...might be the consequences of this new approach/action?
From: Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.