Arts: Reflective writing in Arts

Understanding reflective/reflexive writing

The difference between reflective/reflexive and academic writing

Academic writing in argumentative or research essays does not usually involve a personal, first-person voice and is much more analytical than descriptive in its tone. In other words, when writing an argumentative or research essay, students are required to adopt an objective, impersonal style of expression. In contrast, reflective/reflexive writing urges students to explore subjective thoughts and feelings, while drawing on their personal experience.


Correct citation method is essential in all academic writing, including reflective/reflexive writing. The difference is that reflective/reflexive writing draws primarily on the experiences and knowledge base of the author.

Types of reflective and reflexive writing

You may be asked to reflect on a variety of learning activities, including:

  • readings and texts - for example, you may be required to reflect on how an article changed the way you think about an issue
  • an experience or observation - for example, you may be required to attend an ANZAC day service and reflect on your observations of the event
  • a theory in practice - for example, you may be asked to reflect on how a theory studied in class applies to an experience, observation or text
  • a learning process - for example, after working collaboratively on a group project, you may be asked to reflect on the group work process.

Each type of reflection  requires a different way of thinking. For example, reflecting on theory in practice requires you to critique and break down the established understanding while reflecting on how it was taught (learning process) and can lead to recommendations for future study. Being able to identify the type of reflection enables you to provide the appropriate discussion.

Note-making for reflective writing

To be able to look back and reflect, it is important to take extensive notes during the process of reading or observing. Referring back to your notes will jog your memory so that you can reflect in an insightful way. You may be instructed to keep notes in a reflective journal during semester, or you may need to take your own notes from theoretical readings and learning experiences in order to complete a reflective writing assessment.

One tip for note making is to use different colours for ideas from the text and your own thoughts. For example, use blue for descriptions of an event, and red for your own thoughts about it. Think about the types of questions you have been asked to address in your assessment, for example, you may be asked to reflect on what you knew before and how your understanding of a particular concept, theory or situation has changed or not over the course of your learning and observation.

Sample notes

Click on the icons for more information about writing notes.