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Getting to grips with journal entries and reports

Hand writing diary

At University of Essex Online, we assess our students’ understanding of a topic through a combination of assignments, online forum discussion posts and journal reports. And although most people have experience with keeping a journal or diary, our tutors definitely aren’t looking for a Bridget Jones-style confessional piece of text. Not sure what an academic journal is? Read on…

 

What is a journal entry? And what is a journal report?

If your programme has an assessed journal activity, you’ll be required to submit journal entries and/or a journal report. These are two styles of submission, both slightly different. In a nutshell, a journal entry is an ongoing update (usually completed every two weeks during each module) and a journal report is a summary piece, an opportunity to reflect back on what you have learned during the module.

Some of the programmes offered by University of Essex Online require students to complete journal entries but not journal reports; this would be made clear by your course tutor and Student Adviser before you start the course.

Unlike other assignments, it is acceptable to use a subjective writing style and refer to yourself in a journal report. This is actually the most suitable approach as the aim is to reflect on your own learning over the course of the module, using your individual journal entries as reminders.

 

What does a journal need to cover?

The requirements and assessment criteria for each journal may differ slightly depending on the course you’re taking, but generally each journal entry should include:

  • The key things you learned during the last two weeks
  • How can they aid your personal and professional development?

You should also remember to be specific and give examples.

And for each journal report, you should summarise the journal entries you submitted each fortnight, while also answering the following questions:

  • Has your learning from this module resulted in changed behaviour/performance/perspectives? In what areas – study/work/home life?
  • Has it helped your career?
  • Is there room for further development in any of the topics covered?

As with the journal entry, you should also remember to be specific and give examples.

 

What makes a great journal entry/report?

As with any assessed piece of work, you should always take care over your journal entries and report. Make sure you set aside time to complete it, instead of rushing through it at the last minute. Try to make notes  throughout your module as you complete your reading and other assignments, and make sure you check the assessment criteria before submitting it.

You should find that the journal entries you have written throughout the module act as great reminders of your learning and feelings from fortnightly intervals in the module. Read through these and use the content to help develop your journal report. However, it is important that you don’t simply copy and paste the entries into a report structure. Instead you should summarise these and integrate the content into your overall reflection, creating a cohesive and organised report, written in the past tense.

You are not required to use wider reading in your journal report. Your tutor is interested in your personal reflection of your learning in the module, so the work of others won’t necessarily be immediately relevant. However, if you do wish to use wider reading in support of your reflection, there will be no penalty for doing so. Remember that referencing, citations and bibliography are key aspects of an academic assignment and good academic practice, so if/ when you quote or refer to the work or ideas of someone else in your journal report you must acknowledge and reference it properly, as you would in any other assignment.

And remember, if you’re struggling at any time with any part of your course you can always reach out to your dedicated Student Adviser or your course tutor.