* Note: Some instructors require journal submissions. These assignments have various requirements depending on the course objectives. They can include some elements of the personal journal described here, but they often contain features like summaries, analysis, reviews, or responses. The personal journal described here is seldom sufficient for college work.
I. The purposes and goals of a personal journal are numerous; some of them are listed below. A journal is important for the following reasons:
A. To record observations, impressions, feelings, insights.
B. To preserve what might otherwise be forgotten.
C. To find out what you're thinking. Ideas have a way of fading if they are not written down. In fact, the very process of writing frequently produces new ideas.
D. To record practical applications of classroom theory.
E. To chronicle your educational and vocational goals.
F. To remind yourself of the questions and problems you may want to discuss with a supervisor or instructor.
G. To record experiences related to your main purpose, perhaps responses to reading, workshops, or travel.
H. To provide a lode to be mined later, either for reflection or writing assignments.
II. Suggestions on how to go about journal writing:
A. Journal comes from the French word for "daily," and that's how often you should write in your journal. If you recollect only at the end of the week, you will have lost a great deal.
B. You have to be aware to keep a journal. Be conscious of what you see, hear, taste, feel, and smell, and read. Good journals depend on details.
C. Be conscious of what goes on inside you. Record your feelings and your reactions to events, situations, and readings during the day.
D. However, you need not record every detail, just the significant ones: the critical incidents, the highs and lows, the turning points, the "aha" experiences when the insight breaks through.
E. Analyze what occurred during the day. "Why did that person respond that way?" "Why did I feel the way I did?" Sometimes your analysis will come several days after you first recorded the event. Insight travels at its own pace.
III. Keep a notebook exclusively for this journal.
A. Since you are the audience you are writing for, write what you want and the way you want.
B. However, if you will be asked to submit your journal, be sure to find out what your reader is looking for, and exclude irrelevant material. For example, if you're keeping a journal to record your responses to required readings, you'll leave out your feelings about the weather.
IV. Evaluation: If a personal journal meets the goals you have selected, it has succeeded. A journal is like charity: it is its own reward.
V. Pitfall: Trying to write large sections of the journal at one time. The ideas and reactions should be as fresh and immediate as possible.