The purpose of journals is to develop fluency and promote critical thinking, Journals are also a positive way to encourage self-expression. They can help students explore course content and tie it into personal experience or observations of everyday life. Journals are distinguished by an informal nature, an intimate audience (often being addressed to the self and no one else), and regular entries. Since journals are intended to provide writing practice, encourage complete sentences rather than lists or fragments. While some journals are completely personal and can address any topic, other focus on course content and will include the instructor and peers as audience.

A caveat: don't ask students to be too personal in journals, or you may find yourself in some awkward situations. You do not want to have to comment on their most intimate thoughts or experiences, and you do not want to confuse teaching with counseling. Consider allowing students to mark some entries as "Private—Do not read."

Assigning Journals

Responding to Journals

Additional Resources

Fulwiler, Toby, ed. The Journal Book. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1987.

Reynolds, Julia, Writing to Learn in Undergraduate Science Education.

Double-entry journals are discussed at