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Reflective writing

In reflective writing, it’s common to connect personal experience to specific content from your paper/course. Your lecturer may give you assignments that involve showing:

  • Your understanding of theories connected to personal experiences
  • How you have changed as a result of reflecting on your learning or practice
  • What your future plans are

Theory change future

Connecting personal experience to specific content from your paper/course involves:

  • Identifying theories or parts of theories from research
  • Matching theory to concrete experiences, such as examples of what people do, say, think, feel, etc...
  • Using language to make clear links from theory to experience (and vice versa)

These features may be specific to one part of your assignment, or spread throughout, depending on your assignment instructions.


Your ability to relate and match experiences to theory shows deep understanding of content. The concrete details of personal experiences may be your own or experiences recorded in research (depending on your assignment question).

Connecting example 1: Theory to experience

Theory to experience

Connecting example 2: Experience to theory

Experience to theory

Connecting example 3: Theory to experience to theory

Theory to experience to theory

One advantage of example 3 is that you can connect different theories (or different parts of the same theory) to one experience/example. In all three examples, there is a balance of theory and experience, and language is used to make clear links.

Summary of ways to connect theory and experience

Summary theory to experience

Video (3:08)

Linking theory to experienceLinking theory to experience

Linking experience to theoryLinking experience to theory

Your lecturer may specify a particular reflective writing model for you to use. Prompt questions can help you get started.

Reflective writing model and prompt questions (PDF)


The notion of the ‘wave’ is an adaption of theory that draws on the dimension of Semantics in Legitimation Code Theory (Maton, 2013).

Maton, K. (2013). Making semantic waves: A key to cumulative knowledge-building. Linguistics and Education, 24(1), 8–22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2012.11.005