Journal entries are fast becoming a popular type of writing projects assigned to students. Unlike longer and more advanced works like essays and research papers, these works are generally shorter, less structured, and more informal. But while this project may come across as simpler, writing this assignment should not be taken for granted. If you want to know how to write a journal entry that will impress your professors, you will need to invest time and effort. In this post, we provide some journal writing tips and tricks that will allow you to dazzle your readers.
What Is Journaling
Before you learn tips and tricks, the first thing you need to know is the definition of journal writing. You might be wondering, “what is journaling?” Journaling can be simply described as the practice of documenting important or memorable details from everyday life. Journal comes from the French word “jour,” which means day. Hence, a journal is a record of the day. Writing a journal is in many ways similar to keeping a diary. People who keep journals and diaries, for instance, might use them to record significant things that happen, feelings, secrets, or even ideas that come to them.
While the reasons for writing in a journal are mostly personal, schools have come to recognize its value as an academic project. Hence, students are now asked to make personal journal entries a part of their academic path. This type of project is often assigned in classes that conduct a lot of activities because such activities provide plenty of points to think about. So if journal writing at home is about making a personal record of day-to-day life, then what is journal writing in school?
Journal entries are a collection of short pieces of writing produced over a given span of time, typically a term or semester. For instance, your professor might require you to write a minimum of five written papers spread across four months. The number of papers and the intervals between them varies. Some professors might require you to produce one entry per week, others per month, and some might even ask you at irregular intervals.
As a writing project, these entries may serve various purposes. But the most common purpose is to serve as a record of your growth or journey over a specific period. Each written entry you write presents a particular moment in your journey. The first paper, for instance, may detail your expectations about the course while the last paper may discuss if those expectations were met or not.
In the end, the main purpose of this project is to show your progress and how you changed over the period covered. These entries work the same way diaries do: when you compare older and more recent diary entries, you see the changes that have taken place in the intervening period. Professors use these assignments to see their students’ development.
The Benefits of Journal Writing
Whether you write the entries for personal reasons or to meet school requirements, there are clear benefits that this practice brings. Journal writing, like any writing exercise, has the effect of testing your mind. But there are more benefits to writing than just sharpening your thoughts. Some of these benefits imply that the practice does the following:
1. Refines your writing skills
Learning how to write a personal journal entry is very good for your writing skills. Being adept at writing takes time and effort. Even those who appear to have been born with this talent must constantly practice to improve. Writing a journal entry every day will help you develop skills like precision, brevity, and creativity. This is, of course, especially beneficial for students since writing is such a big part of the school.
2. Improves communication skills
A lot of people sometimes forget that writing is still a form of communication. To write well, you need to know how to choose the right words and convey your thoughts clearly. Journaling can help you with this aspect. Learning how to communicate effectively through writing will have a positive impact on your communication skills in general.
3. Helps you record and develop ideas
Have you ever had a brilliant idea that you made a mental note of and then later forgot? If you always lose good ideas, having a journal will help you avoid this from happening again. This is useful because it allows you to write down ideas that come to you before you forget. One practice common to so many writers, creators, and professionals is they take one with them wherever they go.
4. Encourages self-connection
Having more opportunities for self-connection is another benefit of journaling. When you write about your ideas, thoughts, and feelings, you are made to reflect on various aspects of your life. You get to think about your personal choices, relationships, and professional life, among others. Journaling also encourages you to become more honest with yourself, which helps you learn more about who you are.
5. Improves mental health
Most people know the feeling of not being able to tell someone what they truly think or feel. Such a situation can sometimes be suffocating. Imagine no one else knowing about how sad, happy, or excited you are. But having a journal is like having a friend with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings. Writing can sometimes be an act of offloading the things that weigh you down, and in the process, you do your mental health a favor.
6. Documents your life
Another benefit of journaling is that it allows you to record details that you consider important. Relying on your memory alone may not be enough. Sooner or later you will forget a lot of the things even if you try hard not to. But documenting them will assist you in keeping these memories fresh. All it takes is a quick browse for you to vividly remember details even if they are from the distant past.
7. Keeps your mind sharp
At the end of the day, the best benefit you get from writing is keeping your mind sharp. Studies show that writing and associated acts like reading, thinking, and reflecting have a positive effect on cognitive wellbeing. People who regularly do these activities are less likely to experience dementia or other forms of cognitive decline at a later age.
Whether you write journal entries for personal use or for school, the activity offers clear benefits. The practice of keeping one with you will benefit your both cognitive and mental health, enhance your writing and communication skills, and improve your ability to connect with consciousness. There simply is no downside to this practice.
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Tips and Tricks for Writing Journal Entries
Journaling for yourself is quite easy since you do not have to conform to other people’s standards. But writing for school is a different story. Since you will have others, such as your professor, reading your work, it is vital that you write it well. The entries need to be comprehensible and sensible. So how do you write good journal entries? How to start a journal entry?
Journal entries are generally easier to write than more advanced academic papers. Most of the time, journal entries are closer to reaction papers or reflection essays than they are to other types of papers that require research or analysis. But that does not mean you can take this assignment for granted. A journal entry may be short, but remember that you are writing several of these, which collectively make up one big project. With this in mind, follow these tips and tricks to improve the quality of your writing:
1. Provide rich details
This assignment often involves a lot of narrating. This is especially true for students who join activities in the field or the workplace. For example, it has become customary for nursing students to write journal entries about their experiences in clinical settings. If the instructions require you to narrate your activities, do your best to include vivid details. Doing so will give your journal entries richness and depth.
2. Offer a unique perspective
Journal entries can be very personal. After all, we are talking about your thoughts, feelings, and ideas here. Avoid being overly broad. Try to dig deep into your mind and consciousness to bring out your uniquely personal perspective. Do not be afraid to speak your mind and express yourself. Generic and predictable entries will bore your professor. If you know how to write a reflective essay, then this part will be quite easy for you.
3. Keep it concise
While richness in detail and uniqueness of content are valued in these papers, present only what is necessary. Do not try to fill your entry with irrelevant content, as quality is more important than quantity when it comes to writing journals. Aiming for clarity and precision by choosing the right words is not just good for journal entries but for writing as a general exercise.
4. Keep it relevant
One common mistake students make when writing journal entries is thinking that they can write about anything they want. Unless the instructions give you the liberty to write anything you desire, stick to the instructions. Writing something unique, unexpected, or surprising should not be mistaken for writing something unrelated.
5. Write with the bigger picture in mind
All your written works should tell a story. Taken together, they should create a narrative. Think of this project as a television series. Each entry is an episode, and each episode should tell a story. And all these separate stories constitute an entire collection that shows a bigger picture.
6. Show continuity
As discussed earlier, journal entries create one long story through a series of shorter pieces. Make sure your entries are connected to each other. For example, if an earlier entry talks about weaknesses that you have identified in yourself, remember to revisit these weaknesses in later entries by sharing whether you have overcome them or not.
7. Be authentic
Authenticity is one of the most important characteristics of a good journal entry. Yet it is also the one many students forget about. In a bid to impress their professors, many students invent narratives or embellish their stories. Avoid doing these. Your professor wants you to be honest since he or she will not be able to tell your true progress if you do not convey the truth. Do not be afraid to show your vulnerabilities. Including your weak points is the first step towards strengthening them.
You will most likely encounter this assignment in college or even beyond, especially if your major involves a lot of activities integral to your education. Although a journal entry may seem minor compared to longer papers, accomplishing it can still be quite challenging if you are doing it the first time. The tips and tricks provided above will help you through this.
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