The Value of Reflective Journaling in Undergraduate Nursing Education: A Literature Review

Int J Nurs Stud. 2008 Sep;45(9):1379-88. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2008.01.006. Epub 2008 Mar 5.


Objectives: The purpose of this literature review was to ascertain the evidence for the use of reflective journaling as a tool to promote the pedagogical strategy of reflection for the purpose of learning from practice for practice in undergraduate nursing education.

Design: Concept-centric.

Data sources: The literature review involved structured searches of all OVID gateway databases, EBSCO host databases, and Blackwell Synergy. Qualitative and Quantitative Studies from 1992 to 2006 were included if they focused on reflective journaling in undergraduate clinical education.

Review methods: Due to the vast plethora of literature on reflection, keywords were utilized to focus the search. Approximately 150 abstracts were reviewed for primary sources of research. A total of nine studies met the inclusion criteria. The review subsequently divided the literature into four content themes allowing for appraisal and analysis of the findings, followed by summary and key recommendations for nursing education and research.

Results: There was evidence that educators struggle to incorporate reflective processes into education; however, the research provided rationale and support for engaging undergraduate students in the reflective process. Researchers found reasonable levels of reflection in undergraduate students' journaling and educators reported students' learning as a result of reflective journaling. Further to this, there was evidence that writing reflectively improved over time; a learned skill also dependent on a good facilitator and trust. Unfortunately, there was a paucity of research that explored the undergraduate nurses' experiences with the process of having to create written communication, with a critical reflective focus on practice.

Conclusion: Nursing educators are correct in pursuing the teaching and learning of the reflective process in undergraduate nursing education. Nurse educators need to utilize various tools and strategies for facilitating the growth of undergraduate students into reflective practitioners. Indeed there was only limited evidence to support reflective journaling as an appropriate tool to promote reflection for the purpose of learning from practice for practice in undergraduate nursing education. Research that provides insight into the undergraduate student experience and perceptions of reflective journaling is needed to facilitate the structuring and use of reflective journaling as a tool in undergraduate nursing education.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Education, Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Narration*
  • Students, Nursing*
  • Writing*