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Reflective thinking through scrapbook journalling: From the constrained to the chaotic

Rebecca Sherratt, PGCE Secondary English Course Leader at Staffordshire University

Educators are well versed in reflective practice when it comes to pedagogy but less so when it comes to documenting research (Moon, 1999). Kelly proposes that the journal can be ‘an anchor, sounding board, mirror and a comfort blanket’ (Kelly, 2023, p. 11), something which may be of value for doctoral researchers.

In my own journalling journey as a first year EdD researcher, the initial attempt saw me writing in narrative prose, but this felt constrained, and I craved something more creative. Both Moon (1999) and Kelly (2023) suggest that multimodal journalling offers opportunities for exploration and a deeper understanding of the issues; a space to play. I therefore embarked on a more gratifying and liberating scrapbook journal, purchasing a black-paged scrapbook and a white pen – there was something satisfying about the old-style blackboard look that appealed to me as a former classroom teacher – and began journalling using a range of multimodal artefacts. In writing this way, I have found that justification for research journalling perhaps centres around the following four key aspects.

Recording and remembering

Attia and Edge (2017) assert that tracking our progress and interrogating our goals is key in developing as critical thinkers, particularly when research is emergent and likely to evolve. The journal has already been invaluable, allowing me to note down my experience of speaking at the BERA ECR symposium, alongside some post-presentation reflections and feedback. I’ve also found it useful to note down key ideas from assignments, attaching tweets or quotations which take these ideas further, thus learning from the journal itself and offering a way to record extra reading I might want to pursue.


According to Kelly (2023), reflective practice is about ‘doing’, whereby we understand where we are, how we got there, where we’re going and why, using this to challenge assumptions and improve practice (Costley & Fulton, 2019). In my own journal, I have incorporated images of a playful pedagogy session where we used Playmobil to create scenes depicting our research. Annotating the visual prompted me to think more deeply about what I wanted to research, with both clarity and further questions emerging as a result. Similarly, noting the development of my research questions as they’ve changed has also been valuable, and I can imagine that this will be beneficial when I complete my VIVA.

‘I have found that ideas flow more freely once written, with ideas morphing and gaining precision during the process – the “aha” moment.’

Creativity and idea construction

The physical act of writing can generate new ideas (Moon, 1999) and reduce cognitive load (Kelly, 2023), offering clarity and opening space for more profound thinking. I have found that ideas flow more freely once written, with ideas morphing and gaining precision during the process – the ‘aha’ moment. This has emerged through the development of key concepts for my research alongside experimentation with different creative methodologies I might use.

Personal development and wellbeing

The journal can be an aide to mental wellbeing; the more we know about ourselves the better (Kelly, 2023) and through it ‘we shape and are shaped’ (Attia & Edge, 2017, p. 36). Inspirational quotes alongside feelings about key incidents in my day-to-day life have all found their way into the journal, and by engaging with the material and not simply inserting or copying it, I will hopefully grow into what Attia and Edge (2017, p. 34) call ‘the whole-person-who-researches’ and not just an intellectual self.

As the journal is largely about my own development, it is important to avoid self-censoring and worrying about the opinions of others. The neatness of presentation and use of formal language are disregarded; it is a working text and my ‘construct of what appears to be truth in that moment’ (Moon, 1999, p. 15) perhaps drawing on Foucault (1977) and a postmodern notion of what it means to be surveilled, whether that is externally or self-imposed. For that reason, the scrapbook approach is not tidy or organised but rather chaotic; ironically (in my case) leading to more ordered, and less constrained, thinking.


Attia, M., & Edge, J. (2017). Be(com)ing a reflexive researcher: A developmental approach to research methodology, Open Review of Educational Research, 4(1), 33–45.

Costley, C., & Fulton, J. (2019). Methodologies for practice research. Sage.

Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Allen Lane.

Kelly, L. (2023). Reimagining the diary. John Catt Educational.

Moon, J. (1999). Learning journals. Kogan Page.