Plan, structure, analyse and reflect (2016/7)

A recap of the ‘Living in a Digital World’ session

This is an archived version of a page from Digital Society 2016/7, to preserve content for past participants. See the main page for the latest materials.


This post is to help you catch up if you missed the session, or recap if you attended. Thanks to Nicola Grayson & Charlotte Evans (Learning Development team, University of Manchester Library) for the session and this post.

Thank you to all who attended Living in a Digital World, a workshop to help you plan, structure, analyse and reflect for digisoc3. For those of you who missed it, we focused on the following areas:

  • Choosing and planning appropriate themes for your assignment, digisoc3
  • Recognising the difference between critical and descriptive writing
  • Discussing and implementing the basic principles of reflective writing

UCIL25002 students can access the recording, and we have summarised the themes and activities to help you do them in your own time if you wish.


Activity one: choosing your themes

Slide: Choosing your themes, used with permission from My Learning Essentials

The first activity involved breaking down the task of choosing a themes for digisoc3 into three stages.

Stage one is to list and map out all possible topics you could write about (all topics you have encountered in the unit—whether or not they are session titles; they just need to be relevant to ‘digital society’).

Stage two requires you to narrow down your options by eliminating topics that aren’t relevant to the question, identifying your preferences and retaining topics that enable you to answer the question effectively by citing evidence and conducting analysis.

Stage three involves selecting the final themes you will write about. Choose the themes which will enable you to construct a thorough, critical and well evidenced piece of writing. It is a good idea to choose topics which are relevant and that you find interesting, provocative or fun!

Being critical

Slide: Writing critically, used with permission from My Learning Essentials

In this part of the workshop we covered the importance of effectively planning your assignment and went through the three basic structural elements of all writing pieces: introduction, main part and conclusion. See the session recording to hear our explanation.

Following this, some of the differences between descriptive writing and critical writing were outlined. Descriptive writing involves presenting a situation, data or facts as it is (e.g. in the form of a summary). Critical writing involves: adding your own interpretation and showing evidence of analysis, comparison, and clarification (e.g. it involves synthesising information to show an evolving understanding of the topic).

To review this topic full, check out our online resource on Being critical:

For more detailed advice, there is a whole post on critical analysis here:

Activity two: sort the critical from the descriptive

In groups we worked together to look through some writing examples. Each group had to decide which examples demonstrated critical writing and explain why they judged the writing to be critical. If you missed the session, or want to review this, you can complete a similar activity in the online resource above.

Reflective writing

In this section of the workshop we talked about reflective writing, what it is, and when it is used. Job applications, blog posts and personal journals all involve reflective writing and we found that everyone in the room had more experience of reflective writing than they initially thought.

Activity 3: a strategy for reflective writing

digisoc 2017: Plan, structure, analyse and reflect, University of Manchester Library

The third workshop activity began by situating reflective writing between academic and personal journal writing. We then worked together to assess the key elements of both styles of writing in order to highlight the characteristics which apply to reflective writing. See the image for a list of the key characteristics we came up with.

After this we split into four groups and had a competition to see who could come up with the most questions you could ask yourself when reflecting on an experience. Each group had five minutes to come up with as many different questions as possible. Congratulations to the winning group who came up with a staggering eighteen questions! You can try this in your own time if you missed the session, and ask the course leaders for any support.

The slide below exemplifies a strategy that could help you to structure a reflective piece of writing. You could include some of the elements highlighted below and pay particular attention to the evaluation and analysis as two distinct parts of the process. Evaluation involves thinking about what went well and what needs to be improved regarding your learning experience. Analysis concerns thinking about why some things went well and why others need improving with a view to planning how you can progress in the future.

Slide: Aspects of reflection, used with permission from My Learning Essentials.

We hope that this post was useful to you in reviewing or catching up on the session — remember, UCIL25002 students can access the recording, and you can email the course leaders with any questions, any time.

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