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HCCS Learning Web

  • Houston Community College
  • Eagle Online

HCCS Learning Web

  • Irv Lichtman

Example of Journal Assignment

Scientific Journal + Article

Becoming Acquainted with Psychological Research

1.  What is the name of your journal?

The name of the journal I chose my journal assignment from is Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied .

2.      For whom does it seem to have been written? For example, is it directed toward a special kind of psychologist?  Does it include articles that would be of interest to educators or others outside the field of academic psychology?  If so, list several titles.

I can see this particular article being utilized by quite a few different people. For example this article would be excellent for a driver’s education instructor. This article would even make a wonderful teaching tool for parents of young drivers in order to emphasize the importance of giving the roads and driving conditions their utmost attention. Overall I feel that this article could have advantages to every person who reads it, not only teachers or parents but everyone that drives on our streets and highways.

3.      Choose a representative research article whose title interests you.  Write the name of its title and briefly explain why it interests you.

The title of the article I chose to acquaint myself with is “Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving”. The reason I chose this particular article is because it hits home, it is relative to me and my family. I must confess that I am guilty of talking on the cell phone or having in depth conversations with my passengers while driving my vehicle. The times when I am not on the phone or when I am driving alone I notice other drivers talking on their cell phones and also having conversations with their passengers. Not only did this article appeal to my because of my driving habits but also because I know that society in whole participate in these behaviors as well. This article demonstrates the marked decrease in response time and concentration that is needed to truly be a safe and defensive driver on the roadways, something that I and all drivers should consider paramount for our safety and the safety of others. One of the many hats I wear is that I volunteer as a Texas State Licensed E.M.T. with a local volunteer fire department and see what really happens when that response time and concentration of drivers is interfered with. There have been scenes when thoughts of my own family flash in my mind and even though I see the ramifications of what this article covers, these habits are among the hardest to break.

4.      How long is the article?

The study titled “Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving” is approximately 7 ½ pages long with an additional 1 ½ pages dedicated to references.

5.      List the major sections of the article as defined by the heads.

“Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving” include the sections of:

A.     Considering Distracted Driving Impairment With Greater Specificity

B.     Allocation of Attention and the Distracted Driver

C.    Conversing

D.    Method

a.      Participants

b.      Stimuli and Apparatus

c.      Procedure

d.      Measures

e.      Design

E.     Results

a.      Driving Performance

b.      Conversation

F.     Discussion

G.    References

6.     Does the author state the hypothesis of the research study?  Write the hypothesis in the author’s words.

The author does state a hypothesis for the research study and in their words, “This study examines how conversing with passengers in a vehicle differs from conversing on a cell phone while driving”.

7.      Write the hypothesis in your own words.

This study will demonstrate, by use of simulated driving, how driving acuity becomes markedly deficient when drivers utilize cell phones while driving as opposed to carrying on conversations with passengers in the same vehicle.

8.      Who made up the study population?

The study population included 96 adults who ranged in age from 18 years old to 49 years old with 20 years of age being the average age. Of the participants 47 were women and 49 participants were men. All the participants fit into the profile of having normal to corrected-to-normal vision acuity, normal color vision, and had a valid driver’s license from the state of Utah.

9.     Does the article contain a section on the method used in conducting the study?  Describe the method.

The study population was chosen and the experiment was thoroughly explained to them and their acknowledgement was verified by a signed informed consent. The facilitators of this experiment acquired the necessary driving simulator that was manufactured by L3 Communications I-Sim. The simulator was loaded with a database consisting of a 24-mile multilane beltway to include on and off-ramps, overpasses, and two-lane traffic in both directions. A maximum speed limit of 65 miles per hour was implemented and visibility was programmed to be optimal.

The participants were familiarized with the simulator by using three 5-minute simulated driving scenarios. The scenarios included driving at night in a rural area, another situation was driving in a downtown area involving minimal navigation around various traffic barricades, and the last was daytime highway driving. After every participant was familiarized with the simulator one participant was randomly selected to drive and the other participant, bases on experimental conditions, was either the passenger or talking on the cell phone to the driver from a different location.

The participants were assigned to either speaker or listener and were asked to share a story that they had not discussed in the past. The study consisted of a single-task assignment and a dual-task assignment. The single task assignment only involved the driver driving the vehicle and the dual-task assignment involved the driver either talking on the cell phone or talking to a passenger in the same vehicle.

Several different measurements were taken of driving performance under various circumstances. The measure of operational level was based on how well the participants stayed in the center of their lane without lateral movements and various drifting. In the tactical level speed and following distances were analyzed. The strategic level involved analysis of the participant’s ability to follow instructions included in a navigation task, whether or not they were able to take the correct exits.

10. Which of the methods of scientific research described in Chapter 1 is used?

The article “Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving” was conducted using the experiment method of scientific research. The experiment method was used to establish the cause-and effect relationship between the driving conditions of using the cell phone or conversing with passengers. The independent variables in this experiment were the use of the cell phone for the driver of the vehicle and the conversations taking place while driving. The dependent variable is identified as the driving ability of the driver without the introduction of the cell phone or conversation taking place in the vehicles.

11. Is there a discussion of the significance of results?

Yes, the article did include a discussion regarding the significance of the results.

12. Summarize the significance of the results in your own words.

“Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving” pointed out that the average age of driving in the cell phone simulation was 19.6 years of age and the average in the conversation simulation was 20.1 years of age. Although the dyad differed by 1 participant, it did point out that the initial differences in driving performance could, in fact, be contributed to the differences in actual driving experience.  This article also pointed out that the fact that they were actually measuring, card drift, was greater with drivers involved in cell phone conversations than with conversations with passengers in the same vehicle. They did not notice much, if any, change in the driving speed but a significant difference in the actual following distance with users of the cell phones. Perhaps this could be because the users of the cell phones know that when they are on the cell phones they need the extra distance in order to have more time to react to traffic situations. As far as navigation success goes, the drivers who carried on cell phone conversations were four times more likely to fail the task at hand compared to those in the passenger conditions. It was also uncovered that those involved with conversations with passengers in the same vehicle made more referenced to current traffic conditions and thus were more cognoscente of what was actually happening on the road.

13. What conclusions are reached in your article?

It is concluded in this article that although there were differenced in the operational, strategic and tactical levels that conversation data suggests the probability that passengers take a more active role in supporting the driver. The passengers pointed out driving situations that the driver may have missed, similar to having an extra set of eyes on the road for you. Whereas when driver’s using the hands free devices were essentially on their own when driving and also had additional disadvantages because they were less accurate in their driving acuity, navigation skills, and reaction times as far as exiting when they should have because they were distracted by the use of their cell phones.

14. What is your reaction to the research article?  For example, were there sections that you found difficult to understand?  Were there sections that seemed very “scientific?”  Are you convinced of the conclusions?  Why or why not?

Reading this article was definitely an eye opening experience, not only did it specifically point out the quantitive decline in driving acuity but it also, for me, reiterated the potential dangers that my behaviors can bring about. I feel safe in assuming that society is aware of the dangers of talking on the cell phone when driving or carrying on conversations while driving but this study gives proven results of the dangers. To have the measurements equivalent to driving intoxicated was astounding.

There were several references in the measurements section that contained quite a few different formulas that were used to compile the data. I found myself reading over that section a few times to understand exactly what and how they were measuring the data that had been gathered. It was this section that I found to be very “scientific” and the only section that I feel that the layperson may have trouble understanding. Through all the reading and information that I gathered from this article I am convinced that the conclusion reached is accurate. It not only makes sense on a personal level but with the quantitive results that were presented gives little leeway to the contrary.

15. Summarize the article in your own words.  How did it benefit you and how might it benefit us if we were to read it?

“Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving” was a study that investigated the difference between talking to passengers in the same vehicle and carrying on conversations utilizing a hands free cell phone device. By utilizing a specialized driving simulator the participants were exposed to several different driving scenarios in the form of operational, tactical, and strategic levels of driving. The authors presented the information in a professional manner, taking into effect the differences between age groups and driving experiences. The authors gave enough information for the experiment to be reproduced by supplying the readers with specific information about the simulator used, the age demographic of the participants, the system used to familiarize the study group with the simulators and the different driving scenarios. The authors provided all the necessary formulas that they utilized when gathering their data and eventually reaching the measures that they arrived at.

Not only did the authors present all the information on how they conducted their research they provided concrete information on how the study group performed under each driving circumstance. They presented the information in ways that could be informative to anyone who reads the article. The article will give the readers proof that driving while on the cell phone, even a hands free unit, provides certain hazards to the driver and those on the road with them. It would be beneficial to those who read the article to modify their driving habits when it comes to conversing on the cell phones as opposed to conversing with their passengers in the same vehicle. They will see that passenger conversations aid in the process of navigating and being aware of the different driving conditions.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied                                                                 2008, Vol. 14, No. 4, 392–400

Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association                                          1076-898X/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0013119

Passenger and Cell Phone Conversations in Simulated Driving

Frank A. Drews, Monisha Pasupathi, and David L. Strayer

University of Utah

This study examines how conversing with passengers in a vehicle differs from conversing on a cell phone

while driving. We compared how well drivers were able to deal with the demands of driving when

conversing on a cell phone, conversing with a passenger, and when driving without any distraction. In

the conversation conditions, participants were instructed to converse with a friend about past experiences

in which their life was threatened. The results show that the number of driving errors was highest in the

cell phone condition; in passenger conversations more references were made to traffic, and the production

rate of the driver and the complexity of speech of both interlocutors dropped in response to an increase

in the demand of the traffic. The results indicate that passenger conversations differ from cell phone

conversations because the surrounding traffic not only becomes a topic of the conversation, helping

driver and passenger to share situation awareness, but the driving condition also has a direct influence

on the complexity of the conversation, thereby mitigating the potential negative effects of a conversation

on driving.

Keywords: shared attention, driver distraction, cell phone conversation, passenger conversation

Driving is a complex perceptual and cognitive task. There is

ample evidence that driving performance is negatively affected by

simultaneously conversing on a cell phone. Previous studies found

that cell phone use impairs the driving performance of younger

(Alm & Nilsson, 1995; Briem & Hedman, 1995; Brookhuis, De

Vries, & De Waard, 1991; Brown, Tickner, & Simmonds, 1969;

Goodman et al., 1999; McKnight & McKnight, 1993; Redelmeier

& Tibshirani, 1997; Strayer, Drews, & Johnston, 2003; Strayer &

Johnston, 2001), and older drivers (Alm & Nilsson, 1995; Strayer

et al., 2003). These impairments have been studied using a wide

range of methodological paradigms including computer-based

tracking tasks (Strayer & Johnston, 2001), high-fidelity simulation

(Strayer et al., 2003), driving of vehicles on a closed circuit

(Treffner & Barrett, 2005), on-road studies (Crudall, Bains, Chapman,

& Underwood, 2005), and epidemiological studies of car

crashes (McEvoy et al., 2005; Redelmeier & Tibshirani, 1997).

The level of impairment is comparable to being intoxicated at a

blood alcohol level of .08 (Strayer, Drews, & Crouch, 2006).

Considering Distracted Driving Impairment With

Greater Specificity

To understand the implications of performing a secondary task

while driving, it is useful to apply a conceptualization of the

driving task that can guide the analysis of performance deficits. In

his task analysis of driving, Groeger (1999) described three levels

of performance (see Michon, 1979, 1985, for similar proposals).

The first level of performance is an operational or control level,

which involves elements that serve the task of keeping a vehicle on

a predetermined course. A deficit at this level is shown, for

example, in a reduction of lateral control, that is, the vehicle may

drift to the side of the road. A number of studies demonstrated that

this operational level is negatively affected by performing an

additional task like conversing on a cell phone (Alm & Nilsson,

1995; Haigney & Westerman, 2001; Stein, Parseghian, & Allen,

The second level of performance involves skills needed for

maneuvering the vehicle in traffic. This level is called tactical

behavior and examples for deficits at this level are approaching

other vehicles too closely or ignoring approaching vehicles while

turning left at an intersection. Studies that have found deficits on

this level of driving performance describe changes in speed

(Burns, Parkes, Burton, & Smith, 2002; Horberry, Anderson,

Regan, Triggs, & Brown, 2006), changes in acceleration (Strayer

& Drews, 2006), and delayed reaction times (Consiglio, Driscoll,

Witte, & Berg, 2003) when drivers are engaged in a cell phone

conversation. The characterization of driving behavior as “sluggish”

(Strayer et al., 2003) refers to both operational and tactical

levels of driving behavior with driving performance changing such

that drivers drive and accelerate slower and show longer reaction

times when braking (see Drews & Strayer, 2008; Svenson &

Patten, 2005, for reviews).

The third level involves more executive, goal-directed aspects of

driving and reflects strategic performance (Barkley, 2004). Examples

for problems at this level are failures in the execution of

navigation tasks or trip-related planning tasks. Currently, there is

only indirect evidence that deficits on this level can be observed

when drivers converse on a cell phone. In their simulator study Ma

and Kaber (2005) measured situation awareness—a precondition

Frank A. Drews, Monisha Pasupathi, and David L. Strayer, Department

of Psychology, University of Utah.

Portions of the data presented in this paper have been previously

presented at the Annual Human Factors and Ergonomics Conference and

been published in the proceedings to this conference (for further reference,

see Drews, Pasupathi, & Strayer, 2004). We thank two anonymous reviewers

for their helpful comments that significantly improved this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Frank A. Drews,

Department of Psychology, University of Utah, 380 South 1530 East, Room 502,

Salt Lake City, UT 84112. E-mail: [email protected]

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association

2008, Vol. 14, No. 4, 392–400 1076-898X/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0013119

for strategic performance—of drivers conversing on a cell phone

while driving compared to a group using an adaptive cruise control

system. The authors found that the use of a cell phone while

driving significantly reduced driver situation awareness and significantly

increased the perceived mental workload relative to no

phone and adaptive cruise control conditions. The application of

Groeger’s (1999) framework highlights a gap of empirical work

investigating the strategic level of performance of drivers engaged

in a cell phone conversation. Thus, at this point it is unclear if the

deficits observed on the operational and tactical level also extend

to the strategic level, or if this level of performance is unaffected

by a cell phone conversation. Based on the assumptions of Michon

(1979, 1985), lower level deficits ought to affect higher level

performance, and we would expect the suggestive findings of Ma

and Kaber to be evident in a task that is more representative of

typical driving.

Allocation of Attention and the Distracted Driver

Most work on driver distraction focused on the assessment of

the impairment rather than on a delineation of the cognitive mechanisms

underlying deficits in driving performance. The small

number of studies that has focused on this theoretically important

question point to a reduction in attention directed toward the

driving task as partly responsible for the deficits. Strayer et al.

(2003) examined the hypothesis that the observed impairment

could be attributed to a withdrawal of attention from the visual

scene resulting in a form of inattention blindness (i.e., a fixated

object is not being processed resulting in either an incomplete or

no mental representation of the object). Their findings indicated

that cell phone conversations impaired both implicit and explicit

recognition memory of visual information even when participants

had fixated upon it. Strayer et al. suggested that the impairment of

driving performance resulting from cell phone conversations is

mediated, at least in part, by reduced attention to visual inputs in

the driving environment. More evidence was presented recently by

Strayer and Drews (2007) demonstrating a reduction in the amplitude

of the P300 as a result of a cell phone conversation in

response to the onset of braking lights of a car that had to be

followed. The P300 component of event-related brain potentials

(ERP) is sensitive to the attention that is allocated to a task

(Sirevaag, Kramer, Coles, & Donchin, 1989), and has been shown

to allow discrimination between levels of task difficulty, decreasing

as the task demand increases (Kramer, Sirevaag, & Braun,

1987). Finally, more evidence for deficits in allocation of attention

comes from investigations of scanning behavior of traffic scenes.

McCarley et al. (2004) showed that conversations result in higher

error rates for change detection and higher numbers of saccades to

locate a changing item. The authors also found reduced fixation

times under dual-task conditions and interpret this as evidence that

a conversation while scanning traffic scenes impacts the peripheral

guidance of attention.

To summarize, the allocation of attention to the driving task is

central to the issues related to driving performance deficits observed

in the context of cell phone use. Thus, the literature appears

to suggest that nearly any task that diverts attention away from the

driving task will cause impairment. Indeed, supporting this assertion

are epidemiological studies (see McEvoy et al., 2005; Redelmeier

& Tibshirani, 1997) that indicate that the relative risk of

being in a motor vehicle accident quadruples when a driver converses

on a cell phone (i.e., odds ratio of an accident when

conversing on a cell phone is 4.2). By contrast, other epidemiological

studies (Rueda-Domingo et al., 2004; see also Vollrath,

Meilinger & Kru¨ger, 2002) have found a strikingly different pattern

for situations in which an adult passenger is in the vehicle. In

particular, when drivers have a passenger in the vehicle, the

relative risk of a motor vehicle accident is lower than when the

driver drives by him or her self (i.e., the odds ratio of an accident

with a passenger in the vehicle is 0.7). Given that in many

instances the passenger and the driver are conversing, these findings

appear to be at odds with the suggestion that any task that

diverts attention away from driving causes impairment. What

accounts for the seemingly paradoxical finding that a conversation

on a cell phone interferes with driving, whereas having a conversation

with a passenger in the vehicle improves driving performance?

Are differences in the allocation of attention partly responsible

for these differences?

How passenger and cell phone conversations differ in their

implications for attention and driving performance is a question of

theoretical and applied importance. It is of theoretical importance

because a comparison between cell phone and passenger conversation

revolves around the similarities or differences between the

two contexts’ impact on the attentional resources of a driver. In

this paper we suggest that the different contexts affect the ability

to allocate attention to a task differently, that is, the allocation of

attention is not independent of contextual variables, even if the

task at the onset seems identical. The question is also of applied

importance because it may help to understand better what contexts

have an impact on a driver’s ability to allocate attention to the task

of driving.

From one vantage point a conversation is a conversation. Conversations

require attention from their participants for monitoring

the topic and content, coordinating turn taking, and so on (Clark,

1996). Thus, all conversations are presumably diverting attention

from a driving task and should create at least some impairment.

An alternative perspective, drawn from psycholinguistics, emphasizes

conversations as joint activities that involve shared attention

from all participants, and as dynamic activities that unfold

over time (Clark, 1996). This perspective emphasizes that participants

in a conversation move forward in the joint activity of

conversing by adding to their shared understandings of what is

being talked about. This process is called grounding (Clark &

Schaefer, 1989) and it involves establishing that all parties in a

conversation share relevant knowledge, beliefs, and assumptions.

It also includes awareness of the current context that provides

many cues that can aid in grounding, such as shared visual attention

(Richardson, Dale, & Kirkham, 2007) and shared awareness

of distractions. The critical difference between a cell phone conversation

and an in-vehicle conversation revolves around this

shared awareness of the driving context. That shared awareness

leads to the prediction that in-vehicle conversation will not have

the same detrimental impact on driving performance that cell

phone conversations have. It also opens the possibility for invehicle

conversation to have a positive impact on driving performance,

as is suggested by epidemiological data. Moreover, in


pointing to conversation as a joint activity unfolding over time, it

suggests two nonexclusive proposals about how conversations

affect the allocation of the driver’s attention to the driving task.

One is simply that an in-vehicle passenger responds to the demands

of the driving context by reducing demand for the conversation

task (e.g., by changing the production rate—a modulation

hypothesis, see Gugerty, Rakauskas, & Brooks, 2004). The second

is that the passenger adopts the driving task as part of the overall

joint activity in which driver and passenger are mutually engaged.

In both cases, the assumption is that this is not likely or possible

for a cell phone conversational partner because they do not have

direct access to the real-time driving conditions.

Another point about this perspective on conversation bears

mention, and it is that many tasks employed to simulate conversation

in studies of cell phone use while driving suffer from serious

ecological validity concerns. Some investigators used putative

conversations in which the participants and a confederate alternately

generated a word and the other person had to generate a

word that began with the last letter of the previous spoken word

(Gugerty et al., 2004). Treffner and Barrett (2004) had participants

perform summations or categorizations. Others identified topics of

interest for the participant by questionnaire and had an experimenter

converse with the participant about such topics (Strayer et

al., 2003). These approaches are limited because they fail, to a

larger or smaller extent, to mimic the coordinated, joint activity

features of naturalistic conversations. In a meta-analysis, Horrey

and Wickens (2006) found that more naturalistic conversations

produced greater interference with driving than did more “synthetic”

information processing tasks, suggesting a greater engagement

for the former. Although not a central aim of this study, we

made a serious effort to develop a conversational task that was

truly applicable to the applied context. Following Bavelas, Coates,

and Johnson (2000), close-call stories as the topic of the conversation

were used in studying the impact of conversations on

driving. Bavelas et al. defined close-call stories as stories about

times when your life was threatened. The advantage of using such

close-call conversations is that they involve the kinds of stories

that are often told among friends and produce a conversation that

is engaging. In addition, unlike in other studies in which at least

one of the partners of the conversation was a confederate, we asked

participants to bring friends with the intention of having them

converse about previously untold close-call stories.

Few authors have studied how passenger conversations affect driving

performance. In their on road study, Crundall et al. (2005) provided

initial evidence that passenger and driver responded to changes

in the cognitive demand of driving when playing a “competitive

[word] game between driver and the partner” (Crundall et al., 2005,

p. 201) that simulated a conversation. For example, passenger

conversations were suppressed during more demanding urban

driving and there was no impact of the driving context on the

conversation during cell phone conversations. It appears as if

the cell phone task imposed a cognitive load independent of the

cognitive demand resulting from the driving conditions, making it

likely that the driver’s cognitive limits were exceeded.

Gugerty et al. (2004) investigated the impact of passenger

conversations on driving performance in a low-fidelity driving

simulator. To simulate a conversation the authors used a word

game task in which the participants took turns saying words with

the constraint that a new word had to begin with the last letter of

the word spoken by the partner. Gugerty et al. tested driving

performance by assessing the driver’s situation awareness for the

surrounding traffic but also measured performance on the verbal

task. Overall there was no evidence that passengers slowed the

verbal task more than remotely communicating participants, and in

Experiment 1 the opposite effect was found, despite the fact that

only the passengers shared visual information about the driving

conditions. Also, the verbal interaction negatively affected situation

awareness in both the passenger and the cell phone condition,

equally impacting a precursor for strategic performance.

More interesting, Amado and Ulupinar (2005) reported a negative

impact of passenger conversation on a driving surrogate: The

authors compared the impact of a hands-free cell phone conversation,

a passenger conversation, and a control condition on attention

in a peripheral detection task that simulated driving. To

simulate the cognitive demand of a conversation, the authors asked

participants questions of low or high complexity. Both simulated

conversation conditions had a similar negative impact on performance

in a peripheral detection task as compared to the control

condition. The lack of a difference between the cell phone conversation

condition and the passenger conversation condition is

notable. One potential reason for the absence of a difference is that

in this study the conversation pace was kept constant artificially

not allowing for modulation. Moreover, the perceptual detection

task is much less complex than the driving task, indicating data

limits in this study.

The limited literature on cell phone and passenger conversations

suggests that modulation (i.e., slowing) of a conversation

is possible, and may occur under natural driving conditions.

However, one of the problems of the existing studies is that the

conversations were highly scripted and often simulated only the

cognitive demand of a conversation. Driving performance

seems to be affected by passenger conversations by reduced

situation awareness and a reduction in the ability to detect

peripheral objects. It appears that there is no difference between

passenger conversations compared to remote conversations in

their negative impact on driving performance.

In the present paper we examined the impact of cell phone and

passenger conversations on driving performance, applying

Groeger’s (1999) conceptualization to guide the operationalization

of driving. Consequently, we used measures of driving performance

that reflect the operational, the tactical, and the strategic

level of driving behavior. In addition, we examined features of the

conversation that shed light on how conversations on cell phones

and conversations with a passenger differ in ways that bear on

attention allocation. We hypothesize that a passenger—provided

he or she has at least minimal driving expertise—monitors the

driving environment. Consequently, when a driver faces an increasing

demand of the driving task, both passenger and driver

may respond by reducing the cognitive demand of the conversation.

These changes can manifest themselves in switching the topic

of the conversation to the driving conditions and the surrounding

traffic (e.g., by pointing out potential hazards) that directs the

driver’s attention toward the surrounding traffic. Also, it is possible

that a reduction of the production rate of speech or its complexity

reflects a response to increases in the cognitive demand for

the driver.

In sum, the goal of this research is to increase our understanding

of how conversing on a cell phone while driving compares with


conversing with a passenger while driving. This research uses

naturalistic conversations and measures driving performance at the

operational, tactical, and strategic levels, and also focuses on

measures that reflect changes in the dynamics of the conversation.


Ninety six adults were recruited in a total of 48 friend dyads and

received course credit for participation. Participants ranged in age

from 18 to 49 with 20 being the average age. Forty-seven participants

were women and 49 participants were men. All participants

had normal or corrected-to-normal visual acuity, normal color

vision (Ishihara, 1993), and a valid Utah driver’s license.

Stimuli and Apparatus

A PatrolSim™ high-fidelity driving simulator, manufactured by

L3 Communications I-Sim (Salt Lake City, UT, USA) was used in

the present study (see Figure 1). The simulated vehicle is based on

the vehicle dynamics of a Crown Victoria® model with automatic

transition built by the Ford Motor Company.

A freeway road database simulated a 24-mile multilane beltway

with on- and off-ramps, overpasses, and two-lane traffic in each

direction. Participants were driving under an irregular-flow driving

condition (Drews, Strayer, Uchino, & Smith, in press). The

irregular-flow driving condition can be characterized as a situation

in which other vehicles, in compliance with traffic laws, changed

lanes and speeds. This traffic requires the participant to pay attention

to the surrounding traffic as opposed to a situation in which

the driver can minimize the attentional requirements and the cognitive

demand by driving exclusively in one lane of travel. In

addition, slow-moving vehicles were sometimes unsuccessfully

attempting to pass vehicles on the left side, significantly slowing

down the overall traffic flow. The speed limit was 65 mph.

Visibility in all scenarios was optimal.

After providing informed consent, participants were familiarized

with the driving simulator using a standardized 15-min adaptation

sequence. The adaptation sequence consisted of three 5-min

driving scenarios, one being located in a rural area at night, another

one located in a downtown area, involving some minimal navigation

around traffic barricades, and a final scenario located on a

highway with optimal driving conditions at daytime. After familiarization,

one participant of a dyad was randomly selected to drive

the vehicle, the other, based on experimental condition, was either

the passenger or talking on the cell phone to the driver from a

different location. The assignment of speaker and listener was

counterbalanced over driver and nondriving interlocutor, and the

speaker provided the close-call story. Participants were instructed

to provide a story they had not shared with the partner in the past.

In the single-task condition, the driver was instructed to drive

safely and to follow all the traffic rules. In addition, in the dualtask

condition they were instructed that their task was having a

conversation about a close-call story with their friend who was

either seated next to them as a passenger or conversing on a cell

phone. Finally, the drivers were instructed to leave the highway

once they arrived at a rest area located approximately eight miles

after the beginning of the drive. The passenger/cell phone interlocutor

was instructed to participate actively in the conversation

and told that the driver had the task of leaving the highway when

approaching a rest area. In the dual-task portion of the experiment,

half of the driving participants were either conversing on a cell

phone or talking to a passenger while driving; in the single-task

condition, participants were driving only. The order of the single

and dual-task conditions was counterbalanced and the assignment

to cell phone and in-person conversation was randomized. The

individual driving sequences (single/dual task) took about 10 min

to finish. The entire experiment took approximately 60 min to


Driving performance. Multiple measures of driving performance

were taken, distinguishing between measures dealing with

the operational level, the tactical level, and those reflecting more

strategic processes involved in driving. A measure of the operational

level was how well participants stayed in the center of the

lane without lateral movements and drifting. For this purpose, we

defined the lane center of the road and calculated the root mean

standard error (RMSE) between center and the center position of

the car. On the tactical level, we analyzed speed and following

distance. Speed was measured as the average speed of the driver

for the road segment they were driving until they reached the rest

area exit, whereas following distance was measured as the average

distance between the driver’s car and a car that was directly ahead

of them. On the strategic level of performance we were interested

in participants’ ability to follow the instruction of a navigation

task—more specifically— did they take the correct exit?

Conversation. The transcribed conversations between interlocutors

in the dual-task conditions were coded by two independent

Navigation task

passenger cell phone

number of participants succeeding

Figure 1. Frequency of successful task completion in the navigation task.


coders. Though the instruction for participants was for one person

to tell a story about close calls, in all cases after a short time both

participants were lively engaged in the conversation. The coding of

the conversations focused on the number of references to traffic,

intercoder-reliability Pearson’s r (47) _ .92; who initiated the

reference (driver and nondriver; Cohen’s kappa(47) _ 1), and the

number of turn takes with reference to the traffic event after a

reference to traffic was made, intercoder-reliability Pearson’s

r (47) _ .98. All conversations were analyzed from transcripts of

the conversations by trained coders who were blind to the condition

under which the conversation took place.

The rationale for analyzing traffic references was that referring

to the surrounding traffic is an attempt to create shared situation

awareness and indicates support for the driving task. The number

of turn takes after a reference to traffic was made was analyzed

because it is a reflection of the willingness of both partners to

engage in a conversation about traffic rather than the close-call

story. Included in this analysis were only turn takes with statements

about the event that provoked the initial traffic reference.

A second analysis focused on the impact of the driving environment.

Because the impact on driving has been well documented

in the past (e.g., Brookhuis et al., 1991) this analysis focuses on the

impact of traffic complexity on the conversation. For this purpose

two independent coders coded the traffic as low or moderately

demanding, intercoder-reliability Cohen’s kappa(47) _ .98. Low

demanding traffic was defined as a situation in which the participant’s

vehicle was surrounded by maximally one vehicle (either in

front, behind, or on the left lane), in which a situation of moderately

demanding traffic involved more than one other vehicle in

close proximity to the participant’s vehicle. For both types of

driving situations, the speech production rate of the driver and the

interlocutor in syllables per second was analyzed. The production

rate of the driver and the passenger in this context reflects the

degree to which the cognitive demand imposed by the traffic

context has an impact on the conversation, potentially leading to

some modulation of the conversation (see Berthold, 1998; Mu¨ller,

Gro_mann-Hutter, Jameson, Rummer, & Wittig, 2001). As an

additional measure, the number of syllables per word for the driver

and the interlocutor was analyzed. The number of syllables per

word is thought to measure the complexity of an utterance

(Berthold, 1998). Production rate and complexity of utterance are

used to test the hypothesis that both conversation partners in the

passenger condition adjust their conversation in response to

changes in the cognitive demand of the traffic imposed on the

driver, reflecting implicit collaboration on the driving task (see

Crundall et al., 2005). Due to the lack of situation awareness of the

interlocutor on a cell phone, modulation is unlikely in the cell

phone condition.

The design of the study was a between-subject design with

dual-task condition (cell phone vs. passenger conversation) as a

between-subjects factor. Each participant’s driving performance

was also assessed in the single-task condition (driving only). To

control for any between-subject variability we analyzed driving

behavior using the difference scores between single- and dual-task

performance for each participant.

Driving Performance

The following analyses of driving performance include data

from 41 dyads (21 passenger conversation) due to technical problems

with data collection in the driving simulator. Counterbalancing

of the task order for both conditions was not affected by this

data loss, because these dyads had identical task sequences. All of

the following driving performance analyses that compare the cell

phone and passenger conversation use difference scores between

the single- and dual-task condition for each participant, thus reflecting

the difference in impact of the two dual-task conditions.

The use of difference scores was indicated because the initial

analyses revealed some minor differences in single-task driving

performance between groups (see Table 1). Analyses of the demographic

variables revealed that the average age of driving

participants in the cell phone condition was 19.6 years (range 18 to

23) and in the passenger condition was 20.1 years (range 18 to 26).

In the cell phone condition, 10 female and 10 male drivers participated,

whereas in the passenger conversation condition, 11 female

and 10 male drivers participated. Thus, it is possible that the initial

differences in driving performance as reported in Table 1 can be

attributed to slight differences in driving experience.

Operational level of driving performance. The first analysis

focused on the drivers’ ability to stay in the center of the lane

without drifting sideways. Focusing on the RMSE between actual

vehicle position and center of the lane, we analyzed the differences

between cell phone and passenger conversation condition using a

Means and Standard Deviations for Lane Keeping, Driving Speed, and Distance for Both

Experimental Conditions and Single and Dual Task

Passenger Cell phone

Single task Dual task Single task Dual task

M ( SD ) M ( SD ) M ( SD ) M ( SD )

Lane keeping (RMSE) 0.4 (0.8) 0.4 (1.0) 0.5 (0.5) 1.0 (0.9)

Mean speed (mph) 63.8 (4.2) 63.9 (3.8) 65.8 (3.5) 65.9 (3.7)

Mean distance (meters) 72.3 (27.4) 62.1 (21.0) 63.9 (17.8) 85.3 (47.0)

Note. RMSE _ root mean standard error; mph _ miles per hour.


t test. The analysis revealed a significant difference between conditions,

t (39) _ _2.1, p _ .05, Cohen’s d _ 0.7, with drivers

showing a more pronounced tendency to drift during cell phone

conversations compared to the passenger conversation condition

(see Table 1).

Tactical level of driving performance. We used a t test identical

to the one described above to analyze the differences for

average speed. The analyses revealed no changes in driving speed,

t (39) _ .1 in both conditions (see Table 1).

The next analysis focused on the distance drivers kept between

their own vehicle and vehicles ahead of them. The t test revealed

a significant difference between the two conditions, t (39) _ 2.4,

p _ .05, Cohen’s d _ 0.8, with following distance being greater in

the cell phone condition (see Table 1).

Strategic level of driving performance: Navigation. The last

part of the analysis of driving performance focused on behavior on

the strategic level (i.e., successfully accomplishing the driving task

by exiting the highway at the rest area). Figure 2 shows the number

of participants who finished the task successfully. Analyzing task

completion for cell phone conversation and passenger conversation

condition revealed a difference between the two conditions,

_2(1, N _ 40) _ 7.9, p _ .05, w _ 0.6: drivers in the cell phone

condition were four times more likely to fail task completion than

drivers in the passenger condition.


References to traffic and turn taking. The transcripts of the

conversations were analyzed for references to traffic and number of

turns taken following an initial traffic reference that still centered on

the traffic topic. The latter indicates the extent to which the driving

task became a conversational topic in its own right, temporarily

superseding the close-call stories. The number of traffic references

in the passenger conversation condition and the cell phone conversation

condition are shown in Table 2. Clearly, fewer references

to traffic were made in the cell phone condition, t (46) _ 3.0, p _

.01, Cohen’s d _ 0.9.

To determine who initiated the reference to traffic, we analyzed

the number of initializations made in the cell phone conversation

condition and the passenger conversing condition using t tests. The

number of references by the driver did not differ, t (46) _ 1.7, p _

.1, although there was a reliable difference in the number of

references initiated by the nondriving interlocutor, t (46) _ 2.4,

p _ .05, Cohen’s d _ 0.7; with fewer references initiated in the

cell phone condition.

The next analysis focused on the number of turns between the

interlocutors who continued conversing about traffic after an initial

reference to traffic was made. The number of turns for both

conditions is shown in Table 2. Overall more than twice as many

turns occurred in the passenger condition as compared to the cell

phone condition, t (46) _ 3.4, p _ .01, Cohen’s d _ 1.0.

Production rate and complexity of speech. The final analyses

focused on the production rate of the driver and interlocutor and

the complexity of their speech (see Table 3) as a function of the

demand of the driving conditions. Because driving condition (low

and moderate demand) is added to the analyses as independent

variable analyses of variance (ANOVA) were performed. In moderately

demanding driving conditions, the production rate of the

driver decreased when talking to a passenger but increased when

talking on a cell phone as indicated by a significant interaction

between driving condition and conversation condition, F (1, 39) _

4.3, p _ .05, partial _2 _ 0.1. No differences were observed in the

nondriving interlocutors production rates for conversation condition,

demand, and the interaction (the F values for the main effects

and the interaction were all _ .16 and effect sizes, partial _2 _

.03). Analyzing the complexity of speech indicated that both

driver, F (1, 43) _ 5.5, p _ .05, partial _2 _ 0.1 and interlocutor,

F (1, 43) _ 4.8; p _ .05; partial _2 _ 0.1, responded to an increase

in the cognitive demand of driving by reducing the number of

syllables per word. Neither the main effect of conversation condition

nor the interaction reached significance.

The present study investigated how conversing with a passenger

differs from talking on a hands-free cell phone in terms of its

impact on driving performance at the operational, tactical, and

strategic level and how the dynamics of the conversations are

affected by contextual factors elicited by the driving task.

Michon (1979, 1985) suggested that lower level deficits of driving

behavior ought to affect higher level performance. The present study

provides evidence in support of this hypothesis under dual-tasking

conditions. For the cell phone condition, the data suggest that deficits

on lower levels of driving behavior also are present (though in

different form) at higher levels. For example, drivers conversing on a

cell phone showed more lane keeping variability (operational level)

than participants conversing with a passenger.

Figure 2. Participant talking on a cell phone in the I-Sim driving

Means and Standard Deviations of References to Traffic and

Turns for Both Experimental Conditions

M ( SD ) M ( SD )

References 3.8 (2.4) 2.1 (1.6)

Turns at speech 19.2 (13.8) 8.6 (6.7)


Similarly, on the tactical level, cell phone drivers do differ from

participants in the passenger condition on some measures (e.g.,

changes in following distance). However, no changes in driving

speed were observed in the dual-task condition, seemingly at odds

with previous findings of slower driving cell phone drivers (e.g.,

Strayer & Drews, 2007; Strayer et al., 2003). One explanation for

this discrepancy could be procedural differences, with studies

demonstrating slower driving speed using a car following paradigm

as opposed to the free driving paradigm that was used here.

On the strategic level of performance, cell phone drivers performed

poorly at the navigation task. Two nonmutually exclusive

explanations can be provided for this deficit: First, drivers conversing

on a cell phone may experience problems with keeping the

intention of exiting at the rest area in working memory, or second,

drivers may not sufficiently process information from the driving

environment (exit signs). Some support for the latter hypothesis

comes from studies demonstrating inattention blindness in cell

phone drivers (Strayer et al., 2003). The performance of participants

in the passenger conversation condition indicates that these

drivers may have paid more attention to the navigation task, partly

due to the passenger. Indeed, examination of the video taped

driving segments found several instances in which the passenger

helped the driver navigate to the rest area.

Overall, the study clearly documents that relative to a driving

only condition, cell phone use negatively impacts lane keeping,

increases the headway and leads to an impairment in a navigation

task while passenger conversations have only little effect on all of

the three measures.

Contrary to prior suggestions (e.g., Crundall et al., 2005;

Gugerty, Rando, Rakauskas, Brooks, & Olson, 2003), we did not

find evidence that in-vehicle drivers and passengers were better

able to modulate their production speed to match changes in the

complexity of the driving task. Instead, we found some evidence of

modulation of the complexity of speech, indicated by syllablesper-

word, in response to the demand of the driving task. Thus, the

present findings suggest a process of modulation, but this process

is not tied to production rate as it is in the original proposal of

Gugerty et al. (2003). Contrary to Gugerty et al. this study reports

an increase in performance on the strategic level in the passenger

condition, which should not have been observed if situation awareness

had been negatively affected in both conversation conditions.

Also, quite surprisingly drivers conversing on the cell phone

increased their production rate when talking on the cell phone,

which is contrary to the predictions of the modulation hypothesis.

More interesting, this happened even as those drivers in the passenger

condition tended to reduce their production rate.

Some of the differences in findings may be explained by important

methodological differences related to the study of conversation

behavior in the context of driving. To realistically measure

the impact of a conversation on driving performance, tasks that are

not conversation tasks but traditional information processing tasks

may miss central compensatory mechanisms of conversations, thus

underestimating a conversations complex nature. Also, the use of

low-fidelity simulations in passenger conversations may have a

significant impact on the process of grounding in a conversation,

thereby not reflecting a conversation’s context that is central for

processes of allocation of attention. One issue in naturalistic conversation

revolves around managing turn-taking—and these differential

changes in production rates for drivers, changes that

depended on the nature of the conversation—may reflect differences

in how participants attempted to manage turn-taking. Drivers

on cell phones may have attempted to dominate the conversation to

avoid having to engage in speech comprehension, whereas with

in-vehicle partners, it may be easier to relinquish control, given

that the partner can be relied on to accommodate with his or her


The conversation data suggest that passengers take an active

role in supporting the driver as indicated by passengers more

frequently talking about the surrounding traffic. It seems likely that

a passenger supports the driver by directing attention to the surrounding

traffic when perceived necessary. As mentioned above,

this conclusion is also supported by the analysis of the video

recordings (in some cases passengers mentioned the exit sign or

pointed to the exit). Thus, the higher driving performance in the

passenger condition is due in part to the shared situation awareness

between driver and passenger due to grounding. This interpretation

is also supported by the reliable difference in traffic references

initiated by the passenger and the cell phone interlocutor.

In addition, the results provide evidence for even more subtle

support between interlocutors. In both dual-task conditions, there

is evidence that interlocutors respond to an increase in the cognitive

demand from the driving context by reducing the complexity

of their utterances. This difference seems to be driven by changes

in the complexity of utterances by the driver because the conversation

partner on the cell phone cannot be aware of changes in the

driving environment.

Means and Standard Deviations for Production and Complexity for Driver and Passenger in

Both Experimental Conditions and Low Demand and Moderate Demand Driving Scenarios

Low demand Moderate demand Low demand Moderate demand

Driver Productiona 4.1 (1.0) 3.6 (1.0) 3.8 (0.9) 4.2 (1.8)

Complexityb 1.3 (0.2) 1.1 (0.3) 1.2 (0.1) 1.0 (0.4)

Passenger Productiona 3.7 (1.6) 4.0 (1.2) 3.8 (1.4) 3.6 (0.9)

Complexityb 1.2 (0.1) 1.1 (0.3) 1.3 (0.2) 1.1 (0.4)

a Given in syllable per second. b Given in syllable per word.


The results also draw an intriguing picture about the allocation

of attention under dual-tasking conditions: Two similar situations

with identical tasks and instructions lead to fundamentally different

performance outcomes indicating that contextual variables can

have a significant impact on overall performance.

The present findings are of theoretical and applied importance.

On the theoretical side they raise general questions about how

much current models of attention predict performance of dyads or

groups in complex environments with regard to the allocation of

attention (see Cooke, Salas, Cannon-Bowers, & Stout, 2000).

Models of attention traditionally focus on individuals; however,

conceptualizing shared attention is of importance for any general

theory of attention. Of more specific theoretical importance here,

is the question of the mechanisms involved in the above processes:

Does a passenger just provide cues that help to optimize the

allocation of attention or does the passenger qualitatively change

the way that a driver allocates attention, thereby creating a form of

joint or distributed attention?

On the practical side, the findings allow predictions about how

contexts can negatively affect dual-task performance. On one

hand, passengers not engaged in the driving task either because

they are not able to direct the attention of the driver toward traffic,

or do not know how to identify important events in the driving

environment (e.g., children in the vehicle) have a potentially

negative impact on driving performance. On the other hand, it is

possible that overengagement can also have a potentially negative

impact. For example a passenger who is too “supportive” by

constantly commenting and directing attention in an overcontrolling

fashion has a potentially negative impact on performance.

In conclusion, the data indicate that cell phone and passenger

conversation differ in their impact on a driver’s performance

and that these differences are apparent at the operational, tactical,

and strategic levels of performance. The difference between

these two modes of communication stems in large part

from the changes in the difference in the structure of cell phone

and passenger conversation and the degree to which the conversing

dyad shares attention.

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Received January 26, 2007

Revision received June 5, 2008

Accepted June 9, 2008 _

Call for Nominations

The Publications and Communications (P&C) Board of the American Psychological Association

has opened nominations for the editorships of Developmental Psychology , Journal of Consulting

and Clinical Psychology , and Psychological Review for the years 2011–2016. Cynthia Garcı´a

Coll, PhD, Annette M. La Greca, PhD, and Keith Rayner, PhD, respectively, are the incumbent

Candidates should be members of APA and should be available to start receiving manuscripts in

early 2010 to prepare for issues published in 2011. Please note that the P&C Board encourages

participation by members of underrepresented groups in the publication process and would particularly

welcome such nominees. Self-nominations are also encouraged.

Search chairs have been appointed as follows:

● Developmental Psychology, Peter A. Ornstein, PhD, and

Valerie Reyna, PhD

● Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , Norman Abeles, PhD

● Psychological Review, David C. Funder, PhD, and Leah L. Light, PhD

Candidates should be nominated by accessing APA’s EditorQuest site on the Web. Using your

Web browser, go to On the Home menu on the left, find “Guests.” Next,

click on the link “Submit a Nomination,” enter your nominee’s information, and click “Submit.”

Prepared statements of one page or less in support of a nominee can also be submitted by e-mail

to Emnet Tesfaye, P&C Board Search Liaison, at [email protected] .

Deadline for accepting nominations is January 10, 2009, when reviews will begin.


Journal Writing

View in pdf format, common goals of a journal.

  • To encourage regular writing
  • To make connections between class material, lectures, and personal observations
  • To raise questions and issues that can fuel classroom discussions
  • To generate ideas for future paper topics
  • To provide a forum for inquiry, analysis, and evaluation of ideas
  • Write regularly
  • Try to make concrete connections between journal entries
  • Link personal reactions to the class material
  • Approach the exercise with the intention of being challenged
  • Present your ideas in a coherent and thought-provoking manner
  • Ignore basic rules of grammar and punctuation
  • Write to fill pages; the process is more important than the product
  • Wait until the last minute to make your entries
  • Confuse your journal with a personal diary. Although this is your journal, the main focus should be on class assignments and their connections. Try not to focus too much on your personal feelings, such as whether or not you liked the book or the film. Instead concentrate on why your professor assigned the material.
  • Simply summarize — analyze. Avoid describing what you have read. Ask probing questions: are the points well-argued? Does the writer come to a logical conclusion? What other issues should be considered?

Take your journal seriously. Keeping a journal helps develop writing, reading, analytical and critical skills that are necessary in all disciplines.  

Faculty Comments on the Value of Journal Writing

“I’ll be looking for evidence of thought and clarity of expression. The journal needn’t be polished to gem-like lustre, but it should be coherent and, I hope, thought-provoking.” — Richard Decker, Professor of Computer Science “Journals are ultimately very useful for developing good work habits by providing a venue and location for thinking through ideas in an ongoing and consistent way.” — Ella Gant, Professor of Art

by Molly Soule ’97 & Andresse St. Rose ’97

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What does the typical workflow of a journal look like? How should I interpret a particular submission status?

What steps does a manuscript typically go through from submission to publication (or rejection) in a typical journal? How are these steps referred to, in particular by editorial systems, and how long do they each typically take?

Note that this question is about the typical situation and hence not about:

  • Journals with an atypical workflow, e.g. those that allow for an instantaneous reviewer–author interaction.
  • Exceptional steps or rare occurrences such as withdrawal or clerical errors .

This is a canonical question on this topic as per this Meta post . It is usually used as a duplicate target for questions of the form: “How to interpret submission status S at journal J?”, since taking all combinations S×J would be unwieldy. Due to its nature, this question is rather broad and not exemplary for a regular question on this site. Please feel free to improve this question.

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  • "those that allow for an instantaneous reviewer–author interaction" -- is this a thing? I know of no example of this in my field, but was thinking it would be a good idea. Could you share examples? –  a3nm Jul 29, 2021 at 6:31

Feel free to edit this answer to improve it, in particular to add other names you know to be used for the individual steps or to extend the maximum typical durations from your experience. The source for the diagram can be found here .

Schematic overview of journal workflow

Initial Check

This step is usually performed by the journal's administrative staff. It may include for example:

  • Checking for missing or broken files.
  • Checking compliance with length requirements, if any.
  • Checking central formatting requirements, e.g., line numbers, if required by the journal.
  • A plagiarism check.
  • Excluding manuscripts of very low quality, such as automatic translations or manuscripts with very poor language.

Also known as: technical check, initial QC (AIP), admin checklist (IEEE), Awaiting Editorial Office Processing (ScholarOne), quality check (NPG)

Typical duration: A few workdays.

Editor assignment or invitation

Based on the topic of the manuscript and suggestions by the authors, an editor is assigned to handle the manuscript. Depending on the journal, the assignment may be done by technical staff, the journal's chief editor, or automatic by submission category or author suggestion. With some journals, editors are invited and not assigned. An editor who is invited may decline in some cases .

Also known as: with editors (APS), editor assigned (Editorial Manager, AIP), AE assignment (IEEE), assigned to the editor (NPG)

Typical duration: A few workdays to several weeks.

Editorial assessment

The editors decide whether the paper should enter the review process or should be rejected directly, e.g., because it does not fit the journal’s scope or requirements on importance or quality. A rejection at this (or the previous) stage is called desk reject. The paper may also be returned to the authors for reasons other than rejection, such as to request more data or clearer figures prior to formal review.

With revised manuscripts, the editors assess whether the existing reviews have been addressed adequately. If yes, they either proceed with another round of reviews or jump to editorial decision immediately – this mostly depends on the magnitude and nature of the revision.

Also known as: with editors (APS), waiting for potential reviewer assignment (AIP), under review ( ScholarOne ), assigned to the editor (NPG)

Typical duration: This strongly depends on the journal: With some journals, it is less than a week; with others it may take a month, in particular if several people are involved in the decision or the initial quality hurdle is high.

Peer review

The editor selects a number of potential referees to review the manuscript. Should a referee decline to review or not perform the review in a certain time (as given by the editor or journal), the editor usually has to select a new referee. The main exception to this is if the other referees already provided sufficient reviews at this point.

With revised manuscripts, usually the reviewers from the previous round are selected. The editor may also decide that certain or all reviewers need not see the manuscript again, as their comments have been adequately addressed, or take the opportunity to seek the opinion of one or several additional referees.

Also known as: with reviewers, with referees, under review, awaiting referee assignment, awaiting referee reports, awaiting reviewer scores, awaiting reviewer invitation ( ScholarOne ), reviewers assigned , manuscript assigned to peer-reviewer/s (NPG)

The initial selection of referees is usually comprised in the previous step. Some editorial systems give the status as with editors , awaiting reviewer assignment (or similar) if a new referee needs to be assigned and no other referee is currently assigned. Others will show under review regardless.

Typical duration: This strongly depends on the field and journal. It typically ranges from a few weeks to several months , but in some cases (particularly for highly theoretical work where intense proof-checking is expected), it may be as long as one to two years. Moreover, the key factors for the duration of an individual peer-review process are how soon the reviewers perform the review and how many reviewers decline or fail to review the manuscript. Thus, even for a given journal, there is a strong variation of review durations. Some journals give their statistics on this time (or a related one) on their webpage.

Editorial decision

Based on the reviews, the editors decide whether:

  • The manuscript shall be rejected.
  • The manuscript needs to be revised by the authors before it can possibly be accepted. If the authors submit a revised manuscript, the workflow is mostly the same as for the initial submission.
  • The manuscript shall be accepted as it is.
  • A decision requires further reviews.

Note that the editor might not always wait for all reviews to be returned before making a decision.

Also known as with editors (APS), review completed, required reviews completed ( Elsevier Editorial System (EES) ), awaiting AE recommendation , awaiting decision (ScholarOne), awaiting EiC decision (IEEE), Editor Decision Started (AIP), Decision Started (NPG), or pending decision (Bioinformatics Oxford journal). This may be followed by a short stage denoted decision letter being prepared (or similar).

Typical duration: A few workdays to a week. This may take longer with some journals, in particular if several people are involved in the decision.

Copy editing and typesetting

The article is copy-edited and typeset by the publisher. Occasionally, requests to the authors may occur at this stage, e.g., due to low-quality figures.

For some journals, a pre-copy-editing version of the manuscript will be put online at this point under a category like Just Accepted, with a warning that the current version has not yet been copy-edited and may change further before publication.

Also known as: in production, in press

Typical duration: This mostly depends on the publisher’s backlog – between a few workdays to over a year, roughly correlated with the length of the publication delay (see below).

Final proofreading

The authors are sent the paper’s proofs, i.e., the paper as it is about to be published. If corrections are necessary, it goes back to copy editing and typesetting.

Also known as: proofs with authors , Galley proof

Typical duration: Most journals request proofs to be returned within a certain time, usually between 48 hours and a week ( reasons ).


For some journals, particularly newer ones with an online-centric publication model, an article will be published immediately after the previous step has been completed.

Other journals with a more traditional process will queue up the publication for collation into a journal issue with other articles. The time before this issue is published depends on the size of the journal’s publication backlog and can range anywhere from a few weeks to several years.

Many journals with an issue-based delay provide “online early” access to articles so that they are available to the community before the final issue date. Articles thus often acquire two publication dates: one for online and one for print publication.

Further reading

  • IOP Publishing: An introductory guide for authors
  • IEEE: Peer Review and Decision Process for Authors
  • The secret lives of manuscripts (American Naturalist)
  • List of events in Editorial Manager
  • It might be useful to update this to account for this question: –  Buffy Oct 31, 2021 at 20:04

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How to Review a Journal Article

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For many kinds of assignments, like a  literature review , you may be asked to offer a critique or review of a journal article. This is an opportunity for you as a scholar to offer your  qualified opinion  and  evaluation  of how another scholar has composed their article, argument, and research. That means you will be expected to go beyond a simple  summary  of the article and evaluate it on a deeper level. As a college student, this might sound intimidating. However, as you engage with the research process, you are becoming immersed in a particular topic, and your insights about the way that topic is presented are valuable and can contribute to the overall conversation surrounding your topic.


Some disciplines, like Criminal Justice, may only want you to summarize the article without including your opinion or evaluation. If your assignment is to summarize the article only, please see our literature review handout.

Before getting started on the critique, it is important to review the article thoroughly and critically. To do this, we recommend take notes,  annotating , and reading the article several times before critiquing. As you read, be sure to note important items like the thesis, purpose, research questions, hypotheses, methods, evidence, key findings, major conclusions, tone, and publication information. Depending on your writing context, some of these items may not be applicable.

Questions to Consider

To evaluate a source, consider some of the following questions. They are broken down into different categories, but answering these questions will help you consider what areas to examine. With each category, we recommend identifying the strengths and weaknesses in each since that is a critical part of evaluation.

Evaluating Purpose and Argument

  • How well is the purpose made clear in the introduction through background/context and thesis?
  • How well does the abstract represent and summarize the article’s major points and argument?
  • How well does the objective of the experiment or of the observation fill a need for the field?
  • How well is the argument/purpose articulated and discussed throughout the body of the text?
  • How well does the discussion maintain cohesion?

Evaluating the Presentation/Organization of Information

  • How appropriate and clear is the title of the article?
  • Where could the author have benefited from expanding, condensing, or omitting ideas?
  • How clear are the author’s statements? Challenge ambiguous statements.
  • What underlying assumptions does the author have, and how does this affect the credibility or clarity of their article?
  • How objective is the author in his or her discussion of the topic?
  • How well does the organization fit the article’s purpose and articulate key goals?

Evaluating Methods

  • How appropriate are the study design and methods for the purposes of the study?
  • How detailed are the methods being described? Is the author leaving out important steps or considerations?
  • Have the procedures been presented in enough detail to enable the reader to duplicate them?

Evaluating Data

  • Scan and spot-check calculations. Are the statistical methods appropriate?
  • Do you find any content repeated or duplicated?
  • How many errors of fact and interpretation does the author include? (You can check on this by looking up the references the author cites).
  • What pertinent literature has the author cited, and have they used this literature appropriately?

Following, we have an example of a summary and an evaluation of a research article. Note that in most literature review contexts, the summary and evaluation would be much shorter. This extended example shows the different ways a student can critique and write about an article.

Chik, A. (2012). Digital gameplay for autonomous foreign language learning: Gamers’ and language teachers’ perspectives. In H. Reinders (ed.),  Digital games in language learning and teaching  (pp. 95-114). Eastbourne, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Be sure to include the full citation either in a reference page or near your evaluation if writing an  annotated bibliography .

In Chik’s article “Digital Gameplay for Autonomous Foreign Language Learning: Gamers’ and Teachers’ Perspectives”, she explores the ways in which “digital gamers manage gaming and gaming-related activities to assume autonomy in their foreign language learning,” (96) which is presented in contrast to how teachers view the “pedagogical potential” of gaming. The research was described as an “umbrella project” consisting of two parts. The first part examined 34 language teachers’ perspectives who had limited experience with gaming (only five stated they played games regularly) (99). Their data was recorded through a survey, class discussion, and a seven-day gaming trial done by six teachers who recorded their reflections through personal blog posts. The second part explored undergraduate gaming habits of ten Hong Kong students who were regular gamers. Their habits were recorded through language learning histories, videotaped gaming sessions, blog entries of gaming practices, group discussion sessions, stimulated recall sessions on gaming videos, interviews with other gamers, and posts from online discussion forums. The research shows that while students recognize the educational potential of games and have seen benefits of it in their lives, the instructors overall do not see the positive impacts of gaming on foreign language learning.

The summary includes the article’s purpose, methods, results, discussion, and citations when necessary.

This article did a good job representing the undergraduate gamers’ voices through extended quotes and stories. Particularly for the data collection of the undergraduate gamers, there were many opportunities for an in-depth examination of their gaming practices and histories. However, the representation of the teachers in this study was very uneven when compared to the students. Not only were teachers labeled as numbers while the students picked out their own pseudonyms, but also when viewing the data collection, the undergraduate students were more closely examined in comparison to the teachers in the study. While the students have fifteen extended quotes describing their experiences in their research section, the teachers only have two of these instances in their section, which shows just how imbalanced the study is when presenting instructor voices.

Some research methods, like the recorded gaming sessions, were only used with students whereas teachers were only asked to blog about their gaming experiences. This creates a richer narrative for the students while also failing to give instructors the chance to have more nuanced perspectives. This lack of nuance also stems from the emphasis of the non-gamer teachers over the gamer teachers. The non-gamer teachers’ perspectives provide a stark contrast to the undergraduate gamer experiences and fits neatly with the narrative of teachers not valuing gaming as an educational tool. However, the study mentioned five teachers that were regular gamers whose perspectives are left to a short section at the end of the presentation of the teachers’ results. This was an opportunity to give the teacher group a more complex story, and the opportunity was entirely missed.

Additionally, the context of this study was not entirely clear. The instructors were recruited through a master’s level course, but the content of the course and the institution’s background is not discussed. Understanding this context helps us understand the course’s purpose(s) and how those purposes may have influenced the ways in which these teachers interpreted and saw games. It was also unclear how Chik was connected to this masters’ class and to the students. Why these particular teachers and students were recruited was not explicitly defined and also has the potential to skew results in a particular direction.

Overall, I was inclined to agree with the idea that students can benefit from language acquisition through gaming while instructors may not see the instructional value, but I believe the way the research was conducted and portrayed in this article made it very difficult to support Chik’s specific findings.

Some professors like you to begin an evaluation with something positive but isn’t always necessary.

The evaluation is clearly organized and uses transitional phrases when moving to a new topic.

This evaluation includes a summative statement that gives the overall impression of the article at the end, but this can also be placed at the beginning of the evaluation.

This evaluation mainly discusses the representation of data and methods. However, other areas, like organization, are open to critique.

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  • v.41(2); 2006

Journal Writing as a Teaching Technique to Promote Reflection

Stacy e walker.

Ball State University, Muncie, IN

Stacy E. Walker, PhD, ATC, provided conception and design; acquisition and analysis and interpretation of the data; and drafting, critical revision, and final approval of the article.

Objective: To introduce the process of journal writing to promote reflection and discuss the techniques and strategies to implement journal writing in an athletic training education curriculum.

Background: Journal writing can facilitate reflection and allow students to express feelings regarding their educational experiences. The format of this writing can vary depending on the students' needs and the instructor's goals.

Description: Aspects of journal writing assignments are discussed, including different points to take into account before assigning the journals. Lastly, various factors to contemplate are presented when providing feedback to the students regarding their written entries.

Clinical Advantages: Journal writing assignments can benefit students by enhancing reflection, facilitating critical thought, expressing feelings, and writing focused arguments. Journal writing can be adapted into a student's clinical course to assist with bridging the gap between classroom and clinical knowledge. In addition, journals can assist athletic training students with exploring different options for handling daily experiences.

As athletic training students progress through their education, instructors hope that their students have time to not only retain but also to reflect on the knowledge learned. Reflection has been defined as a process regarding thinking about and exploring an issue of concern, which is triggered by an experience. 1 Leaver-Dunn et al 2 stated that reflection distinguishes expert practitioners from their peers. An expert clinician uses information from previous experiences as well as the insights gained from the reflective process to improve decision-making ability. As students progress through their education, they must practice, enhance, and habitually use their reflection skills. Leaver-Dunn et al 2 stated that athletic training educators should seek to facilitate a student's reflection. Although many strategies exist to promote this process, one teaching method that has been used to encourage reflection is journal writing. 3–11 The purpose of this article is to discuss journal writing as a pedagogic technique to promote reflection. I first briefly discuss the process of reflection and the research related to journal writing and then offer strategies for implementing journal writing in an athletic training education curriculum.


Once a student has knowledge and becomes proficient at a skill (ie, evaluating an ankle injury), that student possesses knowing-in-action. 12 Knowing-in-action refers to the “know-how” a practitioner reveals while performing an action. Simply put, the practitioner shows competency, or that he or she knows how to perform an orthopaedic assessment, by displaying the appropriate actions. Knowing-in-action assists a student except when a familiar routine produces an unexpected result. Take an example of a senior-level student who has performed various patellofemoral examinations but, during a recent evaluation, had inconclusive results. A student in this situation can become very frustrated. When students come across a new situation such as this, it would be beneficial for them to reflect-on-action, or reflect on that experience after it has happened. Unfortunately, more often than not, no time is designated for students to engage in the activity of reflection. Athletic training educational programs are encouraged to not only foster knowledge in students but also to cultivate reflection to enable our students to learn from past experiences.

An expert practitioner experiments on the spot with previous data or engages in what is called reflection-in-action . 12 Reflection-in-action occurs when an individual reshapes what he or she is doing while doing it. Students, who do not possess an array of previous experiences from which to draw, are not able to reflect-in-action as can skilled practitioners. We hope that as they progress through their education, students will learn to practice, enhance, and learn to habitually use their reflection-in-action skills. Although many strategies exist to facilitate reflection, one teaching method that has been extensively used is journal writing. 3–11 The examples of the reflective processes cited above refer to Schon, 12 but interested readers can also consult Powell 13 and Mezirow 14 for additional processes.

No true definitions of journal writing exist due to the vast number of ways journal writing can be used. In the literature, journal writing is described and explained in many different ways. For the purposes of this article, journal writing refers to any writing that students perform during either a clinical or classroom experience that challenges them to reflect on past situations, as well as consider how they might perform differently should similar situations arise in the future. The goal of any journal writing assignment should guide the written content for the student. For example, a student could reflect on the challenges of designing and administering a rehabilitation program as part of a rehabilitation course. Students can also return to their struggles with matters such as professionalism during any aspect of their clinical experiences. Both assignments encourage the student to reflect on an experience, whether that experience be from classroom content or their clinical experiences.

Journal writing has been used with nursing, 4 5 8 11 physical therapy, 9 15 occupational therapy, 7 and teacher certification 16 17 students. The journal writing topics for this teaching method can range from reflecting on daily clinical experiences (eg, assessments and rehabilitations performed) to summaries of weekly clinical experiences. Widely used, journal writing has been recognized as a method designed to enhance reflection, 3–11 facilitate critical thought, 18–22 express feelings in writing about problems encountered during clinical experiences, 5 23 and practice writing summaries, objectives, and focused arguments. 22 Because of these benefits, educational writing in a clinical journal is a common assignment in nursing programs. 22 23 However, information for the athletic training educator in various teaching methods, including journal writing, is lacking.


Most of the research involving journal writing has been qualitative in nature, with the journal entries analyzed for trends. Davies 3 found that in the process of journal writing, students moved from being passive to active learners during their clinical debriefing sessions. Students would come to debriefing sessions with problems or clinical issues partially solved and look to the debriefing sessions for further input and validation. This type of paradigm shift was also reported by Sedlack, 24 who found that journal writing aided in placing responsibility with the student for active engagement and self-directed learning. In addition, the students' self-confidence increased because the journals enabled them to identify their own lack of motivation. 24

Recently, Williams and Wessel 15 used reflective journals with physical therapy students studying chronic musculoskeletal conditions to obtain feedback regarding their learning. Students moved through a “fix-it” mentality to a more client-centered disability focus. Over the course of the 8 weeks, interactions with patients changed students' attitudes and increased students' knowledge about chronic disease.

In another qualitative study, Ritchie 25 reported that after completing 7 weeks of weekly journal entries, physical therapy students were provided with many opportunities for both the student and faculty member to give feedback, ask questions, and offer ideas for further reflection. In addition, bonds of trust were formed, not only between the student and faculty member, but among the students themselves as they learned to begin to trust themselves and the decisions they made. Last, students valued being able to ask the faculty member questions and receive validation without exposing their own perceived weaknesses to their peers. Ibarreta and McLeod 5 also found this need for feedback. Nursing students using journals wanted more feedback and direction from the instructor to gain more confidence regarding decisions made during their practicum.

Wong et al 11 used dialogue and journal writing to assess a system for test coding the level of any reflection. Each student wrote a reflective paper after developing a teaching plan and then carried out that teaching plan at the clinical assignment. A coding scheme was developed to analyze the reflective papers. Students were categorized as nonreflectors, reflectors, or critical reflectors. Of the 45 students in the study, 34 demonstrated reflection and were able to relate their experiences and turn them into new learning opportunities.

In a similar study, 10 during 2 semesters, each student engaged in dialogue 5 times and wrote 4 journal entries in addition to a reflective paper. (Not described were the specific data analysis methods and the specific breakdown of nonreflectors, reflectors, and critical reflectors.) Students moved from a more narrative or descriptive writing style (nonreflector) to expressing frustration and offering solutions to problems (critical reflector). It was felt that journal writing and dialogue were essential to student learning.


Journal writing can have many different applications based on the goals of the instructor and student. One common use of journal writing is to promote reflection and thought through one-on-one dialogue between the student and instructor. Brown and Sorrell 22 stated that a clinical journal provides guided opportunities for students to “think aloud” on paper and reflect on their own perceptions or understandings of the situations encountered in their practicums. Hahnemann 20 felt that journal writing assignments encourage exploration and risk taking on the part of the student. Before trying solutions to problems in real life, the student can be creative and express feelings and frustrations on paper. Ibarreta and McLeod 5 reported that their students, through journal writing, were expected to apply knowledge gained from prior classroom content and literature relevant to their clinical experiences. Recently, reflective journals 7 were used to emphasize connecting clinical content with thought process and self-awareness.

Holmes 23 stated that by recording and describing experiences, feelings, and thoughts, students are able to recreate their experiences for additional exploration. A student who had a difficult encounter with a student-athlete could write in the journal about the situation and think about what happened. He or she could describe why decisions were made and actions taken, along with feelings and future thoughts and directions. As educators, we must push our students to reflect more deeply. Pushing students to continuously ask themselves why a decision was made or why they feel the way they do about a topic or situation will cause them to look deeper for answers. Why did they perform a certain special test? Why was ultrasound used in the treatment of that injury, and how will that ultrasound affect the inflammation process? What changes could be made to this patient's treatment or future encounters with a specific injury? Davies 3 stated that journal writing provides students with an opportunity to return to their experiences in an attempt to develop new perspectives that can guide future clinical actions. For example, a student, after performing a knee examination and discussing it with the Approved Clinical Instructor, could later write about the entire experience. What would he or she do differently? What did he or she learn? Writing encourages and provides an opportunity for students to reflect on an experience, connect, and think critically about ideas or situations.

Dialogue Between Instructor and Student

As stated previously, journal writing provides a one-on-one dialogue between the instructor and student. 23 Wong et al 11 suggested that instructors and students are partners in the promotion of reflective learning. This dialogue, facilitated by the instructor, should be designed to challenge the student to reflect on his or her experiences. A student who has accomplished a goal or had a positive rehabilitation experience with a patient is allowed to share that information. In addition, this dialogue can also assist with conflicts in a confidential manner. For example, a student could reflect in the written journal about a difficult situation with a coach. Upon reading the journal, the instructor may provide feedback and ask questions, which will ideally push the student to think about future decisions if again faced with a similar situation.

Not only does this one-on-one dialogue assist in challenging the student, but also students valued the feedback to validate their thoughts on new endeavors. 25 26 Because students are unfamiliar with dealing with coaches, let alone being involved in professional conflict, they may be limited in what they perceive as actions and solutions. This unfamiliar problem can leave students feeling that they have no control or power in the situation.

Although students may experience cognitive dissonance when engaging in a written dialogue about a challenging experience they had, the discourse can facilitate different ways of thinking 27 and empower students to handle themselves differently after reflection in the future. 28 Through one-on-one dialogue, students are empowered to not just leave future encounters and experiences to fate. Instead students, after reflection, have thought about their actions and how they would handle themselves or the situation differently in the future, which is reflection-for-action. 28 Reflection should be encouraged and enhanced through one-on-one dialogue via the journal writing process. The journal writing process, however, should be well planned and have explicit student expectations.


Before assigning journal writing, the instructor must convey to the students all expectations with regard to completing and grading the journals. 22 29 Table 1 presents many questions that should be asked when contemplating whether to assign journal writing. These questions will provide focus to enable the student to concentrate on the writing and not feel insecure about how the instructor will grade the journal. As stated by Kobert, 29 every effort should be made to ensure that the journal writing is seen as nonthreatening and satisfying. Identifying expectations before starting the first journal will prevent some confusion. It is also imperative for the instructor to consider many facets of the journaling process. The following section discusses factors to consider when planning for the use of journals, including setting student expectations, identifying appropriate topics, journal utilization strategies, and grading systems.

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Journal Utilization Techniques

Depending on the method of use (daily, weekly writing) and the journal's purpose (to enhance critical thinking, promote reflection, etc), the way in which journal writing is used can take many different forms. Table 2 presents general topics followed by subtopics for possible student assignments in the classroom or clinical education setting. These topics can vary depending on the level of student, classroom content, location and type of clinical experience, and deficiencies or needs of the student. Topics may be decided solely by the instructor or through more egalitarian methods with the students' input. Burnard 30 stated that one democratic method of determining topics for journal writing is to discuss this with the class. Preassigned or spontaneous topics could also be used. The advantage of preassigned topics is that the student is aware of the topic and can be thinking about it before writing. On the other hand, some students may have certain spontaneous experiences during their clinical education about which they wish to write. It is important for instructors to experiment with students and classes to determine which methods encourage reflection in students. Some classes as a whole may elect to use journal writing with the spontaneous method.

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Spontaneous topics and experiences can include incidents that interest or concern students during their clinical placements. Unfortunately, due to uncontrollable factors, some students may find this method less challenging than preassigned topics and want to change the method of their journal writing. Journal writing should be viewed as experimental and as a work in progress or a process by which students learn to reflect and, we hope, move from reflection-in-action to reflection-for-action. Simply, the goal is for students to evaluate their actions and reflect on how they could handle the situation differently in the future. Instructors should be ready to adapt the journal writing experience to enhance assignment goals, whether they are reflection, learning, etc.

Journal writing can be time consuming for the student, so one way to show that this writing is valued is to allot some classroom time for the students to write. Hahnemann 20 reported using journal writing for 10 to 15 minutes of each class. Students were asked to write about what they expected to learn from class that day, as well as what had been learned from previous classes. Although allocating 10 to 15 minutes of class time for this purpose may not be feasible in a 50-minute class period, this method could be adapted to 2 to 3 minutes every class period or whatever fits the instructor's schedule.

Brown and Sorrell 22 assigned students to write in their journals during class about difficult concepts or summarize a discussion or argue for or against a treatment. Physical therapy students were assigned to write about at least one learning event that occurred in their clinical placement. 9 Burnard, 30 who assigned weekly writings under 6 headings from which students could choose, also used this type of weekly writing. Pinkstaff 26 asked nursing students enrolled in a public health class to write in their journals on individual topics related to class each week. Qualitative analysis revealed that the students not only improved in the creativity of their writing but the quality of their essay writing skills.

When completing some journal assignments, students should be allowed to write using a freeform style. 20 31 Although this seems nontraditional, it is important to remember that if the focus is on the thought process, then grammar and punctuation should not be a part of the evaluation of the journal. If the focus of the journal is to reflect, then the journal should be a forum where students can write and not worry about punctuation, grammar, and spelling. As stated by Hahnemann, 20 journals are a means by which students should be allowed to experiment and test their wings. Focusing too much attention on grammar and punctuation may lead a student to misinterpret the purpose of the journal writing activity. Instead, the attention should be on the content of what is written and not how it is written. Additional information on grading and feedback is discussed later.

Journal Content and Format

Burnard 30 felt that no guidelines should be given regarding the amount that is written under each heading or journal topic, because it was felt this would be overstructuring; however, students were encouraged to provide regular journal entries for each given topic. Instead of a student's writing about a given topic one time over the course of a week, the student could be encouraged to write after each clinical experience or several times during that week. Brown and Sorrell 22 felt that the maximum length for assignments, such as summaries or critiques, should be 1 to 2 pages. Each instructor must decide what is appropriate for his or her purpose, and students must realize that content is more important than word count. Instructors should also realize that motivation is a factor in journal writing. Paterson 31 pointed out that students are not always interested in all aspects of their clinical experiences, so instructors should not expect all journals to be of the same quality. Some weeks, the student might only meet the basic requirements, whereas in other weeks, the student may write profusely. Different clinical experiences provide more education and invoke more passion than others. The instructor has to decide, based on the goals and objectives of the assignment as well as the clinical experience during a given time frame, the quality and length of journal writing.

Students should also be given instructions as to how and when to turn in and pick up their journal entries. Specific guidelines should be in place that will enable the student to properly submit and collect the journal entries. For example, one guideline may be to have the students collect their journals every Monday by 12:00 pm and to submit them every Friday by 12:00 pm . Another would be to have them submitted during one class period and, after grading, handed back to the students during the next class period. Lastly, other questions must be considered, such as where and how to submit the journal entries (eg, mail box versus e-mail).


Jackson 32 and Pinkstaff 26 stated that the single most important factor in the successful use of journaling is allowing the journal to be a safe space for free expression. How can a student be graded for writing about feelings and reactions to specific issues and topics? How do we know he or she is really trying to reflect? Although they should be graded for their thoughts and feelings, it is important the students be informed 22 as to how the journals will fit into their grades. What percentage of their grade will be affected by their journal writing? How will they be graded? Brown and Sorrell 22 suggested a method of grading by which if the student achieves all the goals for the journal, then he or she earns an A or passes that portion of the class the journal fulfills. Hahnemann 20 and Williams et al 9 weighted the journals as 10% of a grade in a course. Hahnemann 20 stated this was done because they felt it would motivate the students to write thoroughly and with meaning. Tryssenaar 7 reported weighting the journals as 20% of the final grade. However the instructor chooses to integrate journal writing into a course, unless the journals have an effect on the grades, students will put very little effort into their writing. 20 Adding a grade to the journals puts value to them and establishes their importance. Although 10% to 20% of a grade has been reported in the literature, it is up to the individual instructor to weight the journals accordingly or in some way to ensure that students feel the journal writing assignments matter and are of significant value. These journals can be a commitment for the student as well as the instructor, but they can potentially provide valuable insight and reflection. The strength of journal entries is related to the students' motivation to engage and participate in their own learning processes. 8 If a student is motivated and active in learning, the process will be seen as an investment instead of time consuming. Wong et al 11 found that willingness, commitment, and open mindedness were attributes that were conducive to reflective learning.

Determining the level of reflectivity is beyond the scope of this manuscript. However, Atkins and Murphy 33 outlined 3 stages of the reflective process that can be used when grading. Stage 1 is triggered by awareness of uncomfortable feelings. The student realizes that knowledge being applied in this situation is not sufficient in and of itself to explain the situation. For example, a student is using ultrasound treatments for tendinitis, but the treatment is producing no therapeutic effect. The student is unsure as to why this is happening and expresses frustration. The second stage is characterized by a critical analysis of the situation. This involves feelings and knowledge, so that new knowledge is applied. Four terms were used to describe this critical thought process: association, validation, integration, and appropriation. The development of a new perspective on the situation is stage 3. The outcome here through learning is reflection. These 3 stages can be a guide when grading a student's written journal entry to determine the level of reflectivity of the student. Educators interested in researching other tools with which to evaluate or grade journals are encouraged to consult the following papers and other works. 8 24 34


After writing their first journal entry, students should receive feedback before writing the next entry. 22 One of the most challenging tasks with journal writing is evaluating the student's written work. 20 Judgment and criticism are withheld. Instead, the attempt to write on the student's part is more important than the success of the attempt. 20 Brown and Sorrell 22 agreed to provide 1 to 2 comments about the overall journal. The thought of not providing numerous comments is echoed by Holmes, 23 who stated that when the focus of feedback is detailed, the students lose their sense of purpose and meaning in the writing. Students will shift their focus from constructing a sense of what they are trying to say into worrying about grammar and sentence structure. Table 3 provides some sample follow-up questions that can be used to challenge and encourage students to think and reflect. In addition, as stated by Paterson, 31 a balance must be maintained between giving too many comments and nudging the student into new ways of thinking. Correcting misinformation written by the student is encouraged, but no criticism or judgment should be made of the student's feelings. Annotations might pertain to future questions and comments to expand on in the next journal entry, but the instructor needs to try to avoid excessive grammar and spelling corrections.

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Feedback can be given in various ways. Brown and Sorrell 22 reported using both oral and written feedback. Conferences, also known as debriefing sessions, either individual or group, can be set up to discuss the clinical journal's relationship to reflection, critical thinking, etc. The student and instructor sit down together to discuss the journal along with feedback goals for upcoming writings. In addition, group discussions 8 15 22 at the beginning of a practicum and/or throughout can conserve faculty time, promote the exchange of ideas, and help synthesize information for students. Another way to conserve faculty time is to only grade at random a percentage of the journals that are written after a few weeks of feedback has been given. All of these types of feedback have strong points and limitations. It is up to the instructor to decide what is appropriate and to modify as needed. Last, if a student inquires as to why or how the journal was graded, it is important for the instructor to be able to explain all comments and methods of grading. These grading points are not only justification but can help guide the student to further reflection.

As stated by Riley-Doucet and Wilson, 8 one of the limitations of this type of assignment is the student who procrastinates and doesn't take responsibility for coursework. When a student exhibits this type of behavior, it should be recognized by the instructor and discussed with the student. The student should be given the benefit of the doubt as to the procrastination, and the instructor can approach the student from the perspective that the student is lacking knowledge about reflection and journal writing. Riley-Doucet and Wilson 8 recommended pairing this student with a peer who is comfortable with the journal writing. If this is not possible, another recommendation is to establish small short-term goals for upcoming journal writings, such as considering specific questions when writing the journal. These short-term goals and guiding questions can assist the student in the reflective process.

Examples of questions include the following:

  • How would I have done this differently?
  • Why did I choose to perform the skill the way I did?
  • What was my reasoning in handling that situation that way?

Journal writing is a process, and students may not put much effort into their writing in the beginning. For some students, it will be easy to express their feelings and frustrations. Other students may struggle. Instructors should take into account individual personalities when providing feedback. In addition, the students need to be reminded that the journal writing is a process that takes time. It may take weeks or longer for a student to feel comfortable and trust the instructor. Feedback is a vital aspect in nurturing reflection over time, as the journal writing progresses over weeks and possibly years.

As stated by Kobert, 30 one drawback to journal writing is what makes it so valuable. Students may be reluctant or unable to explore and share intimacies of their own lived experiences with others. They may be more concerned with writing what they think the instructor wants to hear than writing about what is true to them. Writing about issues and feelings puts the student in a very vulnerable position. To promote reflection, he or she must express weakness and insecurity to grow. Students must feel comfortable exposing this vulnerability. Holmes 23 noted the significant responsibility of both the student and instructor to accept differing views while searching for understanding and meaning. Part of encouraging this truthful writing is not only through the previously mentioned feedback procedures but also by maintaining confidentiality to encourage truthfulness. 19 If students are familiar with the instructor and know him or her to be nonjudgmental, they will, more than likely, be more willing to self-disclose in their journal writing. However, if the instructor is new to the students, they will need evidence that the instructor will remain true to his or her word before disclosing too much in a journal entry. Such trust takes time to develop, but if journal writing is seen as a work in progress, this is all part of the journey.


Additional research needs to be conducted investigating journal writing. 4 15 33 Much of the journal writing literature in the allied health field ranges from specific articles about grading 23 and assisting with common problems or pitfalls 31 to general guidelines for using journal writing. 19 20 30 Although this information is useful and often written by professionals speaking from years of experience, more qualitative and quantitative research is needed. Specific research questions include the following:

  • How does journal writing affect the learning of material?
  • Does the type of feedback given to the student affect what is written in journal writing?
  • How do students learn to reflect on their experiences?
  • What variables affect the trust level between the instructor and student to enhance truthful writing?
  • Does maturity affect journal writing and reflection?


The purpose of this article was to provide an introduction to the process of journal writing to promote reflection. Our students, on a daily basis, encounter experiences that can teach them to reflect during their future practice of athletic training, and we owe it to our students to facilitate their reflection. Course preparation is short in relation to career practice; therefore, as educators, we hope to instill reflective qualities that mature and grow.

Many methods of assigning and grading journal writing were presented in this article. As with any teaching method, there is no right or wrong way to approach journal writing. As the students grow in self-confidence and gain trust in the instructor, they begin to reflect and write about their real concerns. This leads to obtaining valuable feedback to empower our future certified athletic trainers to overcome those real-life concerns. Reflection is the goal, as everyone is rewarded—the student, the patient, the coach, and the instructor. Reflection enables the student to do a better job as a certified athletic trainer. Isn't our real goal to enable all of our students to give thought to their actions and perform with the utmost skill, knowledge, and confidence that they have done their jobs in the best possible manner?

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  • Our Mission

The Importance of Student Journals and How to Respond Efficiently

Burdened by expanding curriculum and multiplying high-stakes assessment requirements, some of my respected colleagues might be forgiven for not integrating student journals into their courses. The most common objection: "Who has time?"

"What instructor doesn't have time for student journaling?" is my typical reply, a non-answer that halts further conversation by employing a rhetorical cul-de-sac familiar to high-school debaters. To atone, I'll summarize research on journaling, identify my favorite reflective writing formats, and describe a labor-saving method of teacher response.

Classroom Journaling Is Essential

The benefits of students integrating journal writing across the curriculum are amply documented . From a teacher's perspective, there are few activities that can trump journal writing for understanding and supporting the development of student thinking. Journaling turbo-charges curiosity. The legendary Toby Fulwiler, author of The Journal Book , writes, "Without an understanding of who we are, we are not likely to understand fully why we study biology rather than forestry, literature rather than philosophy. In the end, all knowledge is related; the journal helps clarify the relationship."

Vary Student Journal Formats to Enhance Content-Specific Thinking

Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson's 42explore presents implementation advice and describes different journal formats. Introducing a range of reflective genres can encourage students to generalize about their content attitudes. Every subject area "pot" has its own reflective "lid," allowing teachers a peak into the metacognitive soup of students' misconceptions and insight. For example, here is a format that supports scientific reflection: "Today I observed... I predict that... I also measured... I concluded that..."

One of my favorites, the microtheme , supports comprehension, extends thinking, improves confidence, and bolsters writing across the content areas. I've run into different versions. In one, students write a summary to a reading, lecture, demonstration, or experiment on the back of an index card. Teachers collect the note cards and write responses to the students on the other side. Microthemes quickly activate thinking before whole-class discussions.

But, while essentially all reflective writing formats yield benefits, there is a problem...

Who Has Time to Grade Journals?

For years, I've taken home crates of journals on the weekend and responded with a Theseusian intensity that has crushed classroom preparation time and personal leisure, and has exasperated friends and family. To lessen the time costs, I tried skimming journals. My token analysis, however, signaled students to submit journals that were equivalently weak ("If he doesn't care, why should we?").

So, how do you implement journals, make them a priority, and reduce responding time?

An Efficient Journal Response Strategy

Premised on the notion that students should assess their own writing, Terri Van Sickle , a virtuoso instructor and writer for Crystal Coast Parent Magazine, teaches her classes to use a rich and organic process of open-ended reflection that works well as a culminating journal activity.

Whether your students write in daybooks , two entry notebooks , or academic journals , you can use the following instruction sheet to help students self-reflect.

Journal Coding

Assignment Introduction: The following questions will help you to deeply examine the thinking, interactions, exercises, and writing you have experienced over the course of the semester.

1. Reading and Marking: Read through your entire journal. Identify and star (*) 10 passages that seem most significant to you as a learner of the subject matter in this course. You might choose an entry that was written when you were thinking on all cylinders, discovering something revelatory, engaging in higher order thinking, struggling with an idea that was only partially formed, or experiencing confusion. Maybe you were able to transcend the classroom conversations and texts to come up with an original idea. These ten passages should be as varied as possible and make generalizations that provide a full portrait of you as a learner of this course's content. Next, double star (**) five of the passages most significant to you. Why did you choose these five sections? What generalizations can you make about you as a writer and learner?

2. Letter to Reader: Write a letter to your reader, describing the items you starred and explaining how and why you chose them. Also, reflect on the following:

  • a. What was the most persuasive or convincing argument introduced in this class?
  • b. What could you relate to the most in class or in the readings? Why?
  • c. Was there an argument or position taken in class or in the readings with which you strongly disagreed? Explain your reaction.
  • d. What do you think was the most important point or central concept communicated this semester?
  • e. If you could do this semester over again more successfully, what would you do differently? Why?

3. Final Check: Is your name, class, and date written on the cover?   Make sure your journal has a complete table of contents, page numbers on every page, and that each entry is dated. If you were absent on a day when we used journals in class, enter "absent" next to the date. 

I allow a full class period or more for students to follow these instructions. Many adolescents wrestle with critical reflection and therefore may need more individual help or modeling.

By primarily focusing my commentary on students' starred passages and reflective letters, I acquire a snapshot of the students' understanding of course content and save 3-4 hours on every set of 30 semester-length journals. Even though I only collect journals one time per semester, I can meet students' eyes, knowing that I haven't neglected journal segments that they wanted me to read.

Coda: The three best albums to write reflections to:

1. "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis 2. "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Soundtrack) by Peter Gabriel 3. "Unleft" by Helios

-- Todd Finley's Twitter address is @finleyt .

what is journal assignment


Course Overview and Policy Statements

CO301 as a Core Course

Core Detail: Instructional Modes

Core Detail: Course Objectives

Core Detail: Weekly Schedule

Core Detail: Methods of Evaluation

Sample Weekly Outline


Portfolio Overview - Thomas

Portfolio Process Requirements - Thomas

Portfolio Grading (Holtcamp)

Portfolios: Promises, Problems, Practices (Kiefer)

Traditional And/Or Portfolio Grading? (Gogela)

Defining the Humanities

Collaborative Activity - Myers

Humanities Defined - Myers

Text Analysis

Text Analysis Assignments

Individual Topics

Individual Topic Assignments

Individual Topic Activities

Reflective Writing

Journal Analysis Assignment - Myers

  • Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning
  • Instructional Guide
  • Reflective Journals and Learning Logs

Reflective journals are personal records of students’ learning experiences. Students typically are asked by their instructors to record learning-related incidents, sometimes during the learning process but more often just after they occur. Entries in journals and learning logs can be prompted by questions about course content, assignments, exams, students’ own ideas or students’ thought processes about what happened in a particular class period. Journals and learning logs are then submitted to the instructor for feedback. Both paper-based and online journals or logs can be turned in before or after each class period or at any other designated time.

A student’s writing style for journals and logs can be informal and sometimes inappropriate. However, to help students learn more about a particular subject or content, you can require students to write more formal entries using correct terminology, facts, and connections to course content. Consider providing guidelines and/or rules to help students write meaningful and authentic journals or logs.

Journals have long been used in exploratory writing activities but also can benefit the student beyond learning how to write. As with any instructional or learning activity, selecting to use reflective journals or learning logs as part of a course should fit your teaching style and also connect with the course learning goals and objectives (Bean, 1996). Because it takes time for students to write in their reflective journals or learning logs, so too, it will take time for you to read and respond.

Journals have long been used in exploratory writing activities but also can benefit the student beyond learning how to write.

The literature is not consistent in defining the differences between reflective journals and learning logs. One may be considered less personal than the other; one might incorporate more instructor prompts and questions while the other might be more student-driven. “Journals often focus subjectively on personal experiences, reactions, and reflections while learning logs are more documentary records of students’ work process (what they are doing), their accomplishments, ideas, or questions” (Equipped for the Future, 2004). However, there is evidence that the art of reflection can help boost students’ critical thinking skills, encourage students to think about their own thinking (meta-cognition), and help students prepare for assignments and examinations (Homik, M. & Melis, E., 2007; Johnson, S., n.d.; RMIT, 2006).

…reflection can help boost students’ critical thinking skills, encourage students to think about their own thinking (meta-cognition), and help students prepare for assignments and examinations…

Types of Reflections

Journals and learning logs can be used to reflect on a range of issues and situations from numerous viewpoints and perspectives (RMIT, 2006). RMIT (2006) lists six types of reflections. The following descriptions depict a reflection on university student groups and drinking. Possible student comments are in italics.


At this stage a student would write about what they actually saw or their viewpoint on a particular event. For example , At the pre-game parties outside the stadium I saw student groups guzzling buckets of beer.  

Upon reflection, the student could ask the question, Why do the all of the student groups drink together at football games but don’t seem to get along when they don’t drink?                              


After thinking about the situation, the student could reflect, Maybe it’s possible that that student groups drink because it’s easier to socialize that way. Or, maybe they think that they have to drink because everyone else does!


At this point a student may place himself or herself in the situation by considering the ramifications. I really don’t think I need to drink to be able to socialize with my friends and think we would get into trouble if we decided to drink as much as the groups do.

Integration of theory and ideas

By reflecting on theories or ideas about cultural norms the student has connected the experience with what he or she has learned. The student might write, Social norm theory explains that particular group members think other group members drink more than their group does.

This is where the student may self-reflect on or “critique” the situation by writing, I can now reflect on my own drinking experiences to see if I really drink because my friends do.

By reflecting on theories or ideas about cultural norms the student has connected the experience with what he or she has learned.

Reflecting is a cyclical process, where recording ones thoughts (reflecting) “leads to improvement and/or insight” (RMIT, 2006). Improvement could mean progress, development, growth, maturity, enhancement, or any number of words which could imply change. In education, we want students to change for the better, to grow while learning and to mature into knowledgeable adults. Recording what has happened, reflecting on processes and analyzing to improve deeper learning all can lead to new dimensions of students’ inner selves.

There are a number of stages through which students progress when writing reflective journals or learning logs. Each source outlines the stage or process somewhat differently yet with a similar approach. The essence of these models is presented below as the fundamental method of reflective journal and learning log entries. Note that each of the items below could be modified to fit a personal situation (for the reflective journal) or a learning environment/situation (for the learning log).

Method of Creating Reflective Journals and Learning Logs

It is suggested that students capture all formal and informal events which will prove useful when the time comes to return to the reflective journal or learning log for review. Students should focus on the areas which pose the most problems or difficulty in addition to those which are less problematic. Key to reflective journals and learning logs is to see progression over a period of time and to “gain a sense of achievement” (Dalhousie University, n.d.).

Key to reflective journals and learning logs is to see progression over a period of time and to “gain a sense of achievement.”

Write, record

  • Describe the situation (the course, the context)
  • Who was involved with the situation?
  • What did they have to do with the situation?

Reflect, think about

  • What are your reactions?
  • What are your feelings?
  • What are the good and the bad aspects of the situation?
  • What you have learned?

Analyze, explain, gain insight

  • What was really going on?
  • What sense can you make of the situation?
  • Can you integrate theory into the experience/situation?
  • Can you demonstrate an improved awareness and self-development because of the situation?


  • What can be concluded in a general and specific sense from this situation/experience and the analyses you have undertaken?

Personal action plan

  • What are you going to do differently in this type of situation next time?
  • What steps are you going to take on the basis of what you have learned?”

(Sources include: Homik, M. & Melis, E., 2007; Johnson, S., n.d.; RMIT, 2006) 

Reflective journals and learning logs can be useful as a teaching and learning tool. Either format can be adopted in any discipline where you can determine what students are learning and in what areas they need assistance. Be open to read entries by students who might request feedback more often than scheduled.

Bean, J. C. (1996). Engaging ideas: The professor’s guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, and active learning in the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Equipped for the Future (2004). Teaching/Learning Toolkit. Learning logs.

Johnson, S. (n.d.) Faculty strategies for promoting student learning.

RMIT University, Study and Learning Centre, Melbourne, Australia (2006). Reflective journals.

Selected Resources

Dalhousie University (n.d.). Learning logs.

Paskevicius, M (n.d.). Conversations in the cloud: The use of blogs to support learning in higher education.

Writing to learn learning logs (n.d.).

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Suggested citation

Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Reflective journals and learning logs. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from

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How to Write a Journal Response to a Book

Last Updated: June 27, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Michelle Golden, PhD . Michelle Golden is an English teacher in Athens, Georgia. She received her MA in Language Arts Teacher Education in 2008 and received her PhD in English from Georgia State University in 2015. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 388,227 times.

Journaling is a great way to process what you've read and develop your understanding of the text. Many teachers give response journal assignments to help students clarify what's read, solidify their reactions to and opinions on the text, and organize their thoughts before working on a larger assignment. As such, to write a journal response to a book, you'll need to engage with the text as you read it and write out your thoughts on that text in a cohesive, thorough manner. By practicing careful reading and writing habits, you will be able to write a thoughtful response that can help launch a term paper or extended essay on a given reading. You can write journal entries as you are reading books or after you finish them. They can be about any topic related to the book. Maybe the book made you wonder something, or you made a connection to something in your life or to another book, or whatever.

Sample Responses

what is journal assignment

Writing a Journal Response to a Book

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 1

  • Address what the main thesis is for the reading. What is the reading about, and why did the author write the text?
  • Acknowledge any conclusions or commentary/arguments the author arrives at. If the book is about something, like the social and political happenings of the author's time, what does the author ultimately think and how do you know this?
  • Incorporate one or two important quotes that are representative of the rest of the text.

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 2

  • Don't be afraid to make connections between the book and your own life; if there is a theme or character that speaks to you, write about why.
  • Address and evaluate the author's arguments and conclusions, which should have been detailed in the summary part of your journal.
  • Think of the commentary as either supporting or rejecting (what you consider) the author's main points.
  • Justify your opinions in the commentary. Agreeing or disagreeing is only the first step; for a thorough response, you'll need to analyze your own opinions and arrive at a reason why you had that reaction.

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 3

  • Allow yourself to explore a topic covered in the summary. Think about why you believe the author addressed certain subjects, as well as what you think about those subjects and the author's depiction.
  • Analyze your opinions. Don't just write that you liked or disliked something, or that you agreed or disagreed with it - dig deeper and figure out why.
  • Ask yourself: How far can I run with a given idea, and how can I make sense of it? Think of your journal as a place to make sense of both the academic and personal experience of reading a given book. [4] X Research source
  • As your journal progresses over the course of the semester or school year, your responses should become longer and more complex.
  • You should be able to chart the development of your thoughts within each individual response and across the journal as a whole.

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 4

  • Consider using clear and descriptive headings in your journal. It will help you more easily find your thoughts and insights as you read through your journal at a later date.
  • It's okay if the actual journal entries wander a bit while exploring the subject - in fact, this can be very helpful. [5] X Research source The goal is to organize your journal as a whole so that you can make sense of your entries and track your progress.

Engaging with the Text

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 5

  • Try to get a general understanding of what the text is about before you read it. You can do this by reading a summary, skimming the chapter(s), or browsing a reader's companion to a given text.
  • Contextualize the text in terms of its historical, biographical, and cultural significance.
  • Ask questions about the text. Don't just passively read the book; analyze what's being said and have an "argument" in your notes when you disagree with the author.
  • Be aware of your personal response to the text. What shaped your beliefs on that subject, and how might your beliefs be similar to or different from the author's (or a reader of his or her time)?
  • Identify the main thesis of the text and try to trace how it develops over the course of the book.

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 6

  • Annotations don't have to be eloquent. They can be half-formed thoughts and impressions, or even exclamations.
  • Some critical readers annotate a text to clarify things that were vague in the text. Other readers annotate to assess and evaluate the author's arguments.
  • Try to make your annotations as diverse as possible so that your notes approach the subject matter from multiple angles.

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 7

  • Try to read through your annotations within a day of writing them, and then several times over the following weeks.

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 8

  • Highlight or draw a star next to the 10 or so notes, comments, or passages that you identify as being somewhat significant.
  • Underline or put a second star next to the five notes/comments/passages that you think are most significant. They can be significant to the plot, to your understanding of the plot, or to the argument you hope to support in your response.

Gathering Your Thoughts for the Journal

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 9

  • Story webs are typically organized by a central topic or question in the middle, surrounded by boxes or bubbles that link to that topic and support, deny, or comment on that topic or question.
  • Story maps can be more like a flow chart. They track the major plot points and break down the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the book in a visual format.

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 10

  • Try not to copy your freewriting word for word into your journal. Instead, pull out a few key thoughts and phrases, then try to expand on them to develop your ideas for the journal entry.

Image titled Write a Journal Response to a Book Step 11

  • Freewriting can be helpful to work out your summary of the reading, where prewriting may be useful for working out your commentary on the text.
  • Try not to restrict or limit yourself while prewriting. Let yourself explore the thoughts and opinions you had as you read the text and trace those thoughts to their logical conclusions.

Expert Q&A

Video . by using this service, some information may be shared with youtube..

  • Work in a quiet environment free of electronic distractions. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
  • Use sticky notes and/or highlighters to mark important passages. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
  • Don’t read large chunks and expect to fully understand the text when you write about it. Instead, read a small section (one short chapter or half of a long chapter) and then write. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

what is journal assignment

Things You'll Need

  • Computer or pen and journal
  • Highlighters (optional)
  • Sticky notes (optional)

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About This Article

Michelle Golden, PhD

To write a journal response to a book, start by writing a summary of the book to explain the author’s main points, and provide 1 to 2 quotes from the text to support your analysis. Then, give your commentary on the book, explaining why you agree or disagree with what the author says. As part of your response, give reasons for your thoughts and opinions, and try to answer questions like “Are there connections between the book and my life?” so you can dive more deeply into your personal experience of reading the book. For tips from our English co-author about how to annotate the book to engage more fully with the text, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Writing a Personal Journal

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A journal is a written record of incidents, experiences, and ideas. Also known as a  personal journal ,  notebook, diary , and log .

Writers often keep journals to record observations and explore ideas that may eventually be developed into more formal essays , articles , and stories .

"The personal journal is a very private document," says Brian Alleyne, "a place where the author records and reflects on life's events. Knowledge of the self in the personal journal is retrospective knowledge and therefore potentially narrative self-knowledge ( Narrative Networks , 2015).


  • "The writer's journal is a record of and workbook for your writing life. It is your repository for bits of experience, observation and thought destined for eventual use in one writing project or another. The entries in a personal journal tend to be abstract, but the entries in a writer's journal should be concrete." (Alice Orr, No More Rejections . Writer's Digest Books, 2004)
  • "All of us who keep journals do so for different reasons, I suppose, but we must have in common a fascination with the surprising patterns that emerge over the years—a sort of arabesque in which certain elements appear and reappear, like the designs in a well-wrought novel." (Joyce Carol Oates, interviewed by Robert Phillips. The Paris Review , Fall-Winter 1978)
  • "Think nothing too trifling to write down, so it be in the smallest degree characteristic. You will be surprised to find on reperusing your journal what an importance and graphic power these little particulars assume." (Nathaniel Hawthorne, letter to Horatio Bridge, May 3, 1843)

Poet Stephen Spender: "Write Anything"

"I feel as though I could not write again. Words seem to break in my mind like sticks when I put them down on paper. . . .

"I must put out my hands and grasp the handfuls of facts. How extraordinary they are! The aluminum balloons seem nailed into the sky like those bolts which hold together the irradiating struts between the wings of a biplane. The streets become more and more deserted, and the West End is full of shops to let. Sandbags are laid above the glass pavements over basements along the sidewalk. . . .

"The best thing is to write anything, anything that comes into my mind until there is a calm and creative day. It is essential to be patient and to remember that nothing one feels is the last word." (Stephen Spender, Journal , London, September 1939)

Orwell's Notebook Entry

"Curious effect, here in the sanatorium, on Easter Sunday, when people in this (the most expensive) block of 'chalets' mostly have visitors, of hearing large numbers of upper-class English voices. . . . And what voices! A sort of over-fedness, a fatuous self-confidence, a constant bah-bahing of laughter abt nothing, above all a sort of heaviness and richness combined with a fundamental ill will." (George Orwell, notebook entry for April 17, 1949, Collected Essays 1945-1950 )

Functions of a Journal

"Many professional writers use journals, and the habit is a good one for anybody interested in writing, even if he or she has no literary ambitions. Journals store perceptions, ideas, emotions, actions—all future material for essays or stories. The Journals of Henry Thoreau are a famous example, as are A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf, the Notebooks of the French novelist Albert Camus, and 'A War-time Diary' by the English writer George Orwell.

"If a journal is really to help you develop as a writer, you've got to do more than compose trite commonplaces or mechanically list what happens each day. You have to look honestly and freshly at the world around you and at the self within." (Thomas S. Kane, The New Oxford Guide to Writing . Oxford University Press, 1988)

Thoreau's Journals

"As repositories of facts, Thoreau's journals act like a writer's warehouse in which he indexes his stored observations. Here is a typical list:

It occurs to me that these phenomena occur simultaneously, say June 12, viz: Heat about 85 at 2P.M. True summer.
Hylodes cease to peep.
Purring frogs ( Rana palustris ) cease.
Lightning bugs first seen.
Bullfrogs trump generally .
Mosquitoes begin to be really troublesome.
Afternoon thunder-showers almost regular.
Sleep with open window (10th), and wear thin coat and ribbon neck.
Turtles fairly and generally begun to lay. [15 June 1860]

In addition to their function as storage, the journals constitute a complex of processing plants as well, where the notations become descriptions, meditations, ruminations, judgments, and other types of studies: 'From all points of the compass, from the earth beneath and the heavens above, have come these inspirations and been entered duly in the order of arrival in the journal. Thereafter, when the time arrived, they were winnowed into lectures, and again, in due time, from lectures into essays' (1845-1847). In short, in the journals, Thoreau negotiates the transformation of facts into forms of written expressions that have entirely different orders of resonance . . .." (Robert E. Belknap, The List: The Uses and Pleasures of Cataloguing . Yale University Press, 2004)

A Contrarian's View

"People ask whether I use a notebook, and the answer is no. I think a writer's notebook is the best way there is to immortalize really bad ideas, whereas the Darwinian process takes place if you don't write anything down. The bad ones float away, and the good ones stay." (Stephen King, quoted in "What's on Stephen King's Dark Side?" by Brian Truitt. USA Weekend , October 29-31, 2010)

Are Journal-Keepers Introspective or Self-Absorbed?

"Some people like to keep a journal. Some people think it’s a bad idea.

"People who keep a journal often see it as part of the process of self-understanding and personal growth. They don’t want insights and events to slip through their minds. They think with their fingers and have to write to process experiences and become aware of their feelings.

"People who oppose journal-keeping fear it contributes to self-absorption and narcissism. C.S. Lewis, who kept a journal at times, feared that it just aggravated sadness and reinforced neurosis. Gen. George Marshall did not keep a diary during World War II because he thought it would lead to 'self-deception or hesitation in reaching decisions.'

"The question is: How do you succeed in being introspective without being self-absorbed?" (David Brooks, "Introspective or Narcissistic?" The New York Times , August 7, 2014)

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Journal Assignments


You are expected to submit personal journal entries throughout the semester documenting the work you've completed and the learning that's occurred through your internship/project experience.  You can see more about what content is expected in each journal entry assignment.

Why Journaling?

First, let's clarify, your journal is not a "diary; it is not merely a log of what you did each week. While we want you to have a record of what you accomplished this semester, this exercise is meant to be so much more! We want you to do some profound thinking and execute higher level reflection. What this means is that the journaling prompts are not provided for you so that you can fill in the blanks, check off an assignment, and move on. You're far enough along in your educational journey now, that you should be experiencing some deeper learning and connecting your coursework to your life outside the classroom. The prompts are provided to help guide you to digest what has happened, analyze and process the learning that is occurring, and then share it with the world. When you're looking for a job and the interviewer says, "I see you did an internship, tell me about that", these prompts are designed so that you can say more than "It was great! I learned a lot." You need to not only be able to recount your job duties, but it'd be advantageous for you to be able to say how you developed as a person. The prompts provided were developed to help you think through how you're developing now, as it's happening.  

In addition to helping you process the learning and the experience, the online journal will provide a record of what you encountered! Additionally, your journal can serve as a product that you can use to demonstrate to future employers and academics your accomplishments, approach to work, and ability to communicate. You may also find the contents to be a useful reference for future projects and research.

Journal Requirements

Students are expected to set up a blog site to journal about the internship experience. You can use to set up a personal blog space, or you can choose another blogging site. If you would like to use the Penn State Sites, first you need to Activate Penn State Personal Webspace , and then you can create a blog at .

Grading and Submission

In addition to addressing the individual prompts provided for each journal entry, they should always also include the following information (as applicable):

  • Summary of weekly events, providing details regarding your role and responsibilities.
  • Personal learning objectives:  Review the objectives you wrote in your first journal entry. Evaluate if and how your internship work this week is helping you (or not) achieve each objective. 
  • Summary: What did you enjoy doing this week; what responsibilities did you dislike? What did you do well? What do you need to work on? Are you learning anything new? Are you growing your skill set? Your confidence? Are there assumptions you've made in the past that are being challenged by your current experiences?
  • Challenges: What responsibilities were challenging to complete? What are some of the roadblocks you encountered this week? How did that affect your ability to do your job? What areas do you need to learn more about in order to do this job more confidently?
  • Discuss ideas or theories related to your experiences/observations: How does what you've seen/experienced connect to what you already knew? What was surprising, and why? Have you drawn any new conclusions? How does what you've seen/experienced connect with material you've learned in your coursework?
  • Photos, links, pdfs, and any artifacts that help make your journal more visually appealing and will serve as examples of your work that may be of interest to potential employers. Be sure to state your role in creating or using the artifact. If the artifact is the result of a major project you were involved in, reflect on the creation process, quality and utility of artifacts. (e.g. If you created a flyer for an event, was it effective in recruiting attendees?). Include complete annotations for each artifact including date, description, purpose, intended audience, and your role in creating or using the artifact. 

Each Journal will be graded out of 40 Points.

A detailed rubric is available to you on the Dropbox pages in Canvas. Below is a summary of how you can earn full credit. Your journal post must:

  • be submitted on time  - no late work is accepted and no "extra-credit" is provided;
  • adequately address the assignment prompts;
  • be cited properly (in-text and as a reference list), if appropriate. A link can be found on the Citation Styles page of the Resources menu in  Purdue's Online Writing Lab ; and
  • be well-written and largely free of any grammatical or other typographical errors;

What do we mean by "well-written?" Your submissions should always be a scholarly piece of polished work. Your post should demonstrate that you've not just simply typed it into the text editor box as you went, with little regard for organization, syntax, or spelling mistakes. It should be written with the tone and style that is appropriate for college coursework, not a text message. In summary, it should be work you'd be proud to share with a potential employer.


Submit the URL to the appropriate week's Journal Dropbox in Canvas by the date specified on the course calendar (unless you've established an alternative calendar of due dates with the instructor). Once your original draft is graded, if you earned less than a C, you will have the opportunity to edit your journal and resubmit for a higher grade.

For the journal entries themselves, please provide as much detail as you can without compromising any proprietary or private information. It is expected that if you adequately address the requirements as outlined, your post will be 800+ words in length. Please refer to the syllabus and grading rubric (in Canvas) for further information regarding the level of effort that is expected for your journal. In short, it should be a formal, polished product that you would be proud to hand over to a potential employer as an exhibit of your abilities and experiences. The prompts should be addressed in paragraph-form responses and the reader should be able to understand the prompts you're addressing without you repeating the prompt itself; meaning, provide context. If you can't address the prompt perfectly because your internship project/work situation isn't exactly applicable, use the prompt as a guide to think about what is relevant and what information you can include that a potential employer may find interesting! Don't be afraid to brag about what you've accomplished, ways you've grown, challenges you've tackled, etc.

Journal Assignment Collaboration with Shaffer and Barrows   For...

Journal Assignment

Collaboration with Shaffer and Barrows

For the ending of the novel  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society , pages 250 to the end, add a character to the story.

1) Contextualize the addition of this character. In a paragraph, give the character a name,

and specify where this character would appear (page number) and the purpose of including this character.

2) Help create a letter from your invented character to another actual character in the novel.

Everything (language, plot details, etc.) should be in keeping with the original work.

Don't change the ending with any outrageous "plot twists," etc. Use letter form, as

modeled by the other letters in the novel.

Your letter should be at least half a page in length. (Alternatively, you could write a

slightly shorter letter and then have one of the characters respond to your character or

write a letter mentioning your invented character. This alternative possibility should also 

be at least half a page in length.)

Answer & Explanation

The character introduced in this section of the novel is named Fitzwilliam Hill. He is a British soldier who appears on page 252, when Juliet is reflecting on the war and the lives that have changed due to it. Fitzwilliam is a kind and gentle man who has seen the horrors of war and wants to do something to help. He joins the Society in hopes of helping to preserve the island's culture and to provide some solace to those who are struggling. He is a strong believer in the power of literature and he uses his writing to express his emotions and his observations of the war. His presence in the novel serves as a reminder of the importance of literature in times of despair, and the hope that can come from it.

Dear Dawsey,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits. I am writing to you to thank you for the wonderful hospitality I have been given since arriving on Guernsey. I have been so touched by the kindness and generosity of the people here, and I feel so fortunate to have been welcomed into the Society with such open arms.

I am a British soldier, and I have seen the horrors of war first-hand. I came to Guernsey hoping to find a place of solace, and I have found much more than that. I have found a true home here, and a community of people that I can rely on and trust.

The Society has changed my life in so many ways. It has reminded me of the power of literature and the importance of sharing stories and ideas. It has also reminded me of the power of friendship and of the importance of looking after one another.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing group of people. I will never forget the warmth and friendship I have experienced here.

Yours Sincerely,

Fitzwilliam Hill

The character of Fitzwilliam Hill was introduced in the ending of the novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. He is a British soldier who has seen the horrors of war and has come to Guernsey in search of solace. He is a kind and gentle man, and he hopes to help preserve the island's culture and provide solace to those in need. He is a strong believer in the power of literature and uses his writing to express his emotions and observations of the war. Fitzwilliam serves as a reminder of the importance of literature in times of despair, and of the hope that can come from it. His presence in the novel is a powerful reminder of the importance of friendship, connection, and the power of stories.

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What does designated for assignment mean in MLB? What to know about Nick Ahmed

what is journal assignment

The Arizona Diamondbacks designated Nick Ahmed for assignment after Wednesday’s 12-5 win over the Colorado Rockies .

Ahmed, the longest-tenured player in franchise history — his debut with the Diamondbacks was on June 29, 2014 — was a two-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop. This season, he was hitting just .212 and had committed 8 errors in only 65 games.

What's next for Ahmed and the Diamondbacks?

Here's a look at the designated for assignment process and what it means for Ahmed and his MLB team.

What does designated for assignment (DFA) mean in baseball?

This is how the glossary  explains the process: "When a player's contract is designated for assignment — often abbreviated "DFA" — that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster. Within seven days of the transaction (had been 10 days under the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement), the player can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers."

What happens if a player is claimed off waivers by another MLB team?

Again, we refer to the glossary: "If the player is claimed off said waivers by another club, he is immediately added to that team's 40-man roster, at which point he can be optioned to the Minor Leagues (if he has Minor League options remaining) or assigned to his new team's 26-man roster. If the player clears waivers, he may be sent outright to the Minor Leagues or released. Players with more than three years of Major League service time or who have been previously outrighted may reject the outright assignment in favor of free agency. Clubs may utilize this option to clear a spot on the 40-man roster — typically with the intention of adding a newly acquired player (via trade or free agency), a Minor Leaguer or a player being activated from the 60-day injured list."

What to know about Nick Ahmed's DFA?

The Diamondbacks' decision to designate Ahmed for assignment is fairly routine when a team is looking to remove an underachieving veteran player from the 40-man roster. These types of players are not part of the franchise's future plans, so they would not be candidates to option to the minor leagues. Also, since the trading deadline passed in August, using waivers is the only option available for a player to move to another team.

As Arizona Republic Diamondbacks insider Nick Piecoro reported, Ahmed was not the same player, offensively or defensively , since diving for a ball during an exhibition in July 2020 while preparing for the start of the pandemic-shortened season. Since the team was likely to give top prospect Jordan Lawlar a shot at the starting shortstop job next year, cutting ties with Ahmed was not that much of a surprise.

How much do the Diamondbacks owe Nick Ahmed?

Ahmed was playing on the final season of a four-year, $32.5 million contract. He was making $10.375 million this season, so the club still owes him about $1.4 million, per .

Assignation or assignment

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| Grammarist

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An assignment is a task given to a specific person or group to complete. It can also mean the act of assigning . In some legal fields it can refer to the transferring of ownership of property.

An assignation is the act of assigning or the actual assignment. But it also means a secret rendezvous for lovers, most especially for affairs or illicit relationships. Sometimes this is used to mean a secret meeting or a regularly set meeting, but it would be confusing in this sense to those who are familiar with the standard meaning (see the example below). As a mass noun it can refer to something as being owned or belonging to something else.

Examples The choice has not been made, but it appears the team is more likely to option Orlando to Omaha, rather than designate Dyson for assignment. [ The Kansas City Star ] According to a criminal complaint, Ms Dale, 21, told a detective that Ethan refused to complete the assignment for the first time on 24 February. [ International Business Times ] I vaguely remember seeing images of Delhiites being water-hosed by police while rioting for “Nirbhaya,” an assignation that means “Fearless One,” given to Pandey by the media as authorities would not release her name. [ Huffington Post ] The rare exceptions include a scene in which Shulem follows his wife to an assignation with Félix, slapping his romantic rival to the sidewalk like a petulant schoolboy. [ The Washington Post ] Over the past few months, RPG Enterprises chairman Harsh Goenka, has been having an assignation every other Friday for a few hours. [ India Times ]

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