5.3 Reflecting on one’s own and others’ writing, thinking, and creative processes

4 min readjanuary 9, 2023

Minna Chow

Minna Chow

AP Research 🔍

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Welcome to the very last guide for AP Research! In this guide, we’ll be covering some good skills for this class and your future academic career, if you choose to go down that path. This final guide is about self-reflection and peer review.
Self-reflection is a skill you’ll be tested on: the questions you’ll be asked in your Oral Defense ask you to self-reflect on your research and research choices. While you don’t have to do a peer review for your final research grade, your teacher may ask you to do a peer-review in class.
Let’s get started with self-reflection.


Self-reflection is the process of thinking critically about something you’ve done. You’re not only reminiscing on the past but also asking yourself: Is there anything I’d like to change, going forward? 
The self-reflection process should ideally be happening throughout the research process. 
While you’re doing your research, you should understand the reasoning behind all your decisions, from choosing the topic you’ve decided to study to choosing the method of presenting your information at the very end. In order to articulate these decisions, you may need to do some self-reflection. 
Furthermore, self-reflection is most effective when it’s ongoing because the more you self-reflect, the more potential improvements you can make based on that reflection. 
Let’s first discuss ways to self-reflect, then aspects of the research process to self-reflect about. 

Ways to Self-Reflect

The most efficient way to self-reflect is by writing down answers to the Oral Exam questions. However, a lot of the questions are only answerable at the end of the research process. Ideally, you want to be reflecting throughout. What are some other methods we can use? 
  • Journal Writing: Keeping a journal of your research process weekly or daily is a very good way to not only keep track of what you’re doing, but also record your rationale and decisions. (Parts of your research journal can even work as parts of your research paper!) 
  • Self-Questioning: This can include asking yourself “why” as or after you make research decisions.
  • Drawing: Some people like using visual methods to guide their thinking. 
  • Guided Contemplation: This can include answering self-reflection prompts or participating in in-class discussions about your research process. 
Keep in mind that it’s possible to combine two or more of these methods. For example, you can self-question as you journal. 
Now that you have some methods in your pocket, let’s move on to aspects of the research process to self-reflect about.

Self-Reflection Topics

Everything. The end!
On a more serious note, it’s possible to self-reflect on every aspect of the research process, from your writing method to your work ethic to your relationship with your AP Research mentors… However, you may find it most helpful to focus on the areas the Oral Report Questions want to discuss. 
Generally speaking, though, here are some good areas to target: 
  • Research process: How did your research process — mistakes and missteps included — change you as a researcher and shape your understanding of your topic? 
  • Research findings: How did you get to these results? How do you feel about these results? Where do you think these results could go? Do you think you could have gotten “better” results if you’d done something different during the process?

Peer Review

Peer Review, the bane of many an AP Research student! Peer reviews often feel like a waste of time. However, if you take the process seriously it can be helpful for you and your paper (and if your reviewers take it seriously it will be even more so!) 
Firstly, reviewing the work of others is a good way to strengthen your own critical senses. Working with a paper different from the one you’ve been typing away on for months might show you new ways of expressing yourself or gaps in your paper that you didn’t notice before. The act of explaining to your reviewee why you have a certain opinion can also help clarify your own understanding of how to revise a paper. 

Tips for Reviewing

Here are some tips for making the peer review as painless as possible: 
  • Prefacing negative or critical comments with “I feel”, or with positive compliments, can make them easier to take and easier for you to write. 
  • If you can, ask the reviewee what type of review they’re looking for (grammatical? Structural?) This can help make the process more fruitful for you both. 
  • Peer reviews should be based on guidelines that will make the reviews helpful for everyone involved. For example, if you’re doing an in-class peer review, you’ll most likely get a peer review sheet to fill out that will have guiding questions for you to answer. Use these questions to help guide your thinking as you read.
In the academic world, scholars are constantly getting or giving peer reviews. It’s a critical part of the publication process for generally all disciplines. Getting and giving helpful, proper feedback makes everyone’s work better. 
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