Keeping Internship Journals

With thanks to Guillermo Delgado [pdf]

Why Keep a Journal?

  1. To RECORD your experience and save it if you forget the crucial details.
  2. To REFLECT on your experience and its connections with your life, learning, and your decisions for action.
  3. To ANALYZE your experience and its interactions with coursework and theory in your field(s) of study.

Taking the time to sit down and write about your activities, insights, and feelings is an important part of your internship. Journal writing provides an opportunity to record observations about your experience, your readings, and your discussions with your field supervisor, faculty sponsor, and internship coordinator. It challenges you to think critically about your work and draw meaning from it. Journals are an excellent way to improve and document your active, conscious reflections on your internship experience.

Your journal serves as a vehicle to tie all the pieces of the internship together as well as a documentation of what has been learned. There's no point to writing something down merely because it occurred; you write it down because it is in some way relevant. Rereading it can provide insights and understandings that serve as a foundation for both your final evaluative report and your further academic work.

How to Keep a Journal

Set aside a scheduled time each day to write. It doesn't work to leave it for several days and then try to catch up. Let your entries reflect what you are learning--about yourself and about the internship. Record thoughts, questions, and critical incidents; leave out rambling descriptive-style entries that tell what you ate for breakfast, how you got to your placement site, who was there, and those very personal entries about yourself and the people with whom you are interacting that belong in a diary rather than an internship journal.

There are several ways to keep a good journal. Below are three techniques that you may find useful. Feel free to combine them, switch from one to another, or develop your own.

Observing and Analyzing: Informal Journal Keeping

  1. If you feel that you have a lot to say, then simply write. This is your space to record major events, questions, discoveries, and feelings about your internship, as well as keep a factual record of any information you might want to record. Don't spend the whole entry describing your day, though. Note the parts that were important to you, and then move on to your analysis of the situations and questions that you described.
  2. Reflect on and analyze topics that concern you, and which will help you to clarify your goals, process the experience, and write your final paper.

Questioning Techniques

  1. One useful technique to keep yourself actively involved in your experience and to develop topics to write about is to respond to questions. Questions about agency organization, relation of internship work to academics, power flows, ethical issues, and your own learning are all excellent for thinking about yourself and your internship.

The idea is to participate and observe, to consciously examine aspects of your internship that you otherwise might ignore. Listed below are some questions that may help you in this process. Feel free to develop your own, as well.

  1.  What was the most important thing I learned today?
  2. What critical issues surfaced that I want to think more about?
  3. What did I observe about how the agency's philosophy affects the way people do their jobs?
  4. What did I do when I needed help?
  5. What facts or terms do I want to remember?
  6. How did today's work connect with my academic studies and my future plans?
  7. What attempt did I make to link my studies to my work? What opportunities did I miss?
  8. What moral and ethical questions did I face or ignore?
  9. What human relations problems occurred? Could I have done anything to improve them?
  10. Did I hear any opinions or interpretations that differ from my own?
  11. What did I learn today about the impact my agency has on the local community?
  12. How would I change this day if I tried it again tomorrow?
  13. What goals have I set for tomorrow? Next week?

Try closing your journal entry each day with the one or two questions that are foremost in your mind (you don't need to answer these questions).

 Think of an internship as an opportunity not only to explore professional possibilities beyond school, but also as a chance to do fieldwork.