“People who keep journals have life twice.” – Jessamyn West

Journaling is a fantastic way to express one’s personal thoughts, think through goals, ignite creativity and work out problems on paper. Writing in a journal enriches a person’s life emotionally and mentally.  As a teacher and academic writing tutor, I know journaling helps people develop as writers.

But, I haven’t analyzed how journaling helps students with academic writing.  Then author Janine De Tillio Cammarata wrote this post on how journaling can guide students through the process of writing a research paper.  I was thrilled by her idea.  I’m excited to share with you her post on journaling!

In this guest post by Janine De Tillio Cammarata, you’ll read her insights, on how journaling can benefit you.   Read and see how journal prompts will help you sift through research and write a strong focused academic paper.

Journaling for Research Papers—by Janine De Tillio Cammarata

Writing a research paper whether it’s for school or a work project can be daunting. It’s like being a detective. You have an idea of what you want to prove but aren’t sure if the information will support it.

I often let the research tell me its story. First, I gather all available research on the topic. I may have certain assumptions, but being open-minded is an important part of developing a strong thesis.

A friend of mine did years of research and recently wanted to put it in a format that could be used for a future project. She was overwhelmed by the amount of information she had gathered and wasn’t sure about how to put it together into a cohesive argument.

I asked her to write from some journal prompts without looking at the research or giving the questions too much thought. What comes up first is usually the best idea for what you have learned from the research. For the person who answered these questions, answering each prompt led to a better understanding for the next. When she finally answered the last one, she had her thesis statement and clear idea for her project.

I highly recommend using a physical journal and separating from the computer when answering these questions. It gives you space from your work and using a different tool opens your thoughts.

For any research paper/project, here are some journal prompts to get you on the right track for a strong thesis that will guide the rest of your paper:

  • Why did you take on this topic?
  • What was the purpose of your research?
  • What was the most impactful idea you found in your research? What stood out?
  • What do you want the reader to know and understand?
  • What have you learned that changed your personal viewpoint on this topic?
  • What do you know to be true about this topic?

    Journaling for Research Papers--Janine De Tillio Cammarata

    Janine and Zoey, her writing partner!

Answering these questions does two things. One it allows your mind to open and eliminate those initial research-writing jitters. If you are not familiar with writing research papers, it can be intimidating. Even if you have written many papers, a new topic always offers its own set of challenges.

Having these answers will clearly define what parts of your research you will use. A great deal of what we gather for research is not included in the paper. It’s like developing a character for a fiction book. I may not write about my character’s mother who suffered from schizophrenia, but I know this information affects my character’s life. It gives me an overall understanding of this person. The same goes for research. A writer may not add in every fact, but those facts keep you clear on what you are proving.

When the research paper takes a wrong turn, review those journal notes and stay on course.

Maintain daily journaling during your project to stay on top of any concerns you have about your paper. Writing it out is like talking to a friend. Sometimes all you need is for someone to listen.

No piece of writing is ever done on the first draft. Give yourself enough time to let your paper sit and write about how you feel it went. Then review your paper for grammar, punctuation, consistency of thought and relevance to your thesis.

Fall back to your journal if something isn’t flowing as you thought it would. Review your original journal prompt answers and edit as needed. When you are done, write down what worked and what didn’t. It will make the process easier for the next time.

Keeping a journal can help in every area of your life, and it will make every type of writing easier! For more information and for journal prompts, visit my website at www.janinedetilliocammarata.com


Janine De Tillio Cammarata graduated from the College of Saint Rose with her undergraduate and graduate degrees in English Literature. She wrote many research papers during that time! Janine teaches fiction writing as well as journal writing workshops for all ages. She is the author of three fantasy books and one non-fiction book about young adults battling cancer. She and her family live in Clifton Park, NY with their two rescue dogs, Zoey Shadow and Dakota Kenny.

Cover Photo by, Alysia Thomas