John Suler's Teaching Clinical Psychology


Over they years I've created a variety of formats for students to write about their independent study research projects. The following handout was designed for projects involving almost any kind of research method or topic. This type of journal is an "old school" approach in which the researcher records, on a daily basis, the variety of ideas, findings, questions, and experiences that arise during the project. It is based on the premise that the subjective aspects of one's thinking. feeling, and lifestyle all affect the process and outcome of the research.

The Journal for Independent Study and Research Projects

research journals

EVERYDAY during your project you will write in your journal. For some entries you may simply be summarizing what you did for the project that day. But the journal involves much more than that! You should also use it as a place to:

- Ask yourself questions about the project
- Work out ideas and record your insights
- Think about what you are reading
- Plan for the next day and week
- Express your feelings about the project
- Record ideas for writing the final paper


1. Get a looseleaf binder - the kind where you can add and remove pages. Get the small, portable size, not the big kind that students usually use for classes. Another possibility is to create a computer word file for recording your journal entries.

2. For each entry, at the top of the page record the day, date, and time. Also put a heading at the top of the page.

3. Number all the pages consecutively.

4. At the beginning of the journal, keep a table of contents. This table will be a list of all the entry headings and their corresponding page number.

5. Always bring your journal to our meetings.

6. Fasten this handout to the inside of your journal.


You must write in the journal every day. Long entries may be several pages. Short entries may be as brief as half a page. Write even if you did not work on the project that particular day. You may still have ideas, plans, or feelings about the project!

Even if you have no idea what to write, still write! Write about why you had no ideas that particular day, how you felt about that, what you might do to get some ideas, etc. If you have to, simply write "I don't know what to write" over and over again until something, anything comes to you. I mean it!

If you're stuck or if the spirit moves you, you may even write about things that are unrelated to the project - for example, what you did that day, positive or negative things that happened to you, etc. These things might be influencing your project in important ways.


Listed below are some examples of headings that might appear in your journal. The ones with an asterisk (*) are important, and should appear in your journal at regular intervals:

* Meeting with Dr. Suler
* After Meeting with Dr. Suler
* What I Want to Accomplish Tomorrow
Didn't Understand Smith (1987)
I Did It!
* In the Library
Almost Finished ...
My First Subject
* Reactions to Jone's (1976) article
* Something I Have to Ask Dr. Suler
I Hate This Project!
Feeling Enthusiastic!
* An Idea for the Final Paper
* An Insight into ...
Dr. Suler is a Pain in the Ass
Why I Forgot to Write in the Journal Yesterday
Started the Final Paper
Feeling Overwhelmed!
Talked to My Mom about This Project
* My Summary of Wright's (1989) article

REMEMBER: Many of these headings are just examples. Your headings may be more specifically related to your topic. For example, "Gave the Rorschach Today," "An Idea about Mental Imagery," or "My Reaction to Freud's Theory of Repression."


Your journal will count towards your final grade. I will read it several times during the project. You may remove personal entries, if you wish. I will not be grading you on the quality of your ideas and insights, or on what you write that is personal.

I ONLY will be evaluating your journal based on two things:
(1) how complete it is;
(2) whether you showed "good faith" (conscientiousness) in how you used it.

This journal is yours! It is a professional record of your ideas for your project. As such, it will be invaluable for writing your final paper.

But it is also a personal record of your project. As such, be as creative as you wish!

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