Observation Journal

  • We recommend you keep your journal in an 8 x 11 "composition" notebook, unlined paper.
  • Be sure to date all entries as you write them.
  • Do not skip pages.
  • Prepare Table of Contents.

What is it?

  • An academic journal is a place for self-examination, speculation, and discussion of ideas—your own and those of others. It is an opportunity for dialogue with yourself. Your academic journal should be focused toward this  course.
  • Use the journal to record responses to reading  and preparation for class discussions. Make summaries or analyze some specific texts. Try making connections between the ideas from class/readings and related experiences.
  • The point of keeping a journal in a college course is to find a way to engage the subject matter of the course over the progress of the semester—in essence, to build on your own encounters with subject matter over an extended period of time.

What and when to write

  • You should write on a regular basis (at least once a week) and as preparation for class discussions.
  • Some topics till be assigned -- particularly in relation to the field trips or alternative research activities.  Field observations should be clearly labeled with the date, the location, and the focus of the observation.

  • Include your species list in this journal -- including common name, scientific name, location of observation, date of observation.

  • Occasionally, you may want to continue class discussion in the journal. Be ambitious! Ponder thoughtfully; then write.

  • You may include sketches, photos, interviews, etc.

Writing style

  • We will be concerned with your ability to explain and present your ideas rather than with the formality or technical precision of your writing.
  • Entries should be legible (at minimum)
  • Develop your thoughts as fully as possible.


  • Entries will be evaluated for their quality of communication.
  • If you deal regularly and effectively with the materials for class in the journal (including the assigned topics), you will receive a B on the journal. If entries show strong evidence of grappling with issues, of a quest for understanding, and/or of effort to develop and support views, you will receive an A on the journal.
  • Journals will be collected and evaluated thrice in the semester.
    • Completeness on an ongoing basis
    • Quality of presentation
    • Depth of observation and insight
    • Evidence of reflection on class topics