Writivity Essentials #2: Researching for the Reflective Journal (Pt 1)

Welcome CSEC Visual Arts teachers and students to the second installment of the Writivity Essentials series.  Writivity Essentials #1 introduced to you the structure and requirements of the Reflective Journal and now the two part article Writivity Essentials #2 will focus on how to carry out research that will lead to the completion of the Reflective Journal. 

Part One – Research and the Simple Research Process (SRP)

At the end of Part One, you should be able to: 

  • Define the term research and understand its relevance to visual arts 
  • Identify and understand the Simple Research Process (SRP)
  • Provide a definition of the term plagiarism

What is Research?

Research is a step-by-step process of finding information that is then used to solve a problem, or answer a complex question. The information discovered from your research is to be organised into a body of writing which you (the student) will then present as your Reflective Journal. Students may wonder what the connection between research and Visual Arts may be? One way to identify such a connection is to consider the work of the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ). 

The NGJ is a museum and professional research institution that is mandated to collect, document, preserve and promote Jamaican and other Caribbean Art as well as promote our artistic heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. The NGJ considers it important to conduct visual arts research because it provides the basis to analyse artworks in relation to wider social, cultural, political, and historical phenomena. Conducting visual arts research is the gateway to understanding an artwork or developing an idea. Ultimately, doing visual arts research for your Reflective Journal will deepen your understanding of the theory, techniques, artists, and themes specific to the Expressive Forms that you will explore. 

Identifying and Understanding the Simple Research Process (SRP) 

In any subject area or field of inquiry, you can use as few as five (5) steps or as many as 12 steps to complete research. As a CSEC Visual Arts candidate, it recommended that you use what is known as the Simple Research Process (SRP). This is a research approach that can be customized to consist of five simple steps that will aid you to answer your research question(s) or solve your problem statement(s). These steps are described below:

  • Step 1
    Identify the major research question(s) to be answered, or problem statement(s) to be solved in order to complete your research. In some instances, you may have to identify both research question(s) and problem statement(s) to complete your research.
  • Step 2
    Find and list only sources of information which can assist you to answer your research question(s) and or solve your problem statement(s).
  • Step 3
    After you have listed all the relevant sources that will assist in addressing your research question(s) or problem statement(s), document only the information from the sources which can assist you to answer your research question(s) and or solve your research problem statement(s).
  • Step 4
    Examine the information collected, so that you can confirm that:
    1. The information you have collected is accurate.
    2. The information you have collected will answer your research question(s) and or problem statement(s).
  • Step 5
    Use all accurate information which you have collected to answer your research questions and or solve your research problem(s), once that is done, incorporate answer(s) into the structure or the organization of your research paper. 

After you have completed each step, we recommend that you consult with your visual arts teacher to 

find out if the information sources that you are using are appropriate and credible. Additionally, you must ensure that the information you are collecting is addressing the research question and or research. 


As you are using information from the sources you have found for your Reflective Journal, you must also avoid using another person’s ideas, concepts, words or writing without acknowledging the originator; this is called plagiarism. The act of plagiarising carries serious legal and ethical violations. In fact, the CSEC visual Arts syllabus has outlined that: 

Plagiarism will not be accepted. Students must ensure all direct quotes are fully documented and that sources of material, intellectual property, and original ideas other than the students’ own are properly acknowledged. Where students are found to have plagiarised materials, they will be automatically disqualified from the examination (pg. 20). 

How can I prevent plagiarism?

It is important for you (the student) to properly reference the sources that you have collected information from as you continue to research for your Reflective Journal. To avoid plagiarism one must give credit when one uses:

  • another person’s idea, opinion, or theory;
  • any facts, statistics, graphs, drawings—any pieces of information—that are not common knowledge;
  • quotations of another person’s actual spoken or written words; or
  • paraphrase of another person’s spoken or written words.

(Source: Extracted from “Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It” from Writing Tutorial Services at Indiana University). 

How do I cite the information that I have collected?

There are many ways to reference the platforms that you have gathered information from; however, there are certain pieces of information that one may consider universal in citing a source such as: Name of author, date of publication, title of source (articles, magazines, books, catalogues, video etc), page number and publisher 2

What are examples of plagiarism? 

  • Copying the words of others, whether from a source or another student.
  • Putting your name on a paper written by someone else.
  • Purchasing or downloading a paper from the Internet and turning it in.
  • Paraphrasing (rewriting in your own words) a source and not documenting it.
  • Not using quotations marks properly when using material from another source.

(Source: Extracted from: Source: Taken from “Preventing Plagiarism: A Guide for Students” from the Staley Library at Millikin University)

We recommend that you discuss with your teacher the most appropriate referencing style for you. 

Next, Part Two of this article will focus on “Applying the Simple Research Process to the Reflective Journal”.

1For further information on how to construct a research question or a problem statement, please visit The Writing Lab via this link: https://writingcenter.gmu.edu/guides/how-to-write-a-research-question. Additionally, please explore Modesto Junior College Library and Learning Centre website for examples of specific question relating to visual arts research: https://libguides.mjc.edu/c.php?g=255710&p=1706181

 2For further information on appropriate citation styles, please visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab website for widely used citation styles: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_ 17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/chicago_manual_of_style_17th_edition.html

Citation Styles: 
Modern Language Association (MLA)
American Psychological Association (APA)


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