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)

Writivity Essentials #1: About the Reflective Journal

Welcome CSEC Visual Arts Students and Teachers. In this article, we will be: 

  • Introducing the CSEC Visual Arts Reflective Journal. 
  • Discussing the importance of journaling for visual artists.
  • Highlighting some of the requirements for the CSEC Visual Arts Reflective Journal.
  • Introducing selected online information sources that can assist students in developing the Journal.

The Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Visual Arts Reflective Journal is a body of work reflecting the student’s exposure to the theory, process and practice of Visual Arts with special reference to the Expressive Forms studied1. It was implemented for CSEC Visual Arts as part of the examination grading process. The Journals provide evidence to teachers and examiners of how the students developed their artworks for the School Based Assessment (SBA) and can be a useful tool for students to monitor their own development as young artists. As a CSEC Visual Arts student, your journal allows you to intimately engage with your artistic progression and reflect on the influences of other artists on your artworks. 

What is the importance of Journaling in Visual Arts?

Journaling is one type of documentation that is used by professional visual artists and has been an important part of their various creative processes. Artist journals are extremely valuable to art researchers who study them as a way to gain deeper understandings of the way visual artists think, process the things they are influenced by, as well as to form and present opinions about the world they live in through imagery. Jamaican artists such as Barrington Watson, Edna Manley and Milton George like other local and international artists have, throughout their careers, dedicated scrapbooks and notebooks to documenting their artistic process. These types of journals explored ideas, through sketches, collected cut-outs and other kinds of samples to help bring their final works of art to existence. 

They have used journaling to:

  • Write about and make experimental drawings 
  • Collect other images that allowed them to explore options in the use of the elements and principles of art 

Requirement Highlights for the CSEC Visual Arts Journal

Through the CSEC Reflective Journal, you (the student) can demonstrate your understanding of the theory, process and practice of Visual Arts through the Expressive Forms that you have chosen. Similar to professional artists, an important part of the journaling process for you is to include examples of photographs, samples, interviews, critiques, descriptive and personal statements in your Reflective Journal. Your Reflective Journal must be presented in a booklet no smaller than 21cm x 30cm and no larger than 30cm x 40cm. It should also contain approximately 1000 words. Your journaling process should reflect your:

  • Conceptualization (brainstorming, noting and sketching ideas for your project),
  • Research (be sure to record all your sources) 
  • Documentation (ensure that your materials are properly organized and labeled). 

At the end of the process, your Reflective Journal must have the following sections as outlined by the CSEC Visual Arts Syllabus (effective from May/June 2011). These sections include:  

  1. A Title.
  2. A Brief Statement outlining reasons for selecting the Expressive Form.
  3. A definition of terms and concepts used in the Journal.
  4. Illustrations, drawings, photographs, maps, digital documentations or any other supportive visual materials relevant to the Expressive Form. Images should be properly labeled with titles as well as other information where relevant (artist or craftsperson, date, materials, dimensions, location).
  5. Background information related to the Expressive Forms – historical or cultural information as it relates to the period, group, country and region.
  6. Student’s analysis of the object, artwork, design, artist/craftsperson, place or materials in terms of style, content, influences, form and function; interpretation, evaluation referencing specific examples.
  7. Preparation and process.
  8. Use of material – traditional, contemporary or experimental.
  9. The student’s own experience in the use of particular materials and process.
  10. Student’s artistic statement and reflection connecting the research to their own art work.
  11. Bibliography.

As you develop your Reflective Journal, it is important to ask yourself these questions:

  • How is my idea important to the Expressive Form I selected?
  • Why did I select this particular Expressive Form?
  • What background information is available on this expressive form?
  • Are there other artworks that are similar to what I am doing that I can reference and if so, where can I find them?
  • Which Visual Artist can I use as reference?
  • What materials are most appropriate to produce my artwork?
  • How will I record my step-by-step approach to producing this artwork?
  • What will I use to record my process? 

Be reminded that as you complete your Reflective Journal, it is important for you as the artist to make notes on your challenges, successes and overall experience of the process.

Additional Online Resources

For further information on developing CSEC Visual Arts Reflective Journal, we recommend that you check out the list below for some materials published by Visual Arts teachers and students who have already done the reflective journal project:

  All the best! 

 1Quote taken from the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate Visual Arts Syllabus, effective from May/June 2011, page 18.

NGJ Art-Ed Support, Phase One: Writivity Essentials

The social responsibilities of public museums are not limited to pursuits specific to a field of study. It is our belief that public museums such as the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) and its parent organization the Institute of Jamaica, can make meaningful contributions towards social and professional development, even in this time of crisis – the COVID-19 virus pandemic. It is with this in mind that the NGJ is pleased to launch the Art-Ed Support project, a series of art educational initiatives that will be delivered online using the NGJ’s current social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and this blog. Since the temporary closure of cultural entities to the public on March 14, 2020, as a result of the current health crisis in Jamaica, the NGJ has been working assiduously to optimize the institution’s social media facilitations in order to continue the engagement of our online audience groups as well as to invite new users. Writivity Essentials – a spin-off from the Education Department’s innovative writing workshop series WRITIVITYwill be the first initiative of Art-Ed Support.

Teens at Writivity (2016)

Art-Ed Support specifically aims to provide informational resources for a variety of scholastic and academic activities associated with the study and application of visual arts, especially concerning Jamaican artists and their creations. Developed for students, educators, and researchers from early childhood to tertiary levels, Art-Ed Support was conceptualized by referencing years of development in museum educational programming at the NGJ. The content of Art-Ed Support will be in the form of text documents, images and audio-visuals. As it is currently unclear when the COVID-19 health crisis will be stabilized in Jamaica and the rest of the world, the Education Department is prepared to continue the activities of this project as a long-term endeavour. This will also include the development of new, interesting, and relevant engagements. 

Writivity Essentials: Journaling for CSEC Visual Arts

Writivity Essentials will cover three topic areas critical to the development of the CSEC Visual Arts Reflective Journal, a research document and examination requirement for CSEC Visual Arts students and candidates. The topic areas are as follows:

We encourage you to keep up with us by subscribing to all our platforms on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. Be sure to also activate the notification features so you will always be in the know when it comes to the NGJ.

Announcing the 4th Edition of WRITIVITY

The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) is pleased to announce the staging of the fourth edition of its educational workshop, WRITIVITY, which begins on Monday, August 13 and will continue until Friday, August 17, 2018. Inaugurated in 2015, the WRITIVITY workshop is designed for Grade 10 – 11 students, who are preparing to sit Visual Arts examinations for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC). The workshop is coordinated by NGJ’s Education Department and forms part of the gallery’s summer educational programming. The main goal of WRITIVITY is to assist students with the development of their visual arts reflective journal, which is a key component of CSEC’s School Based Assessment (SBA) submission. By participating in this programme, students will be taught how to properly prepare entries for the journal, analyze art pieces and conduct art related research, within sessions that utilize the NGJ’s art collection and document resources.

Registration for the WRITIVITY programme is free and there is also limited space for participants, as such interested persons should make contact with the National Gallery’s Education Department as soon as is possible via the following telephone numbers: 876 922 – 1561/3 (Lime landline), or 876 618 – 0654/ 5 (Digicel fixed line).

All activities for WRITIVITY will be held at the National Gallery of Jamaica from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

A link to the WRITIVITY Time Table can be accessed here.

Panel Discussion “Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation” On Thursday March 29 @ 1:30 pm

On Thursday, March 29, 2018, the National Gallery of Jamaica will be hosting a panel discussion entitled Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation at 1:30 pm. This event will function as a reflection on our most recent exhibitions Explorations V: Portraits in Dialogue and Explorations VI: Engaging Abstraction, which ran from December 19, 2017 to March 25, 2018. The discussion will be moderated by independent writer and curator Nicole Smythe-Johnson and will feature Senior Curator O’Neil Lawrence and Assistant Curator, Monique Barnett-Davidson, curators of the latest installments in the National Gallery’s Explorations exhibition series which was initiated in 2013.

Portraits in Dialogue examined the significance and conflicted politics of artistic portraiture in the development of Jamaican art from the 18th century to the present, looking at issues such as race, class, gender, as well as the ideas about art and the artist that are reflected in the portrait. Engaging Abstraction examined abstraction as a modern image making approach that deviates from the more literal and popularized representational choices practiced by artists from Jamaica, the Caribbean and its Diaspora. The significant impact of abstraction on Jamaican and Caribbean art can seen in our collection which features numerous works of art that qualify as abstract, or at least as abstracted.

The exhibitions presented the foundations of two distinct yet dominant groups of representational choices practiced by artists, choices that can still be observed in contemporary artwork. Whether treated as separate disciplines or hybridized through a plethora of media, contemporary artists essentially make one of the two choices to explore an immense diversity of subject matter which include the social, the corporeal or the philosophical. The curators of the National Gallery of Jamaica have reflected upon these concepts and ideas throughout some of its most recent and successful exhibitions and felt that the next edition of the Explorations series should explore these trends as historical continuities that are evidenced in our national collection.

The public forum Portraits and Abstraction: A Conversation is free and open to the public. Brochures for the exhibitions will be on sale in the National Gallery Gift Shop.


As part of our programming for Black History Month, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) will be hosting a special event on Saturday February 17, 2018, at 1:30 pm entitled 21ST Century Kapo. Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds is considered to be Jamaica’s foremost Intuitive artists; and the newly reinstalled gallery features a selection of sculptures and paintings from the Larry Wirth Collection, the John Pringle Collection and the Aaron and the Marjorie Matalon Collection. The works in these galleries showcase the broad subject matter and iconography that Kapo explored and highlight the cultural significance of this artist.

The Kapo Gallery – which is one of only two NGJ galleries that are dedicated to single artists – was reopened on January 28 after being closed for almost a year; 21st Century Kapo will give the public an opportunity to learn more about this artist and engage in a discussion of his legacy and relevance to Jamaicans today.

21ST Century Kapo will feature a special screening of the archival film, Kapo the Artist, which first aired on BBC TWO in 1986. In it Kapo speaks about his life and work as an artist and Revivalist leader, it features commentary by Dr. David Boxer, Professor Rex Nettleford and Ambassador Dudley Thompson among others. The screening will be followed by a short, candid discussion between Dr. Clinton Hutton, Professor of Caribbean Political Philosophy, Culture and Aesthetics (University of the West Indies, Mona) and NGJ Senior Curator, O’Neil Lawrence.

Attendance to 21ST Century Kapo is free of cost and is open to the public. Visitors are being encouraged to view the newly reinstalled galleries prior to the beginning of the discussion.