HERG Undergraduate Reflective Essay Prize 2015 – Call for Submissions

Higher Education Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society – with Institute of British Geographers

Undergraduate Reflective Essay Prize 2015

Call for Submissions

The Higher Education Research Group (HERG) invites submissions for a new competition – the annual Undergraduate Reflective Essay – in association with the 2015 RGS-IBG Annual International conference.

The reflective essay should offer a personal answer to the question:

To what extent is undergraduate geography fieldwork effective at enhancing learning?

To help you with your thinking, the RGS-IBG notes on its website that the benefits of fieldwork include:

  • Seeing geography and theories come to life: improving your knowledge of geography and understanding
  • Developing your skills: giving you a chance to learn skills in data collection and analysis, map work, observational and investigative skills, computer and technology skills, communication and mathematical skills
  • Appreciating environments: giving you a chance to experience and enjoy a wide range of environments and landscapes
  • Opinions and views: it helps you to understand other peoples and cultures, and your own views about social, political or environmental issues
  • Taking responsibility for your learning, gaining confidence and develop your skills: such as leadership and teamwork
  • It is enjoyable


You might consider local, national and international fieldwork, and you might describe a range of encounters in the field with academic staff and fellow students.

Reflective writing is evidence of reflective thinking. In an academic context, reflective thinking usually involves:

  1. Looking back at something (often an event, i.e. something that happened, but it could also be an idea).
  2. Analysing the event or idea (thinking in depth and from different perspectives, and trying to explain, often with reference to a model or theory from your subject).
  3. Thinking carefully about what the event or idea means for you and your ongoing progress as a learner.

Reflection is an exploration and an explanation of events, not just a description of them:

• Reflective writing often involves ‘revealing’ anxieties, errors and weaknesses, as well as strengths and successes. This is fine, as long as you show some understanding of possible causes, and explain how you plan to improve.

• It is normally necessary to select just the most significant parts of the event or idea on which you’re reflecting. If you try to ‘tell the whole story’ you are likely to use up your words on description rather than interpretation.

• It is often useful to ‘reflect forward’ to the future as well as ‘reflecting back’ on the past.

(University of Portsmouth, undated)

The award for the winner of the competition will be free registration and £100 towards travel and accommodation to attend the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference in 2015 (to be held at the University of Exeter, 2-4 September 2015). The winning entry will be published on the HERG website and there will also be the opportunity to submit the essay for peer review and consequent publication (if accepted) in a Higher Education pedagogic journal such as Journal of Geography in Higher Education.

The competition is open to all geography undergraduate students, including those finishing their studies in 2015. The prize will be awarded to the essay that offers the most interesting reflections into fieldwork learning. The essay will be judged by members of the HERG Committee. The committee reserves the right to withhold the prize if submissions are not deemed to be of sufficient quality.

Eligible essays for this competition must be type-written manuscripts 2,500-3,000 words in length. Each essay should be accompanied by a short (150-200 word) abstract, together with a clear statement of the author’s full name, university, email address and telephone number. The word count of the essay (minus abstract and any references) should be stated at the close of the document. Essays should be in English with translation provided for any quotations or sections in a language other than English.  Interested students should submit a copy electronically, together with a short supporting statement from their Head of Department to confirm their affiliation. Entries must be emailed to catherine.white@northumbria.ac.uk by 12.00pm on March 1st 2015. Please put Undergraduate Reflective Essay Competition in the subject line. Any questions about the competition should be sent to catherine.white@northumbria.ac.uk.