How To Make And Use A Dialectical Journal

How To Make And Use A Dialectical Journal

A dialectical journal enhances your analytical capabilities and critical thinking through continuous reasoning.

Before we start with the dialectical journal, it is important to know the meaning of dialectical. The term “dialectical” refers to an art or practice of knowing the truth through a logical discussion and exchange of ideas and opinions.

A man holding his dialectical journal.
A man holding his dialectical journal.

To add to that, think of a dialectical journal as a series of conversations in the form of questions and answers in order to arrive at the truth. Besides, the origins of this process have roots in ancient Greece by the greats such as Plato and Socrates.

What Are Dialectical Journal Entries?

A dialectical journal is in the form of a written dialogue or conversation that supports reflective questioning. Apart from this, the questioning can be about anything, such as a passage from a novel. It can be from any other piece of literature or opinion piece also. The dialectical journal entries give you a chance to interact with the written text on a personal level.

A person adding their entry in a dialectical journal.
A person adding their entry in a dialectical journal.

On top of that, you can reflect on the entry and form an opinion about the same. It helps in a deeper understanding of the entries that you are making.  In your responses, write down your ideas, questions, thoughts, and insights while you go through your literature. Thus, the crucial part is that, as a reader, you are soaking up the text and responding with your relevant ideas and feelings.

Double Journal Entry

A dialectical journal is also known as a reader response journal or a double-entry journal. In simple words, a double journal entry is a journal that consists of two columns.

The first or the left column is where you write a concept or a quotation and the right column is for expanding that piece of information. That’s where you can analyze, evaluate and review the information to understand better. Thus, it helps the writer to reflect on the piece of text with more command.

How To Create A Dialectical Journal? 

Let’s see the procedure you can follow to create a dialectical journal to increase your understanding of the text.

  • The first step is to divide the journal into three main columns and keep the center column thin. However, the other two extreme left and right columns should be wider in length. 
  • Secondly, name the center column as page number, left column as quotes, passages, or observations. The third right column will be the area for the analysis. So, name the left column as a note-making, response or evaluation column in your dialectical journal.
  • In the left-hand corner of the journal, note down all your observations, lists, quotes, or the passages that stand out for you, record them in the left column. Apart from this, note down the critical part of passages only; three dots can abbreviate the remaining part.
  • The center column will store the page numbers or the notation from the passage or quotes.
  • The right column is a place to write your response to the text in the left column. In other words, it is the space for you to explain the ideas and information relative to the left column. To add to that, make your response column more viable; you must assign codes for the responses.
A woman noting down her response codes in her dialectical journal.
A woman noting down her response codes in her dialectical journal.

Codes To Assign In Response Column

  • (Q) Question – Ask the question that is troubling you in the text.
  • (C) Connect – Make it relatable by connecting it to your life.
  • (P) Predict – Assume the text written in the left column and what will happen according to your analysis.
  • (CL) Clarify – Give a clarification to the earlier asked question and confirm or reject the made prediction.
  • (R) Reflect – Reflect on whether your analysis was on point or according to the text. Also, you can conclude from it and think deeply about the overall text.
  • (E) Evaluate – Give out a judgment on what the text could mean or what the author wants to say.

How Many Entries Are There In A Dialectical Journal?

The number of entries in your dialectical journal is not a hard and fast rule to follow. Besides, you can have as many entries in your journal until the entries have some relevance and add value to the existing content. But, if you really need a guide for recording entries, and would help in your process and analysis. Then you can follow some directions.

A man writing down his entry in the dialectical journal.
A man writing down his entry in the dialectical journal.

If you are reading a novel or a piece of literature, then ideally, there should be at least one entry for every 40-50 pages. You can increase the entry for the set of pages. However, they should add some value to the text. Try to get at least 15-20 entries for every novel. Still, the entries should not feel shallow or hasty because the idea is to improve your analytical reasoning ability and give a higher depth of knowledge.

There are some dialectical journal templates, dialectical journal examples to follow to help you work out the number you are looking for to get your journal right.

How Does A Dialectical Journal Work?

The dialectical journal works based on constant back and forth questioning and its response until a conclusive result. In this process of seeking knowledge, you attain command over the content at your hand. On top of this, the journals help you ascend to a higher intellectual state. It is because you are not only gulping information and presenting it on paper. Instead, you apply, assess, question, and comprehend the content.

A dialectical journal works best when you use it daily.
A dialectical journal works best when you use it daily.

Notably, dialectical journals find their usage in a variety of fields. It is not restricted to any field such as arts, literature, or primary or secondary research. Even middle school students can use it to develop their critical thinking. On top of that, there is one thing that makes it so worthwhile. It is the ease with which you can use them to arrive at the knowledge you are seeking. 


The dialectical journal provides a way to explore and analyze your thoughts and ideas to understand the given text better. On top of that, the purpose of a dialectical journal is to point out the crucial pieces of a text. It explains the significance of the ideas noted down in the journal.

To add to this, you can summarize, clarify, question, and critique the set of ideas and opinions for a far better understanding of the text. So, get into a habit of journaling while reading content to increase your knowledge in that field of study.