Retrospective (from Latin retrospectare, "look back") generally means to take a look back at events that already have taken place. For example, the term is used in medicine, describing a look back at a patient's medical history or lifestyle.

Visual arts

Within the visual arts, the term commonly refers to an art exhibition assembled to allow a look back at an individual artist's career, an art movement, or a certain artistic period.

In film as an art form, a retrospective is a representative selection of films of a specific actor, director, or other film crew member, or pertaining to a specific film genre or era. Retrospectives may be presented by local movie theaters or as part of film festivals.


Retrospective compilations are sometimes assembled from an artist's greatest hits.

Software engineering

The term is also used in software engineering, where a retrospective is a meeting held by a project team at the end of a project or process (often after a certain number of iterations) to discuss what was successful about the project or time period covered by that retrospective, what could be improved, and how to incorporate the successes and improvements in future iterations or projects.

In agile development retrospectives play a very important role in iterative and incremental development. At the end of every iteration a retrospective is held to look for ways to improve the process for the next iteration.


A retrospective award is one which is created, and then awarded to all persons who would previously have received it. Alternatively, a slight change to the criteria of an existing award may result in retrospective awards being presented to persons who would have won the award under present rules. Comparatively few awards are presented retrospectively.

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