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How To Write a Reflective Essay

December 04, 2017 Essay writing tips, Types of essays
How To Write a Reflective Essay

A reflective essay is a type of writing in which you (the author) interact with an audience and describe some moment or experience from your life. This “experience’ explores personal ideas, feelings, and opinions about the event and how it affected you.
Reflective writing allows an author to:

  • Analyze and draw conclusions about what they have read, heard, or seen;
  • Make connections between the text and themselves, or other texts and the world;
  • Think about what they have learned and how they can or will use the newly acquired information;
  • Write subjectively (from their point of view); Identify areas for further reading.

Table Of Contents


Writing A Reflective Essay

Reflection essays are usually requested by professors or teachers, as they allow you to share your experience about an article, lesson, or lecture. Reflections are very personal and subjective, but they must maintain a formal tone and should be well organized.

If you are reflecting on a certain text, annotate your initial emotions and thoughts while reading it. If you are writing about yourself or an event in your life, brainstorm by making a chart with three columns: past experiences, description, and reflection. This table should help you brainstorm and structure the introduction and the body of your essay.

Example: You are writing about your experience at an animal shelter.

Example of Reflective Essay

Personal Reflective Essay

Personal reflective essays are papers that reflect your personality, your experiences, and your influences. Ultimately, they help the reader of your paper get to know you. Unlike other types essays that you’ve written before, they do not rely on facts or research. Instead, they are focused on you. Application essays or job resumes are, in a way, reflective essays too. One thing that separates a good essay from a bad one is organization; thus, start by building an outline.

Format

The format of a reflective essay greatly differs from normal argumentative or research essays. A reflective essay is more of a well-structured story or a diary entry. An essay in APA format or MLA format is only applicable when it comes with an external text that you are reflecting upon. The typical reflection essay length will vary between 300 and 700 words

  • Ask your instructor about word length to make sure you follow the instructions.

Here, it is important to avoid the academic style of writing. Stick to your feelings and original ideas. This essay is about you, not about the text. If your instructor asks you to format your paper in APA or MLA style, here are a few shorthands:

MLA

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced;
  • 1” margins;
  • Top right includes last name and page number on every page;
  • Titles are centered;
  • The header should include your name, your professor’s name, course number, and the date (dd/mm/yy);
  • Last page includes a Works Cited.

APA

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced;
  • 1” margins;
  • Include a page header on the top of every page;
  • Insert page number on the right;
  • Essay should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

Outline

To start organizing your reflective essay, take a look at your brainstorming table. The ‘past experience’ and ‘description’ should constitute less than 10% of your essay. Limit listing events and tell events as little as possible. Instead, show the events in your reflection.

Your introduction should consist of:

  • The hook: grab the reader's attention in a short preview of what you’ll be writing about.
  • Example: We found Buffy head-to-toe covered in tar, starved and fur in patches, under an abandoned garbage truck.
  • The reflective essay thesis statement should include that ‘past experience’ information; a brief statement of what your essay is going to be about.
  • Example: That summer’s volunteering experience at the animal shelter inspired me to pursue this type of work in the future.
  • The structure of body paragraphs is best discussed in chronological events. Answer the bold questions in the ‘reflection’ section of the table; this should naturally create a linear storyline. No matter what you’re writing your essay about.

Read more about how to write a great INTRODUCTION

The body paragraph outline should look something like this:

  • Expectation about the shelter
  • First impression
  • Expectations: "Thought it was going to be boring and mundane"
  • Working experience
  • Finding and rescuing Buffy
  • Other experiences with rescuing animals
  • Discoveries
  • Newly found passion and feelings toward the work
  • A newly developed mindset about animal treatment

Conclusion

Must wrap your ideas up and demonstrate development. Feelings newly found discoveries, and most importantly, plans for the future are important factors of the conclusion.

Example: Buffy’s case inspired me to pursue a career as a veterinarian, hopefully, one day working in an animal shelter.

Ideas And Topics

The reflective essay is probably the one essay you can’t borrow a topic for, because the essay should be about your own experiences. However, here are some prompts to help you begin:

  • An experience you can’t forget.
  • Time you overcame a fear.
  • The most difficult choice you had to make.
  • A time your beliefs were challenged.
  • Have you ever discovered something life-changing?
  • The happiest moment or the most frightening moment of your life that far.
  • What can people do to improve the quality of the world?
  • Name a time you felt lost.
  • Are you always making the right choice? Can you think of time you made a wrong choice?
  • A moment in your life you would like to relive.

You may find it convenient to create a chart or table to keep track of your ideas. Split your chart into 3 parts.

  • In the first column, write key experiences or the main points. You can grade them from most to least important.
  • In the second column, list your personal response to the points you have stated in the first column.
  • In the third column, write how much of your response to share in the essay.
    Visualisation of reflective essay content

How You Write

Watch what you are writing

A reflective paper is a very personal type of writing because it includes your feelings and opinions about something. Before including something in your paper, ask yourself is this information appropriate to include or not?

  • If you feel uncomfortable about something personal, avoid including it in your essay, or write about this issue in more general terms.

Stay Professional

Even though a reflection paper is personal, you should keep your mind organized.

  • AVOID SLANG: Use only correct spelling and grammar. Abbreviations like “LOL”, “OMG” or “ROFL” should be avoided in professional writing.

  • This is your story, so there is no need to drag someone else into your essay. Even if this person made the experience you are going to talk about, you must maintain professionalism and describe the actions, not the person. Additionally, you should frame those actions within the context of your writing.

Do Not Be Lazy

Review your paper sentence by sentence to eliminate all mistakes.

  • Keep your sentences to the point. Avoid squeezing two thoughts into one sentence.
  • Don’t leave sentences unfinished; make sure that all your sentences have a purpose.

Put The Cherry On Top Of Your cake

Use transitional phrases to shift between arguments and introduce specific details. The usage of transitions will make your paper look like it was written by Shakespeare.

Essay Rubric

Satisfactory essay:

  • The reflection provides the ‘big picture’ of the person’s experiences.
  • The student interweaves information regarding specific artifacts and how these artifacts were beneficial. The student’s experience paints details that are unique.
  • The reflection shows that the student has learned from their experience. Reflection reveals insight into personal goals
  • Demonstrates an ability to reflect on own work and an adequate number of examples are provided.
  • Reflection demonstrates personal perspective.
  • The essay has no grammatical and spelling errors, is an overall organized paper.

Unsatisfactory essay:

  • The reflection provides the pieces of the student’s experience. The essay is not written in a linear manner.
  • The students essay consists of generalizations and is not unique or memorable.
  • The reflection does not adequately demonstrate that the student has received knowledge from experience. The student does not state personal goals.
  • The essay insufficiently reflects on own work.
  • Reflection demonstrates universal perspective.
  • The essay has many grammatical and spelling errors, the paper is incoherent.

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

A reflective essay in middle school and earlier years of high school is typically not a serious type of essay. In your junior and senior years of high school, you will usually find that a more sophisticated format of the essay. The two most common places where you will be asked to write a reflective essay are college application essays and different kinds of reports (lab or otherwise) that require you to state your opinion, not just straight analysis. One thing that must be stressed is that an essay should demonstrate what the writer has learned. It also explains what things caused the author to change. A quick shortcut is to reflect on how you improved. In college application essays, you will want to know how to talk about what you learned from an event or experience.

A strong reflective writer will not only share the change but also give examples as supporting details. For example, if a writer discusses becoming more optimistic in life, then the writer would discuss how they took a positive approach and came out with a good outcome.

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