How To Write a Reflective Essay?
What is a Reflective Essay?
A reflective essay is in essence a reflection of your internal world in relation to an event or experience. When tasked with an explanatory essay, you are usually expected to write about your thoughts and feelings and open up about how you experienced the issue at hand. For example, it is common practice to write a reflective essay at the end of an internship. In this case, you would write about how you felt during the internship, how you grew and developed as a person, and maybe outline the hardships you went through. It is a report on your thoughts and feelings related to a specific thing that personally affected you in some way. Other than that, a reflective essay doesn’t differ much from other kinds of essays. You might think it is an easy assignment, but it will require you to tap into a deeper and more emotional side of you. Being vulnerable is hard, especially when in front of a person of authority. But a reflective essay is a very personal piece of writing no matter the topic at hand, so lay your feelings bare and focus more on reflection rather than research.
What is the purpose of writing a reflective essay?
The primary purposes of a reflective essay are:
- exploration of the experience at hand
- reflection on the positive and negative aspects of it
- formulation of goals to improve next time
In short, the purpose of writing a reflective essay is to show that you have thought about the topic extensively and explored all the ways that it has affected you with. The reader should get a very detailed insight into what meaning the topic has to you, how you felt about it and what you have learned from it. What you have learned from it or what the aftermath of your topic was is especially important. It is a great chance to present goals and improvements that have a clear reason and logic behind them. It is also a good way of explaining how your thoughts have changed or developed and why. Without this, you are just telling a story.
Reflective Essay Outline
Outlining the process of writing your reflective essay before starting to write is a very helpful practice. It is easy to get lost in your thoughts and feelings if you don’t have a clear path in front of you.
If the title or topic has not yet been assigned to you, you should obviously do that first.
When you have your topic, you should develop a thesis. What is the point of your essay? What is the guiding thought and what are you trying to make the reader believe or think about? This is what keeps you from rambling. It will be your guide through presenting feelings and insights rather than just piling on words that lead nowhere.
Now you should gather any sources you would need to support your reflective essay. Gather any information that might help you remember and develop a richer description of what you are talking about. Use any statistics and information that might make the talk clearer.
Now you can create a draft for your essay. At this point, you should think of a draft for the introduction, main body, and conclusion.
The introduction should include a hook and your thesis, just like in most other essays. It is your chance to grab the interest of the reader and quickly let them know what the essay has in store for them. Give a quick overview but don’t give everything away just yet. Keep the introduction short and intriguing.
The main body is where things can get messy though, and an outline or draft will be of much-needed help here. Decide in what way you will be presenting all of the information. Usually, the simplest is a chronological approach, when you write as the events and thinking were developing through time. You might choose to organize the body by location if you are talking about travel. You could even start from negative thoughts and emotions and transition to positive ones regarding something. What is important here is to have a logical and sensible flow to the body, instead of disorganized ideas and unfinished thoughts.
Finally, think about how you are going to conclude your work. Identify the main takeaway of your reflective essay and decide if you are going to finish with a call to action. Think about how you want the reader to feel once they get to the end of the essay and use this tone in your conclusion. What have you learned about yourself and how could you do things better the next time? How did the experience change you and how did it make you the person you are today?
How to Choose a Topic for a Reflective Essay?
Easier said than done you might think. There are simply endless things to reflect upon! Of course there are, but on how many of them can you write a personal, high-quality essay that you would be proud of? You should think about an event or thing that has impacted you greatly, either positively or negatively. You might choose to write about something that has happened to you or someone else, a person that has influenced you in some way, an object or place that holds great meaning for you. Start thinking about what has made you the person you are today, or what has swayed your life path in a meaningful way. If the topic has a great, manyfold impact on you, it is probably a good topic.
You might feel the need to choose a pompous, technical, or demanding topic as well. Be aware that a reflective essay is one of the rare forms of writing where the magnitude or your knowledge and the perfection of your skill are not at the forefront. Take this chance to demonstrate how your thoughts and feelings intertwine instead of trying to show how good you are at writing.
Reflective Essay Examples
We have compiled a couple of examples for you to get a clearer idea and some inspiration of how to properly organize and write a reflective paper. Since there are so many topics that fit the reflective essay format, it might be helpful to see how others did it. At the end of the day, you are not the first one that is doing it, so check these out before writing your essay. Go through the titles – these might help you decide on the topic you will write about. If you find a reflective essay sample that you like, pay attention to what their thesis is and how it is reinforced through the writing. Make notes of style and other things you would like to use.
Be careful not to copy another essay, just take some inspiration and pointers and make it your own. A reflective essay is one of the most unique pieces of writing that should absolutely be tailored to your life experiences. So follow the links below to get an idea of a great reflective essay style:
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How to Format a Reflective Essay?
A reflective essay format should follow the general guidelines established for essay formatting. If it hasn’t been otherwise specified, the format we are going to outline will be more than appropriate.
On the top left of your paper, you should write your publication information like your name, your instructor’s name, the course name, and date of assignment completion.
The header should include your last name and page number. We recommend using the font Times New Roman and size 12 letters.
While the title should be centered, the rest of your text should be left-aligned and the lines should be double spaced.
Indenting your new paragraphs will make them more easily visible and the tempo of the explanatory essay clearer.
After that, it is crucial to cite your sources correctly and make sure they are written on a separate page.
It is important to be aware that, while reflective essays are very personal, they are still a product of academic writing. That is why you should keep your tone formal and stick to the correct formatting for essays.
Reflective Essay Writing Tips
- Always choose a topic that you are familiar with and that has personally impacted you. Never try to talk about something that you didn’t experience yourself – this is a needless hurdle that will not make for better writing. A great topic is useless if you don’t have ample personal experience and reflection about it.
- Keep it formal. Although a reflective essay requires you to tap into your intimate thoughts, don’t use a conversational tone. It is still a piece of academic writing, and no matter how trivial, thoughts that are well-formed have weight and meaning. You can write in the first person, but don’t forget to support your writing with facts and evidence from your sources.
- Get personal, but not too much. What we mean by this is sticking to writing about your thoughts, not writing about other people and their experience. Avoid adding too much general information about yourself, as this is not a biography. Write about a single topic and how it impacted you in a meaningful way, not about your life story.
- Keep your eyes on your thesis. Do not sway away from your initial draft as this is a slippery slope towards a scrambled mess of information. Having a clear idea of what your main message is will help you organize the main body of your reflective essay in a coherent way.
- Keep your story short. Reflective essays are usually from 300 to 700 words long. If you have a good thesis, there is no reason you should need more than that.
- Always proofread your work. The nightmare all students have is handing in an assignment and noticing later that they missed some grammatical errors or typos. Fortunately, there are many tools that can help you with this nowadays. Use tools such as Grammarly to re-read and check your grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. If you are still worried, you could ask a friend for help and let them read it – a fresh set of eyes is always helpful in this.
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If you follow our instructions closely and find a topic that is just right for you, the next reflective essay you’ll write should be a piece of cake. Learning how to write one will give you the skill that you need to deliver your emotions and thoughts about a topic in an engaging and professional way. Don’t forget to stay on track with your thesis and the rest will fall into place.