Reflective writing is one of those activities that seem simple at first sight, but the deeper you go into the process, the more obstacles you will face.
This type of writing challenges your ability to look back onto one's own experiences and put it on paper in a well-structured and sort of a narrative way. The aim is to describe your feelings, a certain perspective on the event. Later on, you will need to make a conclusion on what impact something particular has had on you. There will be a need to describe what you have learned from that and how this new knowledge may have changed your perception.
Let's dive in!
What Is a Reflective Essay?
"Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." - E.L. Doctorow.
A reflective essay format implies a great deal of creative writing. An aspiring learner who is an author of such a piece will need to provide a description of certain actions, circumstances, or conditions of one's own (the writer's) life.
The topics may vary greatly from your first day in college to political events in a certain country. In some cases, a student may choose the theme on his own, but more often, a teacher or a professor would assign a detailed prompt.
Whatever the case may be, the purpose of such type of writing is to convey your own emotions and conclusions about the formulated (or given) thesis. To make the reading of this material more natural and fascinating, the right adjectives and details are required. The story must be a comprehensive one so that the reader could feel that one is totally inside the story. Each such text must evoke the feeling of sympathy and interest - at the very least.
The essential components of good reflective essays are consistency and relevance. Readers should understand your train of thought and not be confused from the very beginning.
That is why your own reflection during writing is vital. Don't be insecure about some negative feelings. After all, you are reflecting on some kind of your own experience. Thus, be honest, and reveal your thoughts and emotions as they are.
Still, it is crucial to pick the right and appropriate vocabulary that would fit the format you're following. So, how to write a reflection essay? Let's take a look at the essentials of an excellent paper of this sort.
Reflective Essay Guidelines: Step by Step
Now you might already have an idea of what the reflection writing is. Yet, before you get to the actual writing process, let's take a look at some steps that a student should take. Their overview is highly likely to help you define your course of action.
First, think of events, places, people, books, and whatnot. Pick a certain object or an event that has had an impact on you, notwithstanding whether it was negative or positive.
Choose a certain thing that you really feel like talking about at this particular moment in time. Think of the effects it had on you; be ready to describe this experience in detail.
A reflection essay requires having your thoughts and views on particular subjects on paper. Some students choose to abstain from storytelling here. Still, never forget to add your personality in writing, make your own voice heard.
- Choose the topic;
- Reflect on it;
- Make an outline;
- Write a draft;
- Compose specific body parts;
- Make a conclusion.
So, let's proceed with answering the key question - how to write a reflective essay? What to start with? What is the structure?
Although reflective writing has a similar format with any other essay, it has some special features that each writer working on such a piece should bear in mind. In the sections below, you will find answers to all these questions. We will reveal the crucial components of A-grade worth writing for you.
Reflective Essay Outline&Structure
As all the types of academic writing, a reflection essay requires a proper outline with all the crucial elements indicated. It will lead a writer throughout the whole piece as well as you as an author through each step of creating the material.
In this case, it is even more essential, as while writing and reflecting on your own experience, it's risky to lose the train of thoughts and go the wrong direction.
That is why you must have a clear structure at hand. Following it closely would guarantee a coherent writing piece as a result.
Let's take a look at the basic parts that you may stick to while working on your reflective essay paragraphs.
This is a pretty common reflective essay scheme. Yet, it is still able to help you follow the topic without any risk of going too far or in a completely wrong direction with this text.
A reflection essay outline always consists of good old traditional parts, which are as follows:
- Main body;
An Introduction is a part where the main reflective essay thesis must be coherently outlined and presented. Readers should get to know at this point what the whole paper is going to be about.
In this section, you are also free to convey to the audience a particular impression you might have had on the subject matter. It of crucial importance to be consistent here in this part. Don't forget to mention all the main points in the right order with appropriate linking.
Example of the thesis: "The moment I'd read "Pride and Prejudice" when I was eleven, it was like my eyes opened for the first time. This masterpiece stirred unconditional love for classics within me that I didn't realize could exist."
The Body part is usually the core of the work, and it must include all the main ideas. Each sentence must be well presented and clearly structured.
In this part, a writer is answering the following question. How the event or a situation has changed him, and in what way? It is important to indicate several main effects and describe each one in a separate paragraph. A short summary must be provided by examples as supporting details.
For example, if you write that something has made you more motivated, give a particular example from life. Note down when you felt motivated and how a certain situation has helped you succeed.
In the Conclusion section the main points from the body of the text need to be re-translated. Recap the ideas you've already provided, offer some final thoughts. You may finish the paper with a rhetorical question aimed at the audience. You may also contemplate possible future events in your life that might result from the experience you've already covered.
Having the main aspects covered, let's talk about the actual business now.
How to Start a Reflective Essay : Introduction
"The scariest moment is always before you start" - Stephen King.
There hardly ever was a student who has never been confused by the assignment. Indeed, coming up with the first sentence is, in most cases, a deal-breaker. Writing a reflective essay is no different from any other academic task, especially when it comes to devising an introduction.
The aim here is to get an instant interest from the audience. You may achieve this goal by offering a hook, mentioning an anecdote, quote, or simply throwing in some interesting fact. It should be catchy and informative.
Mention the most intriguing aspects of your story in order to grab the reader's attention from the very beginning. After these lines, offer a strong thesis statement that should reflect the main idea of your essay. Don't get into too many details here; otherwise, you may lose the readers' interest. And what you really need is for them to go through every line of the text.
One more way to write an introduction is to give a hint of what the conclusions may be.
Here is a quick example for you: "When I was a kid, I had an experience that made me grow up quicker than I was supposed to."
Here's one more example of a proper introduction:
The piece above is informative enough. You may easily detect the thesis part, spot one's personal impressions and feelings that are also clearly presented.
How to Write a Body Section
Ideally, the main part should be divided into three paragraphs. Each one should include a separate idea or reflect a particular thought on the matter. Here's how you can do it:
1. In the first paragraph, mention one reason the subject impressed you and why. Give more details and describe your emotions. This piece is all about reflective writing, so there are no right answers. The core is to offer your original perspective. Speculate, be open, but don't forget about the "conclusion – reason – example" format that is key here.
2. In the second part you should present the reasoning for choosing to write on a specific subject. Mention what impact it has had on you. Stick to the formula outline in the aforementioned paragraph.
3. In the third part, mention yet another point that you might have on your mind. You should write about how the person, event, book, news, etc. have influenced you and why.
When reflecting on the subject, remember to ask yourself the following questions. They will give you more food for thought and will help in keeping you in the right direction:
- What have you found out about your personality after this experience?
- Was it a good or bad experience?
- What are the lessons you've learned from it?
- Why do you think this specific event has happened? Did you make the right decision at a time?
- If you had a chance to change something, what exactly would it be?
- What are your general thoughts on a matter? Was it useful (rewarding?) experience or not? Why?
Bear these reflection examples in mind when you write each body part paragraph. Reflect on every chosen aspect in a separate paragraph.
The Conclusion of a Reflection Essay
There are several ways to finish writing a reflective essay. Let's take a look at some of them:
- Summarize all the points;
- Reflect on the "What if" situation. How would you act with your current experience and the views you have now? Would your actions remain the same, or would you change anything?
- You can also approach this point in another way. Try to answer the following question in your text - how will you act in the future, if this event repeats? Will you do anything differently? Why?
- Formulate a rhetorical question aimed at your readers.
- Outline what exactly you've learned from the situation in question.
Your conclusion should be brief and comprehensive. Every reader should experience the feeling of a story that has been told with all the t's crossed.
Tips for Writing a Good Reflective Essay
- Even though you are working on a personal story, it is still academic writing, which requires appropriate language and sources.
So, do your research, study the subject from as many viewpoints as possible. Reference relevant sources. This will show your awareness of the topic and the ability to analyze the subject from different angles.
- Don't mention not credible resources like: "a friend of mine thinks," "my mom says," etc.
- To get a deeper understanding of what reflective writing looks like, read some samples, and get used to the format.
- Use the first-person narrative like "I" or "Me," but don't overwork it. There is no need to get too personal.
- To make your story more captivating and logical, don't forget to mention a turning point that has influenced you.
Reflective Essay Examples
To make you have a more vivid picture of a reflection essay, we've prepared a sample, with a detailed description of its structure.
The example above demonstrates a coherent story that covers the writer's feelings, one's standpoint, thought on the experience, and life-changing conclusions reached afterward.
It is spiced with a nice choice of adjectives, so readers may vividly imagine the story and stay focused on it. Pay attention, that there is no extra information given, besides the actual subject and its impact.
Reflective Essay Topics
A reflective essay topic may be assigned by a teacher or chosen by a student. Since the task is all contemplating personal experience, you may treat such a piece as an excerpt from a diary that you are ready to share with others.
Choose something that does matter in your book. If you're a bit lost and don't have a clue about the right theme, here're some guiding examples.
- Someone, you've enjoyed learning from (nor necessarily a teacher.) It may be your best friend, somebody from your family, etc.
- A house from your childhood;
- A city or a country you've been to;
- An important place that has inspired you.
- A time of your biggest achievement\failure;
- An overwhelming experience;
- A concert, a match or a performance that you've visited;
- A significant memory from your childhood;
- An important dialog.
- A movie that has impressed you;
- A book that happened to change your perception;
- A magazine that you used to read a lot;
- Social media platform that has changed your life.
These are some reflective essay ideas, which you may consider covering in your writing.
To Sum Up
Whether you're good at reflecting on your life or not, this skill is something that better be mastered. We all experience rises and falls and learn our lessons. We need to be able to make conclusions and consciously treat our lives.
To be self-aware, be ready to admit failure, accept critical feedback, look at the subject from different perspectives, and change your views. In the end, reflective writing is not only creating, but also thinking. Be ready to judge and evaluate our own choices and decisions.
We hope this article helped you figure out the basic idea behind such assignments as reflective essays.
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