How to Write a Reflective Essay

What is a reflective essay (essay definition)

A reflective essay is a paper that entails a writer to expound about their personal experience and relate to the audience appropriately through writing. The experience matters along with personal ideas, opinions and even feelings about the situation and how the situation affected the author or others. A reflective paper is usually self-centered in that a writer has to speak from the first point of view for the events under description.

Many students fail to understand the meaning of reflective essay and therefore cannot write a reflective paper template which is clear to examiners. A reflective paper is all about relating a current situation with some past events.  A reflection is creating of an image which shares attributes with the real object, same way to reflective writing, you are required to describe a past event and show the reader how it repeats itself later on. As an author there are some of the key points that you should have to yourself to come up with good content for your essay:

  1. You have to create a link between your writing, yourself and the surrounding. You have to mention to the reader how the three aspects relate to each other.
  2. Applying your senses is also necessary, as one has to explain what they have seen before, what they have heard and what they have read about the theme under discussion.
  3. Application of the knowledge acquired. To come up with a good reflection essay the writer has to know how to apply the knowledge they have acquired in class with the real world.
  4. You should write the text in first person narration because a reflective essay is more subjective to the writer and therefore the events should have happened in their lives in one way or another. It’s more of a testimony narration.

Many examiners at different levels of education usually involve the students in writing of reflective papers because it helps them to reflect on what they study and its application in the real world. Some of the important characteristics of reflective writing include:

– It helps students reflect on the lectures that they have been taught in class and apply it in the real world. Learning about a concept is one thing and applying it is another thing, so it is good for students to develop a mindset where they can understand how to go about when it comes to the real application of the concepts they learn in class.

– It improves the creativity of the students – for you to reflect what you have studied and applied you have to be creative because in most cases things are usually not straight as they are in class, there is some creativity needed.

– It helps is keeping records – learning about a concept is not enough, you have to reflect on it so that you can remember it lest it gets out of your mind.

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Tips on how to start a reflective paper

How you start your essay is the determiner of whether you are going to come up with a great essay or not. Before you start your paper, you have to organize the points following the procedures below:

  • Identify the main themes – you should be able to jot down the main themes on the topic that you are to write on. A good idea of encrypting the same is by writing them in form of topic sentences, so that they can be clear and to the point.
  • Reflect the topic with a material that you have in your mind – a reflection essay is all about comparison of two similar ordeals, so as a writer you should be able to figure out a material that reflects on the topic under discussion. It is in this section that you should also think of your personal experiences that goes hand in hand with what you are talking about in the essay. While narrating your experience be sure to constitute sense so as to improve on reality of events in the story.
  • Table things out – you can classify your points and experience in tabular form whereby in the first section, you can mention the main points in a column or row depending on your preference. In the second section, put down your personal experience about the ideas written in the first section, be sure to include your feelings, beliefs and even cultural influences in the points. In the last part, you should give your response about how your culture, feelings, and emotions affect the whole situation.

At last, you should ask yourself the question to act as a guide in the presentation of your response to the reader. Some of the common questions that you should engage your mind include: how does the situation affect your thinking? Does the experience challenge you in any way; physically, emotionally or socially? Was there anything left out for those involved in the experience, if yes mention it out as your response. You also have to bring out how the events link with your experience, this is now bringing out the reflection aspect in the paper hence attaining the objective of the paper.

How to design a reflective paper format

Every essay paper has a specific format depending on the instructions given by the examiner. A reflective paper can adopt different formats depending on the targeted audience. The main objective of any reflective essay is usually to relate one’s life experience with a certain topic, hence reflection; as a writer, you should also recount lessons that made you change. The common form used for presentation of a reflective paper is usually the diary format. In diary format, you have to narrate your thoughts in such a way that one occurrence results in another. A reflective essay may take different formats depending on the audience.

A reflective essay may be academic in the aspect that a student may be asked to write a lesson learnt in class and reflect its application in real life. The second instance is the informal format where a story may be narrated in a piece of an article or magazine, and the aspect of reflection brought out about the society regarding leadership. The main formats that one may be asked to write about are:

  • A reflective essay for personal growth – this essay is usually aimed at assisting students to look into their lives and analyze experiences so that they can improve their future. This essay is significant because it helps one to advance in self-awareness and behavior.
  • A reflective essay on literature materials – in this type of essay one is expected to read through a literature piece and write a summary about the material, then later reflect on how the piece relates with their own lives. The piece should be able to make the student develop psychologically, emotionally and socially.

Typically, a reflective essay should constitute of 300 to 700 words but it depends on the instructions given by the examiner; a writer has to follow them. To come up with a good reflective essay, you have to know how to bring out a smooth flow of your work. You can follow the following outline to come up with good content for your paragraphs in a reflective essay:

  • The first point is giving a description – while stating your description, you should ask yourself what happened? When you develop an answer to this question in the form of writing you will have introduced the idea to the reader.
  • Feelings come in second after introducing your point – you should ask yourself how did you feel about the situation or what did you think about it. When you answer the question, you will have started to bring out the reflection perspective.
  • After presenting the feelings, you should evaluate – when you evaluate a story or experience, you should mention it to the reader whether the situation was good or bad. It is more of giving judgement to the situation.
  • The analysis comes after evaluation – you should be able to give your opinion concerning the situation after evaluating the experience.
  • The conclusion is the last part of your reflection – in concluding a reflection, you are to recommend the challenge described.

Structure example of a reflective essay outline

Organization of your paper mainly depends on the outline. Just like all other kinds of essays, a reflective paper outline constitutes the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The difference in essay outlines comes in the content to write in the different sections of your essay.

  1. The introduction

An introduction should be a brief description or background story about the topic under discussion. In your description, be certain to hook your reader in the introduction. The introduction should be attractive to attract the reader towards the body of your essay. There are many ways to attract the attention of the reader and make them anticipate for the body; you can apply all form of suspense.

To create suspense in the introduction, you can bring on questions that have no answers and direct the reader to find the answers below. You can also choose to portray the interesting part of your story in the introduction on a light note so that the reader can be attracted to find out more about the story in the body. You should include a small thesis statement at the end of your introduction. A thesis statement is a simple statement that summarizes what the essay is to cover or focus. Since it is a reflective essay, your thesis should contain a small overview of your experience.

  1. The body

The body is the main part of your essay, and it is in the body where you are expected to bring out your ideas. In the body paragraphs, you should introduce your paragraphs with topic sentences. The main objective of the topic sentence is to introduce the idea to the reader. After introducing the idea, you should support your idea by giving relevant reflections.

You should ensure that you include experience and illustrate how it impacts your life. The length of the body paragraph should be standard: too long paragraphs tend to make your work boring. A good paragraph should constitute four to five sentences. The length of the essay is dependent on the body paragraphs; when you need to lengthen your essay, then there should be more points in the body.

  1. The conclusion

When you start your conclusion let the reader know that you are coming to an end of your essay by using good transition words for a conclusion, such as ‘finally.’ In conclusion, you should write a summary of the main points in the body. You should also show how the experiences have changed your behavior and feelings about different aspects of the society. You can also give recommendations on how to handle different situations. After the conclusion, it is good to go through your work once again just to ascertain yourself in the right tone for your audience throughout your work.

See our comprehensive source on how to start a research paper to get a good grade.

Reflective essay examples

There are different examples of reflections that you can use in encryption of your reflective essay. One of the reflections is personal reflection essay. In a personal reflective essay, a writer is expected to give a narration about their experiences and how it impacts their lives. It is good to go through various sample essays because it improves your ability to handle different topics without a problem. Exposure to different essays structure examples enables you to advance in the techniques of writing.

You can also detect errors made by other authors and correct them when it comes to your writing. Due to the modern technology, there are different resources on the internet where you can get access to reflective essay examples. You can get this structure examples in articles, journals, and even magazines. There are also educational sites that contain samples of reflective essays, and these can also help to improve your prowess in writing.