How to Write a Reflective Essay

How to Write a Reflective Essay

Writing about your past experience may seem like an easy task until you seat down and get started. You realize it is not as easy as it seems. The first thing you need to understand is what is a reflective essay? How do I present a complete guide on reflective essay?

A  reflective essay is an academic paper that requires students to analyze past events that have impacted their lives. When writing a reflective essay, you need to describe your reactions, emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

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This type of an essay helps you to improve your creativity and enhance your writing skills. It also helps to reveal your personality, character, mindset, and background.

The purpose of a reflective essay

A reflective essay is an academic writing that reveals details about your personality. This is possible when you analyze an experience like what you have read, seen, or heard. Analyzing these experiences and making a connection between them and yourself helps you to identify lessons learned.

How to write a reflective essay

A reflection essay requires you to analyze past events from the present. It may seem difficult at first, but as you progress and organize your thoughts, it gets easier. Here are steps that will help you to write a successful reflective paper

1. Choose a reflective essay topic

A reflective essay topic is usually assigned to students. In some instances, you may be required to come up with a topic for your reflective paper.

Take time to think about experiences that have impacted your life. For example, you can think about a life-changing event, meeting somebody you admire, a book you read, or a movie character that inspires you.

Brainstorm and write down the ideas that come to your mind. Look at the ideas and choose one that was most impactful. Select the idea that contributed most to your growth as an individual.

2. Research your topic

After selecting a topic, perform in-depth research and gather the relevant information you need for your reflection paper. For example, if you write about a movie character that inspires you, perform background research on the character.

Research online, look at library books, and check any other relevant sources for information about your topic. Gather examples and evidence that you will need and write them down.

3. Organize your thoughts

Create a road map in your mind that will help you organize your work and present it in a logical manner. Ask relevant reflective questions that will help you to put your essay into a perspective. Here are some reflective questions that you can ask

What are the lessons learned?

Is there anything you want to change in the experience?

If yes, what are some of the things you want to change?

How did the experience make you feel?

Are there any challenges you faced?

If yes, what were the challenges?

Are you doing things differently after the experience?

Answering these questions will help you to know how your essay will be formed. The main purpose of using reflective questions is to push you to think deeply.

The deeper you think, the more meaning you find in your experience. This way, you will be able to write a meaningful essay that is detailed and effective.

4. Write a rough draft

Start writing freely. After you have gathered the information you need and organized your thoughts, the next step is to start writing.

Do not stop to think or make corrections. Write your narrative as the ideas flow freely without any interruptions.

Free writing helps to create a steady flow of ideas. This flow is usually interrupted when you overthink or stop to edit or structure your writing at this early stage.

Reflective paper structure

A reflective essay has the same structure as a standard essay. It has introduction, body, and conclusion sections. This is the format you will use to present your reflective essay.

1. Introduction paragraph

Capture your readers’ attention with a hook in the first sentence of the first paragraph of your paper. Make sure they will want to read your entire paper.

Provide background information about your topic and end your introduction with a thesis statement. The most significant lesson you have learned from your experience or what you read or heard forms your thesis statement.

Your reflection essay will focus on the significant experience that your thesis introduces. It is what will set the tone for your entire paper.

2. Body paragraph

The body section of your reflective essay is where you will give a detailed description of your experience. Analyze the events and their impact on your life.

Include reasons and facts to strengthen your essay. Inform readers of the experience as well as the lessons learned.

Make sure your writing is as engaging as possible by creating an image in the mind of your audience. Provide relevant examples where possible so that your audience can easily relate to your narrative.

3. Conclusion paragraph

reflective essay

The final paragraph of your reflective paper should restate your thesis statement and summarize your reflections. Tell the audience how your experiences changed your life and your next course of action.

State how you will apply the lessons learned in the real world. Finish with a final concluding sentence that connects to your topic and express your final reflective thoughts.

Proofread your reflective essay

Read through your reflective paper and correct mistakes. Do not submit your work without proofreading.

When your paper has errors, it looks unprofessional and will often make you lose marks. Check all grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors in your writing and correct them.

You can use spell-checking software to make the proofreading process smooth. Read your essay out loud and check if you can hear any awkward sentences, and correct or delete accordingly.

It is a good idea to take a break from your work for a few hours or a day or two and reread your text again. This allows you to counter-check your work with a fresh mind, so you can quickly spot errors that you could not see before.

You can ask a friend or a family member to read through your essay and help you make adjustments. Incorporate any suggestions you feel will add value to your paper. When you are confident that your final draft is perfectly edited, you can submit it.

Components of a reflective essay

Writing a reflective essay differs from other essays like an argumentative essay or a research paper. A reflective paper is a well-structured narrative of your personal reflections. This type of paper is usually written in first-person narration and has the following unique components

1. Personal experience

A reflection essay is mostly about your personal experience. It requires you to clearly describe something impactful that happened to you.

The foundation of your paper will be formed by the experience you describe. A reader has to follow your line of thought and understand the context of your story before they can understand your analysis and perspective.

2. Details and descriptions

Finding a balance between giving too much information and providing enough details is critical when writing a reflection essay. Avoid overloading readers with too much information, but at the same time, your essay should be detailed enough.

Make your essay interesting and unique by using descriptions. This will increase your chances of getting better grades, and your audience will enjoy reading.

A generic reflection paper will not help you score higher marks. Show your instructor the depth of your analysis as demonstrated in your paper.

Make sure your writing paints a picture in the minds of your readers. Write your paper in the first-person narrative to make it more personal.

3. Write about your honest feelings

Narrate your experience with honesty and precision. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable when explaining events that happened and the consequences.

Describe your true feelings and honest emotions. Make your essay genuine and connect deeply with your readers. A compelling and successful reflective essay is a product of honesty and vulnerability.

4.  Analysis and evaluation

Perform analysis and evaluation of the situation you have narrated. Avoid summarizing it.

Analyze your thoughts, reactions, and feelings as you were going through the experience. Evaluate all your emotions and reaction and demonstrate what you learned from your experience and the impact it had on your life.

5. Provide reflective essay examples

Emphasize your narration with relevant examples. This is how you are able to illustrate the thoughts you were having when going through the experience.

Reflective essay examples help to explain your points so that readers can connect well with your writing. This is how readers will be able to understand your experience and avoid misinterpretation.

6. State your plan

Make sure your reflection paper informs readers how the experience changed your life and the course of action you plan to take. Analyzing the events in your experience allows you to reveal the lessons learned. Explain how you can apply these lessons in your life.

Write about the changes that occurred in your life when the events happened. Tell your audience what you would do differently if you were to experience the same events again. That is what will how your action plan.

7. Focus on the theme

Stay on the right track by maintaining the theme and purpose of your paper. Avoid deviating from the main idea and going off-topic.

Deviating from your main idea can cause you to lose marks. It can also make you exceed the required word count, which is usually between 300 to 700 words.

8. Write using imagery

Make your writing more appealing to your readers by bringing it to life using imagery. Create a vivid picture in the mind of your readers by describing your feelings, events, and experiences with imagery. This way, you are able to enhance your writing and keep your readers interested in your story.

9. Formal language and professional tone

A reflection essay is a personal account of your experiences, but it is also an academic paper. Maintain formal language and use a professional tone when writing your essay.

Make sure your grammar and sentence construction are correct, and avoid using informal language like slang.  Make your essay sound professional and formal by avoiding contractions.

10. Include transitions

Make your sentences have a good flow by using transitions to move from one idea to the next. Transitions make your sentences less choppy and instead move readers smoothly from one point to the next. It also makes your paper look professional.

Reflection paper format

Make sure you format your reflective essay appropriately. Read the essay instructions to find out the formatting requirements.

You can consult your instructor if the formatting instructions are not clear. In most cases, you will be required to format your essay in APA format or MLA format.

When you use the wrong format, you may get lower grades in the subject. Here is how to format your essay using these two styles

MLA format

Make sure your reflective essay has a font of 12 points Times New Roman and double space, with 1 inch margin. On the top right of each page, include your last name and the page number.

The title should be centered. Write your name, professor’s name, course number, and date on the header. The last page of your reflective paper should have cited works.

APA format

Make sure your font is 12 points, Times New Roman, double spaced with a 1-inch margin. Each page should have a page header and page number on the right side. Your paper should be divided into four sections, a title page, an abstract page, the main body, and a reference section.

Key takeaway

A reflective essay is an academic paper that aims to reveal your personality and enhance your creativity. In this paper, you are allowed to use the first-person narrative as you analyze and evaluate impactful experiences in your life. It is important to remember that there is no right or a wrong answer in a reflective essay. You must give an honest account of events that happened in your life and the lessons learned. The reader should understand your personality and character through your writing.

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