Reflect On It: A Guide On How To Write A Reflective Essay Successfully
We often reflect on events and our internal feelings and states of mind, even if we do not call this process by this name. We think everything through to gain experience, to extract information, and to make sense of what is happening around us – and how it can be of use to us in our future lives. This is why not to be afraid of a reflective essay as a task: it is a great tool for learning and discovering the world. In this guide, we will lead you through the main parts of the essay and give tips on how to deal with the task successfully (and get a high mark for it, accordingly).
Definition Of A Reflective Essay
So, a reflective essay is an essay in which you think about something that impacts you immediately, or through something you can relate to. You evaluate, analyze, and make conclusions, and say how this thing (or event) changed you, influenced you, or just let you take a peek on something from a totally different viewpoint.
Movies, music, theatre plays, college courses, internships, events in life, memorable books, or experiences – these are all valuable starting points for reflection.
A reflection essay does not need to focus on you only – it is boring and egocentric, and it is really hard to spin a story around yourself only if you are not a particularly capable short story writer. The key to a good reflection essay is your ability to analyze, to see patterns, to evaluate how something plays a role in your life, or may impact you. Even if you do not have immediate memories or experience of something, it is a reason to say that you were urged to explore it, to widen your knowledge, and to realize how much is still to be learned about this important issue. Ability to admit that you do not know something but are willing to learn it is a valuable conclusion in itself, mind it.
So, where to start and how to do this task? Read on to learn the ins and outs of how to write a reflective essay.
Starting the journey: Topic, Structure and Outline
Your Topic As A Starting Point
You will most definitely begin with a topic. You may be assigned a topic, like ‘Reflect on your strong sides’, or ‘Reflect on your career goals after college’, or you may be encouraged to come up with your own topic.
Anyway, choose something on which you have things to say, and these things are not painful or hard to write on for you. Family life is not that happy or cloudless for many; not everyone could take a trip abroad, or pursue lessons in horse riding or golf. Pick something that you are proud of or something that really changed you. That’s the best bet.
When you have defined a topic for yourself, think about an outline or a plan. It will help you to organize your thoughts and not to leave out important ideas.
Structure of An Essay
Irrespective of the topic, the structure of an essay will be the same for any reflection essay (as well as for illustrative, argumentative, or descriptive essay). It will comprise:
- Introduction with a thesis;
- Main body;
The body will contain several paragraphs, each with its own idea developed across a paragraph. But what about a more detailed structure? This structure will become obvious to you when you decide upon the topic, and then you will set the number of paragraphs, main ideas to dwell on, and your thesis.
Building an Outline
Not to plow the sand on the matter, let’s consider an outline for some specific topic. Imagine that you were asked to write about “The moment when you were very proud of yourself.” It can be some educational accomplishment, sports victory, or acting selflessly and helping those in need, for example. So:
- Introduction: a hook, i.e., something catchy or intriguing, like ‘Have you ever done paragliding? If you are like me, then the answer is ‘no,’ but I have another headlong dive in my life that made me extremely proud of myself.’ You mention the topic and grab the attention of readers all at once.
- Give some context of your topic (very generally) and move to a thesis. E.g.: ‘When I served my community and helped to gather funds for the daycare center, I saw how happy kids and their parents could be, and my involvement in this man-made wonder made me extremely proud of myself.’
- Body of the paper. Use, on average, 3-4 paragraphs for two pages (550 words) essay, and you will not miss the mark. Each paragraph contains a topic sentence, its development and explanation, and, desirably, transitional sentence towards the next paragraph (if possible):
- What was the problem with the center / why funding was needed? The way it would impact the community for better.
- Why you decided to volunteer for it, what you had to overcome, or give up to do it (or you saw it as your mission and duty towards your community).
- What happened along the way, how fast the community gathered funds and what they were used for.
- How parents and kids reacted and why you felt proud. How it impacted you, what conclusions you have made, how this experience changed you, or explained you something about life.
- Conclusion. Restate your thesis in different words, and do not say anything new. All information should be fit into the body of the paper. End with some inspiring/motivating sentences.
From this detailed outline, you can easily move to a first draft. We can also draw some practical ideas about how to how to write a reflective essay.
Secrets of Introduction, Thesis And Conclusion
This part has to be short but informative. It catches the reader but does not say much (so that to entice readers to continue reading). The introduction’s main focus is the thesis, so do your best to create a cool beginning and a sound thesis.
What is a sound thesis? It is the content of the paper in a nutshell.
It says what the paper is about (your volunteering, funds, daycare center, and your feeling of pride). It mentions how everything you say is connected, what key points it includes, and how it relates to you. Schematically, in a reflection essay, a thesis says how something that happened to you (or what you did) impacted you and why.
It does not say anything new, something that does not feature in the body of the paper. It just restates the thesis and mentions maybe a couple of ideas from the body in a very brief form. It makes readers remember your main idea and maybe adds some nice finish to your story.
Tips on Building a Compelling Reflection Essay
Your reflection essay is about you, not about someone else. Mention other peopleonly if their actions are directly related to you. Yet, your focus should be on your experience and reasoning, not on their motivation or personal qualities.
Use academic language and grammar, avoid slang and messenger-like abbreviations and spelling conventions. It relates to any essay you turn in.You are not talking to your friends or posting comments on Instagram. This is an academic paper. To maintain professional and academic language.
Try to keep the paper short and matching the permitted word count. Usually, the paper is limited to 2-3 pages, so think carefully what you will put into it and keep the word number (or pages count) as required.
If possible, pick the topic you will love to talk about, since it will make your work easier. If you feel OKabout the topic and you are willing to share your private details about it, your mind will work more efficiently, and your writing will move faster than if you were stumbling around the awkward topic and picking the words to express things you’d rather forget.
Use transitions and connecting words to show how events are connected and how it all relates to you. Coherence is a must of your essay. Saying interesting things is fine, but you also need to show how these things are connected. By using words like ‘therefore, because of this, after this, in connection to this, thus, in such a way’ and so on, you build connections among events and show how one has led to another and how it all together has made an impact on you.
Formatting relates to the appearance of the page, the in-text citations, and bibliography. There are several styles usually used for formatting student’s papers. The simplest is MLA (it does not ask for a title page), then goes APA, Chicago, Harvard, and so on. There exists the whole universe of good manuals on how to format properly in each style, so pay attention to what style is required and use the guide.
Just remember, that the layout of a page is the same for all styles, so have it pre-set in Settings of your text processor – it will facilitate your task greatly right from the start. Set it like this:
- Use the same 1-inch margins on all sides of the page;
- Have a double space between lines (no extra spaces before the next paragraph, though);
- Readable font (usually 12 pt Times New Roman);
- Page numbers are obligatory, in the upper right corner of the page (pay attention if the format requires the page number on the title page or not).
Good formatting applies to the references page entries as well, so read the manual of the required formatting style carefully.
Topics – How to Find Them
If the topic is not assigned, how to write a reflective essay from scratch, and where to start? The first rule is to write about something you like to remember or share. Nest rule is to pick the topic that shows you in the best possible light. So opt for something that says how good a volunteer you were or how hard you worked to get good grades and go to a good college to fulfill your career dream. Showcase your strong sides, your aspirations, or a wide circle of interests; it always works out with the teachers and application committees. For example, look at these topics:
Your path of attaining goals.
How you cope with failures.
Who/what has inspired you most in your life?
What do you want to achieve in life?
Is there a book or a movie that transformed your views on life?
What trait of your personality makes you proud?
Pick a character from a famous book and reflect on how you would act in his/her place.
Pick a current political event and reflect on how it may impact you now/in the future.
These are all topics for a reflection essay. Just a few examples of them to inspire you to come up with a topic that resonates with you. They are diverse and open a wide field for your imagination and self-expression. Just remember that if you draw on a book or a newspaper, cite it as a source on the reference page.
This is an obligatory step in any guide on how to write a reflective essay. The coolest essay will look miserable if it features careless mistakes, typos, and rude grammatical errors. Let the paper sit for a couple of hours (even better, for a day) and then reread it with a fresh eye. If you do not trust yourself, ask parents or friends to read it. Run a spellchecker and grammatical checking service to see if everything is OK in the essay.
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