Reflective essay definition

A reflective essay is a piece of writing where the writer focuses on narrating about their own experience and feelings. The writer may describe real or imaginary events, memories or thoughts as they include their reflection on the scene. Reflection means looking back into something that happened. Reflective writing helps one to think critically and internalize on how a certain event made them feel and their perspective about it. In reflective writing, we can connect the experiences and believes in theory and research. This, in turn, affects how we think about certain things in the future.  The writer in reflective writing uses their own personal perspective to evaluate and interpret the experiences they are narrating about. The writer focuses on the essay in the first person so that they simply write about themselves.

How to write a reflective essay

When writing a this kind or paper, you should ensure it is from personal experience. However, you do not need to recall every single aspect of the experience but rather focus on the key points and analyze them. To write a good reflective essay, your thoughts are the main source of the idea, and it is therefore important that you develop steps to help you write a comprehensive piece. 

When writing a this essay, you should narrate your experiences and events in such a way that you do not miss out on some details. Below are steps to consider in the narration or writing of the reflective essay:

Describe what happened. This is where you only use the key events to explain your experiences, ensuring the reader captures the real message.

Interpret the event. This is where you write about how the event made you feel when you experienced it and the lessons you have learned from that experience.  

Evaluate the importance of the event. How does the particular event matter according to context? Evaluate how effective the event is and how it can be useful as a lesson to the reader.

Plan for the future. Planning for the future means you analyze the impact of the experience on your future. Are there lessons you get from that experience? Describe whether that experience changed your way of thinking.

The write-up requires you to brainstorm the ideas you gather from experience and any important theory that you have come across. After brainstorming the ideas, relate them to your personal beliefs and try making relevant connections that your beliefs might have about that experience. When you focus on the main themes or ideas of your experience other than the entire details, you can go into more depth in your reflection. After you have identified the main theme, you then develop paragraphs and review them. A good paragraph will entail a description of the experience, how the experience felt and also relate that experience to theory. The paragraph should also include a plan for the future about the particular event experienced. 

Reflective essay structure

The structure of this style of writing should include introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction is where the writer interacts either directly or indirectly with the audience about their own experiences. The body describes the lessons learnt from a certain experience explaining how that experience made the writer feel. The conclusion of this type of essay wraps up the effects that the experiences have caused and emphasises on the comparison between the past and the future.

Common mistakes when writing a reflective essay

A common mistake when writing a paper of this style is writing a reaction instead of a reflection about a certain experience. Other mistakes include: failing to identify the main ideas or the main theme. The experiences must be summarized and arranged according to themes.

  • Using slang language is unprofessional in writing any academic paper. One should use professional words and tone for easy understanding by the audience.
  • Not explaining what you write on the paper is a common mistake because, in the paper, every detail should be explained. A good essay must have three basic steps;  prewriting, drafting and revising.
  • Lack of planning is another common mistake that writers make in the reflective essay. You ought to plan how you will write your paper and if possible, make notes to ensure you do not miss out on other details. 
  • Failure to follow the rules of the reflective essay. 

Rules regarding grammar, length and themes must be followed accordingly when writing the reflective essay. Formal writing is the required way of writing a reflective essay, and one must adhere to it.

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