A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
“Tasked with the overwhelming burden of writing my first ever reflective essay, I sat as still as a mouse as my fingers shakily hovered over the lifeless buttons of my laptop keyboard. Where would I begin? Where would I end? Thoughts frantically spasmed their way through my mind as I envisaged the treacherous journey on which I was about to embark.”A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
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Reflective essays are those sorts of essays that seem oh so easy, and yet oh so hard to write, all at the same time. To put it simply, reflective essays constitute a critical examination of a life experience and with the right guidance, they aren’t very difficult to put together. A reflective essay is akin to a diary entry, except that others will be reading it so it needs to have a great deal of coherence and a good structure. In that regard, a reflective essay is much like any other essay out there.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
In this guide, we explore in detail how to write a great reflective essay, including what makes a good structure and some advice on the writing process. We’ve even thrown in an example reflective essay to inspire you too, making this the ultimate guide for anyone needing reflective essay help.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
In a reflective essay, a writer primarily examines his or her life experiences, hence the term ‘reflective’. The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to provide a platform for the author to not only recount a particular life experience, but to also explore how he or she has changed or learned from those experiences. Reflective writing can be presented in various formats, but you’ll most often see it in a learning log format or diary entry. Diary entries in particular are used to convey how the author’s thoughts have developed and evolved over the course of a particular period.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
The format of a reflective essay may change depending on the target audience. Reflective essays can be academic, or may feature more broadly as a part of a general piece of writing for a magazine, for instance. For class assignments, while the presentation format can vary, the purpose generally remains the same: tutors aim to inspire students to think deeply and critically about a particular learning experience or set of experiences. Here are some typical examples of reflective essay formats that you may have to write:A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
A type of reflective essay often used by tutors as a strategy for helping students to learn how to analyse their personal life experiences to promote emotional growth and development. The essay gives the student a better understanding of both themselves and their behaviours.A focus on the literature:
This kind of essay requires students to provide a summary of the literature, after which it is applied to the student’s own life experiences.
While the format of a reflective piece of writing may change, there is one element that will mostly remain the same, and that is the structure. You may be relieved to know that, much like any essay, a reflective essay is typically comprised of an introduction, body and conclusion.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
What do I write about?
As you go about deciding on the content of your essay, you need to keep in mind that a reflective essay is highly personal and aimed at engaging the reader or target audience. And there’s much more to a reflective essay than just recounting a story. You need to be able to reflect (more on this later) on your experience by showing how it influenced your subsequent behaviours and how your life has been particularly changed as a result.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
As a starting point, you might want to think about some important experiences in your life that have really impacted you, either positively, negatively, or both. Some typical reflection essay topics include: a real-life experience, an imagined experience, a special object or place, a person who had an influence on you, or something you have watched or read. If you are writing a reflective essay as part of an academic exercise, chances are your tutor will ask you to focus on a particular episode – such as a time when you had to make an important decision – and reflect on what the outcomes were. Note also, that the aftermath of the experience is especially important in a reflective essay; miss this out and you will simply be storytelling.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
It sounds obvious, but the reflective process forms the core of writing this type of essay, so it’s important you get it right from the outset. You need to really think about how the personal experience you have chosen to focus on impacted or changed you. Use your memories and feelings of the experience to determine the implications for you on a personal level.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Once you’ve chosen the topic of your essay, it’s really important you study it thoroughly and spend a lot of time trying to think about it vividly. Write down everything you can remember about it, describing it as clearly and fully as you can. Keep your five senses in mind as you do this, and be sure to use adjectives to describe your experience. At this stage, you can simply make notes using short phrases, but you need to ensure that you’re recording your responses, perceptions, and your experience of the event(s).A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Once you’ve successfully emptied the contents of your memory, you need to start reflecting. A great way to do this is to pick out some reflection questions which will help you think deeper about the impact and lasting effects of your experience. Here are some useful questions that you can consider:
– Did it have any positive or negative bearing on your life?
– Looking back, what would you have done differently?
– Why do you think you made the particular choices that you did? Do you think these were the right choices?
– What are your thoughts on the experience in general? Was it a useful learning experience? What specific skills or perspectives did you acquire as a result?A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Here’s a very useful tip: although you may feel well prepared with all that time spent reflecting in your arsenal, do not, do NOT start writing your essay until you have worked out a comprehensive, well-rounded plan! Your writing will be so much more coherent, your ideas conveyed with structure and clarity, and your essay will likely achieve higher marks. This is an especially important step when you’re tackling a reflective essay – there can be a tendency for people to get a little ‘lost’ or disorganised as they recount their life experiences in an erratic and often unsystematic manner. But if you develop a thorough outline (this is the same as a ‘plan’) and ensure you stick to it like Christopher Columbus to a map, you should do just fine as you embark on the ultimate step of writing your essay. If you need further convincing on how important planning is, we’ve summarised the key benefits of creating a detailed essay outline below:A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
- An outline allows you to establish the basic details that you plan to incorporate into your paper – this is great for helping you pick out any superfluous information, which can be removed entirely to make your essay succinct and to the point.
- Think of the outline as a map – you plan in advance the points you wish to navigate through and discuss in your writing. Your work will more likely have a clear through line of thought, making it easier for the reader to understand. It’ll also help you avoid missing out any key information, and having to go back at the end and try to fit it in.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
- It’s a real time-saver! Because the outline essentially serves as the essay’s ‘skeleton’, you’ll save a tremendous amount of time when writing as you’ll be really familiar with what you want to say. As such, you’ll be able to allocate more time to editing the paper and ensuring it’s of a high standard.
As is the case with all essays, your reflective essay must begin within an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The point of having a ‘hook’ is to grab the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning. You must portray the exciting aspects of your story in the initial paragraph so that you stand the best chances of holding your reader’s interest. Refer back to the opening quote of this article – did it grab your attention and encourage you to read more? The thesis statement is a brief summary of the focus of the essay, which in this case is a particular experience that influenced you significantly. Remember to give a quick overview of your experience – don’t give too much information away or you risk your reader becoming disinterested.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Next up is planning the body of your essay. This can be the hardest part of the entire paper; it’s easy to waffle and repeat yourself both in the plan and in the actual writing. Have you ever tried recounting a story to a friend only for them to tell you to ‘cut the long story short’? They key here is to put plenty of time and effort into planning the body, and you can draw on the following tips to help you do this well:A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.Try adopting a chronological approach. This means working through everything you want to touch upon as it happened in time. This kind of approach will ensure that your work is systematic and coherent. Keep in mind that a reflective essay doesn’t necessarily have to be linear, but working chronologically will prevent you from providing a haphazard recollection of your experience. Lay out the important elements of your experience in a timeline – this will then help you clearly see how to piece your narrative together.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Ensure the body of your reflective essay is well focused and contains appropriate critique and reflection. The body should not only summarise your experience, it should explore the impact that the experience has had on your life, as well as the lessons that you have learned as a result. The emphasis should generally be on reflection as opposed to summation. A reflective posture will not only provide readers with insight on your experience, it’ll highlight your personality and your ability to deal with or adapt to particular situations.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
In the conclusion of your reflective essay, you should focus on bringing your piece together by providing a summary of both the points made throughout, and what you have learned as a result. Try to include a few points on why and how your attitudes and behaviours have been changed. Consider also how your character and skills have been affected, for example: what conclusions can be drawn about your problem-solving skills? What can be concluded about your approach to specific situations? What might you do differently in similar situations in the future? What steps have you taken to consolidate everything that you have learned from your experience? Keep in mind that your tutor will be looking out for evidence of reflection at a very high standard.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.Congratulations – you now have the tools to create a thorough and accurate plan which should put you in good stead for the ultimate phase indeed of any essay, the writing process.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Writing your essay
As with all written assignments, sitting down to put pen to paper (or more likely fingers to keyboard) can be daunting. But if you have put in the time and effort fleshing out a thorough plan, you should be well prepared, which will make the writing process as smooth as possible. The following points should also help ease the writing process:
– If you need to, refer back to our notes earlier on creating an outline. As you work through your essay, present your thoughts systematically, remembering to focus on your key learning outcomes.
– Consider starting your introduction with a short anecdote or quote to grasp your readers’ attention, or other engaging techniques such as flashbacks.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
– Choose your vocabulary carefully to properly convey your feelings and emotions. Remember that reflective writing has a descriptive component and so must have a wide range of adjectives to draw from. Avoid vague adjectives such as ‘okay’ or ‘nice’ as they don’t really offer much insight into your feelings and personality. Be more specific – this will make your writing more engaging.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
– Be honest with your feelings and opinions. Remember that this is a reflective task, and is the one place you can freely admit – without any repercussions – that you failed at a particular task. When assessing your essay, your tutor will expect a deep level of reflection, not a simple review of your experiences and emotion. Showing deep reflection requires you to move beyond the descriptive. Be extremely critical about your experience and your response to it. In your evaluation and analysis, ensure that you make value judgements, incorporating ideas from outside the experience you had to guide your analysis. Remember that you can be honest about your feelings without writing in a direct way. Use words that work for you and are aligned with your personality.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
– If you really want to awaken your reader’s imagination, you can use imagery to create a vivid picture of your experiences.
– Ensure that you highlight your turning point, or what we like to call your “Aha!” moment. Without this moment, your resulting feelings and thoughts aren’t as valid and your argument not as strong.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
– Don’t forget to keep reiterating the lessons you have learned from your experience.
A further tip – using wider sources
Although a reflective piece of writing is focused on personal experience, it’s important you draw on other sources to demonstrate your understanding of your experience from a theoretical perspective. It’ll show a level of analysis – and a standard of reliability in what you’re claiming – if you’re also able to validate your work against other perspectives that you find. Think about possible sources, like newspapers, surveys, books and even journal articles. Generally, the additional sources you decide to include in your work are highly dependent on your field of study. Analysing a wide range of sources, will show that you have read widely on your subject area, that you have nuanced insight into the available literature on the subject of your essay, and that you have considered the broader implications of the literature for your essay. The incorporation of other sources into your essay also helps to show that you are aware of the multi-dimensional nature of both the learning and problem-solving process.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Example reflective essay
If you want some inspiration for writing, take a look at our example of a short reflective essay, which can serve as a useful starting point for you when you set out to write your own.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Some final notes to remember
To recap, the key to writing a reflective essay is demonstrating what lessons you have taken away from your experiences, and why and how you have been shaped by these lessons.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
The reflective thinking process begins with you – you must consciously make an effort to identify and examine your own thoughts in relation to a particular experience. Don’t hesitate to explore any prior knowledge or experience of the topic, which will help you identify why you have formed certain opinions on the subject. Remember that central to reflective essay writing is the examination of your attitudes, assumptions and values, so be upfront about how you feel. Reflective writing can be quite therapeutic, helping you identify and clarify your strengths and weaknesses, particularly in terms of any knowledge gaps that you may have. It’s a pretty good way of improving your critical thinking skills, too. It enables you to adopt an introspective posture in analysing your experiences and how you learn/make sense of them.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
If you are still having difficulties with starting the writing process, why not try mind-mapping which will help you to structure your thinking and ideas, enabling you to produce a coherent piece. Creating a mind map will ensure that your argument is written in a very systematic way that will be easy for your tutor to follow. Here’s a recap of the contents of this article, which also serves as a way to create a mind map:A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
3. Allow your ideas to flow freely, knowing that you will always have time to edit your work.
4. Consider how your ideas are connected to each other, then begin the writing process.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
Two hours and three coffees in, you’ve scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed (twice), watched one episode of the last season of Game of Thrones, sent angry tweets to its creators, and donated for the knee surgery of two dogs. You go back to your open Word doc and you have only managed to write: “This organization seems like fun” or “I’ll totally be a great fit”. A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
You know you are not this generic or basic. You’re a capable guy or gal who has a lot to offer and there are genuine reasons behind your decision to apply.
It’s just hard to put it into words… And we get that!
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of creating a motivation letter that gets you accepted anywhere.
We’re Going to Cover:
- What a Motivational Letter Is (And Why It Matters)
- How to Structure a Motivational Letter
- How to Write a Motivational Letter [+Some Helpful Tips to Get Those Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the Paper]
- How (and Why) to Create a Motivational Letter With Novorésumé
What is a Motivational Letter and Why it Matters?
A motivational letter is a one-page letter that’s used to describe why you are the perfect candidate for a certain position. It is usually attached to your resume.
You are required to write a motivational letter in these 4 specific scenarios…
- You are applying to get admitted to an educational program at a college or university (undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate).
- You are applying to work at a non-profit organization.
- You are applying as a volunteer in an organization.
- You’re applying for an internship in a company.
The motivational letter shouldn’t be confused with a cover letter, the purpose of which is to highlight how specific information on your resume matches a job opening. Think of a cover letter as the introduction to your resume for a hiring manager and your motivational letter as the powerful closing sales pitch for a university or non-profit. A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
So why exactly does the motivational letter matter? You’re a doer more than a talker: you’ve listed everything there is to know about you on your resume. That should be enough, right? Wrong!
All organizations are looking for people who genuinely want to be there and are excited about what they do. The intent should be your driving motivation!
Writing a good motivational letter can be an absolute game-changer. It can provide a boost for your resume, but also make up for lacking required skills.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
How to Structure a Motivational Letter
A good motivational letter is a one-pager where you introduce yourself, your story, and show your interest in the position or organization you are applying to.
There are two main ways to structure your motivational letter:
- Using the classic 3 main paragraphs structure, where your motivational letter has the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
- Using the 5-7 paragraph structure, where you divide your main body paragraph into smaller 1-3 sentence paragraphs according to the main points.
Now, which one do YOU go for? The rule of thumb is if you want to be more factual and to the point, go for the 7-paragraph structure. This way, you can use each body paragraph to discuss specific achievements or points.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
If, on the other hand, you’re going for a more story-telling approach, you’d go for the 3 paragraph option, so as not to break the flow of the story.A Complete Guide To Writing a Reflective Essay.
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