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How to Write a Reflective Essay?

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How to Write a Reflective Essay

Reflective writing stipulates a conscious and attentive observation of oneself with the intention of becoming a better person. The activity itself is not easy and requires full concentration and ideally isolation from the outer world’s buzz.

Without further ado, this guide will teach you everything about reflective writing, in particular: what it is, which self-analysis techniques are worth employing, how to start a reflective essay, how to compose its main body, and many other important tips and techniques.

What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay, or reflection paper, is a stand-alone type of academic work that focuses on observing, examining, and learning from one’s experience.  

Reflection is the ability to consciously pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and behavior, evaluate decisions made, draw conclusions, and make plans. With the analogy of a reflection from the water surface or a simple mirror, a person’s reflection serves as the foundation for improvement. The subject of your observation can be your actions, experiences, and emotions from the past, or your awareness of how you feel at a given moment in time.

🧘 Tip: Reflecting is hard to do on the run. Therefore, find yourself a comfortable place and posture, away from the street noise and other modern-life distractions.    

Self-Analysis Techniques Used in Reflective Writing

To tune yourself into a reflective writing mood, answer this question: “What do you really want?” The answer could help you understand your true desires, and find out what you specifically want, and not what your neighbor or a friend possesses. 

It is very important to be able to live your own life, and not someone else’s. By reflecting on past actions, you can understand what caused your behavior and then adjust it. You will be able to choose an activity that you really like instead of what others have imposed on you.

In a reflective essay introduction, consider employing a range of self-analysis techniques:   

  • Fixation of the event – “I yelled at my old friend at a party”.
  • Attitude to the event – “I couldn’t restrain myself, so I feel ashamed”.
  • Attitudes towards other participants – “It’s infuriating, my friend seemed to do everything to make me mad”.
  • Attitude towards attitude – “I feel guilty that my old friend was angry at me, I should respect him and be tolerant”.
  • Reason – “I didn’t get enough sleep before the party as I had been studying all night long”.
  • Action – “Next time I will plan my study and leisure activities more carefully”.

😮‍💨 Tip: Be sure to forgive yourself as part of your self-analysis. Tell yourself: I did so because at that moment I didn’t have any better reaction, I acted with the best intentions in my own interests. You will immediately feel incredible relief!

Follow the link to learn more about How to Write a Synthesis Essay?

Writing Reflective Essay Body Paragraphs

The heart of any reflective paper is made of several parts, more commonly referred to as body paragraphs. They follow the reflective essay structure and typically represent 3 to 4 blocks with various reflective elements, such as analysis, introspection, thematic exploration, lessons learned, and others.

✍️ Tip: Don’t forget that each reflective paper starts with a description of the author’s experience, be it an event, the author’s past actions, particular emotions, or a remarkable behavior pattern.

Below, we provide an overview of the most common reflective elements and give examples that reflect an experience of reading the book “The Future is Faster Than You Think” by Peter Diamandis.

Reflective Element

Description

Examples

Analysis Involves examining the significance of reading the book, exploring its impact, and considering lessons learned. Analyzing how the new digital technologies (e.g., biotech, nanomaterials, AI) are impacting the way you spend your leisure, do studies, and conduct work.
Introspection Reflects on personal thoughts of writers, feelings, and reactions upon reading the book. Reflecting on how reading the book has ignited your imagination, impressed you, and inspired you to read the book several times.
Thematic Exploration Explores broader themes or ideas emerging from the reflection. Describe how the book has inspired you to look broader at the topic of the rapidly approaching future, e.g., read other similar books, and consider implications for dating, medicine, and eternal life. 
Future Implications Relate to how insights gained from the book can inform future actions, decisions, or attitudes. The implications for your future and the future of your close ones are immense, e.g., new learning possibilities, re-skilling needs, and family planning.
Personal Growth and Development Highlights personal transformation, or self-discovery ignited by the book. Describe what the book gave you personally, e.g., enriched your vocabulary, gave new knowledge, taught about the urgency of learning new skills.  

🤔 Tip: Don’t try to include all of the above reflective elements in your essay. Firstly, there is not enough space there for everything, even in the outline. Secondly, teachers will rather appreciate your taking a deep dive into 1-2 elements and seeing your outstanding analytical abilities.  

A Few Words About a Reflective Essay Conclusion

Use the conclusion to highlight only the most important things you’ve learned from your experience. For example, from the book by Peter Diamandis about technologies of the near future, you may emphasize the impact it’s made on your studying plans. You may have corrected your current school or college curriculum to account for the skills and capabilities that will be required in the workplace of tomorrow.

Similarly, from the party event mentioned earlier, you could have learned something important about your psychology and behavior under the stressful conditions of excessive workload.  

The relationship between lessons learned and relevant actions taken is important, as it sends the message to your reader about your ability to become a better person as the result of your reflection.

🌟 Tip: Use your reflective paper to learn to value your experience. People who devalue themselves, their experiences, and others are always unhappy, they always lack something, and they often feel unsatisfied.

Final Notes

It’s never too late to look at yourself, at your deeds, the events you participated in, and the knowledge you’ve gained, and to use these experiences to become a better version of yourself. This can be done in your head first, and later transferred to a sheet of paper, and framed in an essay format. The key is to do something and to never stop learning.

Writing a reflective essay is a responsible and time-consuming task that demands the utmost focus and dedication. It may seem difficult at first, but it’s absolutely OK to seek help and advice from peers and teachers on this subject. A good academic reflective essay sample found online could also be a huge aid in this respect. 

This very guide is full of essential tips and techniques that will help you get started with writing and completing your best reflective paper ever.

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