Writing a Personal Reflective Essay
In this type of writing, your purpose is to engage your reader with more than just a re-telling of a story. You must reflect on your experience and really outline how you have changed as a person and how your life has been affected or impacted.
This is writing about something that has happened in your life and has really impacted on you for good or bad.
- Something that has changed your life – birth, death, illness or an issue.
- Something that really annoys you – racism, bigotry or social inequalities.
- You will be writing about your memories of an event or experience which you had significant feelings about before, during and afterwards.
- You are not re-telling the story.
This is perhaps the more difficult segment. When reflecting you really need to think about yourself and how the personal experience changed you.
- You are reflecting on memories of your feelings, expressing them, reflecting on them with thoughts and opinions, and considering them with the power of hindsight (looking back).
- What have you learned about yourself?
- How have you grown? Developed? Changed?
- Statements such as: “Looking back”, “I can see now” can all start the reflective thinking process.
A reflective essay:
- Explores some aspect of the world.
- Presents your thoughts and feelings on it
- Discusses how you think it has affected the person you are today.
- Describes the person you are/your opinions of yourself.
Scottish Qualifications Authority Intermediate 2 English resources.
A collection of resources from Education Scotland to help you prepare for your exams.
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Writing reflective essay
October 13, 2014
Writing skills are very fundamental skills for all kinds of purposes, but especially when writing essays. It is very difficult to write a good essay without the proper writing skills. Although everyone claims he or she can write a good essay, many people lack the needed skills that make an essay a polished piece of writing. The difference between professional writers and the everyday person is that the professional writer has writing skills that makes his or her essays stand out.
Writing skills are very essential when writing any kind of an essay. Many students do not possess the good writing skills that are very important. Students should admit to themselves that this is among their greatest weaknesses and seek help from professionals who are very competent in their essay writing skills. Good writing skills involve the ability to write an essay that is free from grammatical errors, with a good content as well as style and structure. A good writer must understand and progress through the writing process, which includes prewriting, writing, revision, and proofreading.
Part of the writing process is in knowing who the intended audience is and the purpose of the writing. In many cases, students fail to understand their audience or how to relate to that audience. If the student knows in advance that the writing is to target a specific audience, then the student needs to know what interest that audience and what kinds of opinions that audience is likely to have on certain subjects. Students start writing their essays without first identifying their audience which is very wrong.
Another fallacy that students often commit is failing to create an outline that will assist them in organizing their thoughts, thus ensuring that no points are left out when writing the essay. An outline helps to ensure that the essay has a clear flow and that every point is well explained. Besides the outline, students must take seriously the use of good grammar as well as utilization of appropriate stylistic techniques. Essays written by professionals are always reader friendly because the professionals make use of headings, subheadings, and listing whenever possible. These strategies help the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought. Moreover, readers find it easier to read a page that has been broken down to small paragraphs than a page with long paragraphs. An essay that is easily scanned is quite attractive to the reader.
These are some of the writing skills that many students do not possess. Although professional writers utilize these strategies, students can learn them as well. However, they must spend time and diligence in understanding what makes good writing, and then they must practice.
How to Write a Reflective Essay on Writing Skills
An individual who wishes to become an accomplished writer must learn to reflect on his writing. An effective strategy is to develop a writing portfolio.
This is a collection of writing the person does over a period of time. Part of that portfolio is writing reflective essays. For example, if the individual writes a story, he can then write a reflective essay on that story. He can critique himself on his plot structure and character development. He can discuss what he was trying to accomplish and how well he succeeded. If the individual is critiquing his general writing skills, then he might choose a piece he wrote at the beginning of the school year and compare it to a piece he wrote at the end of the school year. He might note improvements he has made in vocabulary development, sentence structure, organization of ideas, and development of a thesis. In summary, the purpose of a reflective essay on writing is to examine one’s own writing to identify strengths and weaknesses and to establish goals for improvement.
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California State University Channel Islands
Sample Reflective Essays
Below we offer two examples of thoughtful reflective essays that effectively and substantively capture the author’s growth over time at California State University Channel Islands (CI). We suggest that you write your own essay before reading either of these models-then, having completed your first draft, read these over to consider areas in your own background that you have not yet addressed and which may be relevant to your growth as a reader, writer, or thinker.
Any reference to either of these essays must be correctly cited and attributed; failure to do so constitutes plagiarism and will result in a failing grade on the portfolio and possible other serious consequences as stated in the CSUCI Code of Conduct.
View the examples
Want to become a better writer?
CI’s Student Writing web site has how-to videos, writing samples for different subjects, and many other resources to help with your writing.
Careers in English and Writing
The English program at California State University Channel Islands prepares students for a wide range of exciting and rewarding careers, including:
- English teacher
- Social media strategist
- Media production (film, TV, internet)
- Print and digital publishing
- Corporate communications
- Foreign service
- Human resources
- Foundations/non-profit management
1 University Dr., Camarillo CA, 93012 [Map]
How to Write a Reflection Paper
Reflection papers allow you to communicate with your instructor about how a specific article, lesson, lecture, or experience shapes your understanding of class-related material. Reflection papers are personal and subjective, but they must still maintain a somewhat academic tone and must still be thoroughly and cohesively organized. Here’s what you need to know about writing an effective reflection.
Part One of Three:
When charting your thoughts, which column would include your subjective values?
Part Two of Three:
Organizing a Reflection Paper Edit
What does every good body paragraph include?
Part Three of Three:
What is an example of something you should include in your writing?
Sample Outline and Paper Edit
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- You can use “one” instead. For example, “One might say. ” and then give your own opinion or perspective.
- Think of your answers to the following questions: Do you like dolphins? How have dolphins changed your life? Do dolphins help you with everyday tasks? If you were a dolphin for a day, what would you do? These are the tough questions that you need to ask in order to start writing your paper.
- It can have as many paragraphs as you see fit, but there is usually at least an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
- List all of the qualities a leader needs, and then write how each of those leadership roles applies to you.
- It depends on what your instructor outlines as an expectation. Usually this will be outlined in the assignment if the answer is ‘yes”.
- No. Make a good title for the whole page.
- Once could start with a statement or question: “Has anyone ever promised you secrecy and not followed through with it?”
- If you are writing it on a film and a piece of writing, compare and contrast the two. A reflection paper is your personal opinions; write about what you thought of the two – whether you liked or disliked them. Write about how they affected you in any way.
- A cover sheet and title page are only required for a reflection paper if you were explicitly told to include them. Otherwise, they are not necessary.
- Unless the assignment’s instructions specifically states that it does, probably not, but people are always impressed by a catchy title, so you should try to come up with something.
Expert Review By:
This version of How to Write a Reflection Paper was reviewed by Michelle Golden on March 31, 2017.
Writing reflective essay
Your instructor just told you that your next writing assignment will be a reflective essay.
Reflective essays are about you, so you go home and take a good long look in the mirror.
Before you start writing about what you see on the surface, keep in mind that a reflective essay involves more than just a cursory glance. It requires taking a deeper look at yourself, stepping through the looking glass, so to speak, to discover and show important parts of yourself to your readers.
Image by sammydavisdog via flickr
Below, I’ll show you how to create a killer reflective essay outline, and I’ll even give you a downloadable template you can use to make your own outline.
What Is a Reflective Essay and How Is It Different from Other Essays?
So you may be asking yourself what a reflective essay is exactly. You’ve written many other types of essays for many different classes, so how is this any different?
First things first… a reflective essay is one in which you reflect on your personality, places you’ve been, people you’ve met, or experiences that have influenced you. This type of essay lets you tell the reader who you are and what/who has made you that way.
Unlike most other types of essays you may have written, reflective essays typically don’t deal with researching facts and figures. They are much more personal in nature and can be more fluid in structure and style.
It can be tempting to just jump right into writing, but hold on! A good reflective essay can be a great reflective essay with the proper planning.
Using a Reflective Essay Outline to Organize Your Thoughts
The goal of any essay is to write clearly and concisely about whatever topic you choose or are assigned. Unfortunately, with reflective essays, some people tend to get a little disorganized and start sounding like the Walrus, talking about anything and everything in no particular order.
Don’t be like the Walrus!
Using a reflective essay outline can help your writing in a few ways
- An outline can help lay out exactly what details you want to use before you start writing. This is tremendously helpful because you won’t end up on your last paragraph and suddenly realize that you forgot to include a crucial element or two.
- An outline gives you a clear roadmap instead of curvy paths and dead ends. You don’t have to wonder what’s supposed to come next because it’ll all be in the outline. In other words, you won’t have to spend time “in Wonderland.”
- Because you can look at your reflective essay outline and follow it as you’re writing, ultimately you’ll save some time in your writing. Second-guessing what comes next, in what order the supporting details should go, or going back for big revisions because you forgot something important are all wastes of time.
Are you convinced yet that creating a reflective essay outline is the best option?
Good! Now let’s get to actually making that outline!
How to Craft a Good Reflective Essay Outline
Because the subject of reflective essays is different from that of, say, an argumentative essay, the structure and organization can also be quite different. However, some rules still apply. To start organizing, your reflective essay outline should include sections for the introduction, body and conclusion.
For the purposes of giving examples, let’s say Alice just got back from her adventures in Wonderland and is working on a reflective essay outline to tell about her experience there.
Image by Jessie Wilcox Smith via Wikimedia Commons
As with any essay, your reflective essay should begin with an introduction. The parts of your introduction to include in your outline are:
- The hook: you want to grab your reader’s attention from the very start. If you’re telling about an experience, give a quick preview of the most exciting part of that story.
- The thesis statement: In a reflective essay, the thesis statement will usually include a brief statement of what your essay is about as well as how the specific person, place, or experience has influenced you. You will expand on this later, so don’t give away too much in the beginning.
Alice’s introduction might go something like this:
I don’t know how I had gotten myself into such a mess, but I found myself running down a seemingly endless path with the Red Queen’s entire court shouting, “Off with her head!” I had long yearned for adventure and excitement, but my time in Wonderland made me realize that adventure comes with some serious risks.
The next part of your outline is perhaps the most important. Without your reflective essay outline, the body can get muddled and confusing. I can’t tell you exactly how to organize the body of your essay because every essay is going to be different. However, I do have a couple of tips.
- If you are writing about an experience or an event, use a chronology that makes sense. It doesn’t have to be completely linear, but if you jump around in the timeline too much, it can confuse both you and the reader. Laying out the important parts in the outline will help you figure out in what order to put everything.
- No matter what you’re writing your reflective essay about–an experience, person or place–you should include the impact it has madeand what, if anything, you learned. This should be at least as long of a section as the description of the event, person or place. It’s what shows off who you are and it’s what the reader will be most interested in.
The body paragraphs of Alice’s reflective outline may look something like this:
- Following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole
- Description of what happened
- Learning to look before I leap
- Meeting the Caterpillar
- Description of what happened
- I learned how to control my size
- I started to realize just how strange the people were in Wonderland
- Mad Tea Party
- Description of what happened
- Although a lot of fun, the tea party was very stressful
- The people I met were progressively crazier
- Croquet with the Red Queen
- Description of what happened
- It’s very hard to play croquet when the other person is cheating and threatening to behead you
- It was at this point when I realized that Wonderland had no rules, and that a world without rules is insane
As you can see, Alice’s timeline includes different events within the entire experience and with a moment of reflection on each. The final lesson learned is the epiphany–the aha! moment.
Your outline does not have to look just like this. It could be a summary of the entire experience, followed by what you learned from it. Like I said, every essay is different.
The conclusion of your reflective essay should be the finishing touch that brings the whole piece of writing together nicely. Include a brief summary of your main points (as stated in the body paragraphs), as well as the overall takeaway from your reflection.
For example, Alice’s conclusion would be similar to this:
The White Rabbit, Caterpillar, Mad Hatter, and the Red Queen are certainly faces that I’ll never forget. They each contributed to the sheer madness of Wonderland. But those people–that madness–made me thankful for the peace and security of my own home and family and its rules.
More Resources to Help with Your Reflective Essay Outline
I hope you have a better understanding of why and how to draft a good outline. To give you a bit of extra help, here’s a downloadable reflective essay outline template.
This outline template follows a 5-paragraph format, but you can add paragraphs and rearrange the body paragraphs to fit your needs. Just fill in the blanks with your own information, and you’ll be one step closer to a stellar essay.
Need more inspiration? Check out these reflective essay examples.
Psst. 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
About the Author
Eden Meirow is a self-employed freelance writer with a passion for English, history and education. You can find her on Google+.
Reflective Essay Samples
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