Reflective essays may seem simple on the surface, but they can be a real stumbling block if you’re not quite sure how to go about them. In simple terms, reflective essays constitute a critical examination of a life experience and, with the right guidance, they’re not too challenging to put together. A reflective essay is similar to other essays in that it needs to be easily understood and well structured, but the content is more akin to something personal like a diary entry.
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 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.
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.
Dig Into the Past:
One effective way of reflecting on a particular subject is by looking back. Try to look back on important history or your own personal experiences; then apply it to the context of your essay topic. You’ll begin to discover what realizations you may have overlooked upon pondering on the past.
Look To the Future:
If you can look back into the past, you could also project into the future. Although, it may take a certain amount of imagination. With this approach, you can project fearless forecasts and expound on what that might mean for society or humanity as a whole. Utopian and dystopian themes are common in literature but both can also be utilized to create an impactful reflection paper.
Be In the Present:
If the past and future seem too difficult to grasp, another way of reflecting is by simply noticing and questioning the things happening around you. There might be things you initially overlooked. Take into account current events or what’s going on with the world and connect that with your given or chosen essay topic.
Consider Other People’s Experiences:
If you are tasked to write on a topic and may not have direct or first-hand experience with it, you can use other people’s experiences. Interview persons who actually encountered it or have knowledge of whatever your topic is. First-hand accounts are not only a good source of information, but also good points for reflection. Go a bit further and ask yourself how you think this person felt or was what was going through her mind. Are there similar concepts you can connect this to? Find ways to relate it to the subject matter.
Unpack the Problem:
Another strategy in writing a reflective essay is by addressing a common problem. Explain why there is a problem or why it could be a problem. Offer possible solutions and don’t forget to include the lessons you realized and apply it to the essay topic.