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What is a reflective essay and how should you get started?

You may have written essays in your high school years but now you might still have difficulty in writing a reflective essay (or Reflection Paper) and you might feel lost. Essay writing, in general, is a way of learning to form our thoughts in an organized way and particularly reflective essays let you explore your own thoughts and feelings about a specific topic. Most of the time we spend our life with various experiences, good and bad, but rarely do we analyze or even contemplate on them. Therefore, we find it even more difficult to pour them down on a paper.

Basically, writing a reflective essay requires you to engage in an analytical practice of adding your own reflection on the object of your analysis. The object of analysis in this context is anything you want to describe: a real or imagined scene, event, memory or thoughts in which you add your personal reflection. While other type of writings mostly involve in describing a specific subject out of your understanding, writing a reflective essay involves describing your own feelings and emotion regarding personal experiences that you have had in past. Sometimes you may also be asked to reflect upon a given subject and then write an essay on it. That is the case in most of the universities where your professors may ask you to write a reflection paper on a particular article or topic relevant to your studies.

Let us explore on how reflective essay differ from other types of paper writing.

Since all form of essays follow the typical structure of writing an essay, it is obvious that an essay outline would give you a good start. Essay outlining is a wise practice that you should follow if you are someone who wants to excel in your academic pursuit. At the outset, you need a topic you want or need to reflect upon and write an essay about. Stating thesis is what most of our TAs and teachers insist us to focus on, and the ideas and evidences we offer in support of the thesis in what forms the body part of our essay are the actual spices that render our paper either a tasty or a dull dish. Even more, writing a reflective paper is more about describing your own flavor or taste that only you have ever tasted; no one has tasted it before but you must try to convince them that it tastes as good as a vanilla ice cream.

Following the structure of a general essay, it is not just about forming a thesis and supporting it with valid evidences. Though thesis statement is an important part, the way you express your reflection from your own point of view is important. And for a genuine reflection to take place, following these few steps are crucial.

1. Speak from a first person view

The use of first person speech is indispensable in conveying our feelings and emotion regarding a particular topic. When we reflect on a particular subject and try to convey a meaning from our own perspective, it is easy for the reader to understand that such usage of first person mode is an expression of our own reflection.

2. Analyze the subject from different perspective

Analyzing your topic or your subject matter from a broad perspective gives you the opportunity of adding new meanings to the subject and a new prospect of the subject. The more you can add meaning to your thoughts, the more interesting your essay gets. Thus one should train oneself in viewing things from different perspectives.

3. Ask questions to form a quality reflective paper.

Asking questions like, “what have I noticed?”, “how has this brought a difference in me?” and “What might I have done differently?” regarding the subject let you view it in relation to yourself. With these questions asked, you might discover a new dimension of the subject that you yourself might not have realized before, giving a new taste to your own experience. Thinking in this way and asking questions help you a lot in creating a thoughtful reflection that might impress your audience.

Following these few simple steps you will be able to give rise to genuine reflection that encourages you to write a better reflective essay in just a matter of time. Be it your own life experience or a reading your professor assigned you to write on, reflect on them and write an essay with full confidence like a pro.