How to Write a Reflective Essay

Look into a mirror. The first thing you probably see is yourself looking back at you. Keep looking though and you’ll also see what’s behind you. Writing a reflective essay is similar to looking into a mirror except that instead of seeing objects reflected in the room behind you, you “see” reflections of a past experience. Reflective essays are usually written at the completion of a milestone. For instance, a scientist may write a reflective essay at the completion of an experiment or a student may be asked to write a reflective essay at the end of a course of study or the completion of an individual or class project.

An essay on “My Summer Vacation” could be a reflective essay. However, a reflective essay is not to be confused with an informative essay. While an informative essay relates facts like where you went, what you did, and how much things cost, a reflective essay is an evaluation. It’s a record of your feelings and findings from the beginning of your experience until the end. In addition to concluding with a summary of your subject, the conclusion to a reflective essay usually also includes what you learned from the experience.

The essay format of introduction, body, and conclusion is at its strongest when used to write a reflective essay. Begin writing your essay by describing your subject, your feelings and/or expectations at the beginning of the project and by partly disclosing or hinting at your conclusion.

Your essay body would go on to describe your Black Hills vacation, examining not just the points of interest but also why you found them interesting. This particular essay might conclude with the trip's highlights and the reasons you came away feeling that, “the Badlands really aren’t so bad at all.”

In most reflective essays, as well as describing what went right, you’ll also want to describe what went wrong or what could be improved and how. For instance, in the example you might describe attractions you didn’t visit that you would like to see and/or side trips that disappointed you and why. Alternatively, you might describe things you packed that you didn’t need and things you didn’t pack that you wished you had brought with you.

The most important factor to remember in writing a reflective essay is that your opinions and conclusions should directly relate to the experiences you examine in the essay body.






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