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Reflective Essay Writing Tips

written by: Amanda Smith • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/5/2012

Having a hard time writing a reflective essay? Here are some ideas to get yourself on track for writing a great essay.

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    Think of the word "reflection". It means to look back upon a situation and present your findings. It is all about your perspective, post-experience. Whether you are writing a reflective essay about an event in your life, or you are reflecting on a poem that you were assigned to read for your high school english class, reflective essay writing is all about composing your thoughts on the subject.

    It is different than an informative essay, for which you may research a topic, or have to come up with ways to support your conclusions. Instead, reflective essay writing is unique to the individual. There is really no wrong answer. In fact, this is the kind of essay in which your teacher wants you to explore your creative thoughts and really think outside of the box.

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    Recommended Format

    If you are writing a reflective essay as a school assignment, your teacher may have provided specific guidelines as to how it should be constructed. Before you get started writing, it is important to make sure you read over any information your teacher has provided about the assignment.

    In general, reflective essay writing should follow the typical format of introduction, body, and conclusion. It is important to keep up the technical aspects of your writing when constructing a reflective essay because it is so easy to ramble and get off topic. The introduction should give the reader an idea of what your essay is about as well as hint at the conclusion.

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    Brainstorming and Prewriting

    This is a very important step that often goes overlooked when writing a reflective essay. Because of the nature of the assignment, it is often not very hard to gather thoughts and begin writing. However, one of the biggest mistakes that writers often make is feeling confident about an assignment and therefore skipping the prewriting and brainstorming process. Prewriting is not just designed to help you come up with things to write about- it is also plays a very important part in providing structure and framework so that your great thoughts are well connected.

    Choosing a great prewriting activity depends on your personal style as writer. Some prefer bubble maps to connect thoughts, while others enjoy creating an entire first draft and going back in to edit. Whatever your style, prewriting for a reflective essay should be all about finding structure and creating a backbone for your assignment.

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    Questions to Consider

    If you are having trouble reflecting on a particular event or literary work, here are some questions that will be helpful in getting you going. Remember, do not be afraid to be bold and have confidence in your thoughts.

    1. How did this make me feel? What emotions were evoked? (happy, sad, scared, excited)
    2. What did this remind me of? Something in my past? Another story Ive read?
    3. How was it different from what I thought it would be? Did I have any ideas going into it? Did it live up to my expectations?
    4. How could it have gone differently?
    5. If I were a movie critic, what would I have to say about this particular situation or literary work?