A reflective essay is a piece of writing in which an author goes through their personal life experiences to either teach a lesson or give life advice. The writer usually starts from an initial point and progresses using thorough details from the event(s), eventually bringing out some sort of conclusion to the story. The author's main task in such texts is to explain how those life experiences influenced them as a person, and how it changed their lives. To make things clear, the goal of a reflective essay is to express how the progression of events influenced one’s thoughts and feelings about certain life events and what quality lessons they took away from those events!
Reflective Essay Outline
To help with the reflective essay format, a writer should choose between a topic and sentence outline. The difference between these is fairly simple. The sentence outline can only be stated in complete sentences and usually gives a more narrowed version of the topic. It also presents a glimpse of the theme that will be presented! Your topic outline, on the other hand, can be a phrase that gives a generalized version of your topic.
Examples of topic outlines:
- Family Problems
- Economic Problems
- Peer Problems
- World War 2
- American Revolution
Examples of sentence outlines:
- I haven't spoken with my father in a while…
- My country has a foreign debt that is growing exponentially!
- My friend Rick has been bullying me for years.
- My father’s PTSD from World War 2 showed me a new piece of our unstable society.
- The Battle for Bunker Hill gave the world the first glimpse of American Patriotism!
Choose one or more events that have happened to you at some point in your life, and decide on which ones would be the most interesting to read about. Try to choose the one(s) that taught you the most life lessons and or ones that changed your mindset about that specific field. If you are having troubles choosing between two events, draw a Venn Diagram. This will help you compare and contrast them, and after figuring out which moments are the best ones for this job, it is time to start writing that essay! The main questions your topic should answer are how it affected your life and why.
Reflective Essay Topics
A reflective essay is without a doubt one of the only essays that (Learn about expository essay topics)This essay is all about you and your experiences. Here are some ideas that could potentially help you come up with a few good reflective essay topic examples.
- The emotional rush that came after you had your first kiss.
- The excitement and responsibility that came from getting your first dog.
- The first time you ever attended a high school house party.
- The work ethic you built from joining the varsity soccer team.
- When you overcame one of your deepest fears.
- How somebody changed your beliefs on a certain topic.
Reflective Essay Structure
Just like any other essay, the start of your reflective essay with an intriguing introduction. The intro should explain to the reader what your overall focus is on the paper. Give them a small little treat in the intro that will lead them to the big sweet donut which we call the body part of an essay. The body part of your essay explains to the reader how you changed and what you have learned after that certain life event. The conclusion sums up your findings and gives an overall closing statement!
A great example is “My first college frat party”.
“This weekend my friends invited me to my first college frat party, and the things I saw and experienced were just unbelievable.”
That sentence up top is an amazing example of a captivating reflective essay introduction. In one sentence, you explained to the reader what you would be talking about and made it sound interesting. The first few sentences of your introduction should always contain a small glimpse of the big picture which you shall reveal in the body paragraph of the essay. The final sentence of the intro is the core point of your entire paper and is called the reflective essay thesis. In this sentence, you are clearly stating what effects came from the catalytic event and the overall significance of those changes. The thesis statement will be proven in the body paragraphs!
“After the frat party I went to this weekend, it became evident that almost every other college student can’t handle a drink whatsoever.”
Up top, you will see a good body paragraph intro. The topic sentence of that paragraph already explains what you will be discussing in the paragraph. Just like in the introductory paragraph, the first sentence in your body paragraphs should make the reader excited about reading the entire story. During the body paragraphs, make sure to give vivid detail and examples so as to give the essay real life features. In other words, put the reader into the story by giving relatable examples of situations and meticulously describing minor details. The more creative each sentence is and the more it captivates the reader with its literary style, the higher the excitement and interest level of the reader will be.
“After looking back at that frat party experience, I have come to the conclusion that I will not support underage drinking.”
As you may already know, your conclusion is where you sum up everything you have been speaking about in your essay. Using the information and events described in the body paragraph, bring everything back to a final concluding point in which you briefly reinstate how the experiences regarding this event molded and shaped your body physically and or mentally. Lastly, you should inform the reader of your final opinion on the topic.
Reflective Essay Format
The format of reflective essays drastically differs when compared to other essays. Since a reflective essay is all about you and your personal life experiences, you can think of it as a diary entry. Reflective essay formatting is probably the only essay where you can avoid any normal academic writing style. Of course, not unless your teacher requires you to use MLA or APA format.
- You should use Times New Roman, 12 font and double spaced.
- 1” margins.
- All of your titles must be centered.
- Top right part of every page includes your last name, the page number.
- The header on your paper should have your name, professor's name, course number and the date.
- The last page must include a Works Cited.
- You should use Times New Roman, 12 font and double spaced.
- 1” margins.
- Have a header on top of every page.
- Make sure every page is numbered in the top right corner.
- Your essay must be divided into 4 key parts - Title page, Abstract, Main body and References.
Reflective Essay Rubric
A good reflective essay answers or shows the following:
The essay showed the reader the “big picture” that you as an author tried to show. Focus on showing how your reflection of the event brought about new changes to your mentality or physicality!
Your essay has an overall “Cause and Effect” notion. Something happened to you, and from that experience, you have changed.
You throughout the essay have shown the reader that you are capable of looking at your own actions from an outside perspective.
Preferably have a super interesting reflective essay topic. It should be unique, something you won't read or hear about often.
A bad reflective essay fails to answer or show the following:
The essay has failed to show the reader the author's “big picture”.
Your reflective essay does not have even the slightest hint of a Cause and Effect Essay.
Throughout the essay, you have failed to show the reader that you are capable of looking at your own actions and decisions from another perspective.
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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
View Sample Reflective Essay #1
View Sample Reflective Essay #2
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