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Reflective essays are written, usually, to analyze or document a writer’s own individual experience of some type. While much of a reflective essay may deal with looking at the past, there is usually also some expectation that the writer will discuss future goals or ambitions, and how their past experience or development has influenced their desires for the future. While reflective essays are often deeply personal in nature, students should be careful not to detour from an academic structure and style.
Another issue that students sometimes run into with personal essays of this type is the tendency to narrate their thoughts without providing examples. Providing examples is a necessary part of a reflective essay, and it will also aid students in maintaining an academic tone, rather than allowing the essay to devolve into something more like a journal entry. Examples of real life events and experiences, rather than more abstract discussion of feelings, can also lend a more structured tone to the essay, especially if students organize the examples given around a particular theme.
A reflective essay should be organized in much the way most traditional academic essays are. It should have an introduction which contains the thesis statement or main theme of the essay as well as an overview of the points to be covered in the body. It should contain a number of body paragraphs (how many will largely depend on the required page count), and a conclusion which is essentially a restatement of the points covered in the introductory paragraph.
One way to ensure that the essay uses enough examples and conforms to an academic style and tone is to choose one major example for each body paragraph. This will help the student make sure that the body paragraphs do not become too rambling and do contain enough substantial information. It will also aid them in ordering their thoughts, as there is generally some intuitive manner in which the examples can be organized. When making an outline for the essay, students should make notes regarding the transitions between body paragraphs and from one example to the next. They can also briefly describe the major examples in the introduction and conclusion, which will help give the essay a clear, professionally structured feel. In the conclusion, they can also explore the future results of the development they’ve described in the essay.