The Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay (2023)

This article, written by nursing professionals fromEnfermeríaAnswers.netIt will show you how to write a reflective essay and walk you through the process of writing this particular type of essay. If you have been given a reflective writing assignment for the first time, you may have a lot of questions such as: 'What is the purpose of this task?', 'How do I write a reflective essay?',o 'What am I supposed to learn from this?The good news is that all these questions are valid and you should ask yourself. In fact, it's exactly these types of questions that provide the very foundation of reflective thinking, so if you're already asking these questions, congratulations, you're on your way to becoming a skilled reflective thinker. So we'll address each of these questions separately, and more, as we discuss the ins and outs of writing a reflective essay.

Reflective Test Comparison Chart

What to do when writing a reflective essayThatNoWhat to do when writing a reflective essay
write in first personwrite in third person
Include a description of the experience or event from your unique point of viewGather data from multiple participants and create an objective account of the event from multiple subjective perspectives
Include some thoughtful analysis and reflections of the experience or event.Just include a long description of the experience or event.
Have a clear structure, with: aIntroduction,main body, miConclusion,or a variation of thisWrite like a journal, containing thoughts and emotions but no real structure.
Use a formal tone throughout the piece.Use an informal conversational tone
Draw from established reflexive loop frameworks such as Kolb (1984) or Gibb (1988)Do not consider any reflective cycle structure

What is the point of a 'reflective essay'?

To begin with, your first question might be to derive the point of a reflective essay. The first thing to know, then, is that the very essence of a reflective essay, at its most fundamental level, is that it shouldreflectin an experience you had, hence the name. This reflection will obviously vary depending on your field of study, but the principle is the same: you will have a particular experience in the field, or in life in general, and then you will write about it and reflect on it in various ways. Analysis More specifically, you will do this by briefly describing what happened, from your unique point of view, before reflecting on it and trying to learn something from the experience, placing it in the context of whatever perspective or theory you have studied. , or just look at the experience after the event in a bit more depth and try to understand what happened.

If you know ahead of time that you are going to write a reflective essay about a specific experience, it may be helpful to keep a journal as you go so that you are not relying solely on your memories (since memories can be malleable, and are not as accurate as memory). ). most people believe), and this journal can also include some reflections as you go along, so you have an immediate record of how you felt or viewed events as they unfolded. In fact, on this subject, it can be said that there are two main types of reflection, in: (1) reflections made during an event and (2) reflections made after an event. So you may need to decide what type of reflection to focus on, but you can only choose if you know you'll be writing a reflective essay first, before an event occurs. The main point though is that the underlying goal of writing a reflective essay is so that you can learn something about yourself and your field of study from practical experience.

The Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay (1)

How do I write a reflective essay?

thinking about the times

As a result of talking about your personal experience, unlike traditional essays, which almost always use the third person, a reflective essay generally uses the first person writing style (which means using the pronoun "I" a lot and talking about your own individual point of view). To clarify, if you're not completely familiar with third-person and first-person points of view, an example of a third-person and first-person account is as follows:

THIRD PERSON:"Research participant observations and notes were saved via a secure, password-protected laptop."

FIRST PERSON:"I took observations from research participants and took notes via a secure, password-protected laptop."

This change of tense is the first clear distinction made between a traditional academic essay and a reflective essay; therefore, to write a reflective essay, you need to become adept at this first-person writing style. Fortunately, though, most people find this first-person approach to writing much easier and more natural than the third-person point of view, so this shouldn't be much of a problem.

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Thinking about the structure of your role

Next, you need to think about the structure of your function. A good reflective essay should describe an event or experience, while also discussing what the experience means and what you learned from it. Simply discussing and then analyzing a past event, that in itself makes the piece reflective by definition. However, there are several ways to do this, from a structural point of view. For example, you might have a section that first briefly describes the experience or event, from your own point of view, before moving on to an analysis section; or you may decide to insert reflections and analysis as you go, so that the reflective element is also contained in the description part; it's up to you. In the end, there is no right or wrong answer, but what is important is that you include some meaningful reflective elements and some analysis of the experience; otherwise, it's simply a descriptive piece rather than thoughtful. Therefore, the basic format of a reflective essay will be a pattern:Introduction,main body, miConclusion. However, as indicated, you can split the main body into a separate descriptive section and an analysis section, or you can merge the two.

  • Essay Structure 1: Introduction, Main Body, Conclusion
  • Essay Structure 2: Introduction, Event Description, Analysis, Conclusion

So if you go with Writing Framework 1, you'll need to fuse your reflective description and analysis, and you can do this with a topic sentence (detailing that particular part of your experience), followed by supporting analysis and details, and then adding a sentence. mini conclusion at the end of the paragraph, and then you can follow that microstructure within each paragraph of your main body. As such, in Essay Structure 1, each paragraph in your main body might look like this:

  • Topic sentence:Describe this part of your experience and what happened.
  • Analysis and support details:Reflect on this particular part of the experience (and try to explain it using various supporting theories, perspectives, or evidence).
  • End of paragraph Mini conclusion:End the paragraph by drawing some conclusions from the reflections.

However, for many people, the Essay 2 structure may be easier to deal with, as by taking this approach, you can simply write a comprehensive description of your experience and then break it down more broadly and select specific parts that you find. especially interesting In the end, which approach you take is a personal preference, and neither approach should hurt you, unless of course your assignment specifically calls for a specific framework from the start.

You can find hundreds ofreflective essay examplesat

Thinking about the tone of your reflective essay

The tone of your reflective essay is also important and should be formal in nature without being too academic as it will include your personal thoughts and feelings that are subjective in nature. Thus, it can include academic elements, and the work should be referred to as any other academic work if it includes citations in the text of the work, but this must also be balanced with a more subjective and reflective approach, which should be somewhat natural if you are writing in the first person. Just remember that it is ultimately an essay and treat it as such. In addition, it is also important to get this shade from the beginning, since first impressions are important. This can be refined with each process draft; so don't worry too much if you can't figure it out from the start. So as you go along you should start to get an idea of ​​what is needed and then you can fine tune it with other drafts.

What should you learn when writing a reflective essay?

As you go through the process of writing a reflective essay, you are expected to come to a deeper understanding of yourself, your experience, and develop some ideas about what you can do better next time to achieve different results. Therefore, as you reflect on and analyze your experience, you may begin to view the event through a different lens, and this may shape your future experience and thinking. As such, depending on your field of study, such changes in your way of thinking can be extremely important.

For example, if you work in the social work field, you may have had an experience with a difficult client who physically abused you, and this may have left you confused and questioning your career choice if you don't fully understand why. they turned violent. However, upon reflecting more deeply on the event, you may come to the conclusion that the client did not become sufficiently involved in their own care and was removed from the decision-making process, leaving them feeling powerless, which, in turn, it eventually led to floggings for what they perceived to be someone who contributed to that impotence. Therefore, in this particular situation, it can be concluded that, if he can do so, the client should be more involved in the decision-making process about his future care. As such, this kind of reflective practice can lead to profound changes in the way you do your job and the way you think about certain situations.

Also, as you become more proficient at reflective writing, you will also become more adept at analyzing what you have read, observed, or heard, and this skill will be useful in other areas of your work, since critical analysis is a significant part of most academic writing. In addition, you will also become more adept at making connections between academic texts and theories and your own experiences, which is helpful in connecting the dots between theory and practice. Therefore, if he can make these connections, he is more likely to be enthusiastic about studying these theories, as he will be more convinced of their real-world application. Plus, you'll also become more adept at subjective writing, which can come in handy from time to time, even in your academic writing. For example, at a very simple level, a reflective piece might look like this:

Title:“A reflective account of work in a psychiatric hospital”

Description:I worked in a psychiatric hospital for a period of six weeks, on a voluntary basis.

Reflection:I was surprised by the severity of the conditions of some of the patients and the level of exhaustion I experienced working with them.

Therefore, based on this particular reflection, it can be concluded that the writer reflecting on this experience no longer wishes to pursue a career in mental health. Or, they may decide that they would be better suited for low-level counseling work (such as in a school) rather than working with people with severe and chronic mental illness.

Of course, reflective essays are likely to be much more in-depth than this, with your assignment perhaps specifying a certain number of words for the piece, like 1,500 words or 3,000 words, for example. If that's the case, you'll need to dig considerably, and this will likely lead to more revelations as the analysis of your experience becomes more extensive and adds theories and different perspectives to the equation.

In the end though, the overall purpose of a reflective essay is for the writer to reflect on their experience and ultimately learn something from it. So what writing a reflective essay does is help the writer make sense of his experience, through deep analysis of it, so that some valuable lessons can be learned in the future. To accomplish this, a number of frameworks have been created over the years to help guide the process of writing a reflective essay, so some of these should be considered before you begin.

Reflective structures that can be removed

There are a number of theoretical frameworks that can be used to construct your reflective essay, and two of the best known are those of Kolb (1984) and Gibb (1988).

For more detailed guides on the various reflection models, take a look at ourguide to reflective models at

Kolb (1984) 'Learning Cycle'

Kolb's (1984) reflective framework is known as the "Learning Cycle", and consists of four stages: (1) concrete experience (a description of the event or experience), (2) reflective observation (a reflection of the experience, including what was done and why), (3) abstract conceptualization (drawing conclusions from the experience), and (4) active experimentation (trying out everything you learned from the process). So the main difference here is that he must not only learn from reflective experience, but also put into practice what he learns. You should notice that this structure looks a lot liketest structure 1, which we discussed earlier, with the addition of a more practical element to the final step. So you can test what you've learned in a hands-on setting, and then add the result of that to your conclusions section.

Gibb's (1988) 'Reflection Cycle'

In addition, Gibb (1988) also offers a 'Reflection Cycle', which represents an extension of Kolb's (1984) ideas, and provides two more steps to the four already proposed. This is perhaps the best known and most popular model used in reflective essays today. So this time, the six steps are: (1) description, (2) feelings, (3) evaluation, (4) analysis, (5) conclusions, and (6) action plan. So the description is self-explanatory and involves, again, a description of events. Then you need to document your feelings about the events, both during the event and afterward; and this should be followed by an evaluation of the experience and what the pros and cons were, including the reactions of those present and whether the situation has changed in any way. The analysis section may include pertinent literature that has relevance to the event and this will be followed by a conclusion showing what was learned and what could have been done differently. The action plan details what you would do if the situation were to develop again and what preparations you could make before then. As such, these frameworks provide a useful framework to work with, and this can also be incorporated into the structure of your essay if you prefer, if you work better with a more formulaic approach. This then looks more liketest structure 2, detailed above, with the analysis section divided into sections on feelings, assessing these feelings and then analyzing the events, plus the plan of action suggested by Kolb (1984). Furthermore, the idea with these two 'cycles' is also to reflect more on the action plan that was derived from the initial reflection, so that this process can be fine-tuned over time, with further reflection, and can lead to some meaningful development. in the individual (seeFigure 1).

The Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay (2)

Figure 1. Gibbs' 'reflexive cycle'

Final thoughts…

The reflective essay has become a staple of assessment in educational institutions around the world and is particularly common in undergraduate or postgraduate university courses and therefore it is important to understand the pros and cons of such assessments. , so you are better prepared when it comes your way. such a task. If you can familiarize yourself with Kolb's (1984) and Gibb's (1988) reflective cycles, then you will have a good idea of ​​what is expected of you when given one of these tasks, and you should be adept at writing in the first person. and in a formal tone, so you can hit the mark with the kind of style you should be looking for. There are a number of do's and don'ts with this type of essay, and you may want to refer to this article as a reminder when beginning such an assignment. However, the most important thing to remember when doing such an assignment (besides working hard to get a good grade!)learningsomething about you about the process and your field of study. In the end, what your teacher wants to see is that you are reflecting on your personal experiences rather than just letting them slide, and that you are linking theory with practice and gaining a deeper understanding of your experiences. If you can do this and your writing is solid, written at the right tempo and in the right key, you'll almost certainly get the note you want.

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