How to Write a Reflective Essay
rodrigo | March 15, 2013
WritePass - Essay Writing - Dissertation Topics [TOC]
This guide looks at writing a reflective essay. A reflective essay is a relatively new requirement in some subjects, and requires the writer to think about their experience in a way which relates that experience to relevant theory and which may also involve questioning how you typically do something. Such an essay should integrate theory with personal or group practice, and often involves identifying the learning outcomes of a situation. Reflective essays are generally written about an area of professional practice relevant to the author, for example nurses might look at how they interact with patients on a ward. Reflective essays tend to be shorter than standard academic essays, and the use of ‘I’ or ‘we’ is acceptable (in contrast to normal academic style).
This link examines the differences between standard essays and reflective essays.
The Link Between Theory and Practice
Reflective essays are a way of understanding how theory can relate to practice. This means you need to approach writing such essays in a particular way:
- Be aware of the need to relate practice back to theory. How did events compare with the predictions made by theoretical models? How can events help you to understand theory?
- Learn to be selective: pick out those bits of theory which seem useful, and be prepared to identify the relevant parts of the events you are writing about
- Discussion with others can help you throw light on events and relate theory to practice
- Because reflective essays involve writing about your experience, it is good practice to keep a personal journal to document events and your reactions to them.
Writing Style for Reflective Essays
· It’s normally fine to use the first person in reflective essays, as you are talking about your own experience, for the parts where you are describing what happened. However, in parts of the essay where you are discussing theory, your style should be appropriate.
· Even when using ‘I’ and ‘we’, try to avoid being overly emotional or subjective. Aim to use descriptions that everyone can understand in a similar way.
· When writing about your experiences use the past tense (“I felt…”). When writing about theory use the present tense (“Jones suggests that…”)
Models of Reflection
There are a number of models of reflection upon practice which you can use to structure your reflective essay. It’s recommended you use the one suggested by your tutor. A commonly used model is Gibbs’ (see figure 1)
The six stages of the model can be used to shape your essay:
- Description: what happened? Set the scene, explain the context and who was involved. Describe the key incident you are concerned with
- Feelings: how did you feel about what happened? In contrast to a standard academic essay, you are expected to explore your emotions about the event. Bring out changes in feelings, for example during the event and afterwards. But be careful here not to be offensive, keep an academic distance in your style of writing.
- Evaluation: this means looking at the incident / practice. How did you react? How did others react? What was positive and negative about the event? What changes happened as a result of the event (if any). This is a good stage to discuss any relevant theory.
- Analysis: this section should develop from the evaluation. You will look in more detail at different aspects of the situation you are reflecting upon. You should also engage with theory here, applying it to the event.
- Conclusion: here you make decisions about what happened – what could you have done differently? What did you do well? How could you have improved things or avoided negatives?
- Action plan: this means planning what needs to be done to improve things in the future. Is there something you need to learn, training you need to do, or systems to be set in place?
University of Leeds (2013) ‘Reflective writing: Difference between essay writing and reflective writing’, [online] (cited 13th February) available from
Differences between standard essays and reflective essays
University of Reading (2013) ‘Reflective Writing’, [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from
University of Salford (2013) ‘Reflective writing: Study Basics Series’, [online] (cited 13th February 2013) available from http://www.careers.salford.ac.uk/cms/resources/uploads/File/reflective%20writing%20-%20BINDER.pdf
Tags: essay writing, reflective essay
Category: Essay Writing Guide
In America, the majority of people start their day with a fresh newspaper or with news on TV to stay aware of the main events of the day. Journalism is supposed to be providing American society with unbiased and relevant information. Unfortunately, it is not always this way; there is a category of mass media that does not meet the requirements of true journalism. Such media outlets publish unreliable or half-truthful information, along with subjective opinions of journalists supported by random facts; generally, such a category of mass media is called “yellow journalism.”
Yellow journalism as a mass phenomena originated in the 19th century in the United States. Back then, there existed an intense competition between the two most popular newspapers of New York: “New York World,” owned by J. Pulitzer, and “New York Journal,” owned by W.R. Hearst (WiseGEEK). In order to overcome each other and sell more copies, these two periodicals had put sensationalism prior to objectivity; hence, instead of providing their readers with unbiased reports about recent events, these newspapers started to produce scandalous stories that had little or nothing common with reality. Articles were written with the primary goal to sell copies through shock.
Today, one can witness the same process. News reporters seem to be more interested in producing a catching story that would hold public attention, rather than transmitting facts as they are (Western Journalism). Among the most eloquent examples of how yellow journalism works (and how widespread it is) are the headlines of popular newspapers and journals. Almost all of them are composed in such a way that a reader feels intrigued by the promise of “shocking” details disclosed in the article. This motivates readers to read through the text. The most “shouting” headlines are usually printed on the first page, to be instantly seen by a potential audience.
To be fair, a similar approach is rather often used by serious media resources; since they still need to attract the attention of potential readers to their materials, they can use “shouting” headlines, though in this case, the following articles are usually heavily supported by credible evidence, and are not biased—at least not as much as “yellow” periodicals (JournalismAnatomy).
Yellow journalism can be criticized for many flaws: biased information, low credibility, the prevalence of scandal and shock over objectivity, unprofessionalism and discrediting real journalism, and many others. At the same time, “yellow” stories are often more interesting to read compared to serious analytical materials; this is due to the fact that yellow journalism exploits near-scandalous topics and methods of presenting information, and often promises readers a sensation—a momentary event that would amaze (and amuse) a reader, but would be easily forgotten (JournalismAnatomy). Perhaps, this is the reason why yellow periodicals are being read so eagerly.
Yellow journalism originated in New York in the 19th century, as a result of severe competition between two major local periodicals of that time: “New York World” and “New York World.” In order to sell more copies, journalists of these periodicals focused on sensation and shock rather than on objective information. This principle remains the fundamental of modern yellow media. They use shouting headlines to draw readers’ attention, and usually present incredible and biased information, supported by several random facts. At the same time, professional serious resources can also use some methods of yellow journalism to sustain their audiences’ interest, though in this case, they still produce high quality materials. Unfortunately, despite its flaws (such as bias, unprofessionalism, and low credibility), yellow media remain popular—mostly due to the exploitation of sensational and amusing topics.
“What is Yellow Journalism?” WiseGEEK. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-yellow-journalism.htm>.
Carrecia, John. “Yellow Journalism is Alive and Well.” Western Journalism. N.p., 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.westernjournalism.com/yellow-journalism-is-alive-and-well/>.
“Yellow or Regular?” JournalismAnatomy. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <journalismanatomynet/fakecontent/fakearticle/574443>.
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