Tips for Completing the Pathway Reflection Essay

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Updated: Dec. 19th, 2014

Tips for Completing the Pathway Reflection Essay

Before writing

  • Review the description of your Pathway (see Core website). A clear understanding of your Pathway and the overarching ideas, issues, and questions it explores and emphasizes is vital for responding effectively to the essay instructions.

  • Courses are included in a Pathway because the Pathway Facilitator sees a link to overarching themes emphasized in the Pathway's description. However, course instructors are not required to spell out the connections; that is the students’ responsibility. Reflect on the courses you took to complete the Pathway and think about how learning within those courses overlaps with some themes and ideas suggested in the Pathway's description. How do the assignments you completed for the courses link to the Pathway and each other?

  • Review the syllabi and/or assignments from your Pathway courses, and decide which ones best provide evidence of your learning related to the Pathway theme. Remember: while it is useful for you to think about all courses related to your Pathway, writing about assignments from mainly two will allow you to deepen your analysis and develop it with more specific detail.

  • Decide which two courses provide the best examples of connections to the Pathway theme. Consult the scoring rubric for guidance on the kinds of detail to include when you describe those connections in your essay.

  • Decide which two courses will help you to analyze a specific issue or problem relevant to the Pathway theme using different disciplinary or methodological perspectives. Usually courses for the analysis section will be from two different departments; however, some departments offer individual courses that draw on more than one disciplinary approach. For example, courses satisfying the RTC 2 requirement must approach the study of religious phenomena from more than one disciplinary perspective. Please note: the two courses referred to in the analysis section might not be the same as the courses you will write about when you describe connections.

  • Think about which structure will work best for you. You have the option to address all parts of the prompt in one integrated essay or address the three parts in separate sections, setting off each one with internal headers.

Writing the essay

  • When writing the "Connections: Integrations" portion of the essay, pinpoint a single, focused issue or problem related to your Pathway. Note connections between your Pathway courses and its theme, and describe how different courses helped you to explore that aspect of the Pathway. For example, a student writing about the American Studies Pathway might pinpoint how the promise of America differs from historical realities and could give specific examples illustrating what that promise is, what specific Pathway courses helped to show how historical events have challenged that promise, and how those events link to ideas emphasized within the Pathway itself.

  • After pinpointing an issue or problem related to your Pathway and addressed in your courses, draw on learning from two different courses to analyze the issue or problem. Specify similarities and/or differences in the disciplinary approaches and/or methodological perspectives. For example, a student in the Food, Hunger, Poverty & Environment Pathway might draw on learning in Religious Studies and Environmental Studies courses to analyze a problem related to poverty and to explain ways the two different courses approach problems related to poverty in different ways. In contrast, a student in Design Thinking might draw on courses in two departments to explore how companies use quantitative and qualitative data in order to market a product to a particular population while analyzing the pros and cons related to gathering and using such data.

  • For the "Analysis" portion in the reflection essay, interdisciplinarity is key. Hence, your analysis should demonstrate your understanding of specific issues or problems that benefit from being analyzed from multiple disciplinary perspectives and/or with more than one methodological approach. Consider ways two different courses helped you understand the complexity of an issue more than one course alone could. For example, a student in the Values in Science & Technology Pathway might explore ways two different courses helped him to see that the Internet can bring hope in times of revolution while it simultaneously highlights economic disparities on a national and international level.

  • Throughout your writing, use the first person to highlight your personal insights and reflections. Readers are genuinely interested in your experiences related to the Pathway and the influences (be those positive, negative, or neutral) on your learning, career or educational goals, and/or thinking.

Final checklist before submitting

  • Consult the scoring rubric. Will the Reader see evidence necessary for a pass in each of the four categories? Can you revise to earn an exemplary pass and thus qualify for an award?

  • Did you specify your 1) Pathway, 2) major(s), and 3) Pathway courses by title and number (e.g., HIST 113, Family in Antiquity)?

  • Did you proofread your writing? Typos or grammatical errors that distract readers or create problems with clarity will likely result in a Revise & Resubmit.

  • Did you cite sources of direct quotations as needed? All Pathway Reflection Essays will undergo an originality check through If you borrowed wording from any source (e.g., from the description of the Pathway theme, course descriptions, definitions of important terms or concepts, your own previously submitted writing assignments), place such wording between quotation marks and cite using a parenthetical citation, not a footnote. To avoid plagiarism further, consider checking whether phrases or sentences--especially definitions--in your course notes turn up in a Google search. You may need to quote and credit a source. Important: outside research is not necessary or expected for completing the Pathway reflection essay.

  • Did you stick to the word count of 500-1000 words?

  • Did you create a specific title for your essay? For example, rather than titling it "Pathway Essay" or "Applied Ethics Pathway," did you specify a title that hints at your reflection essay's main point of analysis? A specific title (e.g., "Studying Gender & Sexuality: Constructing Privilege throughout the U.S.'s History") is not a requirement but could help you to direct your reader’s attention by highlighting information about your main point. It can also help you to check for yourself whether your essay’s main idea is focused.

Additional assistance

For help planning, writing, and revising, visit the HUB writing center to consult with a writing partner and to discuss sample essays.

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