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Example of a student's reflective essay and lecturer’s feedback

Read the following example of a student’s reflective essay. Click the icons next to each paragraph to show the lecturer’s comments. Click again to hide the comment. Then complete the activities that follow.


Problem Comment Question

Sample essay instructions:

Use the knowledge you have accrued in this unit to write a reflective essay on the following topic:

What, in your opinion, is the importance of disequilibrium and how would the knowledge you have gained about disequilibrium and other key concepts in this unit help you in your career as an entrepreneur?

Length requirement: minimum of 1000 words.

Learning outcomes assessed:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the basic concepts related to economics
  • Can apply knowledge about economics to workplace/employment situations.
Show/hide lecturer's comment 2Show/hide lecturer's comment 3

Disequilibrium is a concept I was unfamiliar with until I studied the ECF5555 Entrepreneurship and Economics unit at Monash University. Disequilibrium is a situation where internal and/or external forces prevent market equilibrium from being reached or cause the market to fall out of balance. This can be a short-term byproduct of a change in variable factors or a result of long-term structural imbalances.Lecturer's comment 2:
While it is a good place to include a definition, this sounds a great deal like something that has been borrowed directly from a source that has not been identified according to the required conventions. Where is the APA in-text citation?
As my career goal is to become a successful entrepreneur in the technology field, combining my passions for money-making innovation and technology, I soon learned that an understanding of the disequilibrium concept would be key to my future career.Lecturer's comment 3:
A statement indicating your purpose for writing and the structure you intend to use to achieve the task's aims is needed here.

Show/hide lecturer's comment 4Show/hide lecturer's comment 5

Throughout the lectures, tutorials and required reading for ECF5555 I learned about the basics of economic theory in relation to entrepreneurship, and found that there were several of these concepts I could utilise specifically in my mission to begin a career developing financial self-management applications. While knowledge and understanding of scarcity, elasticity, monopolies and competition, and externalities and public goods Lecturer's comment 4:
Yes, these are all covered in the unit and I know they are relevant. However, you do not explain their relevance (briefly) to your future career as the topic requires and in doing so, prove your understanding.
will be of great use when I embark on my entrepreneurial career, it is disequilibrium that is the key concept of relevance for me. The main reason for this is because of a gap I perceive in the market. As more and more people move from subsistence or low-income status into a self-sustained middle class economic status, a larger percentage of the Australian population will need to manage their more substantial finances themselves. A useful analogy is that of the decline in the success of travel agency businesses over the past decade. As more and more online travel and tourism providers enable the average consumer to research and book flights and accommodation themselves, the need for experts with access to airlines and hotel booking systems has diminished. In much the same way, people wishing to manage their own financial affairs will perceive the need for experts charging high rates for their expertise to manage their finances as less necessary. This can only happen, however, if an easy and cheap alternative is available - hence my financial self-management apps exploit the disequilibrium in the market.Lecturer's comment 5:
Your analogy is insightful. However, your focus when explaining the importance of disequilibrium seems to lie entirely on one aspect only - a gap in the market. If disequilibrium is the key to your future, as you wrote in the first paragraph, surely it covers more than this...

Show/hide lecturer's comment 6

Realising this and discovering that expert minds have predicted a gap in the market that my future company can exploit to great gain was a ‘Eureka moment’ for me. It motivated me to pay full attention to learning as much as I could in ECF5555 - a case of intrinsic motivation. While some of the unit content was not directly relevant to my personal goals, it still made me more knowledgeable about economics in general and entrepreneurship in particular. This will all enable me to run my company with expertise and a sound understanding of theory and how it might apply in practice. My employees will respect my choices and decisions because of my learning and related business acumen. If there is one criticism I have of the disequilibrium concept, it’s what happens when you deconstruct it. Disequilibrium seems to posit that there is a situation (perhaps even the norm) where the market is in balance, with supply more or less equalling demand. With constant developments in technology, volatile worldwide markets and innumerable other factors affecting consumers, this seems to lack a basis in reality. It’s an example of theory that never truly applies in practice. Aspects of it do apply, though, so it is not without benefit.Lecturer's comment 6:
Robert Triffin (1940), one of the first economists to directly discuss how disequilibrium affects markets, has some interesting and relevant thoughts about this phenomenon. My point is that the lack of support from the literature weakens your assignment. Also, this paragraph starts out discussing how you felt, through to how it will help you at work and then into a critique of disequilibrium. One main idea per paragraph please!

Show/hide lecturer's comment 7

Disequilibrium is the key concept that I can exploit my knowledge of in order to begin a successful entrepreneurial career. I expect other start-ups to quickly follow my lead when I begin to build my business developing financial self-management apps, so I will need a sound business plan, reliable and trusted employees and clearly established legal rights to my intellectual property. This is very exciting!Lecturer's comment 7:
Your excitement is infectious but the previous two sentences do not seem relevant to the task on which you are being assessed. Try to maintain focus on the central idea of this paragraph: the importance of disequilibrium as a concept in your future entrepreneurial career. When revising your assignments, editing out off-topic sentences such as these can build the cohesion of your writing. Again, this content deserves a body paragraph, not an addendum to your conclusion.
The imbalance between demand in the market and supply means I have a ready-made target clientele and a short pathway to expansion and success.

Show/hide lecturer's comment 8 Show/hide lecturer's comment 9

The other relevant concepts from the ECF5555 unit, scarcity, elasticity, monopolies/competition and externalities/public goods are also pertinent to my entrepreneurial career. Scarcity means unlimited human wants can never be fulfilled by the market, which is something I believe my company will be able to exploit. Public goods like the financial advice the Australian Government and ATO provide to the general public has some minor relevance to my entrepreneurial venture, as it can be seen as competition with the advantage of being at no cost to the consumer. However, the externality of this public good also applies to my future business, as the result of both will be financial success for the consumer. This benefits society by increasing government income through taxation of higher incomes, leading to better infrastructure and federal economic and banking security.Lecturer's comment 8:
The ideas about taxation, banking security, public goods, etc. are expressed too simplistically. Where is the depth of understanding of these concepts as discussed in lectures and required reading?
Families which benefit from financial advice from the government and my apps will have better educated children who are more likely to be successful and less of a burden on the economic system. A better world is the result.Lecturer's comment 9:
If this is your conclusion it really lacks clear structure and purpose. You discuss two of the four economic concepts you identified earlier as relevant to your plans (why only two?) - meaning new information is included. This is not recommended for conclusions - that is not their purpose. I advise you to consult the Library's quick study guide on essay structure here: Your conclusion would have had greater impact if you discussed more focused and realistic potential business outcomes, and more clearly linked these in specific ways to the concept of disequilibrium. Finally, your view on how your venture will contribute to society is Utopian and naive. I think a reality check is needed.

Show/hide lecturer's comment 10



Lecturer's comment 10:
This is not referencing in the required APA style (or indeed, any style). Please consult the Library Guide to citing and referencing and the Q Manual. Also, this reference is inappropriate in an academic context. You should have at least consulted economics, business management or financial textbooks or a reliable subject specific dictionary/encyclopedia.

Lecturer's comments

You make a promising start, but the more you write, the less evidence there is of a planned piece of reflective writing. The task requires two main things: 1) your view on the importance of disequilibrium and 2) an explanation of how key concepts from the unit will assist in your career as an entrepreneur. For the former, you lack a thorough explanation of the concept and its various facets, instead latching onto one aspect only: market gaps. For the latter, you mention relevant concepts early but do not explain their relevance (I know it but am looking for a demonstration of your understanding). Finally, your conclusion seems to be a collection of afterthoughts and ideas that came to you while you wrote.

As is the case with any assessment task, I am looking for evidence you have learned something from the lectures, tutes and required reading. The lack of any in-text citations and references is an indication that the concepts we learned about during the semester have not been incorporated or discussed to the expected extent. For a (minimum) 1000 word essay you needed to consult at least 5 high-quality, rigorous academic sources, e.g. peer-reviewed academic journal articles, books from academic publishers, not merely one source (a non-academic online definition of disequilibrium). A reflective essay deviates from typical academic writing because it invites you to use your own experiences and perceptions as evidence. However, this reflective task still requires you to select and interpret evidence according to academic standards. You should have cited secondary sources of adequate scholarly quality and of sufficient number to support your ideas. Engaging with academic literature in this way would have demonstrated that your business ideas are grounded in a sound understanding of relevant theory. From an academic, university writing perspective, your business idea needs a stronger basis in economic theory. You have also not mentioned the key challenges you need to overcome in order to succeed. Business startups require a plan/goal of what they want to achieve within a specified time frame, e.g. year 1 identify and target market, expand customer base by means of... etc.

An effective reflective essay would have a description (what happened?), analysis (why did it happen and what were you feeling? What theories might help explain what happened?) and finally outcomes or action (what did you learn? What would you do differently next time or how might it apply to your future practice?). In future I would advise you to consult the Library’s guides on reflective writing on the Research and Learning Online website.

Grade: borderline N/P