How to Write a Reflective Essay

Lindsay Kramer

You’re probably used to responding to different sources in essays. For example, in an academic essay, you might compare two books’ themes, argue for or against a position, analyze a piece of literature, or persuade the reader with facts and statistics.

In one way, a reflective essay is similar to an academic essay. Like an academic essay, a reflective essay can discuss ideas and concepts from books, literature, essays, or articles. However, unlike an academic essay, it focuses on how your personal experience relates to these things.

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What is a reflective essay?

Reflective essays are a type of personal essay in which the writer examines a topic through the lens of their unique perspective. Reflective essays are more subjective about their subjects than an academic essay, use figurative language, and don’t require academic sources. The purpose of a reflective essay is to explore and share the author’s thoughts, perspectives, and experiences.

Reflective essays are often written for college applications and cover letters as a way for the writer to discuss their background and demonstrate how these experiences shaped them into an ideal candidate. For example, a college applicant might write a reflective essay about how moving every few years because of their parent’s military service impacted their concept of home.

Sometimes, reflective essays are academic assignments. For example, a student may be assigned to watch a film or visit a museum exhibition and write a reflective essay about the film or exhibition’s themes. Reflective essays can also be pieces of personal writing, such as blog posts or journal entries.

Reflective essay vs. narrative essay

There are a few similarities between reflective essays and narrative essays. Both are personal pieces of writing in which the author explores their thoughts about their experiences. But here’s the main difference: While a narrative essay focuses on a story about events in the author’s life, a reflective essay focuses on the changes the author underwent because of those events. A narrative essay has many of the same elements as a fictional story: setting, characters, plot, and conflict. A reflective essay gets granular about the circumstances and changes driven by the conflict and doesn’t necessarily aim to tell a full story.

Reflective essays based on academic material

You might be assigned to write a reflective essay on an academic text, such as an essay, a book, or an article. Unlike a reflective essay about your own personal experiences, this type of reflective essay involves analysis and interpretation of the material. However, unlike in an analytical essay , the position you support is informed by your own opinion and perspective rather than solely by the text.

How to choose a topic

A reflective essay can be about any topic. By definition, a reflective essay is an essay where the writer describes an event or experience (or series of events or experiences) and then discusses and analyzes the lessons they derived from their experience. This experience can be about anything , whether big life events like moving to a new country or smaller experiences like trying sushi for the first time. The topic can be serious, lighthearted, poignant, or simply entertaining.

If your reflective essay is for an assignment or an application, you might be given a topic. In some cases, you might be given a broad area or keyword and then have to develop your own topic related to those things. In other cases, you might not be given anything. No matter which is the case for your essay, there are a few ways to explore reflective essay ideas and develop your topic.

Freewriting is a writing exercise where you simply write whatever comes to mind for a fixed period of time without worrying about grammar or structure or even writing something coherent. The goal is to get your ideas onto paper and explore them creatively, and by removing the pressure to write something submittable, you’re giving yourself more room to play with these ideas.

Make a mind map

A mind map is a diagram that shows the relationships between ideas, events, and other words related to one central concept. For example, a mind map for the word book might branch into the following words: fiction , nonfiction , digital , hardcover . Each of these words then branches to subtopics. These subtopics further branch to subtopics of their own, demonstrating just how deep you can explore a subject.

Creating a mind map can be a helpful way to explore your thoughts and feelings about the experience you discuss in your essay.

Real-life experiences

You can find inspiration for a reflective essay from any part of your life. Think about an experience that shifted your worldview or dramatically changed your daily routine. Or you can focus on the smaller, even mundane, parts of life like your weekly cleaning routine or trips to the grocery store. In a reflective essay, you don’t just describe experiences; you explore how they shape you and your feelings.

Reflective essay outline

Introduction.

A reflective essay’s introduction paragraph needs to include:

  • A thesis statement

The hook is the sentence that catches the reader’s attention and makes them want to read more. This can be an unexpected fact, an intriguing statistic, a left-field observation, or a question that gets the reader’s mind thinking about the essay’s topic.

The thesis statement is a concise statement that introduces the reader to the essay’s topic . A thesis statement clearly spells out the topic and gives the reader context for the rest of the essay they’re about to read.

These aren’t all the things that a reflective essay’s introduction needs, however. This paragraph needs to effectively introduce the topic, which often means introducing a few of the ideas discussed in the essay’s body paragraphs alongside the hook and thesis statement.

Body paragraphs

Your essay’s body paragraphs are where you actually explore the experience you’re reflecting on. You might compare experiences, describe scenes and your emotions following them, recount interactions, and contrast it with any expectations you had beforehand.

Unless you’re writing for a specific assignment, there’s no required number of body paragraphs for your reflective essay. Generally, authors write three body paragraphs, but if your essay needs only two—or it needs four or five—to fully communicate your experience and reflection, that’s perfectly fine.

In the final section, tie up any loose ends from the essay’s body paragraphs. Mention your thesis statement in the conclusion, either by restating it or paraphrasing it. Give the reader a sense of completion by including a final thought or two. However, these thoughts should reflect statements you made in the body paragraphs rather than introduce anything new to the essay. Your conclusion should also clearly share how the experience or events you discussed affected you (and, if applicable, continue to do so).

6 tips for writing a reflective essay

1 choose a tone.

Before you begin to write your reflective essay, choose a tone . Because a reflective essay is more personal than an academic essay, you don’t need to use a strict, formal tone. You can also use personal pronouns like I and me in your essay because this essay is about your personal experiences.

2 Be mindful of length

Generally, five hundred to one thousand words is an appropriate length for a reflective essay. If it’s a personal piece, it may be longer.

You might be required to keep your essay within a general word count if it’s an assignment or part of an application. When this is the case, be mindful to stick to the word count—writing too little or too much can have a negative impact on your grade or your candidacy.

3 Stay on topic

A reflective essay reflects on a single topic. Whether that topic is a one-off event or a recurring experience in your life, it’s important to keep your writing focused on that topic.

4 Be clear and concise

In a reflective essay, introspection and vivid imagery are assets. However, the essay’s language should remain concise , and its structure should follow a logical narrative.

5 Stay professional

Although you aren’t bound to a formal tone, it’s generally best to use a professional tone in your reflective writing. Avoid using slang or overly familiar language, especially if your reflective essay is part of a college or job application .

6 Proofread

Before you hit “send” or “submit,” be sure to proofread your work. For this last read-through, you should be focused on catching any spelling or grammatical mistakes you might have missed.

Reflective essay FAQs

Reflective essays are a type of personal essay that examines a topic through the lens of thewriter’s unique perspective. They are more subjective about their subjects than an academic essay, use figurative language, and don’t require academic sources.

What’s the difference between a reflective essay and a narrative essay?

While a reflective essay focuses on its author’s feelings and perspectives surrounding events they’ve experienced or texts they’ve read, a narrative essay tells a story. A narrative essay might show changes the author underwent through the same conventions a fictional story uses to show character growth; a reflective essay discusses this growth more explicitly and explores it in depth.

What are example topics for a reflective essay?

  • Moving abroad and adapting to the local culture
  • Recovering from an athletic injury
  • Weekly phone conversations with your grandmother
  • The funniest joke you ever heard (and what made it so funny)

reflective essay content

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Reflective writing is a process of identifying, questioning, and critically evaluating course-based learning opportunities, integrated with your own observations, experiences, impressions, beliefs, assumptions, or biases, and which describes how this process stimulated new or creative understanding about the content of the course. A reflective paper describes and explains in an introspective, first person narrative, your reactions and feelings about either a specific element of the class [e.g., a required reading; a film shown in class] or more generally how you experienced learning throughout the course. Reflective writing assignments can be in the form of a single paper, essays, portfolios, journals, diaries, or blogs.

How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8.

Benefits of Reflective Writing Assignments

As the term implies, a reflective paper involves looking inward at oneself in contemplating and bringing meaning to the relationship between course content and the acquisition of new knowledge . Educational research [Bolton, 2010; Ryan, 2011; Tsingos-Lucas et al., 2017] demonstrates that assigning reflective writing tasks enhances learning because it challenges students to confront their own assumptions, biases, and belief systems around what is being taught in class and, in so doing, stimulate student’s decisions, actions, attitudes, and understanding about themselves as learners and in relation to having mastery over their learning. Reflection assignments are also an opportunity to write in a first person narrative about elements of the course, such as the required readings, separate from the exegetic and analytical prose of academic research papers.

Reflection writing often serves multiple purposes simultaneously. In no particular order, here are some of reasons why professors assign reflection papers:

  • Enhances learning from previous knowledge and experience in order to improve future decision-making and reasoning in practice . Reflective writing in the applied social sciences enhances decision-making skills and academic performance in ways that can inform professional practice. The act of reflective writing creates self-awareness and understanding of others. This is particularly important in clinical and service-oriented professional settings.
  • Allows students to make sense of classroom content and overall learning experiences in relation to oneself, others, and the conditions that shaped the content and classroom experiences . Reflective writing places you within the course content in ways that can deepen your understanding of the material. Because reflective thinking can help reveal hidden biases, it can help you critically interrogate moments when you do not like or agree with discussions, readings, or other aspects of the course.
  • Increases awareness of one’s cognitive abilities and the evidence for these attributes . Reflective writing can break down personal doubts about yourself as a learner and highlight specific abilities that may have been hidden or suppressed due to prior assumptions about the strength of your academic abilities [e.g., reading comprehension; problem-solving skills]. Reflective writing, therefore, can have a positive affective [i.e., emotional] impact on your sense of self-worth.
  • Applying theoretical knowledge and frameworks to real experiences . Reflective writing can help build a bridge of relevancy between theoretical knowledge and the real world. In so doing, this form of writing can lead to a better understanding of underlying theories and their analytical properties applied to professional practice.
  • Reveals shortcomings that the reader will identify . Evidence suggests that reflective writing can uncover your own shortcomings as a learner, thereby, creating opportunities to anticipate the responses of your professor may have about the quality of your coursework. This can be particularly productive if the reflective paper is written before final submission of an assignment.
  • Helps students identify their tacit [a.k.a., implicit] knowledge and possible gaps in that knowledge . Tacit knowledge refers to ways of knowing rooted in lived experience, insight, and intuition rather than formal, codified, categorical, or explicit knowledge. In so doing, reflective writing can stimulate students to question their beliefs about a research problem or an element of the course content beyond positivist modes of understanding and representation.
  • Encourages students to actively monitor their learning processes over a period of time . On-going reflective writing in journals or blogs, for example, can help you maintain or adapt learning strategies in other contexts. The regular, purposeful act of reflection can facilitate continuous deep thinking about the course content as it evolves and changes throughout the term. This, in turn, can increase your overall confidence as a learner.
  • Relates a student’s personal experience to a wider perspective . Reflection papers can help you see the big picture associated with the content of a course by forcing you to think about the connections between scholarly content and your lived experiences outside of school. It can provide a macro-level understanding of one’s own experiences in relation to the specifics of what is being taught.
  • If reflective writing is shared, students can exchange stories about their learning experiences, thereby, creating an opportunity to reevaluate their original assumptions or perspectives . In most cases, reflective writing is only viewed by your professor in order to ensure candid feedback from students. However, occasionally, reflective writing is shared and openly discussed in class. During these discussions, new or different perspectives and alternative approaches to solving problems can be generated that would otherwise be hidden. Sharing student's reflections can also reveal collective patterns of thought and emotions about a particular element of the course.

Bolton, Gillie. Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development . London: Sage, 2010; Chang, Bo. "Reflection in Learning." Online Learning 23 (2019), 95-110; Cavilla, Derek. "The Effects of Student Reflection on Academic Performance and Motivation." Sage Open 7 (July-September 2017): 1–13; Culbert, Patrick. “Better Teaching? You Can Write On It “ Liberal Education (February 2022); McCabe, Gavin and Tobias Thejll-Madsen. The Reflection Toolkit . University of Edinburgh; The Purpose of Reflection . Introductory Composition at Purdue University; Practice-based and Reflective Learning . Study Advice Study Guides, University of Reading; Ryan, Mary. "Improving Reflective Writing in Higher Education: A Social Semiotic Perspective." Teaching in Higher Education 16 (2011): 99-111; Tsingos-Lucas et al. "Using Reflective Writing as a Predictor of Academic Success in Different Assessment Formats." American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 81 (2017): Article 8; What Benefits Might Reflective Writing Have for My Students? Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse; Rykkje, Linda. "The Tacit Care Knowledge in Reflective Writing: A Practical Wisdom." International Practice Development Journal 7 (September 2017): Article 5; Using Reflective Writing to Deepen Student Learning . Center for Writing, University of Minnesota.

How to Approach Writing a Reflection Paper

Thinking About Reflective Thinking

Educational theorists have developed numerous models of reflective thinking that your professor may use to frame a reflective writing assignment. These models can help you systematically interpret your learning experiences, thereby ensuring that you ask the right questions and have a clear understanding of what should be covered. A model can also represent the overall structure of a reflective paper. Each model establishes a different approach to reflection and will require you to think about your writing differently. If you are unclear how to fit your writing within a particular reflective model, seek clarification from your professor. There are generally two types of reflective writing assignments, each approached in slightly different ways.

1.  Reflective Thinking about Course Readings

This type of reflective writing focuses on thoughtfully thinking about the course readings that underpin how most students acquire new knowledge and understanding about the subject of a course. Reflecting on course readings is often assigned in freshmen-level, interdisciplinary courses where the required readings examine topics viewed from multiple perspectives and, as such, provide different ways of analyzing a topic, issue, event, or phenomenon. The purpose of reflective thinking about course readings in the social and behavioral sciences is to elicit your opinions, beliefs, and feelings about the research and its significance. This type of writing can provide an opportunity to break down key assumptions you may have and, in so doing, reveal potential biases in how you interpret the scholarship.

If you are assigned to reflect on course readings, consider the following methods of analysis as prompts that can help you get started :

  • Examine carefully the main introductory elements of the reading, including the purpose of the study, the theoretical framework being used to test assumptions, and the research questions being addressed. Think about what ideas stood out to you. Why did they? Were these ideas new to you or familiar in some way based on your own lived experiences or prior knowledge?
  • Develop your ideas around the readings by asking yourself, what do I know about this topic? Where does my existing knowledge about this topic come from? What are the observations or experiences in my life that influence my understanding of the topic? Do I agree or disagree with the main arguments, recommended course of actions, or conclusions made by the author(s)? Why do I feel this way and what is the basis of these feelings?
  • Make connections between the text and your own beliefs, opinions, or feelings by considering questions like, how do the readings reinforce my existing ideas or assumptions? How the readings challenge these ideas or assumptions? How does this text help me to better understand this topic or research in ways that motivate me to learn more about this area of study?

2.  Reflective Thinking about Course Experiences

This type of reflective writing asks you to critically reflect on locating yourself at the conceptual intersection of theory and practice. The purpose of experiential reflection is to evaluate theories or disciplinary-based analytical models based on your introspective assessment of the relationship between hypothetical thinking and practical reality; it offers a way to consider how your own knowledge and skills fit within professional practice. This type of writing also provides an opportunity to evaluate your decisions and actions, as well as how you managed your subsequent successes and failures, within a specific theoretical framework. As a result, abstract concepts can crystallize and become more relevant to you when considered within your own experiences. This can help you formulate plans for self-improvement as you learn.

If you are assigned to reflect on your experiences, consider the following questions as prompts to help you get started :

  • Contextualize your reflection in relation to the overarching purpose of the course by asking yourself, what did you hope to learn from this course? What were the learning objectives for the course and how did I fit within each of them? How did these goals relate to the main themes or concepts of the course?
  • Analyze how you experienced the course by asking yourself, what did I learn from this experience? What did I learn about myself? About working in this area of research and study? About how the course relates to my place in society? What assumptions about the course were supported or refuted?
  • Think introspectively about the ways you experienced learning during the course by asking yourself, did your learning experiences align with the goals or concepts of the course? Why or why do you not feel this way? What was successful and why do you believe this? What would you do differently and why is this important? How will you prepare for a future experience in this area of study?

NOTE: If you are assigned to write a journal or other type of on-going reflection exercise, a helpful approach is to reflect on your reflections by re-reading what you have already written. In other words, review your previous entries as a way to contextualize your feelings, opinions, or beliefs regarding your overall learning experiences. Over time, this can also help reveal hidden patterns or themes related to how you processed your learning experiences. Consider concluding your reflective journal with a summary of how you felt about your learning experiences at critical junctures throughout the course, then use these to write about how you grew as a student learner and how the act of reflecting helped you gain new understanding about the subject of the course and its content.

ANOTHER NOTE: Regardless of whether you write a reflection paper or a journal, do not focus your writing on the past. The act of reflection is intended to think introspectively about previous learning experiences. However, reflective thinking should document the ways in which you progressed in obtaining new insights and understandings about your growth as a learner that can be carried forward in subsequent coursework or in future professional practice. Your writing should reflect a furtherance of increasing personal autonomy and confidence gained from understanding more about yourself as a learner.

Structure and Writing Style

There are no strict academic rules for writing a reflective paper. Reflective writing may be assigned in any class taught in the social and behavioral sciences and, therefore, requirements for the assignment can vary depending on disciplinary-based models of inquiry and learning. The organization of content can also depend on what your professor wants you to write about or based on the type of reflective model used to frame the writing assignment. Despite these possible variations, below is a basic approach to organizing and writing a good reflective paper, followed by a list of problems to avoid.

Pre-flection

In most cases, it's helpful to begin by thinking about your learning experiences and outline what you want to focus on before you begin to write the paper. This can help you organize your thoughts around what was most important to you and what experiences [good or bad] had the most impact on your learning. As described by the University of Waterloo Writing and Communication Centre, preparing to write a reflective paper involves a process of self-analysis that can help organize your thoughts around significant moments of in-class knowledge discovery.

  • Using a thesis statement as a guide, note what experiences or course content stood out to you , then place these within the context of your observations, reactions, feelings, and opinions. This will help you develop a rough outline of key moments during the course that reflect your growth as a learner. To identify these moments, pose these questions to yourself: What happened? What was my reaction? What were my expectations and how were they different from what transpired? What did I learn?
  • Critically think about your learning experiences and the course content . This will help you develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding about why these moments were significant or relevant to you. Use the ideas you formulated during the first stage of reflecting to help you think through these moments from both an academic and personal perspective. From an academic perspective, contemplate how the experience enhanced your understanding of a concept, theory, or skill. Ask yourself, did the experience confirm my previous understanding or challenge it in some way. As a result, did this highlight strengths or gaps in your current knowledge? From a personal perspective, think introspectively about why these experiences mattered, if previous expectations or assumptions were confirmed or refuted, and if this surprised, confused, or unnerved you in some way.
  • Analyze how these experiences and your reactions to them will shape your future thinking and behavior . Reflection implies looking back, but the most important act of reflective writing is considering how beliefs, assumptions, opinions, and feelings were transformed in ways that better prepare you as a learner in the future. Note how this reflective analysis can lead to actions you will take as a result of your experiences, what you will do differently, and how you will apply what you learned in other courses or in professional practice.

Basic Structure and Writing Style

Reflective Background and Context

The first part of your reflection paper should briefly provide background and context in relation to the content or experiences that stood out to you. Highlight the settings, summarize the key readings, or narrate the experiences in relation to the course objectives. Provide background that sets the stage for your reflection. You do not need to go into great detail, but you should provide enough information for the reader to understand what sources of learning you are writing about [e.g., course readings, field experience, guest lecture, class discussions] and why they were important. This section should end with an explanatory thesis statement that expresses the central ideas of your paper and what you want the readers to know, believe, or understand after they finish reading your paper.

Reflective Interpretation

Drawing from your reflective analysis, this is where you can be personal, critical, and creative in expressing how you felt about the course content and learning experiences and how they influenced or altered your feelings, beliefs, assumptions, or biases about the subject of the course. This section is also where you explore the meaning of these experiences in the context of the course and how you gained an awareness of the connections between these moments and your own prior knowledge.

Guided by your thesis statement, a helpful approach is to interpret your learning throughout the course with a series of specific examples drawn from the course content and your learning experiences. These examples should be arranged in sequential order that illustrate your growth as a learner. Reflecting on each example can be done by: 1)  introducing a theme or moment that was meaningful to you, 2) describing your previous position about the learning moment and what you thought about it, 3) explaining how your perspective was challenged and/or changed and why, and 4) introspectively stating your current or new feelings, opinions, or beliefs about that experience in class.

It is important to include specific examples drawn from the course and placed within the context of your assumptions, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. A reflective narrative without specific examples does not provide an effective way for the reader to understand the relationship between the course content and how you grew as a learner.

Reflective Conclusions

The conclusion of your reflective paper should provide a summary of your thoughts, feelings, or opinions regarding what you learned about yourself as a result of taking the course. Here are several ways you can frame your conclusions based on the examples you interpreted and reflected on what they meant to you. Each example would need to be tied to the basic theme [thesis statement] of your reflective background section.

  • Your reflective conclusions can be described in relation to any expectations you had before taking the class [e.g., “I expected the readings to not be relevant to my own experiences growing up in a rural community, but the research actually helped me see that the challenges of developing my identity as a child of immigrants was not that unusual...”].
  • Your reflective conclusions can explain how what you learned about yourself will change your actions in the future [e.g., “During a discussion in class about the challenges of helping homeless people, I realized that many of these people hate living on the street but lack the ability to see a way out. This made me realize that I wanted to take more classes in psychology...”].
  • Your reflective conclusions can describe major insights you experienced a critical junctures during the course and how these moments enhanced how you see yourself as a student learner [e.g., "The guest speaker from the Head Start program made me realize why I wanted to pursue a career in elementary education..."].
  • Your reflective conclusions can reconfigure or reframe how you will approach professional practice and your understanding of your future career aspirations [e.g.,, "The course changed my perceptions about seeking a career in business finance because it made me realize I want to be more engaged in customer service..."]
  • Your reflective conclusions can explore any learning you derived from the act of reflecting itself [e.g., “Reflecting on the course readings that described how minority students perceive campus activities helped me identify my own biases about the benefits of those activities in acclimating to campus life...”].

NOTE: The length of a reflective paper in the social sciences is usually less than a traditional research paper. However, don’t assume that writing a reflective paper is easier than writing a research paper. A well-conceived critical reflection paper often requires as much time and effort as a research paper because you must purposeful engage in thinking about your learning in ways that you may not be comfortable with or used to. This is particular true while preparing to write because reflective papers are not as structured as a traditional research paper and, therefore, you have to think deliberately about how you want to organize the paper and what elements of the course you want to reflect upon.

ANOTHER NOTE: Do not limit yourself to using only text in reflecting on your learning. If you believe it would be helpful, consider using creative modes of thought or expression such as, illustrations, photographs, or material objects that reflects an experience related to the subject of the course that was important to you [e.g., like a ticket stub to a renowned speaker on campus]. Whatever non-textual element you include, be sure to describe the object's relevance to your personal relationship to the course content.

Problems to Avoid

A reflective paper is not a “mind dump” . Reflective papers document your personal and emotional experiences and, therefore, they do not conform to rigid structures, or schema, to organize information. However, the paper should not be a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness narrative. Reflective papers are still academic pieces of writing that require organized thought, that use academic language and tone , and that apply intellectually-driven critical thinking to the course content and your learning experiences and their significance.

A reflective paper is not a research paper . If you are asked to reflect on a course reading, the reflection will obviously include some description of the research. However, the goal of reflective writing is not to present extraneous ideas to the reader or to "educate" them about the course. The goal is to share a story about your relationship with the learning objectives of the course. Therefore, unlike research papers, you are expected to write from a first person point of view which includes an introspective examination of your own opinions, feelings, and personal assumptions.

A reflection paper is not a book review . Descriptions of the course readings using your own words is not a reflective paper. Reflective writing should focus on how you understood the implications of and were challenged by the course in relation to your own lived experiences or personal assumptions, combined with explanations of how you grew as a student learner based on this internal dialogue. Remember that you are the central object of the paper, not the research materials.

A reflective paper is not an all-inclusive meditation. Do not try to cover everything. The scope of your paper should be well-defined and limited to your specific opinions, feelings, and beliefs about what you determine to be the most significant content of the course and in relation to the learning that took place. Reflections should be detailed enough to covey what you think is important, but your thoughts should be expressed concisely and coherently [as is true for any academic writing assignment].

Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; Critical Reflection: Journals, Opinions, & Reactions . University Writing Center, Texas A&M University; Connor-Greene, Patricia A. “Making Connections: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Journal Writing in Enhancing Student Learning.” Teaching of Psychology 27 (2000): 44-46; Good vs. Bad Reflection Papers , Franklin University; Dyment, Janet E. and Timothy S. O’Connell. "The Quality of Reflection in Student Journals: A Review of Limiting and Enabling Factors." Innovative Higher Education 35 (2010): 233-244: How to Write a Reflection Paper . Academic Skills, Trent University; Amelia TaraJane House. Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas; Ramlal, Alana, and Désirée S. Augustin. “Engaging Students in Reflective Writing: An Action Research Project.” Educational Action Research 28 (2020): 518-533; Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; McGuire, Lisa, Kathy Lay, and Jon Peters. “Pedagogy of Reflective Writing in Professional Education.” Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2009): 93-107; Critical Reflection . Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo; How Do I Write Reflectively? Academic Skills Toolkit, University of New South Wales Sydney; Reflective Writing . Skills@Library. University of Leeds; Walling, Anne, Johanna Shapiro, and Terry Ast. “What Makes a Good Reflective Paper?” Family Medicine 45 (2013): 7-12; Williams, Kate, Mary Woolliams, and Jane Spiro. Reflective Writing . 2nd edition. London: Red Globe Press, 2020; Yeh, Hui-Chin, Shih-hsien Yang, Jo Shan Fu, and Yen-Chen Shih. “Developing College Students’ Critical Thinking through Reflective Writing.” Higher Education Research and Development (2022): 1-16.

Writing Tip

Focus on Reflecting, Not on Describing

Minimal time and effort should be spent describing the course content you are asked to reflect upon. The purpose of a reflection assignment is to introspectively contemplate your reactions to and feeling about an element of the course. D eflecting the focus away from your own feelings by concentrating on describing the course content can happen particularly if "talking about yourself" [i.e., reflecting] makes you uncomfortable or it is intimidating. However, the intent of reflective writing is to overcome these inhibitions so as to maximize the benefits of introspectively assessing your learning experiences. Keep in mind that, if it is relevant, your feelings of discomfort could be a part of how you critically reflect on any challenges you had during the course [e.g., you realize this discomfort inhibited your willingness to ask questions during class, it fed into your propensity to procrastinate, or it made it difficult participating in groups].

Writing a Reflection Paper . Writing Center, Lewis University; Reflection Paper . Cordia Harrington Center for Excellence, University of Arkansas.

Another Writing Tip

Helpful Videos about Reflective Writing

These two short videos succinctly describe how to approach a reflective writing assignment. They are produced by the Academic Skills department at the University of Melbourne and the Skills Team of the University of Hull, respectively.

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Reflective Essays

What is a reflective essay? Typically, you write a reflective essay in response to a text you have read, an event you have attended, or another experience you have had. The essay focuses on describing the event, text, or other experience, discussing what you learned from it, and speculating on how you could apply what you learned.

Reflective essays are designed to stimulate your learning by asking you to think about (“reflect on”) what you learned from a particular text, event, or experience. The process of thinking consciously about your learning deepens and reinforces that learning. 

Setting Yourself Up to Reflect

If you know in advance that you will be reflecting on a text or experience, take some time beforehand to set yourself up to reflect on it afterwards. Write down some notes about your expectations, as suggested by the questions below: 

  • What expectations do you have about the text, event, or experience? What do you expect it to be like? What do you expect to learn from it? 
  • Are there any questions you have at the outset? 
  • Is there any aspect of this text or experience that you expect to be challenging for you?

You can refer to these notes later, when you compose the reflection.

Engaging with the Text, Event, or Experience

As you are reading the text or participating in the experience, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it similar to or different from what you expected?
  • How is it answering the questions you had at the outset?
  • Is there anything you find to be challenging about this text, event, or experience?
  • Are you engaged by the text, event, or experience? If so, what is engaging to you?
  • What, if anything, do you think you are learning from this text, event, or experience?

In other words, think consciously about how the text, event, or experience meets your expectations, raises or answers questions, poses challenges, or provides an opportunity to learn.

Writing the Reflection

Now it’s time to write down your reflections. Remember that reflective essays are meant to deepen your thinking about a particular assignment or experience, so your own thoughts, feelings, and insights matter here. 

A reflection can be divided into four phases, each of which can be a section of your essay:

  • Describe: What was the text, event, or experience? If it was a text: who wrote it, and what was it about? If it was an event or experience: when did it occur; who was there; what went on? 
  • Interpret: How did the text, event, or experience meet your expectations (or not)? What questions did it raise for you? Was there anything you found to be particularly surprising, meaningful or challenging? If so, what was it? 
  • Evaluate: What did you learn from this text, event, or experience? 
  • Plan: How do you think you can use what you learned during this text, event, or experience in the future?  In what situations could you use what you learned?

Style, Tone, Length

  • A reflection is an essay, so provide full, thoughtful responses to the questions in your instructor’s prompt.
  •  The style and tone of your reflective essay should match the purpose of the overall assignment. This is a personal essay meant to showcase what you learned from the text, event, or experience that you are writing about. You can use the pronouns “I,” “me,” and “mine.”
  • Describe the text, event, or experience fully, using plenty of descriptive words. Include enough detail for your audience to understand that you were engaged with the text, event, or experience that you are reflecting on; the reader should come away with the understanding that you learned something from the text, event, or experience you are writing about.
  • Citations are only necessary if you are referring to a specific text, and even then, your citations are not the focus of the reflection. For a reflective essay, you are the main source of evidence. Always check with your instructor about what citation style to use, if relevant.
  • The length of your reflection will depend on your instructor’s instructions for the assignment.
  • The best source of information on length is your professor, so find out what the word or page-count is from them.

References  

RMIT University Library Learning Lab. (n.d.). Writing an academic reflection. https://emedia.rmit.edu.au/learninglab/content/writing-academic-reflection

University of Birmingham. (2015). A short guide to reflective writing. https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/libraryservices/library/asc/documents/public/short-guide-reflective-writing.pdf

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Reflective essays

Guidance and information on using reflective essays.

The reflective essay is one of the most common reflective assignments and is very frequently used for both formative and especially summative assessments. Reflective essays are about presenting reflections to an audience in a systematic and formal way.

Generally, all good academic practice for assignments applies when posing reflective essays.

Typical reflective essay questions

Reflective essays tend to deal with a reflective prompt that the essay needs to address. This also often means that the essay will have to draw on a range of experiences and theories to fully and satisfactorily answer the question.

The questions/prompts should not be too vague, for example ‘reflect on your learning’, but should define an area or an aspect relevant to your learning outcomes. This is most easily ensured with thorough guidelines, highlighting elements expected in the essay.

Questions could be something like (not exhaustive):

  • reflect on learning in the course with regards to [choose an aspect]
  • reflect on personal development across an experience with regards to certain skills
  • reflect on development towards subject benchmarks statements and the extent to which these are achieved
  • reflect on the progression towards the course’s defined learning outcomes or the school’s or the University’s Graduate Attributes
  • reflect on some theory relevant to the course. (Remember that for this to be a reflective essay and not an academic/critical essay, the student must use that theory to explain/inform their own experiences, and use their own experiences to criticise and put the theory into context – that is, how theory and experience inform one another.)

Typical structure and language

Reflective essays will often require theoretical literature, but this is not always essential.  Reflective essays can be built around a single individual experience, but will often draw on a series of individual experiences – or one long experience, for example an internship, that is broken into individual experiences.

The typical language and structure is formal – for thorough descriptions on this, see ‘Academic reflections: tips, language and structure’ in the Reflectors’ Toolkit, which can be valuable to highlight to students.

Academic reflections: tips, language and structure (within the Reflectors’ Toolkit)

Length and assignment weight if assessed

There is no one length that a reflective essay must take. As with all written assignments, the main consideration is that the length is appropriate for evidencing learning, answering the question and meeting the criteria.

Similarly, there is no clear answer for what percentage of the overall mark is attached to the assignment. However, the choice should mirror the required workload for the reflector to complete it, how that fits into your initiative, and the amount of preparation the reflector has had.

For instance, if the student has received formative feedback on multiple pieces of work, a larger proportion of the course mark may be appropriate, compared to if the student had not had a chance to practice. It is important to keep in mind that many students will not have had many chances to practice reflective essays before university.

Back to ‘Components of reflective tasks’

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Reflective essays

Reflective essays are academic essays; what makes an essay "good" will work for a reflective essay. What is different about a reflective essay is that the essay is about you and your thinking. However, you will need evidence from your course to back up your reflections.

You should structure a reflective essay as an essay, that is write to persuade your reader of your key reflections (or argument). The diagram above, details how to stucture your reflections through the essay. To find out more see the section on essay writing .

Business example

The following example comes from business. Thanks to Dr Colleen Hayes for the three samples.

Students were asked to write a reflective essay on their learning in the course by responding to the following question:

What key thing have you learned about corporate social responsibility in the course?

Example 1: Retelling

This writing is (1) descriptive/listing of content, not reflective and (2) not properly referenced (the definition of stakeholders is directly copied from Freeman in the lecture slides.

Example 2: Relating

This writing involves relating to personal experience and has some integration of course concepts (stakeholders).

Example 3: Reflecting

More reflective (forward-looking), better citation and integration of multiple course concepts, and reflection that links with personal experience.

An anthropology marking rubric

For this assessment, students were required to write a 1500-1800 word essay building on the themes of the course to address the question "We are all pirates". Attached under reference documents is the rubric used to mark the essay (thanks to Dr Caroline Schuster). Notice that it requires both the reflection (reflect, relate and retell) as well as the poor traditional requirements of an essay (Writing and organisation, Supporting claims with scholarly sources).

Reflective writing

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  • Sample rubric from Anthropology (PDF, 243.24 KB)

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  • Why do we write reflective essays?
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3.       How do we write reflective essays?

Understanding the assignment

Read your assignment guidelines carefully to determine which kind of reflections your lecturer wants and what they expect; and what content, such as an event, experience, reading or process, your lecturer wants you to reflect on.

Structuring your essay

A reflective essay typically follows the familiar organisational pattern: Introduction – Body Paragraphs – Conclusion.  In the body paragraphs, reflective writing involves a number of formats, and this guide will sugguest a DIEP approach, that is, to describe , interpret , evaluate and plan (Boud et al., 1985).

·          Introduction

o    Introduce the topic and the scope (What?)

o    Justify the topic (Why?)

o    Present the purpose of your essay (Thesis statement)

o    Give an overview of what you will cover, i.e., description, interpretation, evaluation and plan (How?)

·          Body Paragraphs (DIEP)

o    Describe objectively what happened

v   Give the details of what happened (Include the necessary who, what, when, where, how and why.  You may not need to recall the whole experience, e.g., an incident/ lecture/ reading, but just a key aspect of the experience itself.)

v   Answer: “What did you do, read, see, hear, etc.?”

o    Interpret what happened

v   Explain why things happened in the way they did

v   Answer: “What might this experience mean?”

v   Answer: “How did it make you feel?”

v   Answer: “How does it relate to what you know/ have learned?”

v   AbswerL “What new insights have you gained from it?”

v   Answer: “What are your hypothesis/ conclusions?”

o    Evaluate the effectiveness of the experience

v   Make judgments on whether the experience is effective for you and how beneficial and useful the experience has been

v   Answer: “What is your opinion about this experience?”

Answer: “Why do you have this opinion?”

Answer: “What is the value of this experience?”

o    Plan how this experience might help you in the future

v   Outline a plan for how the experience may impact your thinking or behaviour in your course, programme, future career and life in general

v   Answer: “How will you transfer or apply your new knowledge and insights in the future?”

v   Answer

·          Conclusion

o    Restate your thesis statement

o    Summarise the main ideas of the body paragraphs

o    State your overview of the experience regarding its usefulness and effectiveness for you and your future

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Writing reflectively is essential to many academic programmes and also to completing applications for employment. This page considers what reflective writing is and how to do it. 

What is reflection?

Reflection is something that we do everyday as part of being human. We plan and undertake actions, then think about whether each was successful or not, and how we might improve next time. We can also feel reflection as emotions, such as satisfaction and regret, or as a need to talk over happenings with friends. See below for an introduction to reflection as a concept. 

Reflection in everyday life [Google Slides]

Google Doc

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing should be thought of as recording reflective thinking. This can be done in an everyday diary entry, or instruction in a recipe book to change a cooking method next time. In academic courses, reflective is more complex and focussed. This section considers the main features of reflective writing. 

Reflective writing for employability

When applying for jobs, or further academic study, students are required to think through what they have done in their degrees and translate it into evaluative writing that fulfils the criteria of job descriptions and person specifications. This is a different style of writing, the resource below will enable you to think about how to begin this transition. 

There are also lots of resources available through the university's careers service and elsewhere on the Skills Guides. The links below are to pages that can offer further support and guidance. 

reflective essay content

  • Careers and Placements Service resources Lots of resources that relate to all aspects of job applications, including tailored writing styles and techniques.

The language of reflective writing

Reflective academic writing is: 

  • almost always written in the first person.
  • evaluative - you are judging something.
  • partly personal, partly based on criteria.
  • analytical - you are usually categorising actions and events.
  • formal - it is for an academic audience.
  • carefully constructed. 

Look at the sections below to see specific vocabulary types and sentence constructions that can be useful when writing reflectively. 

Language for exploring outcomes

A key element of writing reflectively is being able to explain to the reader what the results of your actions were. This requires careful grading of language to ensure that what you write reflects the evidence of what happened and to convey clearly what you achieved or did not achieve. 

Below are some ideas and prompts of how you can write reflectively about outcomes, using clarity and graded language. 

Expressing uncertainty when writing about outcomes:

  • It is not yet clear that…
  • I do not yet (fully) understand...
  • It is unclear...
  • It is not yet fully clear...
  • It is not yet (fully?) known… 
  • It appears to be the case that…
  • It is too soon to tell....

Often, in academic learning, the uncertainty in the outcomes is a key part of the learning and development that you undertake. It is vital therefore that you explain this clearly to the reader using careful choices in your language. 

Writing about how the outcome relates to you:

  • I gained (xxxx) skills… 
  • I developed… 
  • The experience/task/process taught me… 
  • I achieved…
  • I learned that…
  • I found that… 

In each case you can add in words like, ‘significantly’, ‘greatly’, ‘less importantly’ etc. The use of evaluative adjectives enables you to express to the reader the importance and significance of your learning in terms of the outcomes achieved. 

Describing how you reached your outcomes:

  • Having read....
  • Having completed (xxxx)...
  • I analysed…
  • I applied… 
  • I learned…
  • I experienced… 
  • Having reflected…

This gives the reader an idea of the nature of the reflection they are reading. How and why you reach the conclusions and learning that you express in your reflective writing is important so the reader can assess the validity and strength of your reflections. 

Projecting your outcomes into the future:

  • If I completed a similar task in the future I would…
  • Having learned through this process I would… 
  • Next time I will…
  • I will need to develop…. (in light of the outcomes)
  • Next time my responses would be different....

When showing the reader how you will use your learning in the future, it is important to be specific and again, to use accurate graded language to show how and why what you choose to highlight matters. Check carefully against task instructions to see what you are expected to reflect into the future about. 

When reflecting in academic writing on outcomes, this can mean either the results of the task you have completed, for example, the accuracy of a titration in a Chemistry lab session, or what you have learned/developed within the task, for example, ensuring that an interview question is written clearly enough to produce a response that reflects what you wished to find out. 

Language choices are important in ensuring the reader can see what you think in relation to the reflection you have done. 

Language for interpretation

When you interpret something you are telling the reader how important it is, or what meaning is attached to it. 

You may wish to indicate the value of something:

  • superfluous
  • non-essential

E.g. 'the accuracy of the transcription was essential to the accuracy of the eventual coding and analysis of the interviews undertaken. The training I undertook was critical to enabling me to transcribe quickly and accurately' 

You may wish to show how ideas, actions or some other aspect developed over time:

  • Initially 
  • subsequently
  • in sequence 

E.g. 'Before we could produce the final version of the presentation, we had to complete both the research and produce a plan. This was achieved later than expected, leading to subsequent rushing of creating slides, and this contributed to a lower grade'. 

You may wish to show your viewpoint or that of others:

  • did not think
  • articulated
  • did/did not do something

Each of these could be preceded by 'we' or 'I'.

E.g. 'I noticed that the model of the bridge was sagging. I expressed this to the group, and as I did so I noticed that two members did not seem to grasp how serious the problem was. I proposed a break and a meeting, during which I intervened to show the results of inaction.'

There is a huge range of language that can be used for interpretation, the most important thing is to remember your reader and be clear with them about what your interpretation is, so they can see your thinking and agree or disagree with you. 

Language for analysis

When reflecting, it is important to show the reader that you have analysed the tasks, outcomes, learning and all other aspects that you are writing about. In most cases, you are using categories to provide structure to your reflection. Some suggestions of language to use when analysing in reflective writing are below:

Signposting that you are breaking down a task or learning into categories:

  • An aspect of…
  • An element of…
  • An example of…
  • A key feature of the task was... (e.g. teamwork)
  • The task was multifaceted… (then go on to list or describe the facets)
  • There were several experiences…
  • ‘X’ is related to ‘y’

There may be specific categories that you should consider in your reflection. In teamwork, it could be individual and team performance, in lab work it could be accuracy and the reliability of results. It is important that the reader can see the categories you have used for your analysis. 

Analysis by chronology:

  • Subsequently
  • Consequently
  • Stage 1 (or other)

In many tasks the order in which they were completed matters. This can be a key part of your reflection, as it is possible that you may learn to do things in a different order next time or that the chronology influenced the outcomes. 

Analysis by perspective:

  • I considered

These language choices show that you are analysing purely by your own personal perspective. You may provide evidence to support your thinking, but it is your viewpoint that matters. 

  • What I expected from the reading did not happen…
  • The Theory did not appear in our results…
  • The predictions made were not fulfilled…
  • The outcome was surprising because… (and link to what was expected)

These language choices show that you are analysing by making reference to academic learning (from an academic perspective). This means you have read or otherwise learned something and used it to form expectations, ideas and/or predictions. You can then reflect on what you found vs what you expected. The reader needs to know what has informed our reflections. 

  • Organisation X should therefore…
  • A key recommendation is… 
  • I now know that organisation x is… 
  • Theory A can be applied to organisation X

These language choices show that analysis is being completed from a systems perspective. You are telling the reader how your learning links into the bigger picture of systems, for example, what an organisation or entity might do in response to what you have learned. 

Analysing is a key element of being reflective. You must think through the task, ideas, or learning you are reflecting on and use categories to provide structure to your thought. This then translates into structure and language choices in your writing, so your reader can see clearly how you have used analysis to provide sense and structure to your reflections. 

Language for evaluation

Reflecting is fundamentally an evaluative activity. Writing about reflection is therefore replete with evaluative language. A skillful reflective writer is able to grade their language to match the thinking it is expressing to the reader. 

Language to show how significant something is:

  • Most importantly
  • Significantly 
  • The principal lesson was… 
  • Consequential
  • Fundamental
  • Insignificant
  • In each case the language is quantifying the significance of the element you are describing, telling the reader the product of your evaluative thought. 

For example, ‘when team working I initially thought that we would succeed by setting out a plan and then working independently, but in fact, constant communication and collaboration were crucial to success. This was the most significant thing I learned.’ 

Language to show the strength of relationships:

  • X is strongly associated with Y
  • A is a consequence of B
  • There is a probable relationship between… 
  • C does not cause D
  • A may influence B
  • I learn most strongly when doing A

In each case the language used can show how significant and strong the relationship between two factors are. 

For example, ‘I learned, as part of my research methods module, that the accuracy of the data gained through surveys is directly related to the quality of the questions. Quality can be improved by reading widely and looking at surveys in existing academic papers to inform making your own questions’

Language to evaluate your viewpoint:

  • I was convinced...
  • I have developed significantly…
  • I learned that...
  • The most significant thing that I learned was…
  • Next time, I would definitely…
  • I am unclear about… 
  • I was uncertain about… 

These language choices show that you are attaching a level of significance to your reflection. This enables the reader to see what you think about the learning you achieved and the level of significance you attach to each reflection. 

For example, ‘when using systematic sampling of a mixed woodland, I was convinced that method A would be most effective, but in reality, it was clear that method B produced the most accurate results. I learned that assumptions based on reading previous research can lead to inaccurate predictions. This is very important for me as I will be planning a similar sampling activity as part of my fourth year project’ 

Evaluating is the main element of reflecting. You need to evaluate the outcomes of the activities you have done, your part in them, the learning you achieved and the process/methods you used in your learning, among many other things. It is important that you carefully use language to show the evaluative thinking you have completed to the reader.

Varieties of reflective writing in academic studies

There are a huge variety of reflective writing tasks, which differ between programmes and modules. Some are required by the nature of the subject, like in Education, where reflection is a required standard in teaching.

Some are required by the industry area graduates are training for, such as 'Human Resources Management', where the industry accreditation body require evidence of reflective capabilities in graduates.

In some cases, reflection is about the 'learning to learn' element of degree studies, to help you to become a more effective learner. Below, some of the main reflective writing tasks found in University of York degrees are explored. In each case the advice, guidance and materials do not substitute for those provided within your modules. 

Reflective essay writing

Reflective essay tasks vary greatly in what they require of you. The most important thing to do is to read the assessment brief carefully, attend any sessions and read any materials provided as guidance and to allocate time to ensure you can do the task well.

Google Slides

Reflective learning statements

Reflective learning statements are often attached to dissertations and projects, as well as practical activities. They are an opportunity to think about and tell the reader what you have learned, how you will use the learning, what you can do better next time and to link to other areas, such as your intended career. 

Making a judgement about academic performance

Think of this type of writing as producing your own feedback. How did you do? Why? What could you improve next time? These activities may be a part of modules, they could be attached to a bigger piece of work like a dissertation or essay, or could be just a part of your module learning. 

The four main questions to ask yourself when reflecting on your academic performance. 

  • Why exactly did you achieve the grade you have been awarded? Look at your feedback, the instructions, the marking scheme and talk to your tutors to find out if you don't know. 
  • How did your learning behaviours affect your academic performance? This covers aspects such as attendance, reading for lectures/seminars, asking questions, working with peers... the list goes on. 
  • How did your performance compare to others? Can you identify when others did better or worse? Can you talk to your peers to find out if they are doing something you are not or being more/less effective?
  • What can you do differently to improve your performance? In each case, how will you ensure you can do it? Do you need training? Do you need a guide book or resources? 

When writing about each of the above, you need to keep in mind the context of how you are being asked to judge your performance and ensure the reader gains the detail they need (and as this is usually a marker, this means they can give you a high grade!). 

Writing a learning diary/blog/record

A learning diary or blog has become a very common method of assessing and supporting learning in many degree programmes. The aim is to help you to think through your day-to-day learning and identify what you have and have not learned, why that is and what you can improve as you go along. You are also encouraged to link your learning to bigger thinking, like future careers or your overall degree. 

Other support for reflective writing

Online resources.

The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of writing, including reflective writing. Also check your department's guidance and VLE sites for tailored resources.

Other useful resources for reflective writing:

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Reflective Essay Writing

Caleb S.

Reflective Essay: Step-by-Step Guide with Examples & Tips

Published on: Apr 27, 2019

Last updated on: Oct 16, 2023

Reflective Essay

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Thought and reflection are a major part of our inner lives. Whenever we engage with art and literature or experience anything novel, we tend to reflect on it later.

What if we write our reflections down in a structured way? That is a reflective essay. 

Among various types of essays , reflective essays stand out for being the most personal form of writing. Reflective writing lets you explore your thoughts and experiences about something and gain profound insights into yourself and the world around you.

So how can you write a great reflective essay? Read on to understand reflective essays better with examples and get useful tips.

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What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of writing where a writer explores their thoughts, feelings, and observations about a personal experience. These essays are deeply subjective, personal, and introspective.

At its core, a reflective essay prompts you to answer the question: "How did a particular experience impact me?" Unlike narrative or descriptive writing, reflective essays are not just about recounting events. The goal is to analyze and interpret the event with your unique perspective and insights. 

In addition, reflective essays do not require you to provide external evidence or validation, nor do you have to argue or prove something. However, it's important to follow a structured approach that allows you to organize your thoughts and engage your readers. 

So what is that structured approach to writing a reflective essay? Read below.

How to Write a Reflective Essay?

Writing a reflective essay can become a lot easier if you follow a structured writing process. It allows you to effectively communicate your insights to your audience. 

Here is a step-by-step process to start a reflective essay:

Step 1: Brainstorm and Choose a Topic

Begin by brainstorming a specific event, experience, or topic to reflect upon. It could be a personal experience, a book you've read, a class you've taken, or a significant life event.

Here are some helpful tips for choosing a topic:

  • Think about your personal experiences and select a topic that resonates with you and offers room for reflection. 
  • Consider which one is most relevant to the purpose of your reflective essay. 
  • Choose a topic that holds personal significance and allows you to explore and convey meaningful insights.

Step 2: Reflect Deeply & Gather Your Thoughts

Unlike other types of academic essays, reflection papers do not demand research or gathering sources. The source material for the essay can be found in your own thoughts. 

You can write down your thoughts in the form of a bulleted list, mind mapping, or other forms of note-taking. Take time to immerse yourself in the experience and consider its various aspects, including:

  • Specific details, emotions, and observations from the event or experience.
  • Your initial reactions and thoughts at the time. Recall how the experience affected you and what you learned.

You don’t have to write down complete sentences yet, you can simply note down keywords and phrases.

 Step 3: Organize Your Thoughts

To ensure a coherent and logical essay, organize the points you’ve gathered in an outline. The outline should clarify these aspects:

  • A clear thesis statement that indicates the main idea of the essay.
  • Body paragraphs that explore different aspects of your reflection, organized in a logical sequence.
  • Key points, experiences, and insights you want to include in each paragraph.

This is the last step of your pre-writing preparation. With an organized outline for your essay, you have everything you need to start writing. 

Learn more about crafting efficient outlines in our reflective essay outline guide

Step 4: Write Your First Draft

With your outline in hand, start writing your first draft. Follow your organizational structure and express your thoughts and experiences clearly and concisely. As you write:

  • Maintain a reflective and personal tone, as this is a chance to express your thoughts and emotions.
  • Use specific examples, anecdotes, and details to illustrate your points.
  • Ensure that each paragraph flows logically to the next, creating a smooth reading experience.

Don't worry too much about perfection at this stage; the first draft is about getting your thoughts on paper.

Step 5: Proofread and Revise

After completing your first draft, take a break before revising. Returning to your essay with fresh eyes will help you identify areas for improvement. During the revision process:

  • Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  • Ensure clarity and coherence in your writing.
  • Review the flow of your essay to ensure that it logically progresses from introduction to conclusion. Paragraphs should be connected to each other through transition phrases.
  • Trim unnecessary or repetitive content and add details or insights where needed.

By following these five steps, you'll be well on your way to crafting a well-organized and impactful reflective essay.

Reflective Essay Structure 

A reflective essay typically follows a standard structure that includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. 

Let’s delve into each of these parts here.

Reflective Essay Introduction

The introduction aims to draw the reader in by catching their interest and providing some context to the topic. A good introduction clearly indicates the subject and type of essay and tells the readers what to expect ahead.

Follow the tips below to craft an engaging introduction.

  • Start with a hook or an intriguing opening sentence to pique the reader's interest. For example, you might begin with a thought-provoking quote, a relevant anecdote, or a rhetorical question.
  • Provide context by briefly introducing the topic or the experience you will reflect upon. Mention any necessary background information to help the reader understand the context.
  • End your introduction with a thesis statement . The thesis statement for a reflective essay can be flexible and can be more than one sentence long. It states the main point you want to convey, such as what you learned, gained, or how were you changed by the experience.

Reflective Essay Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs of your essay are the heart of your reflection, where you dive deep into the experience and explore it from multiple angles. It's essential to organize your body paragraphs logically to maintain a coherent flow.

Here is how body paragraphs are organized in this type of paper:

First Body Paragraph

Provide a clear and detailed description of the experience or event you are reflecting upon. Set the stage by answering the basic questions: What, when, where, and who?

Share the most significant aspects of the experience. Consider the sensory details, the environment, the people involved, and other aspects. This will help your readers immerse themselves in the situation. 

Second Body Paragraph

Once you’ve described the structure of your experience in detail, now is the time to move on to your thoughts, experiences, and observations. 

Reflect on your immediate feelings and initial thoughts. Were you excited, anxious, or confused? 

What did you notice about the people or surroundings? This section allows the reader to connect with your emotional journey, helping them understand the initial impact of the experience.

Third & Fourth Body Paragraphs 

In the subsequent paragraphs, delve into in-depth reflection and analysis of your experience. 

This is where you critically examine the experience, asking yourself why it was significant and how it impacted you. Consider the implications and connections to your personal growth, beliefs, or values and analyze the experience in the context of your life, education, or career.

You should also engage in critical reflection. For instance, 

  • What did you learn from the experience? 
  • How did it challenge or reinforce your existing beliefs? 
  • Did it change your perspective on certain issues?

Feel free to use multiple paragraphs for this reflection if needed. Each paragraph can explore different facets of your experience and offer a more comprehensive analysis.

Reflective Essay Conclusion

The conclusion of your reflective essay brings your reflection to a meaningful closure. It ties together the entire essay and aims to leave the reader with a lasting impression.

Here are some tips for writing a good conclusion:

  • Summarize the key points you discussed in the body paragraphs without introducing new information. Reinforce the main message of your essay.
  • Present the significance of the experience and its impact on your personal growth, beliefs, or understanding.
  • Consider ending with a thought-provoking statement or a powerful insight to make it more impactful for the reader.

Reflective Essay Examples

Although you now know how to write a reflective essay, you should read some examples before you start writing. Reading the reflective essay samples below will help you get a feel of this type of writing. 

Reflective Essay Sample - Reflections on Reading a Book

Reflective Essay Example - A Visit to a Historical Place

Tips for Writing Better Reflective Essays

Only following the writing steps can help you write a good essay. But to make it even better, you should do something extra. Here are some writing tips that can help you polish your reflective writing.

  • Be Genuine and Authentic: Reflective essays thrive on authenticity. Share your true thoughts and feelings without embellishment or pretense. Readers appreciate sincerity and honesty in your reflections.
  • Show, Don't Just Tell: Instead of merely stating your emotions or thoughts, demonstrate them through concrete examples and anecdotes. Let readers experience your reflection alongside you.
  • Be Concise and Focused: Avoid unnecessary tangents or excessive details that may distract from your main reflection. Keep your essay focused on the central experience and its significance.
  • Engage the Reader's Emotions: Touch on universal emotions and experiences that resonate with readers. Connecting on an emotional level can make your reflective essay more relatable and memorable.
  • Seek Feedback: Don't hesitate to share your reflective essay with peers, mentors, or writing tutors. Their feedback can offer valuable insights and help you refine your writing.
  • Reflect on Your Reflection: After completing your reflective essay, take a moment to reflect on your own reflection process. Consider what you've learned about yourself and your writing style. Use this insight to improve future reflective essays.

Reflective Essay Topics

Reflective essays can be written on a variety of topics. Here are some ideas you can write about: 

  • Engaging with Art: Reflect on your experience of reading a book, watching a documentary etc. 
  • A Life-Changing Journey: Reflect lessons learned from a trip or adventure.
  • Mentorship and Learning: Reflect on the influence of a particular teacher, mentor, or role model on your life. 
  • Overcoming a Challenge: Write about a challenging experience or obstacle you've faced 
  • Life Milestones: Write about a major life event, such as graduating from school, getting married, or becoming a parent, etc.
  • Career Transitions: Share your reflections on transitioning between careers or jobs. 
  • A Turning Point: Reflect on a specific moment or decision in your life that marked a turning point. 
  • Relationships: Explore the dynamics of a significant friendship or relationship.
  • Ethical Dilemmas: Discuss a moral or ethical dilemma you faced and how you navigated it. 
  • Volunteer or Community Service: Share your experiences with community service. 

These are just a few general ideas. With the help of these topics, you can ignite your creativity and choose the most meaningful topic for yourself.

Need more ideas to find a great topic for your reflective paper? Here are 100+ engaging reflective essay topics for your help!

Reflective essays serve as powerful instruments for self-discovery. It allows you to delve into your thoughts and experiences and share them with others in a meaningful way. 

By following the steps, tips, and, examples above, you can explore the richness of your own experiences and engage others along the way. Trying to write a reflective essay can even become another one of your amazing experiences! So, embrace authenticity, engage your readers, and inspire those who read your words.

Need help writing a reflective essay? Don’t worry!

We understand the significance of these reflective journeys, and we've expert writers to assist you. At our reflective essay writing service , our team of writing professionals is dedicated to helping you craft insightful and impactful essays that meet your custom requirements.

So contact our essay writing service now!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you say i in a reflective essay.

Yes! First-person pronouns are a great way to give the reader insight into your life and thoughts. I, me, we - these words all have personal meaning. So, they should be used in a reflective essay.

What person is a reflective essay?

A reflective essay is a type of academic writing that can take on many different forms. You might be asked to write it in the first person or third person, and there's no one correct way to do so!

Caleb S. (Literature, Marketing)

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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Reflective Essay Examples

Woman Using Laptop Writing a Reflective Essay

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Self-reflection might seem like a no-brainer when you start a reflective paper. But, delving into your thoughts and experiences is harder than you might think. Learn what a reflective essay is and how to write one through a few examples. Plus, explore several topics to get you started.

What Is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing is a form of creative writing where you examine an experience or situation through self-reflection. Through the course of creating the reflective paper, you describe insights that you gained or express your views on some experience. Reflective essays are typically personal writings about an experience, but they can be made up as well.

Tone and Structure

Self-reflection is a personal experience. Therefore, the tone and voice of the writing are personal as well. Written typically from a first-person point of view , these types of essays take the reader through a journey of growth and discovery.

The structure and format follow a typical essay writing outline . Begin with a great hook and a strong introduction . Pull the reader in without giving too much away, then provide a quick overview of the reflective topic. Next, in the body of the essay, move into the meat of the paper by describing your experiences and growth. Round out your writing with a solid conclusion that concisely restates what you learned.

Examples of Reflective Essays

Now that you have an understanding of what it takes to write a reflective essay, check out a few examples for inspiration.

My Little Brother

This essay example is written at a middle or high school level, reflecting on the arrival of a younger sibling.

In my short life, there are many experiences that could qualify as life-changing. Every new experience was, at one time or another, the first experience. For good or bad, each instance changed the course that my life has taken. But, the most transformative experience was the birth of my youngest brother. Joel is someone my parents often call a happy accident. At the time that my mother became pregnant, I was 13, and my other brother, Jake, was 10. We were what you would call a well-rounded, perfect family of four. We neatly fit into the perfect classification in nearly every way. We didn't realize what we were missing until the moment that my youngest brother first opened his striking blue eyes. In truth, I resented the fact that I would be having another sibling. Nothing needed to be added to our family, and my mother, already 38 at the time, was considered high risk because of her age. The pregnancy itself was full of complications that sent the straight course of my life into rollercoaster-like loops that my 13-year-old mind had a hard time comprehending. But now, I can see how forging through those loops helped me to roll with the punches that life inevitably brings The day Joel was born, my mother took me with her to the hospital rather than my father. It wasn't a planned move, but Jake and my father were both feverish; I was the next best alternative. Sitting with her through every contraction, I gained a new respect for just how powerful and strong a woman could be in what might be considered their weakest moment. Holding her hand and feeding her ice chips, I gained a connection with my mother that I didn't realize we were lacking. The moment my new baby brother came into this world, I realized two things nearly simultaneously. First, you don't realize how much you need something until it's sitting in your lap. Second, my life after this moment would never be the same. The moment he curled his chubby little finger around mine, I understood the words "happy accident" completely. There are many different experiences in life that have changed a part of me as a person. But, nothing so profoundly changed my views and outlook on life like the birth of my youngest brother. Joel's arrival was a life-altering event that caused me to see the world through new eyes.

Reading My Favorite Book

This reflective essay example about a favorite book is something you might find at the middle or high school level.

When it comes to books, I didn’t understand the appeal. I’d read one after another for each assignment not understanding what all the fuss was about. However, the moment I read Pride and Prejudice , it was like my literary eyes opened for the first time. It stirred love within me for classics I didn’t realize could exist. When I was first given the assignment of reading Pride and Prejudice , like many of my friends, I scoffed. With an eye roll, I internally calculated how much time I would have to read the book and write a report. I sighed at the loss of time with my friends for a stupid classic. Cracking open the cover, I was determined to hate it before even reading the first words. By the time I reached page 3, I nearly called it quits. But there was something about Elizabeth Bennet that quietly piqued my interest. I can’t say where, but somewhere along the way, my eyes devoured the pages instead of trudging along. The moment I reached the end, I was ecstatic and disappointed at the same time. Their ending had been perfect, but I realized I would miss them. Not only them, but I would also miss being part of their world. It was the first time characters of a story had affected me this way, so I tried to shake it off. However, after several days, that sadness carried me to the classics section of the school library. The moment I cracked open my next classic, my soul instantly felt more at ease, and I’ve never looked back. I never thought I’d say a book changed me, but in this case, it’s true. The love I found in Pride and Prejudice introduced me to a beautiful world of classic literature I can’t imagine living without. Despite not reading Pride and Prejudice for a while, it will always be my favorite book.

Reflective Essay Example about a favorite book

Reflective Essay Book

Creative communication.

This reflective essay example about the topic of creative writing is what you might expect to see at the college level.

I’ve always felt I excel in written communication. The skill of effectively communicating my thoughts and feelings through words and expressions seemed to come easily to me. However, I didn't realize how much my writing was lacking until my thoughts and feelings on writing were pushed nearly to their breaking point through my creative writing course. Learning the best way to manage time was a huge hurdle for me. I've always been a procrastinator. However, after the first day of class, I realized I would need to modify my thinking and approach to homework. I wasn't able to completely kill the procrastination habit I developed in high school, but I did learn some much-needed time management skills. I also learned how writing without the looming cloud of a deadline could open a creative door. A natural thinker and writer at heart, I thought I understood creative expression and wordplay... until my professor handed me my first grade. Upon looking at that striking "D" on the paper, I realized I would have to push myself harder and explore the depths my writing could reach. Not only did I learn to sharpen my technical writing chops, but I have found out how to dig into my creative soul to view my emotions and experiences in a whole new way. Going beyond the five-paragraph essay and fully exploring my feelings about a situation or action was challenging. This creative writing class pushed me to realize there isn't a limit on words when it comes to expressing something. I can convey a simple action a million different ways, and I mastered how to explore each one to find perfection in my written words. I also picked up new flexibility in my writing by opening my mind to different scopes of expression. Expressing all the changes that this class wrought in my writing is truly difficult. But, over the course of the eight weeks we spent together, I became a more competent writer. Not only do my words contain more depth and soul, but my writing itself has entered a whole new arena I didn't realize was possible. By studying new techniques and researching other approaches, I now have a sturdy foundation and a robust writing arsenal for future endeavors.

Reflective Essay Example about communication

Reflective Essay Communication

Finding the perfect topic.

Half the battle in creating a great reflective paper is finding the perfect topic to write about. Your topic should be something that you experienced, learned, or grew from. It could also be a topic that requires you to think more deeply about a place or book.

Some fun, creative topics for self-reflection include:

  • A fight with a family member - Why did it impact you? What did it change about you?
  • The moment you feel in love - Explore the feelings and emotions that come with love and how it changes you.
  • A sunset - What is it about the beauty of a sunset that impacts you?
  • Your secret spot in your house - What about that spot is so important?
  • Your first job - What was the experience like? Why was it meaningful?
  • Your first date - Examine your emotions on the first date. Did it live up to the hype or fall short?
  • Getting engaged - Discuss your feelings and the meaning of the experience.
  • Experience in a college class - Class experiences are designed to change or mold you in some way. Discuss how you grew and fell short.
  • Your first year in college - This is another larger-than-life event full of self-reflection.
  • Is college important? - People feel strongly one way or another about college. What are your experiences?
  • What college has taught you - How has attending college changed you and your thinking? Has it helped you grow as a person?
  • A vacation you'll never forget - What about the vacation was so memorable?
  • An incident you can't forget - Why can't you forget it? Explore your thoughts and emotions.
  • Your most embarrassing moment - Everyone's most embarrassing moment is different, but there is always a lot of growth.
  • Birth or death of a loved one - This can have a very profound effect on a person.
  • Public speaking - People are either good or bad at public speaking. How did you feel?
  • First fight with a friend - Were you able to get past the fight? How old were you? How did it change your relationship?
  • Big win or loss of a sports team - This could be a sports team you were on or a sports team you love.
  • Moving - This could be moving to college or moving away. Explore the way that the move affected you.
  • Helping someone - Did you ever help a family or someone in need? What was the experience like? How did it make you feel as a person?

The Art of Self-Reflection

Reflecting on a personal experience might seem like an easy essay to write. However, to ace your reflection paper, dive deeply into your feelings and choose a topic that triggers a strong emotional response.

If a reflective essay doesn't fit you, try exploring more about argumentative essays , including tips for making a compelling argument.

reflective essay content

Guide on How to Write a Reflection Paper with Free Tips and Example

reflective essay content

A reflection paper is a very common type of paper among college students. Almost any subject you enroll in requires you to express your opinion on certain matters. In this article, we will explain how to write a reflection paper and provide examples and useful tips to make the essay writing process easier.

Reflection papers should have an academic tone yet be personal and subjective. In this paper, you should analyze and reflect upon how an experience, academic task, article, or lecture shaped your perception and thoughts on a subject.

Here is what you need to know about writing an effective critical reflection paper. Stick around until the end of our guide to get some useful writing tips from the writing team at EssayPro — a research paper writing service

What Is a Reflection Paper

A reflection paper is a type of paper that requires you to write your opinion on a topic, supporting it with your observations and personal experiences. As opposed to presenting your reader with the views of other academics and writers, in this essay, you get an opportunity to write your point of view—and the best part is that there is no wrong answer. It is YOUR opinion, and it is your job to express your thoughts in a manner that will be understandable and clear for all readers that will read your paper. The topic range is endless. Here are some examples: whether or not you think aliens exist, your favorite TV show, or your opinion on the outcome of WWII. You can write about pretty much anything.

There are three types of reflection paper; depending on which one you end up with, the tone you write with can be slightly different. The first type is the educational reflective paper. Here your job is to write feedback about a book, movie, or seminar you attended—in a manner that teaches the reader about it. The second is the professional paper. Usually, it is written by people who study or work in education or psychology. For example, it can be a reflection of someone’s behavior. And the last is the personal type, which explores your thoughts and feelings about an individual subject.

However, reflection paper writing will stop eventually with one very important final paper to write - your resume. This is where you will need to reflect on your entire life leading up to that moment. To learn how to list education on resume perfectly, follow the link on our dissertation writing services .

Unlock the potential of your thoughts with EssayPro . Order a reflection paper and explore a range of other academic services tailored to your needs. Dive deep into your experiences, analyze them with expert guidance, and turn your insights into an impactful reflection paper.

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Free Reflection Paper Example

Now that we went over all of the essentials about a reflection paper and how to approach it, we would like to show you some examples that will definitely help you with getting started on your paper.

Reflection Paper Format

Reflection papers typically do not follow any specific format. Since it is your opinion, professors usually let you handle them in any comfortable way. It is best to write your thoughts freely, without guideline constraints. If a personal reflection paper was assigned to you, the format of your paper might depend on the criteria set by your professor. College reflection papers (also known as reflection essays) can typically range from about 400-800 words in length.

Here’s how we can suggest you format your reflection paper:

common reflection paper format

How to Start a Reflection Paper

The first thing to do when beginning to work on a reflection essay is to read your article thoroughly while taking notes. Whether you are reflecting on, for example, an activity, book/newspaper, or academic essay, you want to highlight key ideas and concepts.

You can start writing your reflection paper by summarizing the main concept of your notes to see if your essay includes all the information needed for your readers. It is helpful to add charts, diagrams, and lists to deliver your ideas to the audience in a better fashion.

After you have finished reading your article, it’s time to brainstorm. We’ve got a simple brainstorming technique for writing reflection papers. Just answer some of the basic questions below:

  • How did the article affect you?
  • How does this article catch the reader’s attention (or does it all)?
  • Has the article changed your mind about something? If so, explain how.
  • Has the article left you with any questions?
  • Were there any unaddressed critical issues that didn’t appear in the article?
  • Does the article relate to anything from your past reading experiences?
  • Does the article agree with any of your past reading experiences?

Here are some reflection paper topic examples for you to keep in mind before preparing to write your own:

  • How my views on rap music have changed over time
  • My reflection and interpretation of Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Why my theory about the size of the universe has changed over time
  • How my observations for clinical psychological studies have developed in the last year

The result of your brainstorming should be a written outline of the contents of your future paper. Do not skip this step, as it will ensure that your essay will have a proper flow and appropriate organization.

Another good way to organize your ideas is to write them down in a 3-column chart or table.

how to write a reflection paper

Do you want your task look awesome?

If you would like your reflection paper to look professional, feel free to check out one of our articles on how to format MLA, APA or Chicago style

Writing a Reflection Paper Outline

Reflection paper should contain few key elements:

Introduction

Your introduction should specify what you’re reflecting upon. Make sure that your thesis informs your reader about your general position, or opinion, toward your subject.

  • State what you are analyzing: a passage, a lecture, an academic article, an experience, etc...)
  • Briefly summarize the work.
  • Write a thesis statement stating how your subject has affected you.

One way you can start your thesis is to write:

Example: “After reading/experiencing (your chosen topic), I gained the knowledge of…”

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs should examine your ideas and experiences in context to your topic. Make sure each new body paragraph starts with a topic sentence.

Your reflection may include quotes and passages if you are writing about a book or an academic paper. They give your reader a point of reference to fully understand your feedback. Feel free to describe what you saw, what you heard, and how you felt.

Example: “I saw many people participating in our weight experiment. The atmosphere felt nervous yet inspiring. I was amazed by the excitement of the event.”

As with any conclusion, you should summarize what you’ve learned from the experience. Next, tell the reader how your newfound knowledge has affected your understanding of the subject in general. Finally, describe the feeling and overall lesson you had from the reading or experience.

There are a few good ways to conclude a reflection paper:

  • Tie all the ideas from your body paragraphs together, and generalize the major insights you’ve experienced.
  • Restate your thesis and summarize the content of your paper.

We have a separate blog post dedicated to writing a great conclusion. Be sure to check it out for an in-depth look at how to make a good final impression on your reader.

Need a hand? Get help from our writers. Edit, proofread or buy essay .

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: create a main theme.

After you choose your topic, write a short summary about what you have learned about your experience with that topic. Then, let readers know how you feel about your case — and be honest. Chances are that your readers will likely be able to relate to your opinion or at least the way you form your perspective, which will help them better understand your reflection.

For example: After watching a TEDx episode on Wim Hof, I was able to reevaluate my preconceived notions about the negative effects of cold exposure.

Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas and Experiences You’ve Had Related to Your Topic

You can write down specific quotes, predispositions you have, things that influenced you, or anything memorable. Be personal and explain, in simple words, how you felt.

For example: • A lot of people think that even a small amount of carbohydrates will make people gain weight • A specific moment when I struggled with an excess weight where I avoided carbohydrates entirely • The consequences of my actions that gave rise to my research • The evidence and studies of nutritional science that claim carbohydrates alone are to blame for making people obese • My new experience with having a healthy diet with a well-balanced intake of nutrients • The influence of other people’s perceptions on the harm of carbohydrates, and the role their influence has had on me • New ideas I’ve created as a result of my shift in perspective

Step 3: Analyze How and Why These Ideas and Experiences Have Affected Your Interpretation of Your Theme

Pick an idea or experience you had from the last step, and analyze it further. Then, write your reasoning for agreeing or disagreeing with it.

For example, Idea: I was raised to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight.

Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of research to overcome my beliefs finally. Afterward, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key to a healthy lifestyle.

For example: Idea: I was brought up to think that carbohydrates make people gain weight. Analysis: Most people think that if they eat any carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believe in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. As a result, my blood glucose levels were very low. I needed to do a lot of my own research to finally overcome my beliefs. After, I adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation” as a key for having a healthy lifestyle.

Step 4: Make Connections Between Your Observations, Experiences, and Opinions

Try to connect your ideas and insights to form a cohesive picture for your theme. You can also try to recognize and break down your assumptions, which you may challenge in the future.

There are some subjects for reflection papers that are most commonly written about. They include:

  • Book – Start by writing some information about the author’s biography and summarize the plot—without revealing the ending to keep your readers interested. Make sure to include the names of the characters, the main themes, and any issues mentioned in the book. Finally, express your thoughts and reflect on the book itself.
  • Course – Including the course name and description is a good place to start. Then, you can write about the course flow, explain why you took this course, and tell readers what you learned from it. Since it is a reflection paper, express your opinion, supporting it with examples from the course.
  • Project – The structure for a reflection paper about a project has identical guidelines to that of a course. One of the things you might want to add would be the pros and cons of the course. Also, mention some changes you might want to see, and evaluate how relevant the skills you acquired are to real life.
  • Interview – First, introduce the person and briefly mention the discussion. Touch on the main points, controversies, and your opinion of that person.

Writing Tips

Everyone has their style of writing a reflective essay – and that's the beauty of it; you have plenty of leeway with this type of paper – but there are still a few tips everyone should incorporate.

Before you start your piece, read some examples of other papers; they will likely help you better understand what they are and how to approach yours. When picking your subject, try to write about something unusual and memorable — it is more likely to capture your readers' attention. Never write the whole essay at once. Space out the time slots when you work on your reflection paper to at least a day apart. This will allow your brain to generate new thoughts and reflections.

  • Short and Sweet – Most reflection papers are between 250 and 750 words. Don't go off on tangents. Only include relevant information.
  • Clear and Concise – Make your paper as clear and concise as possible. Use a strong thesis statement so your essay can follow it with the same strength.
  • Maintain the Right Tone – Use a professional and academic tone—even though the writing is personal.
  • Cite Your Sources – Try to cite authoritative sources and experts to back up your personal opinions.
  • Proofreading – Not only should you proofread for spelling and grammatical errors, but you should proofread to focus on your organization as well. Answer the question presented in the introduction.

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Reflective Essay: Introduction, Structure, Topics, Examples For University

Table of Contents

If you’re not quite sure how to go about writing reflective essays, they can be a real stumbling block. Reflective essays are essentially a critical examination of a life experience, and with the right guidance, they don’t have to be too difficult to write. As with other essays, a reflective essay needs to be well structured and easily understood, but its content is more like a diary entry.

This guide discusses how to write a successful reflective essay, including what makes a great structure and some tips on the writing process. To make this guide the ultimate guide for anyone who needs help with reflective essays, we’ve included an example reflective essay as well.

Reflective Essay

Reflective essays require students to examine their life experiences, especially those which left an impact.

Reflective Essay

The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to challenge students to think deeply and to learn from their experiences. This is done by describing their thoughts and feelings regarding a certain experience and analyzing its impact.

Reflective essays are a unique form of academic writing that encourages introspection and self-analysis. They provide an opportunity for individuals to reflect upon their experiences, thoughts, and emotions, and effectively communicate their insights. In this article, we will explore the essential components of a reflective essay, discuss popular topics, provide guidance on how to start and structure the essay, and offer examples to inspire your writing.

I. Understanding Reflective Essays:

  • Definition and purpose of reflective essays
  • Key characteristics that distinguish them from other types of essays
  • Benefits of writing reflective essays for personal growth and development

II. Choosing a Reflective Essay Topic:

  • Exploring personal experiences and their impact
  • Analyzing significant life events or milestones
  • Examining challenges, successes, or failures and lessons learned
  • Reflecting on personal growth and transformation
  • Discussing the impact of specific books, movies, or artworks
  • Analyzing the influence of cultural or social experiences
  • Reflecting on internships, volunteer work, or professional experiences

III. Starting a Reflective Essay:

  • Engage the reader with a captivating hook or anecdote
  • Introduce the topic and provide context
  • Clearly state the purpose and objectives of the reflection
  • Include a thesis statement that highlights the main insights to be discussed

IV. Writing a Reflective Essay on a Class:

  • Assessing the overall learning experience and objectives of the class
  • Analyzing personal growth and development throughout the course
  • Reflecting on challenges, achievements, and lessons learned
  • Discussing the impact of specific assignments, projects, or discussions
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of teaching methods and materials

V. Common Mistakes to Avoid in Reflective Essay Writing:

  • Superficial reflection without deep analysis
  • Overuse of personal opinions without supporting evidence
  • Lack of organization and coherence in presenting ideas
  • Neglecting to connect personal experiences to broader concepts or theories
  • Failing to provide specific examples to illustrate key points

VI. Why “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell is Classified as a Reflective Essay:

  • Briefly summarize the essay’s content and context
  • Analyze the introspective and self-analytical elements in Orwell’s narrative
  • Discuss the themes of moral conflict, imperialism, and personal conscience
  • Highlight Orwell’s reflections on the psychological and emotional impact of his actions

VII. Reflective Essay Structure:

  • Engaging opening statement or anecdote
  • Background information and context
  • Clear thesis statement
  • Present and analyze personal experiences, thoughts, and emotions
  • Reflect on the significance and impact of those experiences
  • Connect personal reflections to broader concepts or theories
  • Provide supporting evidence and specific examples
  • Summarize key insights and reflections
  • Emphasize the personal growth or lessons learned
  • Conclude with a thought-provoking statement or call to action

VIII. Reflective Essay Examples:

  • Example 1: Reflecting on a life-changing travel experience
  • Example 2: Analyzing personal growth during a challenging academic year
  • Example 3: Reflecting on the impact of volunteering at a local shelter

During a reflective essay, the writer examines his or her own experiences, hence the term ‘reflection’. The purpose of a reflective essay is to allow the author to recount a particular life experience. However, it should also explore how he or she has changed or grown as a result of the experience.

The format of reflective writing can vary, but you’ll most likely see it in the form of a learning log or diary entry. The author’s diary entries demonstrate how the author’s thoughts have developed and evolved over the course of a particular period of time.

The format of a reflective essay can vary depending on the intended audience. A reflective essay might be academic or part of a broader piece of writing for a magazine, for example.

While the format for class assignments may vary, the purpose generally remains the same: tutors want students to think deeply and critically about a particular learning experience. Here are some examples of reflective essay formats you may need to write:

Focusing on personal growth:

Tutors often use this type of paper to help students develop their ability to analyze their personal life experiences so that they can grow and develop emotionally. As a result of the essay, the student gains a better understanding of themselves and their behaviors.

Taking a closer look at the literature:

The purpose of this type of essay is for students to summarize the literature, after which it is applied to their own experiences.

What am I supposed to write about?

When deciding on the content of your reflective essay, you need to keep in mind that it is highly personal and is intended to engage the reader. Reflective essays are much more than just recounting a story. As you reflect on your experience (more on this later), you will need to demonstrate how it influenced your subsequent behavior and how your life has consequently changed.

Start by thinking about some important experiences in your life that have had a profound impact on you, either positively or negatively. A reflection essay topic could be a real-life experience, an imagined experience, a special object or place, a person who influenced you, or something you’ve seen or read.

If you are asked to write a reflective essay for an academic assignment, it is likely that you will be asked to focus on a particular episode – such as a time when you had to make an influential decision – and explain the results. In a reflective essay, the aftermath of the experience is especially significant; miss this out and you will simply be telling a story.

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Considerations

In this type of essay, the reflective process is at the core, so it’s important that you get it right from the beginning. Think deeply about how the experience you have chosen to focus on impacted or changed you. Consider the implications for you on a personal level based on your memories and feelings.

Once you have chosen the topic of your essay, it is imperative that you spend a lot of time thinking about it and studying it thoroughly. Write down everything you remember about it, describing it as clearly and completely as you can. Use your five senses to describe your experience, and be sure to use adjectives. During this stage, you can simply take notes using short phrases, but make sure to record your reactions, perceptions, and experiences.

As soon as you’ve emptied your memory, you should begin reflecting. Choosing some reflection questions that will help you think deeply about the impact and lasting effects of your experience is a helpful way to do this. Here are some suggestions:

  • As a result of the experience, what have you learned about yourself?
  • What have you developed as a result? How?
  • Has it had a positive or negative impact on your life?
  • Looking back, what would you do differently?
  • If you could go back, what would you do differently? Did you make the right decisions?
  • How would you describe the experience in general? What did you learn from the experience? What skills or perspectives did you acquire?

You can use these signpost questions to kick-start your reflective process. Remember that asking yourself lots of questions is crucial to ensuring that you think deeply and critically about your experiences – a skill at the heart of a great reflective essay.

Use models of reflection (like the Gibbs or Kolb cycles) before, during, and after the learning process to ensure that you maintain a high standard of analysis. Before you get to the nitty-gritty of the process, consider questions such as: what might happen (in regards to the experience)?

Will there be any challenges? What knowledge will be needed to best prepare? When you are planning and writing, these questions may be helpful: what is happening within the learning process? Has everything worked according to plan? How am I handling the challenges that come with it?

Do you need to do anything else to ensure that the learning process is successful? Is there anything I can learn from this? Using a framework like this will enable you to keep track of the reflective process that should guide your work.

Here’s a useful tip: no matter how well prepared you feel with all that time spent reflecting in your arsenal, don’t start writing your essay until you have developed a comprehensive, well-rounded plan. There will be so much more coherence in what you write, your ideas will be expressed with structure and clarity, and your essay will probably receive higher marks as a result.

It’s especially important when writing a reflective essay as it’s possible for people to get a little ‘lost’ or disorganized as they recount their own experiences in an erratic and often unsystematic manner since it’s an incredibly personal topic. But if you outline thoroughly (this is the same thing as a ‘plan’) and adhere to it like Christopher Columbus adhered to a map, you should be fine as you embark on the ultimate step of writing your essay. We’ve summarized the benefits of creating a detailed essay outline below if you’re still not convinced of the value of planning:

An outline can help you identify all the details you plan to include in your essay, allowing you to remove all superfluous details so that your essay is concise and to the point.

Think of the outline as a map – you plan in advance which points you will navigate through and discuss in your writing. You will more likely have a clear line of thought, making your work easier to understand. You’ll be less likely to miss out on any pertinent details, and you won’t have to go back at the end and try to fit them in.

This is a real-time-saver! When you use the outline as an essay’s skeleton, you’ll save a tremendous amount of time when writing because you’ll know exactly what you want to say. Due to this, you will be able to devote more time to editing the paper and ensuring it meets high standards.

As you now know the advantages of using an outline for your reflective essay, it is important that you know how to create one. There can be significant differences between it and other typical essay outlines, mostly due to the varying topics. As always, you need to begin your outline by drafting the introduction, body, and conclusion. We will discuss this in more detail below.

Introduction

Your reflective essay must begin with an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The goal of a ‘hook’ is to capture the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning. In the first paragraph of your story, you should convey the exciting aspects of your story so that you can succeed in

If you think about the opening quote of this article, did it grab your attention and make you want to read more? This thesis statement summarizes the essay’s focus, which in this case is a particular experience that left a lasting impression on you. Give a quick overview of your experience – don’t give too much information away or you’ll lose readers’ interest.

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Reflection Essay Structure

A reflective essay differs greatly from an argumentative or research paper in its format. Reflective essays are more like well-structured stories or diary entries that are rife with insights and reflections. Your essay may need to be formatted according to the APA style or MLA style.

In general, the length of a reflection paper varies between 300 and 700 words, but it is a good idea to check with your instructor or employer about the word count. Even though this is an essay about you, you should try to avoid using too much informal language.

The following shortcuts can help you format your paper according to APA or MLA style if your instructor asks:

MLA Format for Reflective Essay

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced;
  • 1” margins;
  • The top right includes the last name and page number on every page;
  • Titles are centered;
  • The header should include your name, your professor’s name, course number, and the date (dd/mm/yy);
  • The last page contains a Works Cited list.

Reflective Essay in APA Style

  • Include a page header on the top of every page;
  • Insert page number on the right;
  • Your reflective essay should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

Reflective Essay Outline

Look at your brainstorming table to start organizing your reflective essay. ‘Past experience’ and ‘description’ should make up less than 10% of your essay.

You should include the following in your introduction:

  • Grab the reader’s attention with a short preview of what you’ll be writing about.

Example:  We found Buffy head-to-toe covered in tar, starved and fur in patches, under an abandoned garbage truck.

  • It is important to include ‘past experiences’ in a reflective essay thesis statement; a brief description of what the essay is about.

Example:  My summer volunteering experience at the animal shelter inspired me to pursue this type of work in the future.

Chronological events are the best way to explain the structure of body paragraphs. Respond to the bold questions in the ‘reflection’ section of the table to create a linear storyline.

Here’s an example of what the body paragraph outline should look like:

  • Explicit expectations about the shelter

Example:  I thought it was going to be boring and mundane.

  • The first impression
  • Experience at the shelter

Example:  Finding and rescuing Buffy.

  • Other experiences with rescuing animals
  • Discoveries

Example:  Newly found passion and feelings toward the work.

  • A newly developed mindset

Example:  How your thoughts about animal treatment have changed.

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Here’s How You Can Submit a Well-Written Reflective Essay for University

Even though writing a reflective essay may seem difficult at first, once you have a clear idea of what you will write and more importantly, how to write, it often gets easier as you go along. Here are five key writing tips to keep in mind when writing a reflective essay.

Choosing a Topic for Reflection

As a busy student, when was the last time you drowned yourself in thoughts and reflected on past experiences? Here is an assignment that intentionally puts you in that position.

Think about all of the experiences which have shaped you – a life-changing event, an interaction with someone you admire, a movie character that appealed to you, a book that gave you perspective, or any other experience which contributed to your character or thought process.

You should choose a topic that will help you reflect on your growth as an individual. Start brainstorming and record every idea that comes to mind.

Organize your thoughts in a mind map

The next step is to create a mind map to help you organize your essay once you have a rough idea of what you want to write.

You can use your mind map to quiz yourself by asking questions of relevance and putting together perspectives for your essay.

The purpose of this exercise is to give you an idea of what you want your essay to be about. It is important to keep pushing yourself to think more deeply and find meaning in your experiences in order to create a successful reflective essay.

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Start Freewriting

Sometimes, all you have to do is start writing. Essentially, that’s what freewriting is all about.

After brainstorming, creating a mind map, and organizing your thoughts, open a blank document and start writing. Do not stop to think or to edit – just write as your thoughts come to you.

The best part of freewriting is that it results in a steady flow of ideas you may not have thought of otherwise.

In other words, whether or not you’re motivated to write or are constantly second-guessing your ideas, it helps to let your ideas guide you and put them down on paper.

Structure the Essay

It’s time to put your ideas and thoughts into words and give them a proper structure. A reflective essay should have the following parts:

You should begin your essay with a hook to grab the reader’s attention. While setting the tone for the rest of the essay, your thesis statement should introduce the past experience you will be reflecting on;

In this section, you will elaborate on the experience and its significance, as well as its impact on your life. Avoid rambling on and on about the experience for readers to want to read more of your essay, you need to use your storytelling skills. If you can, use examples to strengthen your narrative;

A summary of your reflections is provided in the concluding paragraph. In your essay, you should describe how the experience shaped your life and how you intend to take your learnings and apply them.

Proofread, Proofread and Proofread

Be sure to proofread your reflective essay before submitting it. Before finalizing it, you need to do thorough proofreading. You will be surprised to see how many silly mistakes are made in the first draft.

Be on the lookout for grammatical, spelling, and sentence formation mistakes. Make sure your essay flows well and avoids plagiarism. If you want a fresh set of eyes on your essay, have a family member or friend read it too.

Reflective Essay Topics

Many students find choosing the right topic for a reflective essay difficult. Writing a reflective essay requires creativity and strong writing skills to express your emotions.

Reflective essays can be inspired by nature, places, relationships, and events. Here are some tips that will help you choose the right essay topic.

  • Decide on a topic idea for your reflective essay that you are familiar with. You will find it easier to write an essay about a topic you are interested in. Never choose a topic that is new to you. This makes the writing phase difficult.
  • Research your topic: Try to recollect minor details about it. Remember all the things that are related to your topic, and include them in your essay. Take notes about your topic.
  • Pick a topic that you can explain from a unique viewpoint: Choose a topic that you can explain from a different perspective. Writing something unique that demonstrates your personality in an interesting way is a good technique. Share a memorable and meaningful experience from your life.

Topics for Reflective Essays for Middle School Students

Essay topics can be difficult to choose for some students. The following list of topics can be classified according to grade level. Pick from them and make topic selection easier.

Topics for Reflective Essays in Grade 7

  • Taking a trip
  • To go scuba diving
  • Within your hometown
  • Was something you were proud of
  • Even when you were lost
  • To your favorite cartoon
  • During that time you lied
  • When you were hunting
  • Did your family play an important role in your life?
  • Spending time outdoors

Topics for Reflective Essays in Grade 8

  • Running in the outdoors
  • While picking berries
  • Will be your biggest loss
  • Who is your biggest inspiration?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • Tell me about your most exciting moment.
  • What is your least favorite course?
  • When you go on a date
  • To a birthday party
  • Which is your favorite online space?

Topics for Reflective Essays in Grade 9

  • A new school
  • Makes me think about the future.
  • You participated in or watched a sporting event.
  • You moved to a new city.
  • You had an unforgettable dream.
  • You were running and hunting.
  • You cannot forget that dream.
  • It was your childhood home.
  • Watching the sunrise
  • An award ceremony

Topics for Reflective Essays in Grade 10

  • Defending someone in a situation
  • While playing with friends
  • It was a memorable dream
  • About lying and hiding
  • The most recent meal
  • While getting lost in the dark
  • As an intern at a hospital
  • Or when someone’s life inspired you to change your own
  • Challenges as a college freshman
  • By participating in sports

Topics for Reflective Essays for College Students

For college students, the most difficult part of writing a reflective essay is choosing a topic. Some students are better at choosing the essay topic than others, but some will get stuck in this phase.

Here are some excellent reflective essay topics for college students for your convenience. Choose one and write a well-written essay.

  • First time writing a thesis statement
  • Your favorite video game
  • The impact of social media on students
  • A place you always try to avoid
  • What was the best birthday memory you had?
  • What is your favorite restaurant?
  • The moment when you were proud of yourself
  • The bravest moment of your life
  • The most beautiful thing you have ever seen
  • A time you were embarrassed

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Topics for Reflective Essays for High School Students

The choice of a topic for a reflective essay can be confusing for high school students. Your topic should be engaging and you should be able to explain your personal experience easily. Here is a list of good topics for high school students; choose something from the list for your essay.

  • Shop at your favorite outlet store
  • To relive your favorite childhood memory
  • Of the most memorable holiday
  • That scared you?
  • That’s when you met your best friend
  • And what you love about yourself
  • Is playing with friends.
  • What’s your favorite book?
  • I loved playing in the mud as a kid.
  • Having to move to a new town or city

Topics for Reflective Essays about Places

Reflective essays should be based on strong emotions and memories. You could write an essay about a day spent at your favorite café, favorite restaurant, etc.

It is easy to write a reflective essay about a place where you have really good memories. Here are some topic ideas that you can use and write an essay on.

  • Your grandparents’ house
  • A skating rink
  • A place where you feel safe
  • A favorite vacation spot
  • A popular lunch spot
  • On your first day at the circus
  • The mall or your favorite store
  • Your first trip abroad
  • Best park in your town
  • Your most memorable adventure

Topics for Reflective Essays about Events

A good way to grab the reader’s attention is to write about any event. Your essay can be about a birthday party, a farewell, or any other event that you have enough information about.

If you are writing a reflective essay about an event, include vivid details. Here are some interesting topics for reflection essays, choose one and write a good essay.

  • Unexpected gift
  • To travel on vacation
  • While you were lost
  • The first time you voted
  • On your trip to the zoo
  • When you got a new job
  • It was one of your most memorable trips
  • During the holiday season
  • When you moved to a new city
  • Or when you swam fishing

Topics for Reflective Essays on Nature

A reflective essay should provide the reader with a deeper and more meaningful experience. In addition to making your writing process more interesting, writing about nature also stimulates your imagination.

The following are some good reflective essay topics about nature:

  • Mountain climbing
  • Ocean diving
  • Hiking in the woods
  • Climbing rocks
  • And watching the sunset
  • While running in the forest.
  • Spending quality time with your pet.
  • Taking a hike in the woods
  • And going swimming
  • While watching animals at a zoo

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Topics for reflection on relationships

As relationships are filled with strong emotions, writing a reflective essay about them means expressing those emotions. The following are some good reflective essay topics about relationships:

  • A wonderful family reunion
  • When you spoke publicly for the first time
  • What friendship means to me
  • When you were punished by your parents
  • During a family reunion
  • When you apologized
  • For a time you spent with friends without parental supervision
  • Tell me about your relationship with a family member
  • An angry conversation
  • Or a genuinely funny laugh

Some reflective essay topics are the same as some of the questions you may ask in a job interview.

Examples of Reflective Essay

Check out some examples for inspiration now that you know what it takes to write a reflective essay.

An Example of a Reflective Essay on “My Little Brother”

Essay example reflecting on the arrival of a younger sibling, written at a middle or high school level.

“There have been many life-changing experiences in my short life. Every new experience has been the first experience at one point in time. For good or for bad, each event altered the course of my life. But, the most transformative event was the birth of my youngest brother.”.

Joel is someone my parents often refer to as a happy accident. My mother became pregnant when I was 13 and my other brother, Jake, was 10. We were what you would call a well-rounded family of four. In almost every way, we fit the ideal classification. My youngest brother’s striking blue eyes were the moment when we realized what we were missing.

Honestly, I resented having another sibling. It wasn’t necessary to add to our family, and my mother, already 38 at the time, was considered high risk because of her age. A pregnancy full of complications sent my life on a rollercoaster-like ride that my 13-year-old mind could not comprehend. Now I can see how forging through those loops helped me cope with the unforeseen challenges of life.

Reflective Essay Example

My mother took me to the hospital instead of my father on the day Joel was born. I was the next best alternative because Jake and my father were both feverish; it wasn’t a planned move. With each contraction, I gained a new appreciation for just how strong and powerful a woman could be at her weakest. Through holding her hand and feeding her ice chips, I gained a connection with my mother that I didn’t realize we lacked.

Almost simultaneously, my new baby brother entered this world. One doesn’t realize how much you need something until it’s sitting in your lap. Secondly, my life after this moment would never be the same the moment he curled his chubby little finger around mine, I understood the meaning of the words “happy accident.”.y.

Life has given me many experiences that have shaped me as a person. But, nothing so profoundly changed my views and outlook on life as the birth of my youngest brother. Joel’s arrival was a life-altering event that caused me to see the world through new eyes.”

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Reflective Essay Example for “ Reading My Favorite Book”

This reflective essay example about a favorite book is something you might find at the middle or high school level.

When it comes to books, I don’t understand the appeal. Every time I was given an assignment, I would read one after another, not understanding what all the fuss was about. Nevertheless, the moment I read Pride and Prejudice, it was as if my literary eyes were opened for the first time. It stirred love within me for classics I didn’t realize could exist.

When I was first given the assignment of reading Pride and Prejudice, like many of my friends, I scoffed. With an eye roll, I internally calculated how much time I would have to read the book and write a report. I sighed at the loss of time with my friends for a stupid classic.

Cracking open the cover, I was determined to hate it before even reading the first words. By the time I reached page 3, I nearly stopped reading. But there was something about Elizabeth Bennet that quietly piqued my interest. I can’t say where, but somewhere along the way, my eyes devoured the pages instead of trudging along.

The moment I reached the end, I was ecstatic and disappointed at the same time. Their ending had been perfect, but I realized I would miss them. Not just them, but I would also miss being a part of their world.

It was the first time the characters of a story had affected me this way, so I tried to shake it off. However, after several days, that sadness carried me to the classics section of the school library. The moment I cracked open my next classic, my soul instantly felt more at ease, and I’ve never looked back.

I never thought I’d say a book changed me, but in this case, it’s true. The love I found in Pride and Prejudice introduced me to a beautiful world of classic literature I can’t imagine living without. Despite not reading Pride and Prejudice for a while, it will always be my favorite book.

In the conclusion of your reflective essay, you should focus on bringing your piece together. This will include providing a summary of both the points made throughout and what you have learned as a result. Try to include a few points on why and how your attitudes and behaviors have been changed.

Consider also how your character and skills have been affected, for example: what conclusions can be drawn about your problem-solving skills? What can be concluded about your approach to specific situations? What might you do differently in similar situations in the future? What steps have you taken to consolidate everything that you have learned from your experience?

Keep in mind that your tutor will be looking out for evidence of reflection at a very high standard.

Congratulations – you now have the tools to create a thorough and accurate plan which should put you in good stead for the ultimate phase indeed of any essay, the writing process.

How do you start off a reflective essay?

As is the case with all essays, your reflective essay must begin with an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The point of having a ‘hook’ is to grab the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning.

Can you say I in a reflective essay?

In your reflective essay, you should use the first person with terms like I, me, my, and mine. The essay is an account of something that actually happened to you as well as your thoughts on the event.

What is an example of a reflection?

Common examples include the reflection of light, sound, and water waves. The law of reflection says that for specular reflection the angle at which the wave is incident on the surface equals the angle at which it is reflected. Mirrors exhibit specular reflection.

How do you start the first paragraph of a reflective essay?

Describe the subject matter of the paper in more detail. Include one or two sentences after the first sentence in which you describe the basic features of whatever topic you will be discussing in your essay. Describe them in terms of your feelings, and how you felt and experienced whatever you are discussing.

How many paragraphs should a reflective essay have?

The number of paragraphs depends on the requested essay length. However, it is recommended to write at least three paragraphs in this part. In the body, present your main points, arguments, and examples. This is the part of an essay where you express all your main ideas, develop them, and express your feelings and emotions.

What are the three parts of a reflective essay?

However, some major elements go into a typical reflective essay: introduction, body, and conclusion.

How Do You Write A Reflective Essay?

To write a reflective essay, follow these steps:

  • Choose a topic: Select a specific event, experience, or concept that you want to reflect upon.
  • Brainstorm and outline: Reflect on your chosen topic and jot down key points, thoughts, and emotions associated with it. Create an outline to organize your ideas.
  • Introduction: Begin with an engaging hook to grab the reader’s attention. Provide background information and context related to the topic. End the introduction with a clear thesis statement that expresses the main insights or lessons you will discuss.
  • Body paragraphs: Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect or experience related to your topic. Reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and observations, and support them with specific examples or evidence. Analyze the significance and impact of these experiences.
  • Use reflection techniques: Incorporate reflection techniques such as asking yourself questions, exploring the “why” behind your thoughts and emotions, and connecting your experiences to broader concepts or theories.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your key insights and reflections from the essay. Emphasize personal growth, lessons learned, or changes in perspective. Leave the reader with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action.

Which Of These Best Describes A Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is best described as a type of academic or personal writing that allows individuals to examine and reflect upon their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. It involves introspection, self-analysis, and the exploration of lessons learned or personal growth. Reflective essays provide a platform for individuals to communicate their insights and understanding of a particular event, concept, or life experience.

What Is A Reflective Essay And Examples?

A reflective essay is a form of writing where individuals express their thoughts, feelings, and observations about a specific experience, event, or topic. It goes beyond simply describing the experience and delves into analyzing the impact, significance, and lessons learned. Reflective essays encourage self-reflection and introspection, allowing writers to gain deeper understanding and insight.

Examples of reflective essay topics include:

  • Reflecting on a life-changing travel experience and its impact on personal growth.
  • Analyzing the challenges and successes encountered during a group project and the lessons learned.
  • Reflecting on the influence of a particular book, film, or artwork and its effect on personal perspectives.
  • Examining the role of personal values and beliefs in decision-making processes.

What Are The Parts Of A Typical Reflective Essay?

A typical reflective essay consists of the following parts:

  • Introduction: It provides an engaging hook, background information, and context for the topic. The introduction ends with a clear thesis statement that states the main insights or lessons to be discussed.
  • Body paragraphs: Each paragraph focuses on a specific aspect or experience related to the topic. Writers reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and observations, supporting them with examples or evidence. They analyze the significance and impact of these experiences and connect them to broader concepts or theories.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion summarizes the key insights and reflections from the essay. It emphasizes personal growth, lessons learned, or changes in perspective. A thought-provoking statement or a call to action is often included to leave a lasting impression on the reader.

What Is A Goal Of The Introduction In A Reflective Essay?

The goal of the introduction in a reflective essay is to capture the reader’s attention and provide them with the necessary background information and context related to the topic. It should set the stage for the reflective journey that follows. The introduction concludes with a clear thesis statement that outlines the main insights or lessons the writer will discuss in the essay. It acts as a roadmap, guiding the reader through the writer’s reflections.

What Idea Would Most Likely Make The Best Reflective Essay?

The best idea for a reflective essay is a topic that holds personal significance and offers opportunities for introspection and deep reflection. An idea that involves a transformative experience, a significant life event, or a challenging situation often makes for a compelling reflective essay. It should be something that evokes strong emotions, prompts critical thinking, and allows for self-analysis. The best reflective essays are those that offer meaningful insights, growth, or lessons learned.

What Makes A Good Reflective Essay?

A good reflective essay possesses several key qualities:

  • Authenticity: It reflects the writer’s genuine thoughts, emotions, and observations.
  • Depth of reflection: It goes beyond surface-level descriptions and delves into meaningful analysis, exploring the “why” behind the experiences.
  • Coherence and organization: The essay is well-structured, with clear paragraphs and logical flow of ideas.
  • Use of specific examples: It supports reflections with specific examples, evidence, or anecdotes to enhance understanding and engagement.
  • Connection to broader concepts or theories: It links personal experiences to broader concepts, theories, or societal issues to demonstrate critical thinking and understanding.
  • Insight and personal growth: The essay offers meaningful insights, lessons learned, or personal growth as a result of the reflection.

By incorporating these elements, a good reflective essay effectively communicates the writer’s introspection and provides a thought-provoking reading experience.

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How to Write a Reflection Essay | Outlines and Examples

Do you ever struggle to put your thoughts into words? If you've ever felt stumped by a reflective essay assignment, you're not alone. In this article, we'll explore some strategies for writing effective reflection essays that will help you communicate your ideas clearly and powerfully!

Reflective Essays take a look at a piece of writing or an experience in your life and write down how you feel about it. This strategy not only reveals fascinating insights about your perspective and personality, but it also makes for entertaining reading. Examining some model papers is a great way to hone your skills in outlining introspective essays.

What Is a Reflective Essay?

Reflection isn't something that comes naturally to everyone. Whether one is contemplating one's own life experiences or a piece of literature, it can be challenging to put one's thoughts into words and express them adequately. Because of this, utilising this ability effectively when writing is necessary. The more time you devote to contemplating and learning about a topic, the more straightforward and understandable it will become. This situation is more complex than it initially appears to be.

What is the Purpose of Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing is another way to convey both your growth and the feelings you've experienced. You can discover a lot about yourself and how you function by conducting an in-depth investigation of your interior workings. It is interesting to watch how they mature and change over time. The initial move is always the one that presents the greatest challenge. Because of this, developing a strategy for your reflective essay is a fantastic way to kick off the writing process.

How to Create a Reflective Essay Outline?

The first part of an essay, known as the introduction, is generally composed of three parts. On the other hand, as was stated earlier, a conventional formula might experience significant shifts when written down in this manner.

Introduction

The introduction needs to be so captivating to the reader that they feel compelled to keep going with the story. To achieve this, writers will often include ambiguities, sarcastic circumstances, and tense situations in their works. An outline can be used for any kind of essay, but it is especially helpful for introspective writing because it organizes your thoughts and makes it easier to read. The abstract, just like the remainder of the essay, should be broken up into three main sections that are presented in the same order as the rest of the essay. On the other hand, as was stated earlier, a conventional formula might experience significant shifts when written down in this manner.

An engaging and interesting opening statement will pique the interest of the audience and encourage them to continue reading. To achieve this, authors will often include ambiguities, irony, and conflict within their works. The expression "my first bachelor celebration" is a good example of this concept in action.

Reflection Essay Example:

This past weekend I attended my first college frat party thanks to some friends who invited me.

That one phrase perfectly exemplifies an attention-grabbing opening to a reflective essay. In just one phrase, you've hooked the reader and set the stage for what you'll be discussing. Your essay's opening should always provide a teaser for the more in-depth explanation that follows in the essay's body.

The conclusion of your reflective essay, which you'll write based on the most significant event, should be the last line of the introduction. This sentence effectively summarises the changes brought about by the catalytic event and their importance in the grand scheme of things. 

Body Paragraphs

The body of an introspective essay needs to expand on the topic presented in the essay's thesis. Students' first challenge in writing such essays is expressing their thoughts uninhibitedly. It's simple to get sidetracked and leap from one thought to the next. This leads us to a useful piece of advice: be consistent with the story arc you've established. If possible, create a distinct outline for the paragraphs in the main body.

You're free to include as many or as few body lines as you like. The text may have a one-sentence introduction and a secret closing, for instance, but the body will always be the largest section. Put your viewpoint on display as much as possible in the middle section. Put forth justifications to back up your claim or corroborating details to back up your statements. Examples, facts, occurrences of public life, events, real-life circumstances and experiences, scientific proof, references to scholars and scientists, etc., can all serve as argumentative points.

If you don't want to appear uncertain of your views, avoid giving too many examples. A personal reflective essay only needs one piece of proof. For reflective essays, interacting aspects of literary analysis, or speculative writing about a variety of phenomena, two examples will suffice. Overloading a free reflective essay with more than three examples of the facts to be discussed will be apparent.

For Example:

My weekend at a house party made it clear that the vast majority of my fellow college students have no tolerance for alcohol.

An effective introduction to a body paragraph is provided above. Your paragraph's subject sentence should tell the reader exactly what the paragraph is going to be about. The first line of each paragraph in the body of your writing should do what the introductory paragraph did: make the reader want to keep reading. Body paragraphs are where you can bring the essay to life with specific descriptions and examples.

In other terms, immerse the reader by providing relatable examples of circumstances and describing minor details with great care. A reader's excitement and interest will increase in proportion to the originality and literary charm of each phrase.

An independent closing paragraph is optional in reflective essays. If you choose an essay format that calls for a conclusion with supporting notes, keep it brief. The end must not be overly formal, however. The paragraphs in the body of the essay need to be supervised naturally by this section.

If you look for a model reflective essay online, you will most likely find one that has a complete, detailed conclusion. You could, of course, use them as models for your essays. However, if you want your viewers to be impressed and reflect deeper on your work, you shouldn't spoon-feed them your observations. Get your readers to ignore the surface-level explanations and focus on the meat of the text where your ideas and feelings are revealed.

As I reflect on my time spent at a college party, I realize that I can no longer advocate for the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors.

As you probably know by now, the end of your essay is where you restate your thesis and discuss its significance. Then, using the details from the body paragraph, you should draw a conclusion in which you quickly restate how this experience changed you physically and/or mentally. Conclude by giving the reader your concluding thoughts on the subject.

What is the Format of a Reflective Essay?

There is a unique structure for reflective writing. In this form of writing, the author employs a specific style, such as the Modern Language Association (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA).

There are a few things to keep in mind when writing in APA style:

Use Time New Roman Font 

Double-space your work and use a font height of 12 points.

The page number appears in the upper right-hand area.

The major sections of an essay are the introduction, the body, and the bibliography or list of sources.

Equally to APA, there are a few things to keep in mind when using MLA format:

Use Time New Roman Font

Select 12 as a font size

Make sure to center all of your essay's names.

Include your name, the course number, the instructor's name, and the date in the header of your work.

On the last page of the essay, include the cited work.

Some Tips on Writing the Reflective Essay

The essay's structure serves as the paper's framework. You can't write a winning essay without first crafting a plan. If you have to write a reflective essay, here are some tips to follow.

References should be listed on the final page of the writing.

In the essay, try to avoid using the same phrase multiple times.

Give your take on the topic in the writing.

Verify that you have explained everything that was previously unclear.

Connect your parts with appropriate transitional language.

Make sure your plan covers everything important.

Avoid using difficult language and provide an argument to support your position.

Learn to identify your best qualities and highlight them in the writing.

Before sending or publishing the essay, make sure it has been thoroughly proofread.

Writing a reflective essay can be challenging, but you can make your way through the process with the help of a good plan. Some pupils simply don't have enough time to complete all of the required essay writing assignments. They lack the time necessary to offer essay writing their full attention.

3 Reflective Essay Examples

Impact of social media on students

Social media has become an integral part of our lives in recent years. With the advent of smartphones and the internet, social media platforms have become more accessible to everyone, including students. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, and others have had a profound impact on the way students interact with each other, access information, and learn.

Social media has created a platform for students to interact with their peers, teachers, and other individuals from different parts of the world. Social media platforms provide students with the opportunity to express their thoughts, share their experiences, and discuss topics that interest them. Through social media, students can participate in discussions, exchange ideas, and learn from others.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media on Students’ Life

One of the primary benefits of social media is its ability to provide students with access to information. Social media platforms have become a significant source of news, information, and educational resources for students. Students can learn about various topics, including history, science, literature, and more, from different social media platforms. For instance, Twitter provides students with the latest news on various topics, while Facebook and LinkedIn provide them with access to professional networks and job opportunities.

However, the impact of social media on students is not all positive. Social media has become a distraction for students, and many students spend more time on social media than they do studying. Social media platforms are designed to be addictive, and many students find themselves spending hours scrolling through their feeds and interacting with their peers. As a result, many students experience a decline in their academic performance and find it difficult to focus on their studies.

Moreover, social media has also had a significant impact on the mental health of students. Social media platforms can be a breeding ground for cyberbullying and online harassment, which can have a profound impact on a student's mental health. Additionally, social media platforms have been linked to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues in students. Many students feel pressured to present a perfect image of themselves on social media, which can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

Furthermore, social media has also affected the way students interact with each other. Many students now prefer to communicate through social media rather than in person, which can lead to a lack of social skills and interpersonal communication skills. This can make it challenging for students to form meaningful relationships and communicate effectively in the workplace and other settings.

In conclusion, social media has had a significant impact on students, both positive and negative. While social media provides students with access to information and a platform to express themselves, it has also become a significant distraction and can hurt their mental health and social skills. Therefore, students need to use social media responsibly and balance their time between social media and other activities. Additionally, educators and parents can play a significant role in guiding students on how to use social media effectively and responsibly.

Taking a Hike Through Forest

Introduction:

Nature is a therapeutic and rejuvenating element in our lives. Walking through a forest is an excellent way to connect with nature, relieve stress, and experience a sense of calmness. A hike through the forest provides a sense of freedom, and the tranquillity of the trees helps to reconnect with oneself. In this essay, I will reflect on my experience of taking a hike through a forest.

I woke up early one morning, feeling the need to get out of the city and spend some time in nature. I packed my bag with essentials and set off on a drive to a nearby forest. Upon arriving, I took a deep breath and took in the fresh air, which filled my lungs with a sense of peace.

The path was lined with tall trees, and the forest floor was soft and covered with leaves. As I walked, I could hear the rustling of leaves and the chirping of birds. The serenity of the forest made me forget about the outside world and its pressures.

I kept walking deeper into the forest, and soon enough, I came across a stream. The sound of the water flowing over the rocks was soothing, and I sat down by the bank to take it all in. The quietness of the forest made me feel like I was in a different world altogether, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

As I continued my hike, I came across a clearing, and there, I saw a herd of deer grazing. I stood there, frozen, watching the beauty of nature unfold in front of my eyes. It was a moment of pure bliss, and I felt grateful for the opportunity to witness it.

I reached a hilltop, and from there, I could see the entire forest. The view was breathtaking, and it made me realize how small we are in the grand scheme of things. It also made me appreciate the beauty of the earth and the environment around us.

Conclusion:

Taking a hike through the forest was a humbling and rejuvenating experience for me. The calmness of the trees, the sound of the water, and the sight of the animals made me feel connected to nature. It reminded me that we are all a part of this beautiful planet and that it's our responsibility to take care of it. The forest gave me the space to reflect and connect with myself, and it was a reminder that sometimes, the best therapy is found in nature.

The role of Friendship in my Life

Friendship is one of the most essential aspects of human life. It is an integral part of our social fabric, as it provides a sense of belonging, support, and joy. Friendship is not just about having someone to talk to or hang out with; it is about having a deep and meaningful connection with someone who accepts and loves us for who we are. In my life, friendship has played a crucial role in shaping my personality and helping me navigate through different phases of life. This essay aims to explore the role of friendship in my life, its significance, and how it has impacted me.

The significance of friendship:

Friendship is essential for our well-being and mental health. It is a bond that helps us feel connected and loved , even in the most challenging times. A good friend can help us navigate through difficult situations, offer us a fresh perspective on our problems, and provide us with emotional support. Friends also provide us with a sense of belonging, a feeling that we are part of something greater than ourselves. The sense of community and companionship that comes with friendship can help us develop a positive outlook toward life and a strong sense of self-esteem.

Friendship in my life:

In my life, friendship has played a vital role in shaping my personality and helping me grow as an individual. Growing up, I was a shy and introverted child who struggled to make friends. However, I was fortunate enough to find a group of friends who accepted me for who I was and helped me come out of my shell. They encouraged me to pursue my passions and interests and supported me through the ups and downs of life.

As I grew older, I realized the true value of friendship. I have made many friends over the years, and each one of them has played a unique role in my life. Some have been there for me through thick and thin, while others have helped me discover new interests and passions. Some have challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, while others have offered me a shoulder to cry on. Regardless of the role they played, all my friends have helped me grow as a person and provided me with a sense of belonging.

Impact of friendship on my life:

The impact of friendship on my life has been profound. My friends have helped me develop a positive outlook toward life and have taught me to appreciate the little things. They have taught me to be more empathetic, kind, and compassionate toward others, and have helped me develop a strong sense of self-worth. They have been a source of strength and inspiration, and have helped me navigate through difficult times.

In conclusion, friendship is an essential aspect of human life. It provides us with a sense of belonging, support, and joy, and helps us grow as individuals. In my life, friendship has played a vital role in shaping my personality and helping me navigate through different phases of life. My friends have been there for me through thick and thin, and have taught me valuable life lessons. I am grateful for their presence in my life, and I believe that everyone should have a good friend or a group of friends who accept and love them for who they are.

Final Words

In conclusion, writing a reflection essay is a powerful tool for gaining self-awareness and insight into our experiences. By following a few simple steps, such as choosing a meaningful experience to reflect on, asking yourself critical questions, and structuring your thoughts into a clear and organized essay, you can effectively convey your thoughts and emotions to your reader. Essay topics like composing a reflective essay are a great opportunity to delve deeper into your own thoughts and feelings, and to connect with your readers on a deeper level.

However, we understand that the process of writing can sometimes be challenging, and that's where Jenni.ai comes in. Our AI-powered software can help you streamline the writing process, with features such as autocomplete and citation assistance that make it easier to create high-quality content efficiently.

Whether you're a seasoned writer or just starting out, Jenni.ai can help you take your writing to the next level. So why not give it a try today, and see how it can help you create even better reflection essays, and other types of written content?

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Reflective Essay

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Reflective Essay - Writing Steps with Examples, Tips, and Topics

Published on: Sep 21, 2020

Last updated on: Jul 18, 2023

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A reflective essay is a form of writing where the writer reflects on a personal experience. Have you been assigned one but don’t know how to write? 

Don’t fret! 

Read on to learn in simple steps and follow the useful tips and examples given below. By the end of the blog, you will know everything you need to write an excellent reflective essay.

So let’s dive in!

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What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of essay where the writer describes a personal experience or event that they observed or examined. Reflective writing involves thinking or pondering about a specific topic and writing your thoughts.

The content of a reflective essay is subjective. This means, the writer discusses the topic from their own personal point of view.  

The writer presents their thoughts and reflections in a structured and coherent manner. It combines elements of storytelling, analysis, and introspection to create a narrative that engages the reader and offers valuable insights.

What is the Purpose of Reflective Writing? 

Self-reflective essays are often used as an opportunity to explore your thoughts and feelings more deeply. The main goals of reflective writing are to;

  • Make a connection between yourself and the text 
  • Analyze what you have heard, read, or seen
  • Write subjectively and help identify your interests
  • Think about what you have learned.
  • Develop your critical and narrative skills

Here is a video that reflective writing in simple terms:

How to Write a Reflective Essay? 

Reflective essays can be very difficult to write. However, following the steps below can make your writing process easier and more effective.

  • Select a Meaningful Topic

The first step in writing a great reflective essay is to choose a good topic. You need to do a lot of brainstorming, mind mapping , and a bit of research to come up with a good topic. 

Choose a topic that holds personal significance for you. It could be a specific event, a challenging situation, a memorable encounter, or a period of personal growth. Select a topic that allows for deep introspection and provides ample material for reflection.

  • Reflect and Introspect

Ponder on your chosen topic and explore your thoughts, feelings, and reactions associated with it. 

Ask yourself probing questions, such as " How did this experience impact me? " or " What did I learn from this situation? " This introspective phase forms the foundation of your essay, allowing you to dig deep and extract valuable insights.  

  • Develop a Clear Thesis Statement

Craft a concise and focused thesis statement that encapsulates the main point or lesson learned from your reflection. 

This statement will serve as a guiding principle for your essay, ensuring that your writing remains coherent and purposeful. 

  • Chart an Outline

Create an outline that organizes your thoughts and provides a logical structure for your essay. 

Divide your essay into sections including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Outline the main ideas, experiences, and reflections you plan to include in each section.

Want to learn more about how to create an outline? Here is our comprehensive reflective essay outline guide for you.

  • Write a Catchy Introduction

Start your essay with an attention-grabbing opening that sets the tone and introduces the topic to the reader. 

Engage your audience by sharing a captivating anecdote, posing a thought-provoking question, or presenting a compelling quote. Clearly state your thesis to provide a roadmap for your reflective journey.

  • Write Main Body Paragraphs

In the body paragraphs, vividly describe the experiences or events that shaped your reflection. Use sensory details and specific examples to paint a clear picture for your readers.

After describing the experience, delve into the reflection and analysis phase. Explore the significance of the experience and its impact on your personal growth, beliefs, or worldview. 

Analyze the reasons behind your thoughts, emotions, and reactions. 

  • Provide a Thoughtful Conclusion

Wrap up your essay by summarizing your main points and reinforcing the significance of your reflection. Share the insights and lessons you gained from the reflection process. 

For instance, what did you learn about yourself? How did this experience contribute to your personal development? 

Be honest and authentic in your reflections, demonstrating vulnerability and self-awareness. Don't present new information here, but summarize everything that happened in the essay.

  • Revise and Edit

Once you have completed your first draft, revise and edit your essay for clarity, coherence, and grammar. Pay attention to the flow of your ideas, sentence structure, and word choice. 

Seek feedback from peers or mentors to gain different perspectives and refine your essay further. This way, your final draft will turn out to be an interesting and valuable piece of work.

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Reflective Essay Structure

The structure of the reflective essay is the same as other types of essays. It contains an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. 

Here is the basic reflective essay format that you can use:

Let’s learn about the components of a reflective essay in depth:

Reflective Essay Introduction 

A reflective essay also starts with an introduction, like all other essays. An essay introduction should be brief but relevant to the topic. In this part, you can give a general overview of the topic to the reader.

Start your essay with a strong hook statement . The hook statement is the first thing that the reader reads in the introduction part.

In the introduction part, state the thesis statement but don’t give too much information in this statement.  

Remember that in this part, only give a brief overview and don’t write in-depth information.

Reflective Essay Body Paragraphs

Writing the body paragraphs is the hardest part of the reflective essay. Some writers spend a lot of time writing body paragraphs. If the outline is not created well, then writing the body paragraphs is a time-consuming process.

It is the most important part of the essay and follows the proper chronological order. Describe the main issues in order related to the described event.

The body paragraphs are well-focused, and it is not a summary of your experience. Each body paragraph end with a concluding sentence.     

Reflective Essay Conclusion  

The conclusion is the last part of the essay. In this part, you should provide a summary of the entire essay. Moreover, do not repeat the same point again and again.   

Make sure the conclusion of the essay is powerful and encourages the readers to do further research. In this concluding part, restate the thesis statement, and no need to add new ideas. 

Tips for Writing a Reflective Essay

Here are some writing tips that can make your reflective essay even better, so try following these in your essay:

  • Choose the right topic for the essay, make sure that you have enough information
  • Use an engaging and narrative tone throughout the essay with an overall emotion or theme in mind.
  • Try to make the essay credible and informative
  • Reflect critically on the significance of the experiences and analyze the reasons behind your thoughts, emotions, and reactions.
  • Incorporate relevant theories, concepts, or academic frameworks to deepen your analysis.
  • Be authentic and honest in sharing your insights and lessons learned from the reflection process.
  • Connect your personal experiences to broader contexts or universal themes to create a relatable and impactful essay.
  • Support your thesis statement with strong examples and arguments.

Ref lective Essay For mat

Two commonly used formatting styles for academic writing are the APA and the MLA styles. Each style has its unique guidelines for formatting, including structure, citations, and references. 

APA Style Reflective Essay Format

Formatting your essay in APA requires the following:

  • Times New Roman 
  • Double line-spacing
  • 1" margins 
  • Page number on the top-right 
  • Include the Title Page, Main Body, and References.

MLA Style Reflective Essay Format 

The MLA style recommends the following formatting guidelines:

  • 1” margins
  • Last name and page number in the top-right
  • “Works Cited” section on the last page

Reflective Essay Examples

Check out some reflective essay samples that can give you a better understanding of the reflective essay.    

Reflective Essay Example for High School

Personal Reflective Essay Example

Reflective Essay Outline

Example of Reflective Essay on Learning Experience

Reflective Essay Example About Life Experience

Reflective Essay Topics - H2

In a reflective essay, you write about your personal experience, thoughts, and significant moments of your life. Choosing the right topic for the essay sometimes becomes a challenging task, but here are some ideas that can help you out.  

  • A surprise that you prepared for someone
  • The first thing you think of in the morning
  • When someone’s words made you cry
  • When you laughed uncontrollably with someone
  • Swimming in a mountain lake
  • The experience of an earthquake or natural disasters
  • A vacation place that you liked in particular
  • Crossing a bridge and looking out over the water.
  • Your favorite persuasive essay topic
  • Place where you feel safe

Need more topics to get your thoughts running? Here are more reflective essay topics to help you out!

Writing a reflective essay can be a transformative experience as you discover your own thoughts and feelings along the way. By following the writing steps and tips, you can enhance this experience by writing an essay that is interesting, informative, and engaging. 

So don’t hesitate to start writing a reflective paper today! You’ve got everything you need.

Still, if you are in a race against time or can’t write your essay for other reasons, don’t despair. The auto essay writer at CollegeEssay.org is here to help you out!

We also have a team of expert writers ready to assist you 24/7. Whether you need help with refining your ideas, structuring your essay, or polishing the final draft, we can lend our expertise.

So hire our essay writing service to receive customized and professional reflective essays within the deadline!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many paragraphs are in a reflective essay.

In a reflective essay, you should follow a 5-paragraph format. However, you can add more paragraphs, and it depends on your chosen topic.

What is the goal of a reflective essay?

Writing a reflective essay aims to explore how they have changed and learned from their experiences.

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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Reflective Essay Guide

Writing Reflective Essay

Last updated on: Feb 9, 2023

A Step by Step Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay

By: John K.

Reviewed By: Jacklyn H.

Published on: May 11, 2021

Reflective Essay

If you have been assigned the task of writing a reflective essay, it will be an excellent opportunity to polish your creativity and writing skills.

A reflective essay is slightly different from other essays as it requires a personal point of view of a chosen subject. Thus, you need to analyze a particular subject with your personal experience, understanding, and knowledge.

The only key to write a reflective paper is that you need to be more expressive. The more expressive you are, the merrier it will be for your essay. Feel free to talk about life experiences that are valid to your topic. Writing your reflections can actually be a strength in this kind of essay.

If this sounds like something that interests or concerns you, then keep reading! This blog contains every detail necessary to produce an impressive reflective essay.

Reflective Essay

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What Is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay describes an experience or event and analyzes the meaning of that particular experience and the lessons it delivers. One thing that makes it a reflective essay is that the writer analyzes an event of the past from the present.

When writing a reflective essay, you are required to open up about your emotions and thoughts to paint a clear picture of your personality, history, and individual traits.

It is required that you include a description and a vivid summary of the experience; it will make the reader feel that he has experienced it as well. Moreover, you need to explain your reactions, thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

A good reflective paper should be creative, insightful, and authentic. It needs to express your opinions on a specific topic interestingly so that the reader wants to follow what you're saying without getting bored or leaving it before reading.

Reflective Essay Format

REFLECTIVE ESSAY FORMAT AND TEMPLATE

How to Start a Reflective Essay?

Writing a great reflective essay is a chance to polish your skills of writing and enhance your creativity. However, sometimes, it gets difficult and confusing to write it. There are many high schools as well as college students who get confused thinking where to start.

So, we have compiled some steps that will help you to write a perfect essay.

Let’s discuss them in detail.

1. Choose Your Topic Carefully

If you are given the freedom to choose a topic and don’t have any idea regarding it, the best way is to brainstorm and research some trending and good topic ideas. Unfortunately, a common mistake when writing a reflective essay is to choose a topic that is too broad or too narrow.

2. Research About Your Subject

Make sure you do thorough research on your topic first. Close your eyes and start imagining or remembering. Then, watch, listen, and read the information regarding your topic.

3. Brainstorm

Before you even start writing, brainstorm your ideas first. It is always a wise step to take before writing anything.

4. Choose Reflection Questions

Take a look at the questions below to get a better idea:

  • What did I notice?
  • What do I feel about it?
  • Why am I feeling this way?

5. Answer the Questions You Have Chosen

After selecting your questions, you need to give their answers. Start from one essay question; make sure you answer it properly. After that, head on to the next one.

6. Recognize Your Experience Meaning

Before you even start writing, you need to choose the most significant lesson you have learned from your experience. This “most significant lesson or thing” is going to be the thesis of your essay.

7. Follow the Structure

Like all the other essays, the reflective essay also has the same format, which comprises the introduction, body, and conclusion paragraph.

Therefore, follow these steps and makes your essay writing process easy.

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How to Write a Reflective Essay?

Here are some steps that you should follow when you start writing your reflective paper.

1. Write the Introduction

To understand and know how to start a reflective essay introduction, you must first understand that an introduction is a piece of brief information about the main topic and its background.

In the reflective essay introduction, you will recognize the subject and provide the reader with an overview of the impression you have taken from it. Therefore, the introductory paragraph of your reflective essay needs to include a thesis statement that will act as a focal point of your paper.

2. Body Paragraphs

The first body paragraph should mention the impactful impression your subject has made on you. Then, provide relevant facts to support your thesis statement.

Moreover, the body of your essay will also describe most of the ideas you touched on in your introduction.

3. Write a Conclusion

Restate your thesis statement and summarize all the reasons you have mentioned in the essay’s body paragraphs. After that, sum up your essay with your final thoughts on the subject; close your essay with some reflective thoughts.

4. Proofread and Edit

Never submit your essay without editing or proofreading. Even though you have spent hours of effort and put a lot of hard work in doing your essay, your essay will have no worth if you haven’t proofread and edited it.

Here is the reflective essay outline sample for your ease.

Reflective Essay Outline

REFLECTIVE ESSAY OUTLINE

Reflective Essay Examples

We have compiled some perfect reflective essay examples below to help you get started on your paper.

Personal Reflective Essay Examples

PERSONAL REFLECTIVE ESSAY EXAMPLES

ENGLISH REFLECTIVE ESSAY EXAMPLES

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Reflective Essay Topics

Check out these reflective essay ideas on the most common subjects you can write about:

  • Something from your imagination
  • Something you have experienced in real
  • A special object
  • Something you have seen, heard, read, watched, touched, or smelled.

We are sure these subjects must have sparked your imagination, but here are a few essay topics that will help you get the bigger picture. In addition, these topics will help you understand the kind of topics teachers like to assign.

  • The desert, mountains, countryside, or beach
  • A special room or hideaway
  • The house you grew up
  • Home of some relative
  • A person that taught me how to improve reflective writing skills
  • New Experiences
  • When your piece of writing published
  • Important conversation
  • The older man line of thought
  • The time you overcame your fears

A list of topics will help you get a picture of what good ideas are like and how to come up with one of your own.

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Your essays are assigned to highly qualified essay writers who have years of experience and education. They make sure to provide you with mind-blowing, error-free, and on-time essays. They don’t just cater to the reflective essay but help with all types of essays.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a reflective essay.

The reflective essay should be between 300 and 500 words. However, it will vary according to the chosen topic.

What is the purpose of a reflective essay?

A reflective essay is a great opportunity for the author to explore what has happened in their life and show how this specific event may have changed them.

John K.

PhD Essay, Literature

John K. is a professional writer and author with many publications to his name. He has a Ph.D. in the field of management sciences, making him an expert on the subject matter. John is highly sought after for his insights and knowledge, and he regularly delivers keynote speeches and conducts workshops on various topics related to writing and publishing. He is also a regular contributor to various online publications.

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A reflective essay is a type of writing where you explore how an event, experience, or concept has influenced your development or perspective. It involves deep thinking, self-analysis, and personal reflection. In a reflective essay, you explai what you learned and how you changed as a result of that experience.

In this article, you will learn how to write a reflective essay, and how to highlight impactful experiences. A reflection essay seems easy as you don’t have to defend one’s point of view or convince the reader of something. But it has its challenges, so we recommend to keep on reading and find out everything you need to know about this type of essay. More complex examples are available down below.

What Is a Reflective Essay: Definition

A good question to start with is, “What is a reflective essay?” A reflective essay is a type of academic writing, in which the student has to test personal life experience/position towards a particular topic. Unlike in argumentative writing, the student does not have to defend the personal position. It does not require a complicated, professional language with some terminology. Do not define something - focus on sharing personal life experience, skills, development, and the most vivid examples to illustrate the topic.

Reflective Essay Format

A reflection essay student writes to meet the college writing standards has a different format from the one a magazine writer should present to reach the issue’s audience. However, each reflective paper has a similar outline. Reflective essay format depends on the general requirements your teacher provides. Some of them can ask for a specific format for your essay. APA writing style , MLA, and Chicago are the basic formats you can use. But if you don’t know exactly which formatting to use, you can use reflective essay apa format. This is the most common college essay format, so knowing its requirements is critical: Font:  Times New Roman, 12 points Interval:  Double interval Margins:  1 inch all round Page Numbers:  Insert a title in the upper left corner of each page.  

Reflective Essay Outline and Structure

Knowing how to write a reflective essay is essential. Even if you feel confident about your thoughts and knowledge, don’t start your writing without a clear and well-designed plan. Without logical essay structure , your essay will likely achieve lower marks. To avoid this situation, follow 10 easy steps we provided below. The first thing every student needs to understand how to write a good reflective essay is an effective, detailed outline. It has 3 typical sections: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Writing a reflective essay does not require any references – the only person to refer is the student who decides to share his thoughts & ideas. Let’s look at 4 main reasons to include an outline of reflective essays.  

  • An outline assists in laying out the details the student wants to leave after narrowing down the draft before working on the final paper. It prevents them from concluding the essay by realizing something is missing.
  • An outline provides a clear, concise roadmap, which prevents the writer from taking curvy paths and facing dead ends. It shows the way like a compass in the woods.
  • An outline helps to save a lot of time.
  • An outline helps the potential readers, including teachers & classmates, to avoid falling off the main point when reading the essay partially.

Reflective essay outline is not much different from other types of essays. Use this reflective essay template in creating your perfect reflective essay:

How to Start a Reflective Essay: Creating an Introduction

Let’s figure out how to write a reflective essay introduction. Start with stating the primary focus of the personal reflection. Avoid being indirect and covering a range of topics; stay direct and concise by underlining the basic purpose of sharing a life experience. Professional Opinion:

Another way to attract attention in the introductory paragraph is to come up with the intriguing hook for essay sentences like statistics, fact, quote, metaphor, rhetorical question, or joke. It depends on the mood of your reflective narrative.

Working on Reflective Essay Thesis

Some people may say that a reflective essay does not need a thesis. However, the example shared in the previous section talking about introduction is an example of the inspiring thesis statement. Include at least a reflective summary of the primary idea. The best idea would be to focus on previewing the peak of the plot development or highlighting the most valuable lesson learned. Let’s take a look at this little reflective essay thesis sample.

If you find it challenging, rely on our  professional essay writing service  and have your reflective essay done with academic standards in mind. 

Writing a Reflection Essay Body Paragraph

What is the purpose of a body paragraph ? The body paragraphs of the reflective analysis interpret the way the author evolved or what he/she has absorbed from a particular life lesson (mention 3 different lessons). When writing your reflective essay you should mention the circumstances that forced you to pass a certain way. If you study a subject like English Literature or Arts, the paper’s prompt may ask you to describe how you changed as a field professional during the course of study. It is important to choose a specific interval of time to list the improvements. Compare & contrast the initial skills to the knowledge you have today. It is a great idea to tell the audience the ways various tasks, challenges, and lessons made the author grow since the beginning of his education. There is no need to conduct research to collect the supporting evidence. The author alone is responsible for defending every stated claim with the help of vivid samples that describe the topic the best. Example: In case the student has become more professional in the field of writing, he should list the causes of those changes (new English teacher, more practice at home, part-time job related to the field of writing). Who knows – some of the ideas may be used by other students to succeed!  

How to Write a Reflective Essay Conclusion

The question of how to end a reflection paper is not less important. The last challenge is to prepare an impressive, inspiring, and powerful conclusion, which will make the target readers want to develop the same positive way. Write a reflective summary regarding the way you have changed over a given period of time. Share some forecast by looking ahead: how the experiences listed in the essay would influence further personal development. By looking at the past events, decide which of them was the most important. The good idea is to compare & contrast past and future events to stress the gaps between the obtained skills and experience, possibly gained in the future. Don't want to bother with writing any conclusions? Use a summary maker to generate e reflective essay conlusion in seconds.

How to Write a Reflective Essay: 10 Easy Steps

Writing personal reflection helps students to stress their individuality by highlighting various skills, knowledge, behavior, feelings, and even mood. The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to show how the person changed over time and what factors played an important role in those metamorphoses. Keep on reading this section to learn steps that will make your reflective writing perfect. Step 1:  Think of the questions that interest you the most. It may be your experience, feelings, or an event in life. Make sure you analyzed the question well. Check credible sources and collect relevant information. Step 2:  Decide what you want to write about. Make sure you know how to title an essay . Identify the topic. Step 3:  After you decided on a topic, create an appealing title that will entice readers. Make sure your title is clear and to the point. Step 4:  Create an outline of your essay. Step 5:  Create an attention-grabbing hook for reflective essay. It should be some intriguing sentence or phrase that will arouse the interest of your readers. Step 6:  Create an introduction of your reflection paper. Step 7:  Think what you will include in the main body of your text. Start writing your body paragraphs. Step 8:  Diversify your text with all the necessary details to make your readers see a clear picture of the environment in your story. It can be some place, people, atmosphere, etc. Step 9:  After the reader is already familiar with the setting and characters, you should tell about yourself. What were your feelings? How has the situation affected you? What did you learn from this situation? Step 10:  Conclude your reflective essay. Briefly summarize all the points that were mentioned in your text and provide a short moral with recommendations. You can use these steps as a checklist for your writing process. In case you need another step-by-step guide on response essays  or any other type of writing, we've got you covered.

>> Read more: How to Write Essays

Reflective Essays Sample From Successful College Students

No recommendations, tips & tricks help the students to understand the way a particular assignment should look like in the end as effectively as the examples. The article contains one of the up-to-date reflective essay examples from a college student.

Writing a Reflective Essay: Bottom Line

Congratulations, we have learned how to write a reflective essay. We really do hope that our guidelines, tips, and examples were useful to you. Now, you can definitely work on your reflection assignment with a clear understanding of its structure and main points. So start your writing, and the sky's the limit! 

In case you need more writing tips, feel free to browse our Blog. Be it a diagnostic essay , a synthesis essay  or a response paper , we have tutorials for any type of writing. 

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“Giving a preview of the most exciting part of the story is a clue. The target reader may lack time to read the full piece from cover to cover. “There are many things I have learned from Marketing class. The most valuable lesson I have obtained is checking the effectiveness of 2 different approaches or services through utilizing so-called A/B testing.” It will make the reader think about what is special about this specific method. The reader will go on reading the body paragraphs to find out!” Professor Hemsworth, History & Anthropology teacher and academic writer at StudyCrumb

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Frequently Asked Questions about Writing a Reflective Essay

1. what is a common mistake when writing a reflective essay.

A common mistake when writing a reflective essay is to drift away from the subject you're writing about. It usually happens when you don’t stick to your initial plan. So plan your writing well and if you feel that you go a bit off topic, be sure that you return to the same topic you originally discussed.

2. What is the purpose of writing a reflective essay?

The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to make a student write about their personal experience, explore it, reflect on it and find positive and negative aspects. The goal is to analyze how a student changed due to this experience and what made them change. What lesson a student learned is an essential point in persuasive writing.

3. How to write a reflective essay on a book?

If you are writing a reflective essay on a book, the main task is to show your teacher how you reflect on a chosen book, how you understand the problem presented by an author. To create a good essay, start with brief information about the author. Then, without spoilers, briefly summarize the main points of a book. After that explain the main conflicts, share your impressions. Ask questions like: “What are the peculiarities of the main characters?”, “What did an author want to say by indicating the main issues?”

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How to Write a Reflective Essay: Examples, Intro, Body, & Conclusion

9 December 2023

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How to Write a Reflective Essay: Examples, Intro, Body, & Conclusion

This article is a guideline on how to write a good reflective essay, addressing the areas students should pay attention to when their lecturers give them assignments to produce such papers. Basically, a reflective essay examines the writer’s experience in life. People explore how their involvement changed or developed their characters and gather accurate details to support the main argument. In this case, each topic is essential because it teaches readers most important details that should guide their writing, from choosing a topic, following the correct outline, and going through each technical step to produce a quality document. Reading this guideline gives writers critical insights on writing an outstanding reflective essay, guaranteeing they can create a high-quality paper under any context. Although the article focuses on students as the primary audience, anyone needs to understand that an effective reflective essay should have a proper introduction, a compelling body, and a conclusion that brings an appropriate closure and apply the knowledge to be an expert, thoughtful essay writer.

General Aspects for Writing an Outstanding Reflective Essay

When lecturers give students writing reflection papers, they aim to develop intellectuals. The writing process of different types of papers demands learners to utilize their academic training to produce knowledge that others can consume for enlightenment. As such, various types of essays are central to providing college students with a platform for their reflection papers, constructing their intellectual personas and influencing others. Reading this guideline helps students and anyone interested in writing to gain insights into essential requirements when organizing essays. Specifically, this article provides a guideline for writing a reflective essay by addressing key aspects that authors of reflection papers need to know and essay topics they can choose to produce a high-quality scholarly document.

For writing your paper, these links will be helpful:

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  • How to Write a Critical Response Essay
  • Essay Rubric

Definition of What Is a Reflective Essay and Its Meaning

A reflective essay is a document whose primary focus is the writer’s self-reflection on his or her experience or a topic. Ideally, students writing a reflective essay must use their creative thinking skills to examine an experience or an issue and clearly state what it means to them without relying on others’ inputs. Therefore, the main purpose of writing a reflective essay is to present the writer’s own perspective on an issue. College professors assign their students tasks to write these essays because they understand that applying knowledge is the most effective strategy meaning to entrench knowledge. Self-reflection on an experience or topic means the way in which students apply what they have learned and create new knowledge through creative thinking. However, a reflective essay is not similar to an argumentative essay , an analytical essay , a cause and effect essay , an expository essay , or a research paper because, while writing about personal aspects allows students to use their own knowledge and experience, other papers have different purposes and requirements.

Common Types of Reflective Essays

Reflective essays take different forms because limiting what students can reflect on is impossible. Typically, English professors require students to write thoughtful texts about what they have read or studied in class and their experience on something personal as their reflection. The reasoning behind such expectation is that human beings have the imagination to judge events that occur in diverse contexts. Everyone learns something from experiences that shape their existence. Hence, when writing a reflective essay, students must first understand its purpose because it forms the foundation of their focus.

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Reflection on an Assigned Reading

College students read various texts in any semester, including assigned textbooks, articles, research papers, essays, reflections, commentaries, and opinions. These documents have one similarity in common since they all address topics lecturers consider important to learners’ intellectual development. In this respect, it is common for students to receive paper assignments requiring them to write a reflective paper on an article, poem, play, novel, or research topic. While professors often specify essay topics, students may encounter scenarios where they must construct sentences themselves. The most important thing they must consider when organizing reflection papers properly is that they must reflect the text the tutor prescribes.

Writing a Reflective Essay About an Article

Articles are texts commonly found online where writers pick an issue of concern to society or a specific community and discuss it from various perspectives as a reflection. For example, authors of articles posted in the New York Times journal may write about how social policies of the New York state government have contributed to homelessness. Some authors may claim that these policies have resulted in high rental prices, forcing many individuals and families to seek alternative accommodation, including living with relatives and in homeless shelters. A lecturer may require students to write a reflective essay on such articles. In turn, one must read the online article to understand the author’s perspectives in such an instance. As a result, students must reflect on how these viewpoints apply to them, people they know, and society. Their reflection paper writing should underscore the article’s significance.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Poem

Poems are texts that paint a picture of society through words. Like art, they address many societal issues, such as leadership, love, family, morality, and tragedy. However, unlike most texts, poems are complex since their language requires readers to engage in critical thinking and reflection. Like an artist hides a message in a mural, a poet uses words to communicate deep insights. As such, lecturers often require students to read poems and write reflective papers. In such a scenario, students should read poems through their creative thinking lens and pick critical insights that they can expound on. However, their exposition and reflection should be based on what they think and not what others say.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Play

Like poems, plays serve the purpose of communicating ideas with a profound message or hidden meaning. It is common for college students to read plays as part of course content and write reflection papers. As such, reflecting on such literature plays helps learners to apply knowledge to specific contexts. Therefore, when writing a reflective essay on a poem, students should read assigned plays to understand the information or knowledge the author intends to convey. The next step is to write a paper that allows them to self-reflect by explaining how the profound message or hidden meaning applies to real life.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Novel

Unlike plays and poems, novels are long texts. Nonetheless, they are similar to the extent they address issues common in society. Most novelists use their creative imagination and reflection to communicate social problems through texts. Therefore, reading novels across generations is the best way to know how modern society reflects human civilization. With this understanding, English professors often require students to read novels and write reflective essays for the final semester assessment. In such a context, students should read the novel and interact with other materials about this work, such as commentaries and reviews by different authors. However, these texts should only help students to better understand the novel rather than form part of a reflective essay.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Research Topic

It is common for college students to read research topics as part of their academic work. Almost all disciplines have issues that attract the attention of researchers. However, social sciences tend to have the highest level of this attention and reflection because they are about the social world. One approach lecturers in social sciences develop students into intellectuals requires them to analyze different research topics and produce a reflection paper. If students receive such instructions, they should read the study to understand critical points. Because researchers tend to be broad in assessing issues, writers should narrow their focus by picking a problem they think has the greatest significance to them or an aspect of their academic or social environment.

Reflection on an Experience

The most effective way of helping students to gain a deeper understanding of concepts, thoughts, and ideas is to require them to apply what they have learned to their personal lives as their reflection. Like everyone else, learners have personal experiences that enrich their existence despite their impact. In other words, a unique experience may have been pleasant or unpleasant. In turn, people can always get a moral lesson if they view it through optimism. Lecturers often require students to write reflective essays on personal experiences, including a life event, work experience, peer relation, domestic experience, and a hobby.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Life Event

It is natural for everyone to experience a life event that leaves a lasting impact on them and close relations, including parents, siblings, friends, and even neighbors. Examples of these events include a near-death experience, such as an automobile accident, a chronic disease, or a personal loss, such as losing a parent. While these events are unique, they can trigger people’s creative imagination and reflection if they are discussing such topics. Lecturers understand this truth, and they give their learners assignments to write reflective essays about personal experiences. When students receive such instructions, they should use their imagination and reflection to link what they have learned with what happened to them in the past that remains significant today. Doing so gives a reelection essay a scholarly characteristic, allowing it to be an academic text others can consume.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Work Experience

Working is an activity that no one can avoid from adolescence. While students may not be employable because they are yet to complete their education, employers give them opportunities to gain practical work experience along their academic journey. Work attachments are integral to a college education because they allow students to experience the work environment before graduation. Moreover, some students come from families with established businesses, while others seek employment during holidays to fund their education. This reality explains why professors ask learners to write reflective essays about a work experience. Under such an instruction, students should recall and talk about an incident in a work environment with a lasting impact as their reflection.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Peer Relation

Peer relations are rich sources of personal experiences for college students. As social beings, adolescents develop friendships with their peers in diverse environments, including schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods. For example, a significant peer relationship reflection can be romantic or friendly. Almost every college student has experienced a romantic encounter that left them with lasting memories. Professors can ask their audience to write a reflective essay on a romantic relationship and how it generally shapes their view of life. In such a reflection paper, writers should include how the relationship challenged their perceptions or entrenched ideals, like commitment and honesty. In turn, people can focus on friendship and how it changed their lives. Essentially, the text should focus on the dynamics that shaped the relationship, such as availability, and how they think they are essential or nonessential for a lasting engagement.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Domestic Experience

The domestic environment directly impacts people’s attitudes and behaviors. It is impossible for one to live without the influence of parents, whether biological or foster, guardians, or siblings. Standard domestic experiences for writing a reflection paper include family vacations, parental divorce, domestic violence, or events like family get-togethers. Lecturers often require students to think about how such experiences have impacted their worldview, including entrenching values, like hard work, empathy, and integrity. When students have to write a reflective essay on a domestic experience, their focus should be on events that have a lasting impact on their memory. Such events are easy to evaluate because they stand out in the writer’s behavior and mannerisms.

Writing a Reflective Essay About a Hobby

Hobbies are personal engagements that form part of a person’s social experience. People have different hobbies because only some of them are fascinated by one thing, like watching a football game or hiking a mountain. However, everyone has an interest they engage in as a form of unwinding after a difficult task or life season. College tutors view reflective essays as essential for students to relate their hobbies to a course concept or idea. When learners receive instructions to write such a paper, they should be honest and talk about their hobby, not someone else’s. Ideally, reflections enable students to view their hobbies through the lens of coursework .

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Examples of Reflective Essay Topics

Since everyone has unique experiences and perspectives on different reflective essay topics , lecturers often instruct students to write reflective essays without specifying the topic. However, reflecting on a text differs because the lecturer can select the reading. When it comes to individual experience, students have a free hand in deciding personal essay topics . As a result, some examples of reflection essay topics students and other people can choose to write about are:

Sample Topics on Assigned Readings

  • How “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley Applies to Contemporary Society
  • The Moral Lesson in the Play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
  • The Essence of Morality Through the Lens of the Poem “Morality” by Mathew Arnold

Topics on a Personal Experience

  • Overcoming a Fear That Changed My Life
  • The Challenges of Long-Distance Dating
  • How Family Fosters Togetherness
  • How a Near-Death Experience Shaped My Ideals

Outline Example for Writing a Reflective Essay

I. College Essay Introduction

  • Attention-grabbing hook : Dating is a social experience shaped by multiple dynamics.
  • Overview of the topic: The challenges of long-distance dating.
  • Thesis statement : Long-distance dating has taught me that human beings are naturally dishonest, love cannot flourish without supervision, and faithfulness results from commitment.

II. Body Paragraphs

  • First paragraph : Open with a topic sentence about the first lesson and provide a reflection paper for this first lesson.
  • Second paragraph: Present the second lesson and reflect on this second lesson.
  • The third paragraph: Start by emphasizing the third lesson and write a reflection for this third lesson.

Note: The number of body paragraphs depends on the length of the assignment. Usually, the length of a reflective essay is about 500-1000 words, which means 2-4 double spaced pages or 1-2 single spaced pages.

III. Conclusion

  • Summary of body points
  • Restate the thesis statement of a reflection
  • Conclude with a final remark

Example of a Good Reflective Essay

Topic: The Challenges of Long-Distance Dating

I. Example of an Introduction for Writing a Personal Essay

Dating is an experience that enriches one’s worldview because of the dynamics that shape it. However, long-distance dating has significant drawbacks that create the wrong impression about dating as a social experience. My experience with long-distance dating is awful because I have learned that human beings are naturally dishonest, love cannot flourish without supervision, and faithfulness is a product of commitment.

II. Example of the First Body Paragraph for Writing a Personal Essay

Long-distance dating challenges the adage ‘honesty is the best policy’ because it reveals humans as naturally dishonest. After my reflection, I learned this painful lesson when I developed a relationship with a friend I met online in my early adolescence. Since this period of growth is when individuals develop most peer relationships, dating is common among youth, especially those in college. The essence of dating for many adolescents is the freedom it represents since one can choose whom they love without social restrictions. However, dating someone you do not regularly meet because of distance is troublesome. After meeting someone on the Internet I thought was a perfect match for me, I hoped to develop a lasting romantic relationship. However, things turned ugly when I learned that the person of my dreams was married. This experience convinced me that human beings are naturally dishonest.

III. Example of the Second Body Paragraph for Writing a Personal Essay

The greatest lesson from my dating experience is that love cannot flourish without supervision and reflection. I always tell myself it was good that I discovered the person was married because I would have continued investing emotionally in a relationship built on a lie. My desire to know my online date more closely saved me from the futile endeavor. Generally, this burning interest to learn more is a form of social supervision because it helps one to discover truths. Although my reflection quest for truth led to the end of the relationship, it helped me to learn that love cannot flourish if no one desires to know more about their partner. I consider this desire to know as supervising love.

IV. Example of the Third Body Paragraph for Writing a Personal Essay

More importantly, my experience with long-distance dating taught me that faithfulness is a product of commitment. I was committed to the relationship because I was faithful, neither married nor dating anyone else. Unfortunately, my partner was not trustworthy because this person was married, explaining why he was less committed to investing emotionally in the relationship. The genesis of my reflection quest for more information about him was that he turned down several of my requests for a physical meet-up. After learning he was married, I understood why he would not agree to meet physically because he was not committed to the relationship. To him, dating was a passive hobby.

V. Example of a Conclusion for Writing a Personal Essay

The above experiences with long-distance dating have shaped my worldview about people and love. While one may consider some individuals pleasant or unpleasant, all are transformative because they have shifted my perceptions. They have convinced me that people are naturally dishonest, one cannot nurture love without supervision, and commitment births faithfulness. While my experience was awful, these lessons are essential for my reflection and emotional well-being in my future romantic relationships.

4 Easy Steps for Writing a Reflective Essay

While reflection writing is straightforward, producing a reflective essay can be complex because one must observe technical details that shape a high-quality paper. Ideally, students should approach a reflective essay as an academic exercise because there are specific issues and rules they must observe and satisfy to make their work meet the requirements of such a document. These issues include sufficient preparation, setting up the stage, producing a first draft, and perfecting a final draft. Important rules include creating an error-free paper, meaning a good reflection paper must not have grammar or formatting mistakes or plagiarized information.

Step 1: Preparation

In this first step, students must prepare themselves by doing specific things. Firstly, they should choose a particular topic of interest and define it. Ideally, the topic should indicate the kind of essay they want to produce, whether a self-reflection about a text or a personal experience. In the case of the former, the lecturer specifies the topic. The next task is to prepare ideas through brainstorming with classmates or friends while considering the audience of their work. A good reflective essay should be an academic paper that meets quality standards because those who will consume it include the lecturer, fellow students, and anyone wanting to know more about the topic. When writing a reflective essay, students should understand that the purpose of their texts is to provide an opportunity for self-reflection by presenting their papers.

Step 2: Setting Up the Stage

The next step in writing a reflective essay is to set up the stage where students need to consider several tasks. The first aspect is to find credible sources if the mission is to talk about assigned readings, such as a poem, short story, or novel. Locating reliable sources is vital to ensure one stays within the topic. Secondly, one should read valid sources while making notes. For reflection papers, they should use the ideas generated in the preparation stage to guide note-taking. The third task is creating a well-organized essay structure and essay outline that reflects the standard format of this type of essay as described by the sample above. Lastly, writers should create an annotated bibliography to ensure that borrowed information in the text has a corresponding original source. Doing so helps avoid plagiarizing the work. However, this task does not apply to an essay about a personal experience.

Step 3: The Writing Process

The third step in producing a reflective essay is to create a first draft. At this stage of writing a reflective paper, students should focus on capturing all the ideas generated when preparing to execute the task. As such, they should not worry about the quality, like grammar and formatting. The importance of a first draft is that it allows writers to put their ideas together. If a particular reflection topic is about assigned readings, students may use this stage to find more sources that help to expand their reasoning. They may also alter the outline to accommodate any additional instructions, such as the length of the paper. The most important thing one should do is develop a clear thesis statement because it should guide their work.

Writing the Introduction

The introduction is the first part of any essay and contains the overall focus of the paper. When developing this part for a reflective essay, students should ensure they capture the reader’s attention, establish the topic’s background, and conclude with a thesis statement. They also should provide background information about the topic. In reflection papers, these three components are essential features of an essay’s opening section. To a greater extent, they determine whether the audience will complete reading the text. Students should know — people do not read unexciting texts when organizing this section. Such texts lack a hook that grabs one’s attention and ignites a desire to learn more in the rest of the paper.

Writing Body Paragraphs

The body of a reflective essay should capture all the ideas that writers have generated in the preparation stage. However, the tutor’s instructions regarding the college essay length should determine whether writers use all the ideas, add new ones, or drop some of them. Each paragraph should open with a topic sentence emphasizing an idea in the thesis statement. These ideas may be lessons for a reflection paper about a personal experience, but, if the focus is on reading the article, they should be arguments or observations since specific details and evidence make the work compelling. In turn, real-life examples make a reflection relevant and persuasive. Ideally, this part of a reflection paper should cover an evidence-based format by integrating course concepts and ideas. All parts must relate to one another, while achieving a proper flow of ideas improves the quality of a reflective essay. People should use the rest of the paragraph to explain the lesson or observation or enrich the argument. Other essential components of each paragraph include a concluding sentence and a transition. Therefore, body paragraphs of a reflection paper

Writing the Conclusion

The conclusion paragraph is the last part of a reflective essay. The most important features include summarizing the paper by emphasizing key lessons for a piece about a personal experience or arguments or observations for an article about a text. Basically, writers sum up all the main points discussed in the body. The next quality is restating the thesis statement by rewording it, and lastly, is to make a final remark about the topic. Such a remark must underscore writers’ primary worldviews as a product of their reflection. Therefore, when organizing this section, students should know that their focus is to finalize the text by making declarations that allow readers to be satisfied. It is illogical for a paper to leave a reader hanging unless it is fiction. Thus, one should bring a reflective essay to a logical closure.

Step 4: Wrapping Up the Paper

The last step in writing a reflective essay is to produce a final draft by perfecting a first draft. This wrap-up exercise involves revising the first version of the text to ensure it captures all the author’s ideas. The second task for writing a reflection paper is to edit the text by adding or eliminating sentences to provide a logical flow of ideas and thoughts. The next mission is to ensure all three parts — introduction, body, and conclusion — capture all essential features, including thesis, topic sentences, and final remarks, as appropriate. The last task is to eliminate all mistakes, including grammatical errors, incorrect punctuation, formatting flaws, and missing citations. To produce a perfect reflection paper, one must familiarize themselves with all rules of academic writing and use them as the measure for polishing a final draft.

Important Rules for Writing a Reflective Essay

When writing a reflective essay, students should observe all the rules applicable to their work, even if the lecturer does not emphasize them. The first convention that one should satisfy is to maintain a formal tone. Apart from using the first-person voice, students should ensure their work is academic. As such, they should avoid slang and any language that dilutes the formality of their text, and they need to write following the active voice. Another convention to consider when writing a reflection paper is to cite ideas that writers borrow from different sources. For example, when students use quotes from the text they are reflecting on, such as an online article, they should cite it properly by paying attention to APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago/Turabian writing styles.

Summing Up on How to Write a Perfect Reflective Essay

  • Reflective essays allow students to discuss relevant events or course readings that influenced their lives.
  • This guideline shows that writing a good reflective essay is a rigorous exercise that requires one to understand several tips.
  • Understand the topic when writing a reflection essay: whether one is to reflect on a text or a personal experience.
  • Brainstorm and create a mental database of ideas.
  • Develop a clear outline that emphasizes the introduction, body, and conclusion and the key features of each.
  • Review all the technical steps of producing a high-quality reflective essay.
  • Produce a first draft and then perfect a document into a final draft by eliminating all mistakes, like wrong grammar, poor formatting, and illogical sentences.
  • Proofread final drafts before presenting them to lecturers.
  • It is advisable to give the final draft to someone to read a reflection paper and avoid missing out key details or obvious mistakes.

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  1. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  2. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  3. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  4. How to Write a Reflective Essay With Sample Essays

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  5. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  6. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Reflective Essay

    1 Choose a tone. Before you begin to write your reflective essay, choose a tone. Because a reflective essay is more personal than an academic essay, you don't need to use a strict, formal tone. You can also use personal pronouns like I and me in your essay because this essay is about your personal experiences.

  2. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples)

    Reflective essays are very honest, personal, and emotional, especially those which describe painful experiences. Reflective Paper Examples. Download 29 KB #10. Download 217 KB #11. ... As you think about the content of your reflection essay samples, remember that the important thing is that such an essay must be highly personal but also ...

  3. Writing a Reflective Paper

    Reflective writing is a process of identifying, questioning, and critically evaluating course-based learning opportunities, integrated with your own observations, experiences, impressions, beliefs, assumptions, or biases, and which describes how this process stimulated new or creative understanding about the content of the course.

  4. How to Write a Reflective Essay: Format, Tips and Examples

    Reflective Essay in MLA Format. Times New Roman 12pt font double spaced; 1" margins; The top right includes the last name and page number on every page; Titles are centered; The header should include your name, your professor's name, course number, and the date (dd/mm/yy); The last page includes a Works Cited.

  5. The Writing Center

    The style and tone of your reflective essay should match the purpose of the overall assignment. This is a personal essay meant to showcase what you learned from the text, event, or experience that you are writing about. You can use the pronouns "I," "me," and "mine.". Describe the text, event, or experience fully, using plenty of ...

  6. A complete guide to writing a reflective essay

    A reflective essay is similar to other essays in that it needs to be easily understood and well structured, but the content is more akin to something personal like a diary entry. In this guide, we explore in detail how to write a great reflective essay , including what makes a good structure and some advice on the writing process.

  7. Reflective essays

    Reflective essays tend to deal with a reflective prompt that the essay needs to address. This also often means that the essay will have to draw on a range of experiences and theories to fully and satisfactorily answer the question. The questions/prompts should not be too vague, for example 'reflect on your learning', but should define an ...

  8. Reflective essays

    Reflective essays are academic essays; what makes an essay "good" will work for a reflective essay. What is different about a reflective essay is that the essay is about you and your thinking. ... This writing is (1) descriptive/listing of content, not reflective and (2) not properly referenced (the definition of stakeholders is directly copied ...

  9. How do we write reflective essays?

    Structuring your essay. A reflective essay typically follows the familiar organisational pattern: Introduction - Body Paragraphs - Conclusion. In the body paragraphs, reflective writing involves a number of formats, and this guide will sugguest a DIEP approach, that is, to describe, interpret, evaluate and plan (Boud et al., 1985 ...

  10. Reflective writing

    The language of reflective writing. Reflective academic writing is: almost always written in the first person. evaluative - you are judging something. partly personal, partly based on criteria. analytical - you are usually categorising actions and events. formal - it is for an academic audience. carefully constructed.

  11. How to Write a Reflective Essay: Definition, Steps & Example

    Step 1: Brainstorm and Choose a Topic. Begin by brainstorming a specific event, experience, or topic to reflect upon. It could be a personal experience, a book you've read, a class you've taken, or a significant life event. Here are some helpful tips for choosing a topic: Think about your personal experiences and select a topic that resonates ...

  12. Reflective Essay Examples

    Seeing reflective essay examples can help you understand how to accomplish a reflective essay writing assignment. View examples of reflective essays.

  13. How to Write a Reflective Essay With Sample Essays

    Writing a reflective essay, also known as a reflective paper or reflection paper, is as easy as following the step-by-step instructions below. 1. Choose a Topic Idea. If you haven't been assigned a topic and don't have a topic in mind, check the list of topics above for inspiration. If those aren't enough, take a look at these 100 reflection ...

  14. How to Write a Reflection Paper: Guide with Examples

    Never write the whole essay at once. Space out the time slots when you work on your reflection paper to at least a day apart. This will allow your brain to generate new thoughts and reflections. Short and Sweet - Most reflection papers are between 250 and 750 words. Don't go off on tangents.

  15. Reflective Essay: Introduction, Structure, Topics, Examples For University

    When deciding on the content of your reflective essay, you need to keep in mind that it is highly personal and is intended to engage the reader. Reflective essays are much more than just recounting a story. As you reflect on your experience (more on this later), you will need to demonstrate how it influenced your subsequent behavior and how ...

  16. How to Write a Reflection Essay

    If you have to write a reflective essay, here are some guidelines to follow. References should be listed on the final page of the writing. In the essay, try to avoid using the same phrase multiple times. Give your take on the topic in the writing. Verify that you have explained everything that was previously unclear.

  17. Reflective Essay- Definition, Writing Steps, Examples & More

    A reflective essay is a type of essay where the writer describes a personal experience or event that they observed or examined. Reflective writing involves thinking or pondering about a specific topic and writing your thoughts. The content of a reflective essay is subjective. This means, the writer discusses the topic from their own personal ...

  18. How to Write A Reflective Essay

    1. Choose Your Topic Carefully. If you are given the freedom to choose a topic and don't have any idea regarding it, the best way is to brainstorm and research some trending and good topic ideas. Unfortunately, a common mistake when writing a reflective essay is to choose a topic that is too broad or too narrow. 2.

  19. A Comprehensive Guide on Writing Reflective Essays (2023-2024)

    Reflective essays require careful consideration of various elements to ensure effective communication and expression. One crucial aspect is the structure, which typically includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. ... or even conversational tone. The tone should match the content and purpose of your essay, allowing ...

  20. Reflective Essay

    Reflective essays are essays in which the writer looks back on, or reflects upon, his or her experiences and how they caused personal change. Reflective essays involve self-reflection. Typically ...

  21. How to Write a Reflective Essay: A Detailed Overview

    Writing a reflective essay on a book isn't that different from a reflection on oneself. We advise you to begin with a brief introduction to the writer. Then, write a synopsis without spoilers focusing on the principal characters. Next, define the topics the writer addresses and discuss the references and influences.

  22. Reflective Essay

    A reflective essay is a written piece of literature that focuses on presenting and narrating a person's experience and how it becomes an instrument towards a change of perception in life. ... Write the main content of your essay with at least three to five paragraphs supporting your main topic. Final Reflective Essay. iss.k12.nc.us. Details ...

  23. How to Write a Reflective Essay: Examples, Intro, Body, & Conclusion

    However, a reflective essay is not similar to an argumentative essay, an analytical essay, a cause and effect essay, an expository essay, ... It is common for college students to read plays as part of course content and write reflection papers. As such, reflecting on such literature plays helps learners to apply knowledge to specific contexts ...