How to Write a Reflective Essay

What is a Reflective Essay?

When students have a task to write a reflective paper, the first thing they might think of is - how to write a reflective essay. Initially, let’s define what reflective essay actually is. The main goal of an author when writing a reflective essay is to share his or her life experience, being fairly critical and attentive to the feelings about certain issues or events, and analyze how he or she has changed or learned from them. In a reflection paper, the author mainly explores his or her life experiences. A reflective essay is similar to chronicle or a diary entry, and since there is a certain audience that will read it, it must keep the formal tone and to be well-structured. A reader will expect the evaluation of a period of your life or a certain event, and you might be asked to reflect on some memories, feelings, emotions that should be interesting to catch the attention of your audience. In that regard, a self-reflective essay is much like any other essay out there with the writing process that requires choosing proper words and phrases. There are different reflective paper formats that your essay can be presented in, but most often seen in a diary entry or logbook format. Dairy entries are used to describe the progress and the evolving of the thoughts and the feelings of the author in a particular period of time.  For instance, the author might analyze his or her changes since some events and to share feelings, opinions, and conclusions which were felt and kept in mind meanwhile. And to think over all detail it will surely take some time.

Besides, make sure to identify your own style when writing a reflective essay, original manner to make the content clear, legible and specific. It's crucial, to be honest and share with the audience great feelings - either happy or sad. The format of a reflective essay can be academic or more informal creative work to show your viewpoint, it depends on the target audience.  In case of college or high school reflection assignments, even though the format can vary, the goal of the tutors is to encourage students to recall and think critically about a learning experience or set of experiences, it's a kind of a strategy for helping students to learn how to benefit emotional growth and development by analyzing their personal life experiences. Students learn to better understand themselves and their behaviors while writing this type of essay.

Writing a Reflective Essay

Now, that you have an idea what a reflective essay is  it’s important to study a matter of how to write a reflection paper. The structure is one element that is the same in any typical essay including a reflective piece of writing and is comprised of an introduction, body, and conclusion. As the content of your essay is chosen, it is important to keep in mind that a reflective essay shows an ability to self-reflect which can be very personal and engage the reader or target audience. It's not just about telling a story. It's important to be able to reflect on your experience and show how your life has been particularly changed. Think about some experiences in your life that have impacted you, either positively, negatively or both. A special object or place, something you have watched or read, a real-life experience, an imagined experience, a person who had an influence on you can be included in your reflection essay. If a reflective essay is a part of an academic exercise, you might be asked to reflect on what the outcomes were when you had to make an important decision in a specific situation. Important is not to miss to mention consequences of the experience. The core of this type of writing is formed by the reflective process. It's important to really think about how you've been impacted by the personal experience you have chosen to focus on and that valuable knowledge was brought.

If you take a look at how people of different professions reflect on their experiences, you might notice that, - for instance, medical staff would write to carefully describe patients, how they interact with the patients and what should be improved in their ability to provide effective health care in a caring manner to convince patients to improve lifestyle choices; teachers would write about case studies of students, and how to solve problems with students learning and behavior, or how to respond to them to bring out better communication; business people would analyze their interaction in a business setting and learn how they can better work with customers.

Once you have chosen a topic of your essay, you need to pause and examine your thoughts, try to spend enough of time thinking about it vividly in details. Think about elements, things, scents, tastes, noises along with what you see. Put in writing everything you can remember about it in specific details. In fact, you can make notes using brief remarks. Certainly, use adjectives while describing perceptions of the event(s).

When you have a content of your memory written down, it's time to start reflecting by asking yourself and answering reflection questions, such as: Do you think you've made the right decision by making particular choices at that time? What have you learned from that? What would you have done differently? What skills did you acquire as a result? etc.

It should help to kick-start a critical reflection of your experiences.

After doing all the reflection you might feel well-prepared to start writing a self-analysis paper. But you need to do one more important step which is to prepare a plan. By developing an outline and sticking to it your essay will be more consistent, your ideas structured. Outline each part of your written paper. A reflective essay outline gives you a clear idea instead of a flow of the thoughts. The outline should be as a map for you to navigate and help to avoid missing out information. Normally, your outline should contain introduction, body, and conclusion.

Reflective Essay Introduction

It can happen that you might be stuck with a thought of how to start a reflective essay introduction. As any academic assignment, a reflective essay should begin with an introduction that has an attention grabber and a thesis statement. You must do your best to boost interest in your topic from the beginning and briefly reveal your main purpose. It's a good idea to start with a vivid description of what you are reflecting on - the place, your experience, situation or event. A reflective essay thesis should include places, events, situations that will be described in the body of the essay. Try to be unique and not to bore your target audience.

Reflective Essay Body

It might seem the hardest part of the essay. Try to plan the body by the chronological approach. Each of body paragraph of the essay should be related to the points made in the thesis. Include more details and examples from your experience from the notes that you have taken before, expand them and tell your life story. And lessons learned. Putting the important details of your experience in a chronology will help you to view your narrative together. Do not forget to reflect the impact that the experience has had on your life and your ability to adapt to specific situations. Every story should have a deep sense that includes relevant details.

Superb Reflective Essay Conclusion

In the best reflective essay conclusion, you should provide a summary of the experience explored and what this experience taught you, how your attitudes and behaviors have changed. How your character and your personality have been affected, and how your problem-solving skills improved. Remind the reader of the purpose of the essay. Explain and expand on your thesis idea. Suggest an appropriate course of action in relation to the needs identified in the body of the essay.


Now you have a proper planning to start writing your essay that should make the writing process more easy and simple. It's pointless to think too much about how to start writing. You can make some remarks, take a break and always come back later to revise. To get the tune you might want to read some reflective essay templates, literature, professional, educational or personal growth reflective pieces in newspapers or magazines. A reflective essay is about personal experience but including a range of different sources will show that you analyzed widely in your subject area. Record your thoughts and stick to the plan. You might start your introduction with a joke to catch an intention of the audience. Writing as the first-person narrative will help to keep the personal tone of your work. Using plenty of adjectives will make your writing more engaging. Stay professional, avoid slang. Avoid squeezing two thoughts into one sentence. Be honest about your feelings, be critical about your experience, its impact and value in your life.

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