How to Write a Reflective Essay

Techniques and Guidelines on How to Write a Reflective Essay

Before discussing and analyzing techniques and helpful tips on how to write a reflective essay, it is important to get the basic notion of what a reflective essay is.

Reflective Essay Definition

Naturally, the very first question that comes to the mind of a student who is assigned to write a reflection paper is how to write a reflective essay. This type of writing may not seem ordinary for students as they are used to easier types of academic papers. Still, professors frequently assign reflective papers, as they are willing to know what personal experience a student has in a particular realm or in a particular sphere. Moreover, professors want students not only to provide a mere summary or description on a specific topic or issue but also to share a thorough discussion in a critical and analytical way. Another aim of a reflective paper is to connect personal feelings, events or experiences to the discussed topic and pinpoint to how they have influenced on a person and his/ her behavior, mode of thinking or lifestyle.

In other words, if someone asks you how to write a reflection paper, you need to answer: imagine as if you are writing a diary or a chronicle and share your personal experience with others. When thinking of a reflection paper format, take into account your target audience and make the layout of events interesting and appealing to your readers. Make sure that the way you reminisce about your memories, experiences, life events or feeling is appropriate for the audience in terms of comprehension and understanding. As such, writing a reflective essay entails choosing appropriate vocabulary and structures. The most widespread mode of organization of a reflective paper is that of a diary or a logbook. Such entries are more related to the progress and how the writer’s feelings, emotions, etc. changed over a particular period of time, during some experience or after some life-changing event. All in all, make sure you have sufficient time for working on a reflective essay since it demands great attention to details.

Another tip on how to write a reflective essay that is elegant in content, make sure to express your thoughts and contemplations in an original manner in order to make the content concise, clear, and interesting. It should be understandable for the target audience what you are narrating about, which feelings and emotions you experienced at a specific point of time, and to which conclusions you have arrived. Make sure you are honest in terms of expressing your inner feelings. Readers usually empathize with the author so make sure to make the general tone of writing clear (whether it’s happy, sad, nostalgic, etc.). Regarding the style of writing, it can either academic (formal) or semi-formal (or even rather informal). Therefore, make sure to employ right strategies to your paper writing.

What to Write about in a Reflective Paper?

The actual structure of a reflective essay resembles that of any other type of essay. You should organize your paper into introduction, main body, and conclusion. It is really important to choose a proper topic for the paper so that you could easily reflect on it and demonstrate your attitude to it. The topic can be really personal but you still have to tell your own story to your target readers. Telling a story, however, does not only denote describing and narrating the events that happened some time ago – you need to focus on your experience and highlight specific points of how our life has changed from that time on. When choosing a topic, it is recommendable to select such topic that is really close to you, for example, tell about and event or some interaction/ communication with a person who greatly impacted your life. When telling about some impacts on your life, you are free to narrate either about positive or negative ones. You might also narrate about watching some movie or reading a specific book that left you under emotions. When narrating about such experiences, make sure to pinpoint what conclusions you have arrived at or what outcomes you got in the end. As an example, think of what knowledge you have derived, what skills acquired, and valuable lessons learned.

If you take a look at a reflective essay template written in a specific discipline, you will notice that reflections differ depending on the sphere of experiences. For instance, if the reflective paper is written by a medical student, you will find contemplation about responsible and diligent treatment, ethicality, morality, interaction with patients, ability to solve conflicts in the workplace, skills needed to provide high-quality health care, etc. Further, a reflective essay written by a teacher will focus more on experiences undergone in the classroom in terms of interaction among children, communication between a teacher and children, active learning, skills for quick decision-making, ability to solve conflicts in the classroom, and so on. If to take an essay written by someone working in business and management sector, you will find much information about the clientele base, experiences with customers, importance to provide quality service, some specific conflict situations, rewarding experiences, etc.

As such, as soon as you have chosen a topic for your reflection paper, make sure you afford yourself ample amount of time to examine your feelings, thoughts, and emotions about the topic and to remember some specific personal relation to it. When writing a reflective paper, it is important to provide vivid details as if bringing the picture for the audience to life. Think about the most detailed elements, such as sounds, scents, surrounding things, distracting noises, whatsoever. Make sure you put in writing everything you can remember about the experience you are narrating. Try to remember the colors you saw back then. You can also make brief comments and remarks concerning the events (as a way of commenting on them). To achieve this aim successfully, make sure to use an abundance of adjectives and descriptive words and phrases. Consult thesaurus as an option of enriching your language. After you have provided a detailed description and brought the past experiences to life, provide critical and analytical reflection by answering such questions as: Did you make the right choice back then? What conclusions have you made after this experience? What lessons have you learned from that situation? If you had a choice, would you have done something differently? What would you have done differently? Was the experience enriching? What skills/ abilities/ knowledge have you acquired as a result?

After you have gathered details about a specific event or experience, you need to structure your thinking in a well-organized manner to provide a properly structured paper. To make sure you do not overlook any important details and include all required elements, devise a reflective essay outline. Some students find the process of writing an outline as a waste of time but, on the contrary, it helps to save time in the process of writing as you just sit and write everything consistently without distracting your attention on recalling what else to include in the reflection paper. The outline will give you a clear idea how to structure your thoughts and not to miss any important information. As a rule, your outline should contain all constituent elements of your paper: introduction, main body, and conclusion.

How to Start a Reflective Essay Introduction

Start with a sentence that serves the role of attention-hooker. You need to interest your readers and make them be willing to know what will go next. The introduction you provide should shed light on the background information relating to the events you narrate about in your paper as well as draw readers’ attention to the significance of the topic. You should remember to provide a strong argumentative thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraph. Here you need to put forward a claim regarding the topic (or, to be more precise, the experience you have got) and reveal the core purpose of writing. It is always a good idea to reflect on an event, a person, experience or place in the introduction. When you briefly mention the basics of these events in the introduction, it will give writers a clear vision of what you will reflect on in the main body.

Main Body

This is obviously the hardest and the most time-consuming part of the paper, as you have to provide a thorough narration and reflection on your certain experience. The main recommendation is to structure the main body narration in a chronological order. Do not jump from one event/ experience to another as it will confuse the reader and would be close to impossible to get the idea of what you are writing about. Make sure to provide specific examples from your own experience to support the points you make. In reflective writing, it is totally OK to pay great attention to details. Also please consider that each of the body paragraphs should be directly related to the points you have highlighted in the thesis statement. Afterwards, write a logical closing paragraph where you focus on the outcomes, solutions or the lessons learned.


To write the best reflective essay conclusion, make sure to clearly and succinctly summarize the core points in the discussion. Restate what lessons you have learned, what experience and knowledge you have got, how your attitudes/ behavior/ way of life/ mode of thinking, etc. have changed.

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