How to Write a Reflective Essay

Process of writing inspires some and scares others, but if students fail to understand the meaning or purpose of reflective essay, they won’t be able to get a good grade even if they’re the best writers in the world. So, what does it mean and how to write a reflection essay? Such paper requires relating your current situation or state of mind to past events that affected it. You should describe what happened and how it changed you, selecting a meaningful event with clear and vivid consequences. This process serves many functions: it helps students reflect on qualities that are suitable for studying in a specific university, reveals more about their past. Also, it assists them in establishing connections between events, which is useful for all sorts of studies. There are many other intricacies that should also be considered.

What is a Reflective Essay?

Definition of reflective essay is simple: it’s a paper describing writer’s personal experience of relevant event along with its consequences in a way that allows audience to feel emotions and impacts involved in it. Provision of ideas, opinions, and feelings about this situation is essential here. Reflective paper is usually self-centered, writer should speak from first viewpoint, revealing what happened and how it shaped their present personality. If you’re planning to write one, there are some key points that must be addressed to meet requirements.

  1. Create a link between written text, yourself, and surroundings. Mention how these three aspects overlap with one another.
  2. Be open about feelings. Don’t hide them, express them, use vivid details for description.
  3. Apply acquired knowledge after you encountered such an event to show what you learned.
  4. Since reflective essay is subjective for writer and is like a testimony narration, forget about objectivity. Do not operate with facts, operate with memories the way you remember them.

What to Write About: 30 Topics for Good Reflection

If you’re allowed to choose topic for writing – great! Select something you genuinely like. For inspiration, check the following list.

Analysis of Your Strengths for College Application

  • How do the skills you possess make you a perfect candidate for a selected specialty
  • What challenges shook your belief in your abilities?
  • Potential to succeed: how has it been displayed throughout your life?
  • What are your weaknesses and how do you address them?
  • How do you develop personal strengths?


  • Which is the most meaningful relationship in your life?
  • How did you realize you love someone?
  • How was your daring experience shaped and what did it teach you?
  • Did you ever stop interacting with a person you cared about for whatever reason?
  • Your story of being betrayed


  • The location you love most
  • Most memorable trip
  • The worst journey ever
  • Beauty and ugliness of this world: personal reflection essay
  • Place you would like to move to and why


  • Most treasured memory
  • What you loved doing most as a child
  • The meaning of home to you
  • How has been your family formed?
  • First time at school


  • How your favorite TV show has affected your views
  • Books that shaped your worldview
  • Writing fanfiction and everything it brought into your life
  • Atypical hobby and people’s reaction to it
  • Hobby as motivation to live


  • How having pets can help become responsible
  • The animal love of your life
  • Your first pet
  • What having a pet can say about you as its owner
  • Pet as your best friend

Two Formats of Reflection

Every essay has specific format that changes in accordance with instructions. A form of reflective paper depends on target audience, which is usually divided into general people and professors. Diary format is one of most common since you narrate thoughts in a way where one occurrence leads to another. As discussed above, you consider past and its results, which helps develop psychologically, emotionally, and socially.

At the same time, essay may be purely academic in nature. A student may be asked to reflect on material they’ve learned in class to show how it applies in real life and present their thoughts about concepts involved in it. In this type of essay, one is expected to read through a literature piece and then discuss their opinion. The purpose of such format lies in making a student develop their critical thinking skills and determine how well they understood what was taught.

Read also: Use the best paper writing service to receive excellent assignment.

Tips on How to Start A Reflective Essay

There are several things students should do as they’re starting the writing if they want to compose an excellent paper. Follow the plan below to come up with quality content for paragraphs. Remember that how you approach an essay is the determiner of whether you are going to succeed.

  • Identify all main themes you’ll be exploring. Jot them down; think about thesis, which incorporates an essence of essay, and create clear topic sentences. The picture of how your work will look like is going to be pretty vivid after this.
  • Reflect on selected topic by using ideas you already have in mind. Consider most relevant personal insights and determine what tense you’re going to use unless professor gave specific instructions in this regard.
  • Create tables describing the reflections you thought of during the second step. Sure, you might not want to waste time on this, so do it only if you think that thoughts are in disarray. Gather all points that will be discussed in a tabular form. Put them in a column or in a row, depending on your preference. Be sure to include beliefs, cultural influences, etc. In the last table, point out how these factors affected the situation and what outcomes they had.
  • At last, ask yourself questions. They should work as a guide, response in presentation form. Some of the common ones include, how did the situation affect your thinking? Does this situation challenge you in any physical, emotional, or social way? Was there anything important you left out? Are links of events with prior knowledge clear enough?

Outline: Structure Parts That Must Be Mentioned

Typically, reflective essay comprises 300 to 900 words, but this number might differ. Ensure to clarify it with professor and don’t deviate from the required words by more than 10%. Ask for structure template, but if it wasn’t provided, don’t worry. Organization of all papers is usually the same, entailing introduction with thesis, body, as well as conclusion. For enhancing them and stop yourself from leaving set course, develop reflective essay outline for different sections. Don’t make them detailed but add enough info so you could recall what you’ve planned to write even days later.

1. Introduction

It should contain a brief description or background story about an event and consequences it had. For doing it efficiently, you should ask yourself, what happened? Develop an answer to this question in the form of writing. One or two sentences will suffice in an outline, but in actual paper, they should take more space. Remember that you must hook your readers here because proper introduction has the power to allure them into reading the body of your essay — otherwise, they’ll close it and never think about it again.

For creating suspense in introduction, mention several key events. Portray an interesting part of your story so that audience could grow interested in finding out more in the body. You must also include thesis statement at the end of introduction, single sentence that discloses what essay is going to cover. Since it is reflective writing, your thesis should contain small overview of your background with required focus on its outcomes.

2. Body

It’s the main part of an essay and a place where you are expected to develop all ideas you demonstrated back in introduction. Start each body paragraph with thoughtful topic sentences. Their main objective lies in introducing essence of specific paragraph to reader. After doing it, you should support your idea by giving relevant examples and descriptions. Do not write overly long paragraphs, they should be not more than 200 words. In an outline, merely mention topic sentences — they’ll be your guides. When writing your reflection, illustrate how it affected your life in a detailed manner. Let’s regard what standard reflection essay paragraphs should include, both in terms of outline and completed essay.

a) Paragraphs 1-2

Detailed discussion of situation and feelings you lived through during it come second after mentioning a brief background. Students must ask themselves, what did they think about the situation? How did it happen? Crucial reflection perspective starts being presented here.

b) Paragraphs 3-4

After offering feelings along with descriptions, begin your work on evaluation part. Analyze why this situation happened and what kind of impact it had on your life. Mention whether this impact was good or bad and what you learned now. Did it raise you up or did it bring you down? Be detailed.

3. Conclusion

When students start crafting conclusion, they should let readers know that they are approaching an end of essay by using efficient transitional words developed specifically for this purpose. Use “In conclusion”, “Thus”, “Therefore”, “Considering what has occurred…”, etc. Restate the main points in body section. You should also show how the experiences have changed your behavior and feelings about different aspects of society. If word count hasn’t been met yet, give recommendations for others on how they should handle similar situations. In terms of an outline, just mark down previous ideas that you are planning to restate.

See our comprehensive guide on how to start a research paper for getting a great grade.

How Do You Write a Reflective Essay?

Time to summarize the most crucial points of what you’ve read so far. When you’ve been assigned a reflection, follow set of useful steps to turn writing process into an easy one as realistically possible. Examples make everything perfectly clear, so let’s use them.

1) First, choose your main idea. Consider an experience that had the biggest impact on you, something that would be interesting to discuss. Create something if nothing vivid comes to your mind, though in this case, try to stay realistic. For instance: “When I was a child, I trusted my friend Monica with everything, but she betrayed me. As a result, I started having trust issues that affect my other relationships.”

2) After this, spend some time thinking about all related aspects. Ask relevant questions, note down ideas. Do a plan. Example: “Did I see this betrayal coming? What hurt me the most? How did I cope with it?”

3) Write down some bright descriptions that could inspire students to provide more details. For instance: “When I saw Monica laughing at me with a boy who kept tormenting me, my heart sank. I could not breathe for a moment, torn between horror and bitterness, and then realization of what had just happened hit me even harder, making my eyes water.”

4) Think about impact. Again, either mention it in the outline or make quick note to keep on track. “After this, I have been unable to trust other people, even though I met some friends that are unlikely to ever betray me. Acidic bitterness follows me still, but after meeting therapist, I am filled with fragile hope that in the future, my attitude will change and I will start enjoying company of others once more.”

Reflective Essay Examples

Seeing a sample of reflective writing is probably better than anything. Good news is, in modern times, there are different online resources where students can see reflection paper example. Knowing details about structure and theory is great as it can help improve your prowess in writing, but you can get full idea of what to create only after seeing works of others. Check narration about their experiences. Exposure to different examples enables to advance in terms of writing and it can spark your own creativity.