How to Write a Reflective Essay?

07 August, 2020

17 minutes read

Author:  Elizabeth Brown

A reflective essay is a personal perspective on an issue or topic. This article will look at how to write an excellent reflexive account of your experience, provide you with reflexive essay framework to help you plan and organize your essay and give you a good grounding of what good reflective writing looks like.

Reflective Essay

What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay requires the writer to examine his experiences and explore how these experiences have helped him develop and shaped him as a person.  It is essentially an analysis of your own experience focusing on what you’ve learned.

Don’t confuse reflexive analysis with the rhetorical one. If you need assistance figuring out how to write a rhetorical analysis , give our guide a read!

Based on the reflective essay definition, this paper will follow a logical and thought-through plan . It will be a discussion that centers around a topic or issue. The essay should strive to achieve a balance between description and personal feelings.

It requires a clear line of thought, evidence, and examples to help you discuss your reflections. Moreover, a proper paper requires an analytical approach . There are three main types of a reflective essay: theory-based, a case study or an essay based on one’s personal experience.

How to choose reflective essay topics

Unlike most academic forms of writing, this writing is based on personal experiences and thoughts. As such, first-person writing position where the writer can refer to his own thoughts and feelings is essential. If the writer talks about psychology or medicine, it is best to use the first-person reference as little as possible to keep the tone objective and science-backed.

To write this paper, you need to recollect and share personal experience . However, there is still a chance that you’ll be asked to talk about a more complex topic.

By the way, if you are looking for good ideas on how to choose a good argumentative essay topic , check out our latest guide to help you out!

The Criteria for a Good Reflective Essay

The convention of an academic reflective essay writing will vary slightly depending on your area of study. A good reflective essay will be written geared towards its intended audience. These are the general criteria that form the core of a well-written piece:

  • A developed perspective and line of reasoning on the subject.
  • A well-informed discussion that is based on literature and sources relevant to your reflection.
  • An understanding of the complex nuance of situations and the tributary effects that prevent them from being simple and clear-cut.
  • Ability to stand back and analyze your own decision-making process to see if there is a better solution to the problem.
  • A clear understanding of h ow the experience has influenced you.
  • A good understanding of the principles and theories of your subject area.
  • Ability to frame a problem before implementing a solution.

These seven criteria form the principles of writing an excellent reflective essay.

Still need help with your essay? Handmade Writing is here to assist you!

What is the Purpose of Writing a Reflective Essay?

The purpose of a reflective essay is for a writer to reflect upon experience and learn from it . Reflection is a useful process that helps you make sense of things and gain valuable lessons from your experience. Reflective essay writing allows you to demonstrate that you can think critically about your own skills or practice strategies implementations to learn and improve without outside guidance.

Another purpose is to analyze the event or topic you are describing and emphasize how you’ll apply what you’ve learned.

How to Create a Reflective Essay Outline

  • Analyze the task you’ve received
  • Read through and understand the marking criteria
  • Keep a reflective journal during the experience
  • Use a reflective framework (Schon, Driscoll, Gibbs, and Kolb) to help you analyze the experience
  • Create a referencing system to keep institutions and people anonymous to avoid breaking their confidentiality
  • Set the scene by using the five W’s (What, Where, When, Who and Why) to describe it
  • Choose the events or the experiences you’re going to reflect on
  • Identify the issues of the event or experience you want to focus on
  • Use literature and documents to help you discuss these issues in a wider context
  • Reflect on how these issues changed your position regarding the issue
  • Compare and contrast theory with practice
  • Identify and discuss your learning needs both professionally and personally

Don’t forget to adjust the formatting of your essay. There are four main format styles of any academic piece. Discover all of them from our essay format guide!

Related Posts: Essay outline | Essay format Guide

Using Reflective Frameworks

Reflective writing frameworks

A good way to develop a reflective essay plan is by using a framework that exists. A framework will let help you break the experience down logical and make the answer easier to organize. Popular frameworks include: Schon’s (1983) Reflection in action and reflection on action .

Schon wrote ‘The Reflective Practitioner’ in 1983 in which he describes reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action as tools for learning how to meet challenges that do not conform to formulas learned in school through improvisation.  He mentioned two types of reflection : one during and one after. By being aware of these processes while on a work-experience trail or clinical assignment you have to write a reflective account for, you get to understand the process better. So good questions to ask in a reflective journal could be:

<td “200”>Reflection-pre-action <td “200”>Reflection-in-action <td “200”>Reflection-on-Action<td “200”>What might happen? <td “200”>What is happening in the situation? <td “200”>What were your insights after?<td “200”>What possible challenges will you face? <td “200”>Is it working out as you expected? <td “200”>How did it go in retrospect?<td “200”>How will you prepare for the situation? <td “200”>What are the challenges you are dealing with? <td “200”>What did you value and why?<td “200”>  <td “200”>What can you do to make the experience a successful one? <td “200”>What would you do differently before or during a similar situation?<td “200”>  <td “200”>What are you learning? <td “200”>What have you learned?

This will give you a good frame for your paper and help you analyze your experience.

Kolb’s (1984) Learning Cycle

Kolb’s reflective framework works in four stages:

  • Concrete experience. This is an event or experience
  • Reflective observation. This is reflecting upon the experience. What you did and why.
  • Abstract conceptualization. This is the process of drawing conclusions from the experience. Did it confirm a theory or falsify something? And if so, what can you conclude from that?
  • Active experimentation. Planning and trying out the thing you have learned from this interaction.

Gibb’s (1988) Reflection Cycle

Gibbs model is an extension of Kolb’s. Gibb’s reflection cycle is a popular model used in reflective writing. There are six stages in the cycle.

  • Description. What happened? Describe the experience you are reflecting on and who is involved.
  • Feelings. What were you thinking and feeling at the time? What were your thoughts and feelings afterward?
  • Evaluation. What was good and bad about the experience? How did you react to the situation? How did other people react? Was the situation resolved? Why and how was it resolved or why wasn’t it resolved? Could the resolution have been better?
  • Analysis. What sense can you make of the situation? What helped or hindered during the event? How does this compare to the literature on the subject?
  • Conclusion. What else could you have done? What have you learned from the experience? Could you have responded differently? How would improve or repeat success? How can you avoid failure?
  • Action plan. If it arose again what would you do? How can you better prepare yourself for next time?

Driscoll’s Method (1994) and Rolfe et al (2001) Reflexive Learning

The Driscoll Method break the process down into three questions. What (Description), So What (Analysis) and Now What (Proposed action). Rolf et al 2001 extended the model further by giving more in-depth and reflexive questions.

  • What is the problem/ difficulty/reason for being stuck/reason for feeling bad?
  • What was my role in the situation?
  • What was I trying to achieve?
  • What actions did I take?
  • What was the response of others?
  • What were the consequences for the patient / for myself / for others?
  • What feeling did it evoke in the patient / in myself / in others?
  • What was good and bad about the experience?
  • So, what were your feelings at the time?
  • So, what are your feelings now? Are there any differences? Why?
  • So, what were the effects of what you did or did not do?
  • So, what good emerged from the situation for yourself and others? Does anything trouble you about the experience or event?
  • So, what were your experiences like in comparison to colleagues, patients, visitors, and others?
  • So, what are the main reasons for feeling differently from your colleagues?
  • Now, what are the implications for you, your colleagues and the patients?
  • Now, what needs to happen to alter the situation?
  • Now, what are you going to do about the situation?
  • Now, what happens if you decide not to alter anything?
  • Now, what will you do differently if faced with a similar situation?
  • Now, what information would you need to deal with the situation again?
  • Now, what methods would you use to go about getting that information?

This model is mostly used for clinical experiences in degrees related to medicine such as nursing or genetic counseling. It helps to get students comfortable thinking over each experience and adapting to situations.

This is just a selection of basic models of this type of writing. And there are more in-depth models out there if you’re writing a very advanced reflective essay. These models are good for beginner level essays. Each model has its strengths and weaknesses. So, it is best to use one that allows you to answer the set question fully.

This written piece can follow many different structures depending on the subject area . So, check your assignment to make sure you don’t have a specifically assigned structural breakdown. For example, an essay that follows Gibbs plan directly with six labeled paragraphs is typical in nursing assignments. A more typical piece will follow a standard structure of an introduction, main body, and conclusion. Now, let’s look into details on how to craft each of these essay parts.

How to Write an Introduction?

There are several good ways to start a reflective essay . Remember that an introduction to a reflective essay differs depending on upon what kind of reflection is involved. A science-based introduction should be brief and direct introducing the issue you plan on discussing and its context.

Related post: How to write an Essay Introduction

For example, a nursing student might want to discuss the overreliance on medical journals in the industry and why peer-reviewed journals led to mistaken information. In this case, one good way how to start a reflective essay introduction is by introducing a thesis statement. Help the reader see the real value of your work.

Do you need help with your thesis statement? Take a look at our recent guide explaining what is a thesis statement .

Let’s look at some reflective essay examples.

‘During my first month working at Hospital X, I became aware just how many doctors treated peer-views journal articles as a gospel act. This is a dangerous practice that because of (a), (b) and (c) could impact patients negatively.’

The reflective essay on English class would begin differently. In fact, it should be more personal and sound less bookish .

How to Write the Main Body Paragraphs?

The main body of the essay should focus on specific examples of the issue in question. A short description should be used for the opener. Each paragraph of this piece should begin with an argument supporting the thesis statement.

The most part of each paragraph should be a reflexive analysis of the situation and evaluation . Each paragraph should end with a concluding sentence that caps the argument. In a science-based essay, it is important to use theories, other studies from journals and source-based material to argue and support your position in an objective manner.

How to Write the Conclusion?

A conclusion should provide a summary of the issues explored, remind the reader of the purpose of the essay and suggest an appropriate course of action in relation to the needs identified in the body of the essay.

This is mostly an action plan for the future. However, if appropriate a writer can call readers to action or ask questions. Make sure that the conclusion is powerful enough for readers to remember it. In most cases, an introduction and a conclusion is the only thing your audience will remember.

Reflective Essay Topics

Here are some good topics for a reflective essay. We’ve decided to categorize them to help you find good titles for reflective essays that fit your requirement.

Medicine-related topics:

  • Write a reflective essay on leadership in nursing
  • How did a disease of your loved ones (or your own) change you?
  • Write a reflection essay on infection control
  • How dealing with peer-reviewed journals interrupts medical procedures?
  • Write a reflection essay about community service
  • Write a reflective essay on leadership and management in nursing

Topics on teamwork:

  • Write a reflective essay on the group presentation
  • What makes you a good team player and what stays in the way of improvement?
  • Write a reflective essay on the presentation
  • Write about the last lesson you learned from working in a team
  • A reflective essay on career development: How teamwork can help you succeed in your career?

Topics on personal experiences:

  • Write a reflective essay on the pursuit of happiness: what it means to you and how you’re pursuing it?
  • Write a reflective essay on human sexuality: it is overrated today? And are you a victim of stereotypes in this area?
  • Write a reflective essay on growing up
  • Reflective essay on death: How did losing a loved one change your world?
  • Write a reflective essay about a choice you regret
  • Write a reflective essay on the counseling session

Academic topics:

  • A reflective essay on the writing process: How does writing help you process your emotions and learn from experiences?
  • Write a reflective essay on language learning: How learning a new language changes your worldview
  • A reflective essay about a choice I regret
Related Posts: Research Paper topics | Compare&Contrast Essay topics

Reflective Essay Example

Tips on writing a good reflective essay.

Some good general tips include the following:

Do's and don'ts of reflective essay writing

As long as you use tips by HandMade Writing, you’ll end up having a great piece. Just stick to our recommendations. And should you need the help of a pro essay writer service, remember that we’re here to help!

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How to Write a Reflective Essay

3-minute read

  • 29th August 2018

If you think that a “reflective essay” is a college paper written on a mirror, this post is for you. That’s because we’re here to explain exactly what a reflective essay is and how to write one. And we can tell you from the outset that no mirrors are required to follow our advice.

how to write a reflective essay youtube

What Is Reflective Writing?

The kind of “reflection” we’re talking about here is personal. It involves considering your own situation and analyzing it so you can learn from your experiences. To do this, you need to describe what happened, how you felt about it, and what you might be able to learn from it for the future.

This makes reflective writing a useful part of courses that involve work-based learning . For instance, a student nurse might be asked to write a reflective essay about a placement.

When writing a reflective essay, moreover, you may have to forget the rule about not using pronouns like “I” or “we” in academic writing. In reflective writing, using the first person is essential!

The Reflective Cycle

There are many approaches to reflective learning, but one of the most popular is Gibb’s Reflective Cycle . This was developed by Professor Graham Gibbs and can be applied to a huge range of situations. In all cases, though, it involves the following steps:

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  • Description – You will need to describe your experiences in detail. This includes what happened, where and when it happened, who else was involved, and what you did.
  • Feelings – How you felt before, during, and after the experience you describe.
  • Evaluation and Analysis – Think about what went well and what could be improved upon based on your experience. Try to refer to ideas you’ve learned in class while thinking about this.
  • Conclusions – Final thoughts on what you’ve learned from the experience.
  • Action – How you will put what you’ve learned into practice.

If your reflective essay addresses the steps above, you are on the right track!

Structuring a Reflective Essay

While reflective essays vary depending upon topic and subject area, most share a basic overall structure. Unless you are told otherwise, then, your essay should include the following:

  • Introduction – A brief outline of what your essay is about.
  • Main Body – The main part of your essay will be a description of what happened and how it made you feel . This is also where you will evaluate and analyze your experiences, either as part of the description or as a separate section in the essay.
  • Conclusion – The conclusion of your essay should sum up what you have learned from reflecting on your experiences and what you would do differently in the future.
  • Reference List – If you have cited any sources in your essay, make sure to list them with full bibliographic information at the end of the document.

Finally, once you’ve written your essay, don’t forget to get it checked for spelling and grammar errors!

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Ultimate guide to writing a reflective essay, carla johnson.

  • June 14, 2023
  • Essay Topics and Ideas , How to Guides

Writing about yourself is a powerful way to learn and grow as a person. It is a type of writing that makes you think about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences and how they have affected your personal and professional growth. A reflective essay is a type of writing that lets you talk about your own experiences, thoughts, and insights. In this article , we’ll tell you everything you need to know about writing a reflective essay, from how to define it and figure out what it’s for to how to do it well.

What You'll Learn

Definition of a Reflective Essay

A reflective essay is a type of writing in which you write about your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It is a type of personal writing that lets you talk about your own thoughts and experiences and share them with other people. Students are often asked to write reflective essays for school, but they can also be used for personal or professional growth.

Purpose of a Reflective Essay

The goal of a reflective essay is to get you to think about your life and how it has affected your personal and professional growth. Reflective essays can help you learn more about yourself and your experiences, as well as find places where you can grow and improve. They can also help you get better at writing and better at getting your ideas across.

Importance of Reflective Writing

Writing about yourself and your work is an important way to grow personally and professionally. It can help you learn more about yourself, figure out where you need to grow and change, and learn more about how you think and feel. Writing about yourself can also help you get better at critical thinking and analysis , and it can help you get your ideas across better. It is a useful tool for anyone who wants to grow personally and professionally, and it can be used in many different situations, from academic writing to keeping a personal journal.

Writing about yourself and your work is a powerful way to grow personally and professionally. Reflective essays give you a chance to think about your own life and how it has affected your personal and professional growth. By writing about your thoughts and feelings, you can learn more about them, find ways to grow and improve, and improve your writing and communication skills . In the next parts of this article, we’ll show you how to write a good reflective essay step by step, from choosing a topic and organizing your thoughts to writing and revising your essay.

Elements of a Reflective Essay

A reflective essay is a type of writing that allows you to reflect on your personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. There are several essential elements that should be included in a reflective essay to ensure that it is effective in conveying your personal reflections and experiences.

Personal Reflection

The first essential element of a reflective essay is personal reflection. This involves exploring your own thoughts and feelings about the experience you are reflecting on. It is important to be honest and open about your thoughts and feelings, as this will make your essay more authentic and meaningful.

Description of the Experience

The second element of a reflective essay is a description of the experience that you are reflecting on. This includes providing details about the experience, such as where it took place, who was involved, and what happened. The description should be clear and concise, and should provide enough detail for the reader to understand the context of your reflection.

Analysis of the Experience

The third element of a reflective essay is analysis of the experience. This involves exploring the experience in more depth, and examining your thoughts and feelings about it. You should consider what you learned from the experience, and how it impacted your personal and professional growth .

Evaluation of the Experience

The fourth element of a reflective essay is evaluation of the experience. This involves examining the experience from different perspectives, and considering its strengths and weaknesses. You should reflect on what you would do differently if you were in the same situation again, and how you could improve your response or approach.

Identification of Key Learning

The fifth element of a reflective essay is identifying the key learning that you gained from the experience. This involves reflecting on the insights and lessons that you learned from the experience, and how these have impacted your personal and professional growth. This can include new skills, knowledge, or perspectives that you gained from the experience.

Planning for Future Action

The final element of a reflective essay is planning for future action. This involves considering how you can apply the lessons and insights gained from the experience to improve your future actions. You should reflect on how you can use what you learned to approach similar situations differently in the future.

How to Write a Reflective Essay

Writing a reflective essay can be a challenging task, but by following a few simple steps, you can write an effective and meaningful essay .

Steps for Writing a Reflective Essay:

1. Brainstorming and Selecting a Topic

Begin by brainstorming and selecting a topic for your reflective essay. Think about a personal experience or event that had a significant impact on your personal or professional growth.

2. Creating an Outline

Create an outline for your essay . This should include an introduction, body, and conclusion, as well as sections for each of the essential elements described above.

3. Writing the Introduction

Write the introduction for your essay . This should include a brief overview of the experience that you will be reflecting on, as well as the purpose and focus of your essay.

4. Writing the Body

Write the body of your essay, which should include the personal reflection, description of the experience, analysis of the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action . Make sure to use specific examples and details to support your reflection.

5. Writing the Conclusion

Write the conclusion for your essay , which should summarize the key points of your reflection and provide closure for the reader. You can also include a final reflection on the experience and what it means to you.

6. Revising and Editing

Pay close attention to grammar, spelling, and sentence structure as you reread and edit your essay . Make sure your essay is easy to read and flows well. You might also want someone else to look over your essay and give you feedback and ideas.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to write a good reflective essay. Remember to be honest and open about your thoughts and feelings, and to support your reflection with specific examples and details. You can become a good reflective writer with practice , and you can use this skill to help your personal and professional growth.

Reflective Essay Topics

Reflective essays can be written on a wide range of topics, as they are based on personal experiences and reflections. Here are some common categories of reflective essay topics:

Personal Experiences

– A time when you overcame a personal challenge

– A difficult decision you had to make

– A significant event in your life that changed you

– A moment when you learned an important lesson

– A relationship that had a significant impact on you

Professional Experiences

– A challenging project or assignment at work

– A significant accomplishment or success in your career

– A time when you had to deal with a difficult colleague or boss

– A failure or setback in your career and what you learned from it

– A career change or transition that had a significant impact on you

Academic Experiences

– A challenging course or assignment in school

– A significant accomplishment or success in your academic career

– A time when you struggled with a particular subject or topic and how you overcame it

– A research project or paper that had a significant impact on you

– A teacher or mentor who had a significant impact on your academic career

Cultural Experiences

– A significant trip or travel experience

– A significant cultural event or celebration you participated in

– A time when you experienced culture shock

– A significant interaction with someone from a different culture

– A time when you learned something new about a different culture and how it impacted you

Social Issues

– A personal experience with discrimination or prejudice

– A time when you volunteered or worked for a social cause or organization

– A significant event or moment related to a social issue (e.g. protest, rally, community event)

– A time when you had to confront your own biases or privilege

– A social issue that you are passionate about and how it has impacted you personally

Reflective Essay Examples

Example 1: Reflecting on a Personal Challenge

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on a personal challenge they faced and how they overcame it. They explore their thoughts, feelings, and actions during this time, and reflect on the lessons they learned from the experience.

Example 2: Reflecting on a Professional Experience

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on a challenging project they worked on at work and how they overcame obstacles to successfully complete it. They explore their thoughts and feelings about the experience and reflect on the skills and knowledge they gained from it.

Example 3: Reflecting on an Academic Assignment

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on a challenging academic assignment they completed and how they overcame difficulties to successfully complete it. They explore their thoughts and feelings about the experience and reflect on the skills and knowledge they gained from it.

Example 4: Reflecting on a Cultural Experience

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on a significant cultural experience they had, such as traveling to a new country or participating in a cultural event. Theyexplore their thoughts and feelings about the experience, reflect on what they learned about the culture, and how it impacted them personally.

Example 5: Reflecting on a Social Issue

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on their personal experiences with discrimination or prejudice and how it impacted them. They explore their thoughts and feelings about the experience, reflect on what they learned about themselves and the issue, and how they can take action to address it.

These examples demonstrate how reflective essays can be used to explore a wide range of personal experiences and reflections. By exploring your own thoughts and feelings about an experience, you can gain insights into your personal and professional growth and identify areas for further development . Reflective writing is a powerful tool for self-reflection and personal growth, and it can be used in many different contexts to help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you.

Reflective Essay Outline

A reflective essay should follow a basic outline that includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. Here is a breakdown of each section:

Introduction: The introduction should provide an overview of the experience you will be reflecting on and a preview of the key points you will be discussing in your essay .

Body: The body of the essay should include several paragraphs that explore your personal reflection, description of the experience, analysis of the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action.

Conclusion: The conclusion should summarize the key points of your reflection and provide closure for the reader.

Reflective Essay Thesis

A reflective essay thesis is a statement that summarizes the main points of your essay and provides a clear focus for your writing. A strong thesis statement is essential for a successful reflective essay, as it helps to guide your writing and ensure that your essay is focused and coherent.

Importance of a Strong Thesis Statement

A strong thesis statement is important for several reasons. First, it provides a clear focus for your writing, which helps to ensure that your essay is coherent and well-organized. Second, it helps to guide your writing and ensure that you stay on topic throughout your essay . Finally, it helps to engage your reader and provide them with a clear understanding of what your essay is about.

Tips for Writing a Thesis Statement

To write a strong thesis statement for your reflective essay, follow these tips:

– Be clear and concise: Yourthesis statement should clearly state the main focus and purpose of your essay in a concise manner.

– Use specific language: Use specific language to describe the experience you will be reflecting on and the key points you will be discussing in your essay .

– Make it arguable: A strong thesis statement should be arguable and provide some insight or perspective on the experience you are reflecting on.

– Reflect on the significance: Reflect on the significance of the experience you are reflecting on and why it is important to you.

Reflective Essay Structure

The structure of a reflective essay is important for ensuring that your essay is well-organized and easy to read. A clear structure helps to guide the reader through your thoughts and reflections, and it makes it easier for them to understand your main points.

The Importance of a Clear Structure

A clear structure is important for several reasons. First, it helps to ensure that your essay is well-organized and easy to read. Second, it helps to guide your writing and ensure that you stay on topic throughout your essay. Finally, it helps to engage your reader and provide them with a clear understanding of the key points you are making.

Tips for Structuring a Reflective Essay

To structure your reflective essay effectively, follow these tips:

– Start with an introduction that provides an overview of the experience you are reflecting on and a preview of the key points you will be discussing in your essay .

– Use body paragraphs to explore your personal reflection, description of the experience, analysisof the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action. Ensure that each paragraph has a clear focus and supports your thesis statement .

– Use transition words and phrases to connect your paragraphs and make your essay flow smoothly.

– End your essay with a conclusion that summarizes the key points of your reflection and provides closure for the reader.

– Consider using subheadings to organize your essay and make it more structured and easy to read.

By following these tips, you can create a clear and well-structured reflective essay that effectively communicates your personal experiences and reflections. Remember to use specific examples and details to support your reflection, and to keep your focus on the main topic and thesis statement of your essay .

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. what is a reflective essay.

A reflective essay is a type of writing that allows you to reflect on your personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. It involves exploring your own thoughts and feelings about an experience, and reflecting on what you learned from it.

2. What are the elements of a reflective essay?

The essential elements of a reflective essay include personal reflection, description of the experience, analysis of the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action.

3. How do I choose a topic for a reflective essay?

To choose a topic for a reflective essay, think about a personal experience or event that had a significant impact on your personal or professional growth. You may also consider professional experiences, academic experiences, cultural experiences, or social issues that have impacted you personally.

Reflective writing is a powerful tool for personal and professional development. By exploring your own thoughts and feelings about an experience, you can gain insights into your personal and professional growth and identify areas for further development. To write an effective reflective essay, it is important to follow a clear structure, use specific examples and details to support your reflection, and stay focused on the main topic and thesis statement of your essay . By following these tips and guidelines, you can become a skilled reflective writer and use this tool to improve your personal and professional growth.

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How to Write a Reflective Essay: A Quick Guide + Examples

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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:

Reflective essay outline

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:

“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

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.

“Now I realize the value of sports in the life of every student. The swimming courses I have attended since I was 13 are a great example of the way to support positive thinking and a healthy body.”

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.

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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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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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Academic Writing: The Reflective Essay

3-minute read

  • 5th June 2018

If you are at university, you may be asked to write a reflective essay at some point. This is particularly common on courses with a work-based learning focus. But what exactly is a reflective essay ?

What Is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a paper in which you write about your own experiences, a bit like an academic diary entry! The idea is to help you think about something that happened in your life.

how to write a reflective essay youtube

For example, a student nurse might be asked to write a reflective essay on a work placement. They would then use this to highlight what happened and what they learned from the experience.

The Reflective Cycle

To see what your essay should include, we can look to Professor Graham Gibbs’ reflective cycle . This is designed to help people learn from experience and involves the following steps:

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  • Description – A detailed description of what happened (i.e. the thing that prompted the reflection), including where and when it happened, who you were with, and what you did.
  • Feelings – How you felt before, during and after the experience.
  • Evaluation and Analysis – A look at the positives and negatives of the experience (e.g. what went right and what went wrong), along with how you understand it. This may involve discussing your experience in relation to ideas or practices you have learned in class.
  • Conclusions – Any final thoughts on the experience, including what you have learned.
  • Action – A plan for what you will do next, what you need to study, or what you would do differently in the same situation if it were to arise again.

The key is to make sure all of the above ‘steps’ are included somewhere in your reflective essay.

Structuring a Reflective Essay

While there are no hard rules about how to structure a reflective essay, it helps to keep things simple. The basic structure should therefore be something like this:

  • Introduction – A short passage setting out what you are writing about.
  • Main Body – This is where you write about your experiences, including describing what happened and how it made you feel . You will also need to evaluate and analyse what you describe, either as you describe it or in a separate paragraph after the description.
  • Conclusion – A passage about what you have learned from the experience, including what you will do next and/or what you would do differently next time.

If you cite any sources in your essay, you will also need a reference list at the end. Cover all of these things in your work and you should have a good reflective essay on your hands! But if you need anyone to offer feedback on the clarity and structure of your work, feel free to get in touch .

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

how to write a reflective essay youtube

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 practice toolkit, introduction.

  • What is reflective practice?
  • Everyday reflection
  • Models of reflection
  • Barriers to reflection
  • Free writing
  • Reflective writing exercise
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how to write a reflective essay youtube

Many people worry that they will be unable to write reflectively but chances are that you do it more than you think!  It's a common task during both work and study from appraisal and planning documents to recording observations at the end of a module. The following pages will guide you through some simple techniques for reflective writing as well as how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

What is reflective writing?

Writing reflectively involves critically analysing an experience, recording how it has impacted you and what you plan to do with your new knowledge. It can help you to reflect on a deeper level as the act of getting something down on paper often helps people to think an experience through.

The key to reflective writing is to be analytical rather than descriptive. Always ask why rather than just describing what happened during an experience. 

Remember...

Reflective writing is...

  • Written in the first person
  • Free flowing
  • A tool to challenge assumptions
  • A time investment

Reflective writing isn't...

  • Written in the third person
  • Descriptive
  • What you think you should write
  • A tool to ignore assumptions
  • A waste of time

Adapted from The Reflective Practice Guide: an Interdisciplinary Approach / Barbara Bassot.

You can learn more about reflective writing in this handy video from Hull University:

Created by SkillsTeamHullUni

  • Hull reflective writing video transcript (Word)
  • Hull reflective writing video transcript (PDF)

Where might you use reflective writing?

You can use reflective writing in many aspects of your work, study and even everyday life. The activities below all contain some aspect of reflective writing and are common to many people:

1. Job applications

Both preparing for and writing job applications contain elements of reflective writing. You need to think about the experience that makes you suitable for a role and this means reflection on the skills you have developed and how they might relate to the specification. When writing your application you need to expand on what you have done and explain what you have learnt and why this matters - key elements of reflective writing.

2. Appraisals

In a similar way, undertaking an appraisal is a good time to reflect back on a certain period of time in post. You might be asked to record what went well and why as well as identifying areas for improvement.

3. Written feedback

If you have made a purchase recently you are likely to have received a request for feedback. When you leave a review of a product or service online then you need to think about the pros and cons. You may also have gone into detail about why the product was so good or the service was so bad so other people know how to judge it in the future.

4. Blogging

Blogs are a place to offer your own opinion and can be a really good place to do some reflective writing. Blogger often take a view on something and use their site as a way to share it with the world. They will often talk about the reasons why they like/dislike something - classic reflective writing.

5. During the research process

When researchers are working on a project they will often think about they way they are working and how it could be improved as well as considering different approaches to achieve their research goal. They will often record this in some way such as in a lab book and this questioning approach is a form of reflective writing.

6. In academic writing

Many students will be asked to include some form of reflection in an academic assignment, for example when relating a topic to their real life circumstances. They are also often asked to think about their opinion on or reactions to texts and other research and write about this in their own work.

Think about ... When you reflect

Think about all of the activities you do on a daily basis. Do any of these contain elements of reflective writing? Make a list of all the times you have written something reflective over the last month - it will be longer than you think!

Reflective terminology

A common mistake people make when writing reflectively is to focus too much on describing their experience. Think about some of the phrases below and try to use them when writing reflectively to help you avoid this problem:

  • The most important thing was...
  • At the time I felt...
  • This was likely due to...
  • After thinking about it...
  • I learned that...
  • I need to know more about...
  • Later I realised...
  • This was because...
  • This was like...
  • I wonder what would happen if...
  • I'm still unsure about...
  • My next steps are...

Always try and write in the first person when writing reflectively. This will help you to focus on your thoughts/feelings/experiences rather than just a description of the experience.

Using reflective writing in your academic work

Man writing in a notebook at a desk with laptop

Many courses will also expect you to reflect on your own learning as you progress through a particular programme. You may be asked to keep some type of reflective journal or diary. Depending on the needs of your course this may or may not be assessed but if you are using one it's important to write reflectively. This can help you to look back and see how your thinking has evolved over time - something useful for job applications in the future. Students at all levels may also be asked to reflect on the work of others, either as part of a group project or through peer review of their work. This requires a slightly different approach to reflection as you are not focused on your own work but again this is a useful skill to develop for the workplace.

You can see some useful examples of reflective writing in academia from Monash University ,  UNSW (the University of New South Wales) and Sage . Several of these examples also include feedback from tutors which you can use to inform your own work.

Laptop/computer/broswer/research by StockSnap via Pixabay licenced under CC0.

Now that you have a better idea of what reflective writing is and how it can be used it's time to practice some techniques.

This page has given you an understanding of what reflective writing is and where it can be used in both work and study. Now that you have a better idea of how reflective writing works the next two pages will guide you through some activities you can use to get started.

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Introduction to Reflection

Reflective writing is about your learning.

Reflective writing is a method of recording reflective thinking.

At university, you may need to write a reflective essay for an assessment. This video explains how to plan and write a reflective essay. 

Where you have been

Where you are now, related links, © 2021. this work is licensed under a cc by-nc-sa 4.0 license..

Apr 16, 2023

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?

A reflective essay (also called a critical reflection) involves a deep examination of one's assumptions, beliefs, and reactions to knowledge, events, or experiences. This type of writing encourages the author to introspect and articulate their personal insights on various subjects, influenced by literature, experiences, or lectures. Unlike traditional academic essays, reflective essays focus on the writer's individual perspective, employing a more subjective and expressive language without the necessity for scholarly sources. Essentially, while maintaining the core criteria of effective essay writing, a reflective essay distinguishes itself by centering on the writer's internal dialogue and personal growth.

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.

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Reflection Toolkit

Structure of academic reflections

Guidance on the structure of academic reflections.

Academic reflections or reflective writing completed for assessment often require a clear structure. Contrary to some people’s belief, reflection is not just a personal diary talking about your day and your feelings.

Both the language and the structure are important for academic reflective writing. For the structure you want to mirror an academic essay closely. You want an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion.

Academic reflection will require you to both describe the context, analyse it, and make conclusions. However, there is not one set of rules for the proportion of your reflection that should be spent describing the context, and what proportion should be spent on analysing and concluding. That being said, as learning tends to happen when analysing and synthesising rather than describing, a good rule of thumb is to describe just enough such that the reader understands your context.

Example structure for academic reflections

Below is an example of how you might structure an academic reflection if you were given no other guidance and what each section might contain.  Remember this is only a suggestion and you must consider what is appropriate for the task at hand and for you yourself.

Introduction

Identifies and introduces your experience or learning

  • This can be a critical incident
  • This can be the reflective prompt you were given
  • A particular learning you have gained

When structuring your academic reflections it might make sense to start with what you have learned and then use the main body to evidence that learning, using specific experiences and events. Alternatively, start with the event and build up your argument. This is a question of personal preference – if you aren’t given explicit guidance you can ask the assessor if they have a preference, however both can work.

Highlights why it was important

  • This can be suggesting why this event was important for the learning you gained
  • This can be why the learning you gained will benefit you or why you appreciate it in your context

You might find that it is not natural to highlight the importance of an event before you have developed your argument for what you gained from it. It can be okay not to explicitly state the importance in the introduction, but leave it to develop throughout your reflection.

Outline key themes that will appear in the reflection (optional – but particularly relevant when answering a reflective prompt or essay)

  • This can be an introduction to your argument, introducing the elements that you will explore, or that builds to the learning you have already gained.

This might not make sense if you are reflecting on a particular experience, but is extremely valuable if you are answering a reflective prompt or writing an essay that includes multiple learning points. A type of prompt or question that could particularly benefit from this would be ‘Reflect on how the skills and theory within this course have helped you meet the benchmark statements of your degree’

It can be helpful to explore one theme/learning per paragraph.

Explore experiences

  • You should highlight and explore the experience you introduced in the introduction
  • If you are building toward answering a reflective prompt, explore each relevant experience.

As reflection is centred around an individual’s personal experience, it is very important to make experiences a main component of reflection. This does not mean that the majority of the reflective piece should be on describing an event – in fact you should only describe enough such that the reader can follow your analysis.

Analyse and synthesise

  • You should analyse each of your experiences and from them synthesise new learning

Depending on the requirements of the assessment, you may need to use theoretical literature in your analysis. Theoretical literature is a part of perspective taking which is relevant for reflection, and will happen as a part of your analysis.  

Restate or state your learning

  • Make a conclusion based on your analysis and synthesis.
  • If you have many themes in your reflection, it can be helpful to restate them here.

Plan for the future

  • Highlight and discuss how your new-found learnings will influence your future practice

Answer the question or prompt (if applicable)

  • If you are answering an essay question or reflective prompt, make sure that your conclusion provides a succinct response using your main body as evidence.  

Using a reflective model to structure academic reflections

You might recognise that most reflective models mirror this structure; that is why a lot of the reflective models can be really useful to structure reflective assignments. Models are naturally structured to focus on a single experience – if the assignment requires you to focus on multiple experiences, it can be helpful to simply repeat each step of a model for each experience.

One difference between the structure of reflective writing and the structure of models is that sometimes you may choose to present your learning in the introduction of a piece of writing, whereas models (given that they support working through the reflective process) will have learning appearing at later stages.

However, generally structuring a piece of academic writing around a reflective model will ensure that it involves the correct components, reads coherently and logically, as well as having an appropriate structure.

Reflective journals/diaries/blogs and other pieces of assessed reflection

The example structure above works particularly well for formal assignments such as reflective essays and reports.  Reflective journal/blogs and other pieces of assessed reflections tend to be less formal both in language and structure, however you can easily adapt the structure for journals and other reflective assignments if you find that helpful.

That is, if you are asked to produce a reflective journal with multiple entries it will most often (always check with the person who issued the assignment) be a successful journal if each entry mirrors the structure above and the language highlighted in the section on academic language. However, often you can be less concerned with form when producing reflective journals/diaries.

When producing reflective journals, it is often okay to include your original reflection as long as you are comfortable with sharing the content with others, and that the information included is not too personal for an assessor to read.

Developed from:

Ryan, M., 2011. Improving reflective writing in higher education: a social semiotic perspective. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 99-111.

University of Portsmouth, Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (date unavailable). Reflective Writing: a basic introduction [online].  Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth.

Queen Margaret University, Effective Learning Service (date unavailable).  Reflection. [online].  Edinburgh: Queen Margaret University.

IMAGES

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  8. How to Write a Reflective Essay

    Set the scene by using the five W's (What, Where, When, Who and Why) to describe it. Choose the events or the experiences you're going to reflect on. Identify the issues of the event or experience you want to focus on. Use literature and documents to help you discuss these issues in a wider context.

  9. How to Write a Reflective Essay

    Evaluation and Analysis - Think about what went well and what could be improved upon based on your experience. Try to refer to ideas you've learned in class while thinking about this. Conclusions - Final thoughts on what you've learned from the experience. Action - How you will put what you've learned into practice.

  10. 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.

  11. Ultimate Guide To Writing A Reflective Essay

    4. Writing the Body. Write the body of your essay, which should include the personal reflection, description of the experience, analysis of the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action. Make sure to use specific examples and details to support your reflection. 5.

  12. A complete guide to writing a reflective essay

    Here's a recap of the contents of this article, which also serves as a way to create a mind map: 1. Identify the topic you will be writing on. 2. Note down any ideas that are related to the topic and if you want to, try drawing a diagram to link together any topics, theories, and ideas. 3.

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

    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.

  14. Academic Writing: The Reflective Essay

    A reflective essay is a paper in which you write about your own experiences, a bit like an academic diary entry! The idea is to help you think about something that happened in your life. Objects in your essay may be closer than they appear. For example, a student nurse might be asked to write a reflective essay on a work placement.

  15. How to Write a Reflective Essay

    In a reflective essay, you may use your conclusion to give closure to the experience you're writing about. Add any insights to explain your reasons for your impression. Finally, remember that a reflection is a way to write about the past from the perspective of the present. Make a clear connection from the past to the present.

  16. How to Write a Reflection Paper in 5 Steps (plus Template and Sample Essay)

    Use these 5 tips to write a thoughtful and insightful reflection paper. 1. Answer key questions. To write a reflection paper, you need to be able to observe your own thoughts and reactions to the material you've been given. A good way to start is by answering a series of key questions. For example:

  17. 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.

  18. Reflective writing

    You might be asked to write an essay where you respond to a piece of text or an image, relate a topic to your own experiences or discuss whether a certain model fits with your own views. Reflection can also be useful when constructing an academic argument as you will have to think about how all the evidence fits with your own understanding of a ...

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    At university, you may need to write a reflective essay for an assessment. This video explains how to plan and write a reflective essay. Where you have been. Learning Skills Hub. ... YouTube; TikTok; Course Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 928000. University Switchboard: +44 (0)1227 927700

  20. How to Write a Reflection Essay

    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.

  21. Structure of academic reflections

    Both the language and the structure are important for academic reflective writing. For the structure you want to mirror an academic essay closely. You want an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. Academic reflection will require you to both describe the context, analyse it, and make conclusions. However, there is not one set of rules ...

  22. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples)

    A reflective essay is a type of written work which reflects your own self. Since it's about yourself, you already have a topic to write about. For reflective essay examples, readers expect you to evaluate a specific part of your life. To do this, you may reflect on emotions, memories, and feelings you've experienced at that time.