How To Write Reflective Essay

While reflective essays may seem uncomplicated, they can be tricky to compose without proper guidance. Essentially, reflective essays are a critical analysis of personal experiences. Although they resemble other essays regarding clarity and organisation, they’re more personal, resembling a journal entry. This comprehensive guide delves into crafting a fantastic reflective essay, including tips on structure and writing. Furthermore, this comprehensive guide on reflective essays contains a sample essay that can inspire your writing. This makes it an ideal resource for anyone seeking help writing reflective essays.

The reflective essay is a writing genre involving an individual’s introspective examination of their experiences. Its primary aim is to reflect on past events and analyse the author’s transformation or growth resulting from those experiences. Reflective essays can be presented in various formats, but they typically take the form of learning logs or diary entries. Journal entries effectively showcase the author’s thought process and how it has evolved.

How a reflective essay is structured can differ based on who the writer intends to share it with. These essays can serve academic or non-academic purposes, such as writing for a magazine. While the presentation style may differ depending on the context, the fundamental aim is to prompt the writer to engage in critical, reflective thinking about their experiences, whether in a learning environment or another setting.

Below are some common reflective essay structures that you may be required to produce:

  • The reflective essay can be used by tutors to encourage personal growth and development in students by analysing their personal life experiences. This type of essay helps students better understand themselves and their behaviours.
  • Another type of reflective essay focuses on literature. In this case, students must summarise and apply the literature to their life experiences.

“What should be the subject of my writing?”

When selecting the material for a reflective essay, remember that it is a highly personal type of writing that aims to connect with the reader or target audience. The essay discusses sharing a story and reflecting on how the experience influenced your life and subsequent behaviours. To begin, consider significant experiences that positively, negatively, or combined impact you. Common topics for a reflective essay include:

  • A real-life experience.
  • A hypothetical experience.
  • A significant object or location.
  • An individual who influenced you.
  • Something you read or watched.

Suppose you are writing a reflective essay for an academic assignment. In that case, your instructor may ask you to focus on a specific event, such as a decision you had to make and the repercussions. Additionally, the aftermath of the experience is crucial in a reflective essay. If you omit it, your essay will only be a story.


To begin writing a reflective essay, engaging in the reflective process is crucial. This involves considering how the personal experience you want to write about has impacted or transformed you. By tapping into your memories and emotions associated with the experience, you can determine its implications.

After choosing a topic, studying it thoroughly and recalling it vividly is vital. You should write down everything you can remember, using adjectives to describe the experience and keeping in mind your five senses. At this stage, you can take short notes, but make sure to record your reactions, perceptions, and experiences.

Once you have gone through your notes, it’s time to begin the reflective process. A technique to do so is to utilise reflection questions that prompt you to explore further the consequences and lasting effects of your experience.

The following are some helpful questions that you may want to think about:

  • What did you discover about yourself from experience?
  • Have you grown or improved as a result of it? If so, how?
  • What were the positive and negative effects of this experience on your life?
  • What changes would you make if you could go through it again?
  • What led you to make your choices, and do you think they were the best ones?
  • What is your overall perspective on the experience? Did it provide you with any valuable lessons or learning experiences? What particular skills or perspectives did you gain from it?

These questions can help initiate your reflective process. Remember that asking yourself many questions is important to ensure that you examine your experiences in depth and with a critical eye, which is an essential skill in crafting an outstanding reflective essay.

To maintain a high level of analysis, use reflection models such as Gibbs or Kolb cycles before, during, and after the learning process. For instance, before starting, you can ask questions like: What could happen concerning the experience? Are there potential challenges to be aware of? What knowledge is required to prepare for the experience?

As you plan and write your essay, you may find questions such as: It suggests regularly asking oneself questions like “Am I making progress as expected?” and “Am I effectively overcoming any obstacles that arise?” By doing so, one can monitor their progress and identify areas for improvement to ensure successful learning. The article stresses the significance of reflecting on the lessons learned from the learning process and encourages readers to adopt a structured approach to keep track of their reflective practice.

The plan

A helpful suggestion to keep in mind is tostartg your reflective essayonly afterl you have created a well-structured and comprehensive plan. This will make your writing more coherent, enable you to express your ideas with clarity and structure, and improve your essay’s chances of achieving higher marks. This is particularly important for reflective essays as individuals mayneed to be more organisedd while recounting personal experiences, leading to a disjointed and unstructured essay. By developing a detailed outline or plan and adhering to it closely, you should be able to write a successful reflective essay.

The importance of planning cannot be overstated, and below are the main advantages of creating a thorough essay outline:

Firstly, an outline helps to establish the essential details to be included in the paper, which enables writers to identify and remove any unnecessary information to make the essay more focused and concise. The outline is compared to a roadmap that guides writers in planning the points to be covered, making it easier for readers to follow the writer’s line of thought. Additionally, the outline ensures that writers include all the necessary information and save time in writing by providing a clear structure for the essay. With more time saved, writers can focus on editing the paper and ensuring it meets high-quality standards.

After understanding the advantages of creating an outline for your reflective essay, learning how to create one is crucial. As the topics in reflective essays differ from typical essays, the outline structure may also differ. However, the essential components of an essay, such as the introduction, body, and conclusion, remain the same. In the following sections, we will discuss these components in more detail.


Your reflective essay, just like any other essay, requires an introduction that consists of a hook and a thesis statement. The primary purpose of the hook is to capture the reader’s attention from the very beginning. To make your reader interested, you need to emphasise the fascinating aspects of your story in the first paragraph. As you reflect on the opening quote of this article, consider whether it caught your attention and made you want to read further. The thesis statement should provide a concise summary of the essay’s focus, which, in this case, is a particular experience that had a significant impact on you. It is essential to provide a brief summary of your experience without divulging too much information, as it could cause the reader to lose interest.


The next step in writing your essay is planning its body, which can be challenging because it’s easy to repeat yourself or become unfocused. Just like telling a story to a friend, it’s important to keep things concise and to the point. To plan your essay body effectively, consider using a chronological approach, working through the events in the order they happened. It’s important to keep your reflective essay organised and easy to follow, but feel free to stick to a more relaxed structure. Ensure your essay’s body is well-focused and incorporates critical analysis and reflection. Your essay should summarise your experience and examine its influence on your life, as well as what you’ve learned from it. Rather than just summarising the events, the focus should be on reflection. This will offer valuable insights to your readers and demonstrate your character and adaptability in different situations.


When writing the conclusion of your reflective essay, it’s crucial to bring together all the points you’ve made throughout your piece and provide a summary of what you’ve learned. It’s essential to discuss how your attitudes and behaviors have changed and consider their impact on your character and skills. For example, you can reflect on how your problem-solving skills have improved or what you would do differently in similar situations in the future. Additionally, you should explain the steps you’ll take to solidify what you’ve learned. Keep in mind that your instructor expects a high level of reflection. With these guidelines, you have the necessary tools to develop a comprehensive plan to assist you in writing.

Writing Your Essay

Writing your reflective essay should be less intimidating if you have thoroughly planned it. To make the process smoother, follow these tips:

  • To comprehend the tone and format you should use, read other reflective essays. 
  • Don’t stress too much about how to start your essay; begin writing and editing later. 
  • Use a free-flow method to jot down your thoughts and emotions on your experiences, and adhere to your plan to stay focused. 
  • Use specific language to describe the impact of each experience. 
  • Write in the first-person narrative to make your essay personal and reflective of your character. 
  • Follow your outline as a guide and present your thoughts systematically. 
  • Begin your introduction with an anecdote or quote to capture your reader’s attention. 
  • Select your words carefully to convey your emotions and feelings. 
  • Be truthful with your sentiments and opinions, and evaluate and analyse them critically. 
  • Ask yourself questions to assist you in reflecting on your experience effectively and efficiently. 
  • Employ a variety of punctuation to keep your writing dynamic. 
  • Use imagery to paint a vivid picture of your experiences.
  • Highlight your “Aha!” moment and keep reiterating the lessons you’ve learned.

A further tip – using wider sources

More is needed to rely on personal experience in writing a reflective piece. It’s important also to incorporate other sources that can provide a theoretical perspective and support your analysis. Sources for your research can be obtained from a variety of places, including books, newspapers, surveys, and journal articles. The sources you choose to use will depend on your area of study. Incorporating a diverse range of sources will showcase that you have conducted extensive research on your subject, possess a sophisticated comprehension of the available literature, and have considered the broader implications of your discoveries. Utilising external sources also indicates an awareness of the intricate nature of learning and problem-solving. This approach will exhibit greater analysis and trustworthiness in your work.

Some final notes to remember

In summary, writing a reflective essay involves highlighting the lessons learned from personal experiences and explaining how and why they have shaped you. The process of reflective thinking starts with self-reflection, which involves examining previous knowledge or experiences related to the subject. It is crucial to scrutinise attitudes, assumptions, and values, and to be candid about your emotions. Reflective writing can have a therapeutic effect and enhance critical thinking abilities, as it promotes introspection in evaluating experiences and comprehending their meaning.

If you’re having difficulty commencing the writing process, employing a mind map can assist you in organising your concepts and points in a logical manner that is simple to comprehend. The mind map process involves identifying the topic, noting related ideas, drawing diagrams to connect them, allowing ideas to flow freely, considering how the ideas are connected, and then beginning the writing process. It’s essential to keep in mind that although there may be descriptive aspects in your work, it should be evaluative and analytical, taking a reflective stance towards your experience and the insights gained.

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