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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.

Reflection on Group Work
High School
Paper type:
Essay (Any Type)
1.96 MB
Reflection on Social Media Impact
Paper type:
Essay (Any Type)
2.61 MB

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. 

Find Academic Writing Challenging?

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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?”

Article posted on:Apr 26, 2022
Article updated on:Apr 7, 2024


Leave your comment here:
6/20/2022 7:54 AM
Hello! I really liked your article! Just wanted to add (maybe this will help someone Idk) that when writing your reflective essay you should demonstrate personal experience and be honest about your feelings. And it certainly won't hurt if you're as detailed and descriptive as possible.
6/22/2022 12:28 PM
Hey Brandon,
You're absolutely right! I'd also add that once you start writing a reflection essay, you should structure it properly first, and then start freewriting. And don't forget to proofread like crazy once you're finished. Smashing article btw :)
7/4/2022 5:26 PM
Hi, StudyCrumb! I'd like to ask what should the conclusion do in a reflective essay? Aside from just concluding. Is this part of a reflective essay different from other types of essays? If so, then how? Thank you in advance for your answer!
7/4/2022 6:29 PM
Hi Elena,

At your reflection essay conclusion, concentrate on bringing your paper together. This can be done by giving an overview of both issues raised throughout and what you've learned from them. Make sure to include a few reasons why and how your attitude and behavior have altered.
8/1/2022 11:24 AM
Hello! How do you write a reflective essay if you’ve never done it before? I don’t even think I’ve ever even heard about it before. So what can I do? What should I write about? Are there some tips for newbies? Help(
8/1/2022 11:52 AM
Hello Una,

First of all, once you get to write a reflection essay, it’ll feel perfectly easy for you. Secondly, remember that you should pick an idea for a topic. Do your research and answer the reflection questions and the questions you picked. And determine the significance of your experience in the end.
8/11/2022 10:10 AM
Hi! Reflecting on myself is easy, but how to write a reflective essay on a book? Is it different from a standard reflection essay? Or are they completely similar? Tell me the difference and list certain points I should pay attention to. Please advise something!
8/11/2022 10:18 AM
Hello Ann,

Writing a reflective essay on a book isn’t that different from a reflection on oneself. We advise you to begin with a brief introduction to the writer. Then, write a synopsis without spoilers focusing on the principal characters. Next, define the topics the writer addresses and discuss the references and influences. Lastly, respond to the reading and comment on your experiences.
8/22/2022 8:00 AM
Hi there! Can you please explain what are the parts of a typical reflective essay? This can be useful information if I’m randomly asked in class or if someone else needs to refresh their knowledge. Thank you in advance!
8/22/2022 8:06 AM
Hello Penny,

There are 3 parts of a reflection essay. It is a standard essay format that includes an introduction, main body paragraph, and ending paragraph. The size of your essay depends on you, as it can be a standard 5-paragraph piece or larger.
8/25/2022 8:32 AM
Hi! Commentator above said that writing a self reflection essay is easy, but I do not think so and I don’t see how. How to write a self reflection essay and make it good, anyway? Can anyone give me some advice?
8/25/2022 8:56 AM
Hi Wes,

Mostly a self reflective essay is about self-analyzing on paper. A good idea would be to create a general theme for your paper and brainstorm ideas and experiences you've had in relation to it. Then analyze everything and consider how and why all of it has affected the way you view your theme.