Writing Beginner

What Is Reflective Writing? (Explained W/ 20+ Examples)

I’ll admit, reflecting on my experiences used to seem pointless—now, I can’t imagine my routine without it.

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing is a personal exploration of experiences, analyzing thoughts, feelings, and learnings to gain insights. It involves critical thinking, deep analysis, and focuses on personal growth through structured reflection on past events.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about reflective writing — with lots of examples.

What Is Reflective Writing (Long Description)?

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Table of Contents

Reflective writing is a method used to examine and understand personal experiences more deeply.

This kind of writing goes beyond mere description of events or tasks.

Instead, it involves looking back on these experiences, analyzing them, and learning from them.

It’s a process that encourages you to think critically about your actions, decisions, emotions, and responses.

By reflecting on your experiences, you can identify areas for improvement, make connections between theory and practice, and enhance your personal and professional development. Reflective writing is introspective, but it should also be analytical and critical.

It’s not just about what happened.

It’s about why it happened, how it affected you, and what you can learn from it.

This type of writing is commonly used in education, professional development, and personal growth, offering a way for individuals to gain insights into their personal experiences and behaviors.

Types of Reflective Writing

Reflective writing can take many forms, each serving different purposes and providing various insights into the writer’s experiences.

Here are ten types of reflective writing, each with a unique focus and approach.

Journaling – The Daily Reflection

Journaling is a type of reflective writing that involves keeping a daily or regular record of experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

It’s a private space where you can freely express yourself and reflect on your day-to-day life.

Example: Today, I realized that the more I try to control outcomes, the less control I feel. Letting go isn’t about giving up; it’s about understanding that some things are beyond my grasp.

Example: Reflecting on the quiet moments of the morning, I realized how much I value stillness before the day begins. It’s a reminder to carve out space for peace in my routine.

Learning Logs – The Educational Tracker

Learning logs are used to reflect on educational experiences, track learning progress, and identify areas for improvement.

They often focus on specific learning objectives or outcomes.

Example: This week, I struggled with understanding the concept of reflective writing. However, after reviewing examples and actively engaging in the process, I’m beginning to see how it can deepen my learning.

Example: After studying the impact of historical events on modern society, I see the importance of understanding history to navigate the present. It’s a lesson in the power of context.

Critical Incident Journals – The Turning Point

Critical incident journals focus on a significant event or “critical incident” that had a profound impact on the writer’s understanding or perspective.

These incidents are analyzed in depth to extract learning and insights.

Example: Encountering a homeless person on my way home forced me to confront my biases and assumptions about homelessness. It was a moment of realization that has since altered my perspective on social issues.

Example: Missing a crucial deadline taught me about the consequences of procrastination and the value of time management. It was a wake-up call to prioritize and organize better.

Project Diaries – The Project Chronicle

Project diaries are reflective writings that document the progress, challenges, and learnings of a project over time.

They provide insights into decision-making processes and project management strategies.

Example: Launching the community garden project was more challenging than anticipated. It taught me the importance of community engagement and the value of patience and persistence.

Example: Overcoming unexpected technical issues during our project showed me the importance of adaptability and teamwork. Every obstacle became a stepping stone to innovation.

Portfolios – The Comprehensive Showcase

Portfolios are collections of work that also include reflective commentary.

They showcase the writer’s achievements and learning over time, reflecting on both successes and areas for development.

Example: Reviewing my portfolio, I’m proud of how much I’ve grown as a designer. Each project reflects a step in my journey, highlighting my evolving style and approach.

Example: As I added my latest project to my portfolio, I reflected on the journey of my skills evolving. Each piece is a chapter in my story of growth and learning.

Peer Reviews – The Collaborative Insight

Peer reviews involve writing reflectively about the work of others, offering constructive feedback while also considering one’s own learning and development.

Example: Reviewing Maria’s project, I admired her innovative approach, which inspired me to think more creatively about my own work. It’s a reminder of the value of diverse perspectives.

Example: Seeing the innovative approach my peer took on a similar project inspired me to rethink my own methods. It’s a testament to the power of sharing knowledge and perspectives.

Personal Development Plans – The Future Blueprint

Personal development plans are reflective writings that outline goals, strategies, and actions for personal or professional growth.

They include reflections on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Example: My goal to become a more effective communicator will require me to step out of my comfort zone and seek opportunities to speak publicly. It’s daunting but necessary for my growth.

Example: Identifying my fear of public speaking in my plan pushed me to take a course on it. Acknowledging weaknesses is the first step to turning them into strengths.

Reflective Essays – The Structured Analysis

Reflective essays are more formal pieces of writing that analyze personal experiences in depth.

They require a structured approach to reflection, often including theories or models to frame the reflection.

Example: Reflecting on my leadership role during the group project, I applied Tuckman’s stages of group development to understand the dynamics at play. It helped me appreciate the natural progression of team development.

Example: In my essay, reflecting on a failed project helped me understand the role of resilience in success. Failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s part of its process.

Reflective Letters – The Personal Correspondence

Reflective letters involve writing to someone (real or imagined) about personal experiences and learnings.

It’s a way to articulate thoughts and feelings in a structured yet personal format.

Example: Dear Future Self, Today, I learned the importance of resilience. Faced with failure, I found the strength to persevere a nd try again. This lesson, I hope, will stay with me as I navigate the challenges ahead.

Example: Writing a letter to my past self, I shared insights on overcoming challenges with patience and persistence. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come and the hurdles I’ve overcome.

Blogs – The Public Journal

Blogs are a form of reflective writing that allows writers to share their experiences, insights, and learnings with a wider audience.

They often combine personal narrative with broader observations about life, work, or society.

Example: In my latest blog post, I explored the journey of embracing vulnerability. Sharing my own experiences of failure and doubt not only helped me process these feelings but also connected me with readers going through similar struggles. It’s a powerful reminder of the strength found in sharing our stories.

Example: In a blog post about starting a new career path, I shared the fears and excitement of stepping into the unknown. It’s a journey of self-discovery and embracing new challenges.

What Are the Key Features of Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing is characterized by several key features that distinguish it from other types of writing.

These features include personal insight, critical analysis, descriptive narrative, and a focus on personal growth.

  • Personal Insight: Reflective writing is deeply personal, focusing on the writer’s internal thoughts, feelings, and reactions. It requires introspection and a willingness to explore one’s own experiences in depth.
  • Critical Analysis: Beyond simply describing events, reflective writing involves analyzing these experiences. This means looking at the why and how, not just the what. It involves questioning, evaluating, and interpreting your experiences in relation to yourself, others, and the world.
  • Descriptive Narrative: While reflective writing is analytical, it also includes descriptive elements. Vivid descriptions of experiences, thoughts, and feelings help to convey the depth of the reflection.
  • Focus on Growth: A central aim of reflective writing is to foster personal or professional growth. It involves identifying lessons learned, recognizing patterns, and considering how to apply insights gained to future situations.

These features combine to make reflective writing a powerful tool for learning and development.

It’s a practice that encourages writers to engage deeply with their experiences, challenge their assumptions, and grow from their reflections.

What Is the Structure of Reflective Writing?

The structure of reflective writing can vary depending on the context and purpose, but it typically follows a general pattern that facilitates deep reflection.

A common structure includes an introduction, a body that outlines the experience and the reflection on it, and a conclusion.

  • Introduction: The introduction sets the stage for the reflective piece. It briefly introduces the topic or experience being reflected upon and may include a thesis statement that outlines the main insight or theme of the reflection.
  • Body: The body is where the bulk of the reflection takes place. It often follows a chronological order, detailing the experience before moving into the reflection. This section should explore the writer’s thoughts, feelings, reactions, and insights related to the experience. It’s also where critical analysis comes into play, examining causes, effects, and underlying principles.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion wraps up the reflection, summarizing the key insights gained and considering how these learnings might apply to future situations. It’s an opportunity to reflect on personal growth and the broader implications of the experience.

This structure is flexible and can be adapted to suit different types of reflective writing.

However, the focus should always be on creating a coherent narrative that allows for deep personal insight and learning.

How Do You Start Reflective Writing?

Starting reflective writing can be challenging, as it requires diving into personal experiences and emotions.

Here are some tips to help initiate the reflective writing process:

  • Choose a Focus: Start by selecting an experience or topic to reflect upon. It could be a specific event, a general period in your life, a project you worked on, or even a book that made a significant impact on you.
  • Reflect on Your Feelings: Think about how the experience made you feel at the time and how you feel about it now. Understanding your emotional response is a crucial part of reflective writing.
  • Ask Yourself Questions: Begin by asking yourself questions related to the experience. What did you learn from it? How did it challenge your assumptions? How has it influenced your thinking or behavior?
  • Write a Strong Opening: Your first few sentences should grab the reader’s attention and clearly indicate what you will be reflecting on. You can start with a striking fact, a question, a quote, or a vivid description of a moment from the experience.
  • Keep It Personal: Remember that reflective writing is personal. Use “I” statements to express your thoughts, feelings, and insights. This helps to maintain the focus on your personal experience and learning journey.

Here is a video about reflective writing that I think you’ll like:

Reflective Writing Toolkit

Finding the right tools and resources has been key to deepening my reflections and enhancing my self-awareness.

Here’s a curated toolkit that has empowered my own reflective practice:

  • Journaling Apps: Apps like Day One or Reflectly provide structured formats for daily reflections, helping to capture thoughts and feelings on the go.
  • Digital Notebooks: Tools like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote allow for organized, searchable reflections that can include text, images, and links.
  • Writing Prompts: Websites like WritingPrompts.com offer endless ideas to spark reflective writing, making it easier to start when you’re feeling stuck.
  • Mind Mapping Software: Platforms like MindMeister help organize thoughts visually, which can be especially helpful for reflective planning or brainstorming.
  • Blogging Platforms: Sites like WordPress or Medium offer a space to share reflective writings publicly, fostering community and feedback. You’ll need a hosting platform. I recommend Bluehost or Hostarmada for beginners.
  • Guided Meditation Apps: Apps such as Headspace or Calm can support reflective writing by clearing the mind and fostering a reflective state before writing.
  • Audio Recording Apps: Tools like Otter.ai not only allow for verbal reflection but also transcribe conversations, which can then be reflected upon in writing.
  • Time Management Apps: Resources like Forest or Pomodoro Technique apps help set dedicated time for reflection, making it a regular part of your routine.
  • Creative Writing Software: Platforms like Scrivener cater to more in-depth reflective projects, providing extensive organizing and formatting options.
  • Research Databases: Access to journals and articles through databases like Google Scholar can enrich reflective writing with theoretical frameworks and insights.

Reflective Essay Examples and Samples

Reflecting on a chosen topic requires deep insight, making reflective essays difficult to write. Read our samples of reflective essays to gain a greater understanding of how to write one on your own.

Introduction to Reflective Essay: An Exploration of Self

A reflective essay is a type of personal writing that allows you to explore and document your thoughts, feelings, and insights about a particular subject or experience. Unlike other forms of academic writing, a reflective essay is more subjective and focuses more on your personal perspectives and interpretations. Writing a reflective essay can be a powerful way to articulate your growth and discoveries, making it an essential tool for creative and personal writing.

The Importance of Personal Experiences in Reflective Writing

Reflective writing revolves around personal experiences. It’s through such experiences that we learn, grow, and evolve. As such, personal experience plays a crucial role in reflective essays. A well-written reflective essay should vividly describe the experience, delve into the feelings it evoked, and critically analyze the impact it had on you. Reflective essays are not just a recounting of events, but a deep exploration of how those events influenced your outlook on life, reshaped your beliefs, or contributed to your personal growth.

Creative Expression: The Heart of a Reflective Essay

Creative writing goes hand in hand with reflective essays. The very nature of reflective essays – introspective, personal, and subjective – calls for creative expression. The creative door is wide open when writing a reflective essay, allowing you to experiment with different writing styles, narrative structures, and descriptive techniques. The goal here is to create an engaging and compelling narrative that captures your personal insights and emotional journey in the most authentic way possible.

Examining Growth Through Reflective Essays: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Reflective essays often serve as a mirror, reflecting your journey of growth. Whether it’s overcoming a personal challenge, learning a new skill, or undergoing a transformative life experience, these growth narratives form the backbone of reflective essays. When writing a reflective essay, it’s essential to not only describe the event or experience but also to delve into how it contributed to your growth as a person. How did it change you? What did you learn about yourself? How have you evolved as a result? Answering these questions can lead to profound insights and self-discovery.

Using Books and Literature as a Catalyst for Reflection

Books and literature often serve as a catalyst for reflection. A classic novel, a thought-provoking non-fiction book, or a compelling piece of poetry can provoke deep reflection and become the subject of a reflective essay. Whether it’s a book that changed your perspective, a character you deeply resonated with, or a theme that made you rethink your beliefs, reflective essays about literature can be a powerful way to explore your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the written word.

Emotional Intelligence: Exploring Your Emotions in a Reflective Essay

Exploring your emotions forms an essential part of the reflective writing process. In fact, reflecting on our feelings and emotions is an exercise in emotional intelligence. A reflective essay offers a safe space to navigate complex emotions, understand emotional responses, and articulate emotional growth. Whether reflecting on a life-changing event or exploring your reactions to a particular book, it’s crucial to delve into your emotional journey. By understanding your feelings, you can gain deeper insights into your emotional patterns, personal triggers, and coping mechanisms.

  • Understanding Emotional Responses: When writing a reflective essay, it’s crucial to delve deep into the emotions experienced during a particular event or circumstance. This could range from joy and excitement to confusion, disappointment, or even grief.
  • Navigating Complex Emotions: Sometimes, experiences can elicit complex emotions that are hard to navigate. Reflective writing offers a safe space to untangle these emotions and gain a clearer understanding of your emotional state.
  • Articulating Emotional Growth: A reflective essay allows you to document your emotional growth. Overcoming a difficult situation, managing negative emotions, or discovering a new perspective all signify emotional growth that can be articulated through reflective writing.
  • Identifying Emotional Patterns: By consistently writing reflective essays, you can identify patterns in your emotional responses. This can help you better understand your reactions to similar situations in the future.
  • Recognizing Personal Triggers: Reflective writing can help you identify personal triggers that prompt specific emotional responses. This awareness can equip you to manage these triggers more effectively.
  • Developing Coping Mechanisms: Understanding your emotions through reflective writing can lead to the development of effective coping mechanisms. Whether it’s mindfulness, meditation, or simply taking a walk, recognizing what helps you manage your emotions is a significant step towards emotional intelligence.

Reflecting on College Class Experiences

College classes offer rich experiences that can provide plenty of material for a reflective essay. Perhaps it’s a creative writing class that opened up a new world of expression for you, or a challenging science class that pushed you to your limits. Reflecting on these experiences can help you understand your academic journey, recognize your learning style, and appreciate the knowledge you’ve gained. Discuss the skills you’ve acquired, the challenges you’ve faced, the friendships you’ve made, and how these experiences have contributed to your growth and development.

Time Management Reflections: Overcoming Procrastination

Reflecting on time management can lead to valuable insights about your work habits and productivity. Have you struggled with procrastination? Have you discovered effective time management skills? A reflective essay on this topic can discuss your past struggles, the strategies you’ve employed to overcome them, and the progress you’ve made. By examining your relationship with time, you can uncover patterns, identify areas for improvement, and devise strategies to enhance your productivity.

Reflective Essay Examples: Lessons and Insights

One of the best ways to understand reflective essays is by reading and analyzing examples. These examples can serve as a guide, offering insights into the structure, tone, and style of reflective writing. Whether it’s an essay reflecting on personal growth, a transformative travel experience, or a powerful book that left an impression, reflective essay examples can provide inspiration for your own writing. Using a paraphraser can also help you rephrase and improve your writing, ensuring your reflections are expressed clearly and effectively.

In conclusion, reflective essays are a powerful form of personal and creative writing. They allow you to explore your experiences, emotions, and growth in a deeply personal way. Through reflective writing, you can gain valuable insights about yourself and your journey, making it a rewarding and transformative process.

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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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Reflective practice toolkit, introduction.

  • What is reflective practice?
  • Everyday reflection
  • Models of reflection
  • Barriers to reflection
  • Free writing
  • Reflective writing exercise
  • Bibliography

examples of reflective writing essays

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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Reflective essays

Reflective essays are academic essays; what makes an essay "good" will work for a reflective essay. What is different about a reflective essay is that the essay is about you and your thinking. However, you will need evidence from your course to back up your reflections.

You should structure a reflective essay as an essay, that is write to persuade your reader of your key reflections (or argument). The diagram above, details how to stucture your reflections through the essay. To find out more see the section on essay writing .

Business example

The following example comes from business. Thanks to Dr Colleen Hayes for the three samples.

Students were asked to write a reflective essay on their learning in the course by responding to the following question:

What key thing have you learned about corporate social responsibility in the course?

Example 1: Retelling

This writing is (1) descriptive/listing of content, not reflective and (2) not properly referenced (the definition of stakeholders is directly copied from Freeman in the lecture slides.

Example 2: Relating

This writing involves relating to personal experience and has some integration of course concepts (stakeholders).

Example 3: Reflecting

More reflective (forward-looking), better citation and integration of multiple course concepts, and reflection that links with personal experience.

An anthropology marking rubric

For this assessment, students were required to write a 1500-1800 word essay building on the themes of the course to address the question "We are all pirates". Attached under reference documents is the rubric used to mark the essay (thanks to Dr Caroline Schuster). Notice that it requires both the reflection (reflect, relate and retell) as well as the poor traditional requirements of an essay (Writing and organisation, Supporting claims with scholarly sources).

Reflective writing

Learning journals

Reference Documents

  • Sample rubric from Anthropology (PDF, 243.24 KB)

Use contact details to request an alternative file format.

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Reflective writing: Reflective essays

  • What is reflection? Why do it?
  • What does reflection involve?
  • Reflective questioning
  • Reflective writing for academic assessment
  • Types of reflective assignments
  • Differences between discursive and reflective writing
  • Sources of evidence for reflective writing assignments
  • Linking theory to experience
  • Reflective essays
  • Portfolios and learning journals, logs and diaries
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On this page:

“Try making the conscious effort to reflect on the link between your experience and the theory, policies or studies you are reading” Williams et al., Reflective Writing

Writing a reflective essay

When you are asked to write a reflective essay, you should closely examine both the question and the marking criteria. This will help you to understand what you are being asked to do. Once you have examined the question you should start to plan and develop your essay by considering the following:

  • What experience(s) and/or event(s) are you going to reflect on?
  • How can you present these experience(s) to ensure anonymity (particularly important for anyone in medical professions)?
  • How can you present the experience(s) with enough context for readers to understand?
  • What learning can you identify from the experience(s)?
  • What theories, models, strategies and academic literature can be used in your reflection?
  • How this experience will inform your future practice

When structuring your reflection, you can present it in chronological order (start to finish) or in reverse order (finish to start). In some cases, it may be more appropriate for you to structure it around a series of flashbacks or themes, relating to relevant parts of the experience.

...

Example Essay Structure

This is an example structure for a reflective essay focusing on a single experience or event:

examples of reflective writing essays

When you are writing a reflective assessment, it is important you keep your description to a minimum. This is because the description is not actually reflection and it often counts for only a small number of marks. This is not to suggest the description is not important. You must provide enough description and background for your readers to understand the context.

You need to ensure you discuss your feelings, reflections, responses, reactions, conclusions, and future learning. You should also look at positives and negatives across each aspect of your reflection and ensure you summarise any learning points for the future.

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Examples of Reflective Writing

Types of reflective writing assignments.

A journal  requires you to write weekly entries throughout a semester. May require you to base your reflection on course content.

A learning diary is similar to a journal, but may require group participation. The diary then becomes a place for you to communicate in writing with other group members.

A logbook is often used in disciplines based on experimental work, such as science. You note down or 'log' what you have done. A log gives you an accurate record of a process and helps you reflect on past actions and make better decisions for future actions.

A reflective note is often used in law. A reflective note encourages you to think about your personal reaction to a legal issue raised in a course.

An essay diary  can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) and a critique (where you reflect on your own writing and research processes).

a peer review  usually involves students showing their work to their peers for feedback.

A self-assessment task  requires you to comment on your own work.

Some examples of reflective writing

Social science fieldwork report (methods section), engineering design report, learning journal (weekly reflection).

Brookfield, S 1987, Developing critical thinkers: challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting , Open University Press, Milton Keynes.

Mezirow, J 1990, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood: a guide to transformative and emancipatory learning , Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Schön, DA 1987, Educating the reflective practitioner , Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.

We thank the students who permitted us to feature examples of their writing.

Prepared by Academic Skills, UNSW. This guide may be distributed or adapted for educational purposes. Full and proper acknowledgement is required. 

Essay and assignment writing guide

  • Essay writing basics
  • Essay and assignment planning
  • Answering assignment questions
  • Editing checklist
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  • Annotated bibliography
  • How do I write reflectively?
  • Examples of reflective writing
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Writing reflectively is essential to many academic programmes and also to completing applications for employment. This page considers what reflective writing is and how to do it. 

What is reflection?

Reflection is something that we do everyday as part of being human. We plan and undertake actions, then think about whether each was successful or not, and how we might improve next time. We can also feel reflection as emotions, such as satisfaction and regret, or as a need to talk over happenings with friends. See below for an introduction to reflection as a concept. 

Reflection in everyday life [Google Slides]

Google Doc

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing should be thought of as recording reflective thinking. This can be done in an everyday diary entry, or instruction in a recipe book to change a cooking method next time. In academic courses, reflective is more complex and focussed. This section considers the main features of reflective writing. 

Reflective writing for employability

When applying for jobs, or further academic study, students are required to think through what they have done in their degrees and translate it into evaluative writing that fulfils the criteria of job descriptions and person specifications. This is a different style of writing, the resource below will enable you to think about how to begin this transition. 

There are also lots of resources available through the university's careers service and elsewhere on the Skills Guides. The links below are to pages that can offer further support and guidance. 

examples of reflective writing essays

  • Careers and Placements Service resources Lots of resources that relate to all aspects of job applications, including tailored writing styles and techniques.

The language of reflective writing

Reflective academic writing is: 

  • almost always written in the first person.
  • evaluative - you are judging something.
  • partly personal, partly based on criteria.
  • analytical - you are usually categorising actions and events.
  • formal - it is for an academic audience.
  • carefully constructed. 

Look at the sections below to see specific vocabulary types and sentence constructions that can be useful when writing reflectively. 

Language for exploring outcomes

A key element of writing reflectively is being able to explain to the reader what the results of your actions were. This requires careful grading of language to ensure that what you write reflects the evidence of what happened and to convey clearly what you achieved or did not achieve. 

Below are some ideas and prompts of how you can write reflectively about outcomes, using clarity and graded language. 

Expressing uncertainty when writing about outcomes:

  • It is not yet clear that…
  • I do not yet (fully) understand...
  • It is unclear...
  • It is not yet fully clear...
  • It is not yet (fully?) known… 
  • It appears to be the case that…
  • It is too soon to tell....

Often, in academic learning, the uncertainty in the outcomes is a key part of the learning and development that you undertake. It is vital therefore that you explain this clearly to the reader using careful choices in your language. 

Writing about how the outcome relates to you:

  • I gained (xxxx) skills… 
  • I developed… 
  • The experience/task/process taught me… 
  • I achieved…
  • I learned that…
  • I found that… 

In each case you can add in words like, ‘significantly’, ‘greatly’, ‘less importantly’ etc. The use of evaluative adjectives enables you to express to the reader the importance and significance of your learning in terms of the outcomes achieved. 

Describing how you reached your outcomes:

  • Having read....
  • Having completed (xxxx)...
  • I analysed…
  • I applied… 
  • I learned…
  • I experienced… 
  • Having reflected…

This gives the reader an idea of the nature of the reflection they are reading. How and why you reach the conclusions and learning that you express in your reflective writing is important so the reader can assess the validity and strength of your reflections. 

Projecting your outcomes into the future:

  • If I completed a similar task in the future I would…
  • Having learned through this process I would… 
  • Next time I will…
  • I will need to develop…. (in light of the outcomes)
  • Next time my responses would be different....

When showing the reader how you will use your learning in the future, it is important to be specific and again, to use accurate graded language to show how and why what you choose to highlight matters. Check carefully against task instructions to see what you are expected to reflect into the future about. 

When reflecting in academic writing on outcomes, this can mean either the results of the task you have completed, for example, the accuracy of a titration in a Chemistry lab session, or what you have learned/developed within the task, for example, ensuring that an interview question is written clearly enough to produce a response that reflects what you wished to find out. 

Language choices are important in ensuring the reader can see what you think in relation to the reflection you have done. 

Language for interpretation

When you interpret something you are telling the reader how important it is, or what meaning is attached to it. 

You may wish to indicate the value of something:

  • superfluous
  • non-essential

E.g. 'the accuracy of the transcription was essential to the accuracy of the eventual coding and analysis of the interviews undertaken. The training I undertook was critical to enabling me to transcribe quickly and accurately' 

You may wish to show how ideas, actions or some other aspect developed over time:

  • Initially 
  • subsequently
  • in sequence 

E.g. 'Before we could produce the final version of the presentation, we had to complete both the research and produce a plan. This was achieved later than expected, leading to subsequent rushing of creating slides, and this contributed to a lower grade'. 

You may wish to show your viewpoint or that of others:

  • did not think
  • articulated
  • did/did not do something

Each of these could be preceded by 'we' or 'I'.

E.g. 'I noticed that the model of the bridge was sagging. I expressed this to the group, and as I did so I noticed that two members did not seem to grasp how serious the problem was. I proposed a break and a meeting, during which I intervened to show the results of inaction.'

There is a huge range of language that can be used for interpretation, the most important thing is to remember your reader and be clear with them about what your interpretation is, so they can see your thinking and agree or disagree with you. 

Language for analysis

When reflecting, it is important to show the reader that you have analysed the tasks, outcomes, learning and all other aspects that you are writing about. In most cases, you are using categories to provide structure to your reflection. Some suggestions of language to use when analysing in reflective writing are below:

Signposting that you are breaking down a task or learning into categories:

  • An aspect of…
  • An element of…
  • An example of…
  • A key feature of the task was... (e.g. teamwork)
  • The task was multifaceted… (then go on to list or describe the facets)
  • There were several experiences…
  • ‘X’ is related to ‘y’

There may be specific categories that you should consider in your reflection. In teamwork, it could be individual and team performance, in lab work it could be accuracy and the reliability of results. It is important that the reader can see the categories you have used for your analysis. 

Analysis by chronology:

  • Subsequently
  • Consequently
  • Stage 1 (or other)

In many tasks the order in which they were completed matters. This can be a key part of your reflection, as it is possible that you may learn to do things in a different order next time or that the chronology influenced the outcomes. 

Analysis by perspective:

  • I considered

These language choices show that you are analysing purely by your own personal perspective. You may provide evidence to support your thinking, but it is your viewpoint that matters. 

  • What I expected from the reading did not happen…
  • The Theory did not appear in our results…
  • The predictions made were not fulfilled…
  • The outcome was surprising because… (and link to what was expected)

These language choices show that you are analysing by making reference to academic learning (from an academic perspective). This means you have read or otherwise learned something and used it to form expectations, ideas and/or predictions. You can then reflect on what you found vs what you expected. The reader needs to know what has informed our reflections. 

  • Organisation X should therefore…
  • A key recommendation is… 
  • I now know that organisation x is… 
  • Theory A can be applied to organisation X

These language choices show that analysis is being completed from a systems perspective. You are telling the reader how your learning links into the bigger picture of systems, for example, what an organisation or entity might do in response to what you have learned. 

Analysing is a key element of being reflective. You must think through the task, ideas, or learning you are reflecting on and use categories to provide structure to your thought. This then translates into structure and language choices in your writing, so your reader can see clearly how you have used analysis to provide sense and structure to your reflections. 

Language for evaluation

Reflecting is fundamentally an evaluative activity. Writing about reflection is therefore replete with evaluative language. A skillful reflective writer is able to grade their language to match the thinking it is expressing to the reader. 

Language to show how significant something is:

  • Most importantly
  • Significantly 
  • The principal lesson was… 
  • Consequential
  • Fundamental
  • Insignificant
  • In each case the language is quantifying the significance of the element you are describing, telling the reader the product of your evaluative thought. 

For example, ‘when team working I initially thought that we would succeed by setting out a plan and then working independently, but in fact, constant communication and collaboration were crucial to success. This was the most significant thing I learned.’ 

Language to show the strength of relationships:

  • X is strongly associated with Y
  • A is a consequence of B
  • There is a probable relationship between… 
  • C does not cause D
  • A may influence B
  • I learn most strongly when doing A

In each case the language used can show how significant and strong the relationship between two factors are. 

For example, ‘I learned, as part of my research methods module, that the accuracy of the data gained through surveys is directly related to the quality of the questions. Quality can be improved by reading widely and looking at surveys in existing academic papers to inform making your own questions’

Language to evaluate your viewpoint:

  • I was convinced...
  • I have developed significantly…
  • I learned that...
  • The most significant thing that I learned was…
  • Next time, I would definitely…
  • I am unclear about… 
  • I was uncertain about… 

These language choices show that you are attaching a level of significance to your reflection. This enables the reader to see what you think about the learning you achieved and the level of significance you attach to each reflection. 

For example, ‘when using systematic sampling of a mixed woodland, I was convinced that method A would be most effective, but in reality, it was clear that method B produced the most accurate results. I learned that assumptions based on reading previous research can lead to inaccurate predictions. This is very important for me as I will be planning a similar sampling activity as part of my fourth year project’ 

Evaluating is the main element of reflecting. You need to evaluate the outcomes of the activities you have done, your part in them, the learning you achieved and the process/methods you used in your learning, among many other things. It is important that you carefully use language to show the evaluative thinking you have completed to the reader.

Varieties of reflective writing in academic studies

There are a huge variety of reflective writing tasks, which differ between programmes and modules. Some are required by the nature of the subject, like in Education, where reflection is a required standard in teaching.

Some are required by the industry area graduates are training for, such as 'Human Resources Management', where the industry accreditation body require evidence of reflective capabilities in graduates.

In some cases, reflection is about the 'learning to learn' element of degree studies, to help you to become a more effective learner. Below, some of the main reflective writing tasks found in University of York degrees are explored. In each case the advice, guidance and materials do not substitute for those provided within your modules. 

Reflective essay writing

Reflective essay tasks vary greatly in what they require of you. The most important thing to do is to read the assessment brief carefully, attend any sessions and read any materials provided as guidance and to allocate time to ensure you can do the task well.

Google Slides

Reflective learning statements

Reflective learning statements are often attached to dissertations and projects, as well as practical activities. They are an opportunity to think about and tell the reader what you have learned, how you will use the learning, what you can do better next time and to link to other areas, such as your intended career. 

Making a judgement about academic performance

Think of this type of writing as producing your own feedback. How did you do? Why? What could you improve next time? These activities may be a part of modules, they could be attached to a bigger piece of work like a dissertation or essay, or could be just a part of your module learning. 

The four main questions to ask yourself when reflecting on your academic performance. 

  • Why exactly did you achieve the grade you have been awarded? Look at your feedback, the instructions, the marking scheme and talk to your tutors to find out if you don't know. 
  • How did your learning behaviours affect your academic performance? This covers aspects such as attendance, reading for lectures/seminars, asking questions, working with peers... the list goes on. 
  • How did your performance compare to others? Can you identify when others did better or worse? Can you talk to your peers to find out if they are doing something you are not or being more/less effective?
  • What can you do differently to improve your performance? In each case, how will you ensure you can do it? Do you need training? Do you need a guide book or resources? 

When writing about each of the above, you need to keep in mind the context of how you are being asked to judge your performance and ensure the reader gains the detail they need (and as this is usually a marker, this means they can give you a high grade!). 

Writing a learning diary/blog/record

A learning diary or blog has become a very common method of assessing and supporting learning in many degree programmes. The aim is to help you to think through your day-to-day learning and identify what you have and have not learned, why that is and what you can improve as you go along. You are also encouraged to link your learning to bigger thinking, like future careers or your overall degree. 

Other support for reflective writing

Online resources.

The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of writing, including reflective writing. Also check your department's guidance and VLE sites for tailored resources.

Other useful resources for reflective writing:

examples of reflective writing essays

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Reflection Toolkit

Reflective essays

Guidance and information on using reflective essays.

The reflective essay is one of the most common reflective assignments and is very frequently used for both formative and especially summative assessments. Reflective essays are about presenting reflections to an audience in a systematic and formal way.

Generally, all good academic practice for assignments applies when posing reflective essays.

Typical reflective essay questions

Reflective essays tend to deal with a reflective prompt that the essay needs to address. This also often means that the essay will have to draw on a range of experiences and theories to fully and satisfactorily answer the question.

The questions/prompts should not be too vague, for example ‘reflect on your learning’, but should define an area or an aspect relevant to your learning outcomes. This is most easily ensured with thorough guidelines, highlighting elements expected in the essay.

Questions could be something like (not exhaustive):

  • reflect on learning in the course with regards to [choose an aspect]
  • reflect on personal development across an experience with regards to certain skills
  • reflect on development towards subject benchmarks statements and the extent to which these are achieved
  • reflect on the progression towards the course’s defined learning outcomes or the school’s or the University’s Graduate Attributes
  • reflect on some theory relevant to the course. (Remember that for this to be a reflective essay and not an academic/critical essay, the student must use that theory to explain/inform their own experiences, and use their own experiences to criticise and put the theory into context – that is, how theory and experience inform one another.)

Typical structure and language

Reflective essays will often require theoretical literature, but this is not always essential.  Reflective essays can be built around a single individual experience, but will often draw on a series of individual experiences – or one long experience, for example an internship, that is broken into individual experiences.

The typical language and structure is formal – for thorough descriptions on this, see ‘Academic reflections: tips, language and structure’ in the Reflectors’ Toolkit, which can be valuable to highlight to students.

Academic reflections: tips, language and structure (within the Reflectors’ Toolkit)

Length and assignment weight if assessed

There is no one length that a reflective essay must take. As with all written assignments, the main consideration is that the length is appropriate for evidencing learning, answering the question and meeting the criteria.

Similarly, there is no clear answer for what percentage of the overall mark is attached to the assignment. However, the choice should mirror the required workload for the reflector to complete it, how that fits into your initiative, and the amount of preparation the reflector has had.

For instance, if the student has received formative feedback on multiple pieces of work, a larger proportion of the course mark may be appropriate, compared to if the student had not had a chance to practice. It is important to keep in mind that many students will not have had many chances to practice reflective essays before university.

Back to ‘Components of reflective tasks’

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Reflective Essay: Introduction, Structure, Topics, Examples For University

Table of Contents

If you’re not quite sure how to go about writing reflective essays, they can be a real stumbling block. Reflective essays are essentially a critical examination of a life experience, and with the right guidance, they don’t have to be too difficult to write. As with other essays, a reflective essay needs to be well structured and easily understood, but its content is more like a diary entry.

This guide discusses how to write a successful reflective essay, including what makes a great structure and some tips on the writing process. To make this guide the ultimate guide for anyone who needs help with reflective essays, we’ve included an example reflective essay as well.

Reflective Essay

Reflective essays require students to examine their life experiences, especially those which left an impact.

Reflective Essay

The purpose of writing a reflective essay is to challenge students to think deeply and to learn from their experiences. This is done by describing their thoughts and feelings regarding a certain experience and analyzing its impact.

Reflective essays are a unique form of academic writing that encourages introspection and self-analysis. They provide an opportunity for individuals to reflect upon their experiences, thoughts, and emotions, and effectively communicate their insights. In this article, we will explore the essential components of a reflective essay, discuss popular topics, provide guidance on how to start and structure the essay, and offer examples to inspire your writing.

I. Understanding Reflective Essays:

  • Definition and purpose of reflective essays
  • Key characteristics that distinguish them from other types of essays
  • Benefits of writing reflective essays for personal growth and development

II. Choosing a Reflective Essay Topic:

  • Exploring personal experiences and their impact
  • Analyzing significant life events or milestones
  • Examining challenges, successes, or failures and lessons learned
  • Reflecting on personal growth and transformation
  • Discussing the impact of specific books, movies, or artworks
  • Analyzing the influence of cultural or social experiences
  • Reflecting on internships, volunteer work, or professional experiences

III. Starting a Reflective Essay:

  • Engage the reader with a captivating hook or anecdote
  • Introduce the topic and provide context
  • Clearly state the purpose and objectives of the reflection
  • Include a thesis statement that highlights the main insights to be discussed

IV. Writing a Reflective Essay on a Class:

  • Assessing the overall learning experience and objectives of the class
  • Analyzing personal growth and development throughout the course
  • Reflecting on challenges, achievements, and lessons learned
  • Discussing the impact of specific assignments, projects, or discussions
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of teaching methods and materials

V. Common Mistakes to Avoid in Reflective Essay Writing:

  • Superficial reflection without deep analysis
  • Overuse of personal opinions without supporting evidence
  • Lack of organization and coherence in presenting ideas
  • Neglecting to connect personal experiences to broader concepts or theories
  • Failing to provide specific examples to illustrate key points

VI. Why “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell is Classified as a Reflective Essay:

  • Briefly summarize the essay’s content and context
  • Analyze the introspective and self-analytical elements in Orwell’s narrative
  • Discuss the themes of moral conflict, imperialism, and personal conscience
  • Highlight Orwell’s reflections on the psychological and emotional impact of his actions

VII. Reflective Essay Structure:

  • Engaging opening statement or anecdote
  • Background information and context
  • Clear thesis statement
  • Present and analyze personal experiences, thoughts, and emotions
  • Reflect on the significance and impact of those experiences
  • Connect personal reflections to broader concepts or theories
  • Provide supporting evidence and specific examples
  • Summarize key insights and reflections
  • Emphasize the personal growth or lessons learned
  • Conclude with a thought-provoking statement or call to action

VIII. Reflective Essay Examples:

  • Example 1: Reflecting on a life-changing travel experience
  • Example 2: Analyzing personal growth during a challenging academic year
  • Example 3: Reflecting on the impact of volunteering at a local shelter

During a reflective essay, the writer examines his or her own experiences, hence the term ‘reflection’. The purpose of a reflective essay is to allow the author to recount a particular life experience. However, it should also explore how he or she has changed or grown as a result of the experience.

The format of reflective writing can vary, but you’ll most likely see it in the form of a learning log or diary entry. The author’s diary entries demonstrate how the author’s thoughts have developed and evolved over the course of a particular period of time.

The format of a reflective essay can vary depending on the intended audience. A reflective essay might be academic or part of a broader piece of writing for a magazine, for example.

While the format for class assignments may vary, the purpose generally remains the same: tutors want students to think deeply and critically about a particular learning experience. Here are some examples of reflective essay formats you may need to write:

Focusing on personal growth:

Tutors often use this type of paper to help students develop their ability to analyze their personal life experiences so that they can grow and develop emotionally. As a result of the essay, the student gains a better understanding of themselves and their behaviors.

Taking a closer look at the literature:

The purpose of this type of essay is for students to summarize the literature, after which it is applied to their own experiences.

What am I supposed to write about?

When deciding on the content of your reflective essay, you need to keep in mind that it is highly personal and is intended to engage the reader. Reflective essays are much more than just recounting a story. As you reflect on your experience (more on this later), you will need to demonstrate how it influenced your subsequent behavior and how your life has consequently changed.

Start by thinking about some important experiences in your life that have had a profound impact on you, either positively or negatively. A reflection essay topic could be a real-life experience, an imagined experience, a special object or place, a person who influenced you, or something you’ve seen or read.

If you are asked to write a reflective essay for an academic assignment, it is likely that you will be asked to focus on a particular episode – such as a time when you had to make an influential decision – and explain the results. In a reflective essay, the aftermath of the experience is especially significant; miss this out and you will simply be telling a story.

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Considerations

In this type of essay, the reflective process is at the core, so it’s important that you get it right from the beginning. Think deeply about how the experience you have chosen to focus on impacted or changed you. Consider the implications for you on a personal level based on your memories and feelings.

Once you have chosen the topic of your essay, it is imperative that you spend a lot of time thinking about it and studying it thoroughly. Write down everything you remember about it, describing it as clearly and completely as you can. Use your five senses to describe your experience, and be sure to use adjectives. During this stage, you can simply take notes using short phrases, but make sure to record your reactions, perceptions, and experiences.

As soon as you’ve emptied your memory, you should begin reflecting. Choosing some reflection questions that will help you think deeply about the impact and lasting effects of your experience is a helpful way to do this. Here are some suggestions:

  • As a result of the experience, what have you learned about yourself?
  • What have you developed as a result? How?
  • Has it had a positive or negative impact on your life?
  • Looking back, what would you do differently?
  • If you could go back, what would you do differently? Did you make the right decisions?
  • How would you describe the experience in general? What did you learn from the experience? What skills or perspectives did you acquire?

You can use these signpost questions to kick-start your reflective process. Remember that asking yourself lots of questions is crucial to ensuring that you think deeply and critically about your experiences – a skill at the heart of a great reflective essay.

Use models of reflection (like the Gibbs or Kolb cycles) before, during, and after the learning process to ensure that you maintain a high standard of analysis. Before you get to the nitty-gritty of the process, consider questions such as: what might happen (in regards to the experience)?

Will there be any challenges? What knowledge will be needed to best prepare? When you are planning and writing, these questions may be helpful: what is happening within the learning process? Has everything worked according to plan? How am I handling the challenges that come with it?

Do you need to do anything else to ensure that the learning process is successful? Is there anything I can learn from this? Using a framework like this will enable you to keep track of the reflective process that should guide your work.

Here’s a useful tip: no matter how well prepared you feel with all that time spent reflecting in your arsenal, don’t start writing your essay until you have developed a comprehensive, well-rounded plan. There will be so much more coherence in what you write, your ideas will be expressed with structure and clarity, and your essay will probably receive higher marks as a result.

It’s especially important when writing a reflective essay as it’s possible for people to get a little ‘lost’ or disorganized as they recount their own experiences in an erratic and often unsystematic manner since it’s an incredibly personal topic. But if you outline thoroughly (this is the same thing as a ‘plan’) and adhere to it like Christopher Columbus adhered to a map, you should be fine as you embark on the ultimate step of writing your essay. We’ve summarized the benefits of creating a detailed essay outline below if you’re still not convinced of the value of planning:

An outline can help you identify all the details you plan to include in your essay, allowing you to remove all superfluous details so that your essay is concise and to the point.

Think of the outline as a map – you plan in advance which points you will navigate through and discuss in your writing. You will more likely have a clear line of thought, making your work easier to understand. You’ll be less likely to miss out on any pertinent details, and you won’t have to go back at the end and try to fit them in.

This is a real-time-saver! When you use the outline as an essay’s skeleton, you’ll save a tremendous amount of time when writing because you’ll know exactly what you want to say. Due to this, you will be able to devote more time to editing the paper and ensuring it meets high standards.

As you now know the advantages of using an outline for your reflective essay, it is important that you know how to create one. There can be significant differences between it and other typical essay outlines, mostly due to the varying topics. As always, you need to begin your outline by drafting the introduction, body, and conclusion. We will discuss this in more detail below.

Introduction

Your reflective essay must begin with an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The goal of a ‘hook’ is to capture the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning. In the first paragraph of your story, you should convey the exciting aspects of your story so that you can succeed in

If you think about the opening quote of this article, did it grab your attention and make you want to read more? This thesis statement summarizes the essay’s focus, which in this case is a particular experience that left a lasting impression on you. Give a quick overview of your experience – don’t give too much information away or you’ll lose readers’ interest.

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Reflection Essay Structure

A reflective essay differs greatly from an argumentative or research paper in its format. Reflective essays are more like well-structured stories or diary entries that are rife with insights and reflections. Your essay may need to be formatted according to the APA style or MLA style.

In general, the length of a reflection paper varies between 300 and 700 words, but it is a good idea to check with your instructor or employer about the word count. Even though this is an essay about you, you should try to avoid using too much informal language.

The following shortcuts can help you format your paper according to APA or MLA style if your instructor asks:

MLA Format for Reflective Essay

  • Times New Roman 12 pt 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 contains a Works Cited list.

Reflective Essay in APA Style

  • Include a page header on the top of every page;
  • Insert page number on the right;
  • Your reflective essay should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

Reflective Essay Outline

Look at your brainstorming table to start organizing your reflective essay. ‘Past experience’ and ‘description’ should make up less than 10% of your essay.

You should include the following in your introduction:

  • Grab the reader’s attention with a short preview of what you’ll be writing about.

Example:  We found Buffy head-to-toe covered in tar, starved and fur in patches, under an abandoned garbage truck.

  • It is important to include ‘past experiences’ in a reflective essay thesis statement; a brief description of what the essay is about.

Example:  My summer volunteering experience at the animal shelter inspired me to pursue this type of work in the future.

Chronological events are the best way to explain the structure of body paragraphs. Respond to the bold questions in the ‘reflection’ section of the table to create a linear storyline.

Here’s an example of what the body paragraph outline should look like:

  • Explicit expectations about the shelter

Example:  I thought it was going to be boring and mundane.

  • The first impression
  • Experience at the shelter

Example:  Finding and rescuing Buffy.

  • Other experiences with rescuing animals
  • Discoveries

Example:  Newly found passion and feelings toward the work.

  • A newly developed mindset

Example:  How your thoughts about animal treatment have changed.

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Here’s How You Can Submit a Well-Written Reflective Essay for University

Even though writing a reflective essay may seem difficult at first, once you have a clear idea of what you will write and more importantly, how to write, it often gets easier as you go along. Here are five key writing tips to keep in mind when writing a reflective essay.

Choosing a Topic for Reflection

As a busy student, when was the last time you drowned yourself in thoughts and reflected on past experiences? Here is an assignment that intentionally puts you in that position.

Think about all of the experiences which have shaped you – a life-changing event, an interaction with someone you admire, a movie character that appealed to you, a book that gave you perspective, or any other experience which contributed to your character or thought process.

You should choose a topic that will help you reflect on your growth as an individual. Start brainstorming and record every idea that comes to mind.

Organize your thoughts in a mind map

The next step is to create a mind map to help you organize your essay once you have a rough idea of what you want to write.

You can use your mind map to quiz yourself by asking questions of relevance and putting together perspectives for your essay.

The purpose of this exercise is to give you an idea of what you want your essay to be about. It is important to keep pushing yourself to think more deeply and find meaning in your experiences in order to create a successful reflective essay.

From becoming a Writer Today, here are some tips on using mind maps to write better and faster

Start Freewriting

Sometimes, all you have to do is start writing. Essentially, that’s what freewriting is all about.

After brainstorming, creating a mind map, and organizing your thoughts, open a blank document and start writing. Do not stop to think or to edit – just write as your thoughts come to you.

The best part of freewriting is that it results in a steady flow of ideas you may not have thought of otherwise.

In other words, whether or not you’re motivated to write or are constantly second-guessing your ideas, it helps to let your ideas guide you and put them down on paper.

Structure the Essay

It’s time to put your ideas and thoughts into words and give them a proper structure. A reflective essay should have the following parts:

You should begin your essay with a hook to grab the reader’s attention. While setting the tone for the rest of the essay, your thesis statement should introduce the past experience you will be reflecting on;

In this section, you will elaborate on the experience and its significance, as well as its impact on your life. Avoid rambling on and on about the experience for readers to want to read more of your essay, you need to use your storytelling skills. If you can, use examples to strengthen your narrative;

A summary of your reflections is provided in the concluding paragraph. In your essay, you should describe how the experience shaped your life and how you intend to take your learnings and apply them.

Proofread, Proofread and Proofread

Be sure to proofread your reflective essay before submitting it. Before finalizing it, you need to do thorough proofreading. You will be surprised to see how many silly mistakes are made in the first draft.

Be on the lookout for grammatical, spelling, and sentence formation mistakes. Make sure your essay flows well and avoids plagiarism. If you want a fresh set of eyes on your essay, have a family member or friend read it too.

Reflective Essay Topics

Many students find choosing the right topic for a reflective essay difficult. Writing a reflective essay requires creativity and strong writing skills to express your emotions.

Reflective essays can be inspired by nature, places, relationships, and events. Here are some tips that will help you choose the right essay topic.

  • Decide on a topic idea for your reflective essay that you are familiar with. You will find it easier to write an essay about a topic you are interested in. Never choose a topic that is new to you. This makes the writing phase difficult.
  • Research your topic: Try to recollect minor details about it. Remember all the things that are related to your topic, and include them in your essay. Take notes about your topic.
  • Pick a topic that you can explain from a unique viewpoint: Choose a topic that you can explain from a different perspective. Writing something unique that demonstrates your personality in an interesting way is a good technique. Share a memorable and meaningful experience from your life.

Topics for Reflective Essays for Middle School Students

Essay topics can be difficult to choose for some students. The following list of topics can be classified according to grade level. Pick from them and make topic selection easier.

Topics for Reflective Essays in Grade 7

  • Taking a trip
  • To go scuba diving
  • Within your hometown
  • Was something you were proud of
  • Even when you were lost
  • To your favorite cartoon
  • During that time you lied
  • When you were hunting
  • Did your family play an important role in your life?
  • Spending time outdoors

Topics for Reflective Essays in Grade 8

  • Running in the outdoors
  • While picking berries
  • Will be your biggest loss
  • Who is your biggest inspiration?
  • What is your greatest fear?
  • Tell me about your most exciting moment.
  • What is your least favorite course?
  • When you go on a date
  • To a birthday party
  • Which is your favorite online space?

Topics for Reflective Essays in Grade 9

  • A new school
  • Makes me think about the future.
  • You participated in or watched a sporting event.
  • You moved to a new city.
  • You had an unforgettable dream.
  • You were running and hunting.
  • You cannot forget that dream.
  • It was your childhood home.
  • Watching the sunrise
  • An award ceremony

Topics for Reflective Essays in Grade 10

  • Defending someone in a situation
  • While playing with friends
  • It was a memorable dream
  • About lying and hiding
  • The most recent meal
  • While getting lost in the dark
  • As an intern at a hospital
  • Or when someone’s life inspired you to change your own
  • Challenges as a college freshman
  • By participating in sports

Topics for Reflective Essays for College Students

For college students, the most difficult part of writing a reflective essay is choosing a topic. Some students are better at choosing the essay topic than others, but some will get stuck in this phase.

Here are some excellent reflective essay topics for college students for your convenience. Choose one and write a well-written essay.

  • First time writing a thesis statement
  • Your favorite video game
  • The impact of social media on students
  • A place you always try to avoid
  • What was the best birthday memory you had?
  • What is your favorite restaurant?
  • The moment when you were proud of yourself
  • The bravest moment of your life
  • The most beautiful thing you have ever seen
  • A time you were embarrassed

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Topics for Reflective Essays for High School Students

The choice of a topic for a reflective essay can be confusing for high school students. Your topic should be engaging and you should be able to explain your personal experience easily. Here is a list of good topics for high school students; choose something from the list for your essay.

  • Shop at your favorite outlet store
  • To relive your favorite childhood memory
  • Of the most memorable holiday
  • That scared you?
  • That’s when you met your best friend
  • And what you love about yourself
  • Is playing with friends.
  • What’s your favorite book?
  • I loved playing in the mud as a kid.
  • Having to move to a new town or city

Topics for Reflective Essays about Places

Reflective essays should be based on strong emotions and memories. You could write an essay about a day spent at your favorite café, favorite restaurant, etc.

It is easy to write a reflective essay about a place where you have really good memories. Here are some topic ideas that you can use and write an essay on.

  • Your grandparents’ house
  • A skating rink
  • A place where you feel safe
  • A favorite vacation spot
  • A popular lunch spot
  • On your first day at the circus
  • The mall or your favorite store
  • Your first trip abroad
  • Best park in your town
  • Your most memorable adventure

Topics for Reflective Essays about Events

A good way to grab the reader’s attention is to write about any event. Your essay can be about a birthday party, a farewell, or any other event that you have enough information about.

If you are writing a reflective essay about an event, include vivid details. Here are some interesting topics for reflection essays, choose one and write a good essay.

  • Unexpected gift
  • To travel on vacation
  • While you were lost
  • The first time you voted
  • On your trip to the zoo
  • When you got a new job
  • It was one of your most memorable trips
  • During the holiday season
  • When you moved to a new city
  • Or when you swam fishing

Topics for Reflective Essays on Nature

A reflective essay should provide the reader with a deeper and more meaningful experience. In addition to making your writing process more interesting, writing about nature also stimulates your imagination.

The following are some good reflective essay topics about nature:

  • Mountain climbing
  • Ocean diving
  • Hiking in the woods
  • Climbing rocks
  • And watching the sunset
  • While running in the forest.
  • Spending quality time with your pet.
  • Taking a hike in the woods
  • And going swimming
  • While watching animals at a zoo

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Topics for reflection on relationships

As relationships are filled with strong emotions, writing a reflective essay about them means expressing those emotions. The following are some good reflective essay topics about relationships:

  • A wonderful family reunion
  • When you spoke publicly for the first time
  • What friendship means to me
  • When you were punished by your parents
  • During a family reunion
  • When you apologized
  • For a time you spent with friends without parental supervision
  • Tell me about your relationship with a family member
  • An angry conversation
  • Or a genuinely funny laugh

Some reflective essay topics are the same as some of the questions you may ask in a job interview.

Examples of Reflective Essay

Check out some examples for inspiration now that you know what it takes to write a reflective essay.

An Example of a Reflective Essay on “My Little Brother”

Essay example reflecting on the arrival of a younger sibling, written at a middle or high school level.

“There have been many life-changing experiences in my short life. Every new experience has been the first experience at one point in time. For good or for bad, each event altered the course of my life. But, the most transformative event was the birth of my youngest brother.”.

Joel is someone my parents often refer to as a happy accident. My mother became pregnant when I was 13 and my other brother, Jake, was 10. We were what you would call a well-rounded family of four. In almost every way, we fit the ideal classification. My youngest brother’s striking blue eyes were the moment when we realized what we were missing.

Honestly, I resented having another sibling. It wasn’t necessary to add to our family, and my mother, already 38 at the time, was considered high risk because of her age. A pregnancy full of complications sent my life on a rollercoaster-like ride that my 13-year-old mind could not comprehend. Now I can see how forging through those loops helped me cope with the unforeseen challenges of life.

Reflective Essay Example

My mother took me to the hospital instead of my father on the day Joel was born. I was the next best alternative because Jake and my father were both feverish; it wasn’t a planned move. With each contraction, I gained a new appreciation for just how strong and powerful a woman could be at her weakest. Through holding her hand and feeding her ice chips, I gained a connection with my mother that I didn’t realize we lacked.

Almost simultaneously, my new baby brother entered this world. One doesn’t realize how much you need something until it’s sitting in your lap. Secondly, my life after this moment would never be the same the moment he curled his chubby little finger around mine, I understood the meaning of the words “happy accident.”.y.

Life has given me many experiences that have shaped me as a person. But, nothing so profoundly changed my views and outlook on life as the birth of my youngest brother. Joel’s arrival was a life-altering event that caused me to see the world through new eyes.”

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Reflective Essay Example for “ Reading My Favorite Book”

This reflective essay example about a favorite book is something you might find at the middle or high school level.

When it comes to books, I don’t understand the appeal. Every time I was given an assignment, I would read one after another, not understanding what all the fuss was about. Nevertheless, the moment I read Pride and Prejudice, it was as if my literary eyes were opened for the first time. It stirred love within me for classics I didn’t realize could exist.

When I was first given the assignment of reading Pride and Prejudice, like many of my friends, I scoffed. With an eye roll, I internally calculated how much time I would have to read the book and write a report. I sighed at the loss of time with my friends for a stupid classic.

Cracking open the cover, I was determined to hate it before even reading the first words. By the time I reached page 3, I nearly stopped reading. But there was something about Elizabeth Bennet that quietly piqued my interest. I can’t say where, but somewhere along the way, my eyes devoured the pages instead of trudging along.

The moment I reached the end, I was ecstatic and disappointed at the same time. Their ending had been perfect, but I realized I would miss them. Not just them, but I would also miss being a part of their world.

It was the first time the characters of a story had affected me this way, so I tried to shake it off. However, after several days, that sadness carried me to the classics section of the school library. The moment I cracked open my next classic, my soul instantly felt more at ease, and I’ve never looked back.

I never thought I’d say a book changed me, but in this case, it’s true. The love I found in Pride and Prejudice introduced me to a beautiful world of classic literature I can’t imagine living without. Despite not reading Pride and Prejudice for a while, it will always be my favorite book.

In the conclusion of your reflective essay, you should focus on bringing your piece together. This will include providing a summary of both the points made throughout and what you have learned as a result. Try to include a few points on why and how your attitudes and behaviors have been changed.

Consider also how your character and skills have been affected, for example: what conclusions can be drawn about your problem-solving skills? What can be concluded about your approach to specific situations? What might you do differently in similar situations in the future? What steps have you taken to consolidate everything that you have learned from your experience?

Keep in mind that your tutor will be looking out for evidence of reflection at a very high standard.

Congratulations – you now have the tools to create a thorough and accurate plan which should put you in good stead for the ultimate phase indeed of any essay, the writing process.

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How do you start off a reflective essay?

As is the case with all essays, your reflective essay must begin with an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The point of having a ‘hook’ is to grab the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning.

Can you say I in a reflective essay?

In your reflective essay, you should use the first person with terms like I, me, my, and mine. The essay is an account of something that actually happened to you as well as your thoughts on the event.

What is an example of a reflection?

Common examples include the reflection of light, sound, and water waves. The law of reflection says that for specular reflection the angle at which the wave is incident on the surface equals the angle at which it is reflected. Mirrors exhibit specular reflection.

How do you start the first paragraph of a reflective essay?

Describe the subject matter of the paper in more detail. Include one or two sentences after the first sentence in which you describe the basic features of whatever topic you will be discussing in your essay. Describe them in terms of your feelings, and how you felt and experienced whatever you are discussing.

How many paragraphs should a reflective essay have?

The number of paragraphs depends on the requested essay length. However, it is recommended to write at least three paragraphs in this part. In the body, present your main points, arguments, and examples. This is the part of an essay where you express all your main ideas, develop them, and express your feelings and emotions.

What are the three parts of a reflective essay?

However, some major elements go into a typical reflective essay: introduction, body, and conclusion.

How Do You Write A Reflective Essay?

To write a reflective essay, follow these steps:

  • Choose a topic: Select a specific event, experience, or concept that you want to reflect upon.
  • Brainstorm and outline: Reflect on your chosen topic and jot down key points, thoughts, and emotions associated with it. Create an outline to organize your ideas.
  • Introduction: Begin with an engaging hook to grab the reader’s attention. Provide background information and context related to the topic. End the introduction with a clear thesis statement that expresses the main insights or lessons you will discuss.
  • Body paragraphs: Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect or experience related to your topic. Reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and observations, and support them with specific examples or evidence. Analyze the significance and impact of these experiences.
  • Use reflection techniques: Incorporate reflection techniques such as asking yourself questions, exploring the “why” behind your thoughts and emotions, and connecting your experiences to broader concepts or theories.
  • Conclusion: Summarize your key insights and reflections from the essay. Emphasize personal growth, lessons learned, or changes in perspective. Leave the reader with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action.

Which Of These Best Describes A Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is best described as a type of academic or personal writing that allows individuals to examine and reflect upon their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. It involves introspection, self-analysis, and the exploration of lessons learned or personal growth. Reflective essays provide a platform for individuals to communicate their insights and understanding of a particular event, concept, or life experience.

What Is A Reflective Essay And Examples?

A reflective essay is a form of writing where individuals express their thoughts, feelings, and observations about a specific experience, event, or topic. It goes beyond simply describing the experience and delves into analyzing the impact, significance, and lessons learned. Reflective essays encourage self-reflection and introspection, allowing writers to gain deeper understanding and insight.

Examples of reflective essay topics include:

  • Reflecting on a life-changing travel experience and its impact on personal growth.
  • Analyzing the challenges and successes encountered during a group project and the lessons learned.
  • Reflecting on the influence of a particular book, film, or artwork and its effect on personal perspectives.
  • Examining the role of personal values and beliefs in decision-making processes.

What Are The Parts Of A Typical Reflective Essay?

A typical reflective essay consists of the following parts:

  • Introduction: It provides an engaging hook, background information, and context for the topic. The introduction ends with a clear thesis statement that states the main insights or lessons to be discussed.
  • Body paragraphs: Each paragraph focuses on a specific aspect or experience related to the topic. Writers reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and observations, supporting them with examples or evidence. They analyze the significance and impact of these experiences and connect them to broader concepts or theories.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion summarizes the key insights and reflections from the essay. It emphasizes personal growth, lessons learned, or changes in perspective. A thought-provoking statement or a call to action is often included to leave a lasting impression on the reader.

What Is A Goal Of The Introduction In A Reflective Essay?

The goal of the introduction in a reflective essay is to capture the reader’s attention and provide them with the necessary background information and context related to the topic. It should set the stage for the reflective journey that follows. The introduction concludes with a clear thesis statement that outlines the main insights or lessons the writer will discuss in the essay. It acts as a roadmap, guiding the reader through the writer’s reflections.

What Idea Would Most Likely Make The Best Reflective Essay?

The best idea for a reflective essay is a topic that holds personal significance and offers opportunities for introspection and deep reflection. An idea that involves a transformative experience, a significant life event, or a challenging situation often makes for a compelling reflective essay. It should be something that evokes strong emotions, prompts critical thinking, and allows for self-analysis. The best reflective essays are those that offer meaningful insights, growth, or lessons learned.

What Makes A Good Reflective Essay?

A good reflective essay possesses several key qualities:

  • Authenticity: It reflects the writer’s genuine thoughts, emotions, and observations.
  • Depth of reflection: It goes beyond surface-level descriptions and delves into meaningful analysis, exploring the “why” behind the experiences.
  • Coherence and organization: The essay is well-structured, with clear paragraphs and logical flow of ideas.
  • Use of specific examples: It supports reflections with specific examples, evidence, or anecdotes to enhance understanding and engagement.
  • Connection to broader concepts or theories: It links personal experiences to broader concepts, theories, or societal issues to demonstrate critical thinking and understanding.
  • Insight and personal growth: The essay offers meaningful insights, lessons learned, or personal growth as a result of the reflection.

By incorporating these elements, a good reflective essay effectively communicates the writer’s introspection and provides a thought-provoking reading experience.

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

examples of reflective writing essays

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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Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

examples of reflective writing essays

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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A reflective essay is a form of writing where the writer reflects on a personal experience. Have you been assigned one but don’t know how to write? 

Don’t fret! 

Read on to learn in simple steps and follow the useful tips and examples given below. By the end of the blog, you will know everything you need to write an excellent reflective essay.

So let’s dive in!

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What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of essay where the writer describes a personal experience or event that they observed or examined. Reflective writing involves thinking or pondering about a specific topic and writing your thoughts.

The content of a reflective essay is subjective. This means, the writer discusses the topic from their own personal point of view.  

The writer presents their thoughts and reflections in a structured and coherent manner. It combines elements of storytelling, analysis, and introspection to create a narrative that engages the reader and offers valuable insights.

What is the Purpose of Reflective Writing? 

Self-reflective essays are often used as an opportunity to explore your thoughts and feelings more deeply. The main goals of reflective writing are to;

  • Make a connection between yourself and the text 
  • Analyze what you have heard, read, or seen
  • Write subjectively and help identify your interests
  • Think about what you have learned.
  • Develop your critical and narrative skills

Here is a video that reflective writing in simple terms:

How to Write a Reflective Essay? 

Reflective essays can be very difficult to write. However, following the steps below can make your writing process easier and more effective.

  • Select a Meaningful Topic

The first step in writing a great reflective essay is to choose a good topic. You need to do a lot of brainstorming, mind mapping , and a bit of research to come up with a good topic. 

Choose a topic that holds personal significance for you. It could be a specific event, a challenging situation, a memorable encounter, or a period of personal growth. Select a topic that allows for deep introspection and provides ample material for reflection.

  • Reflect and Introspect

Ponder on your chosen topic and explore your thoughts, feelings, and reactions associated with it. 

Ask yourself probing questions, such as " How did this experience impact me? " or " What did I learn from this situation? " This introspective phase forms the foundation of your essay, allowing you to dig deep and extract valuable insights.  

  • Develop a Clear Thesis Statement

Craft a concise and focused thesis statement that encapsulates the main point or lesson learned from your reflection. 

This statement will serve as a guiding principle for your essay, ensuring that your writing remains coherent and purposeful. 

  • Chart an Outline

Create an outline that organizes your thoughts and provides a logical structure for your essay. 

Divide your essay into sections including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Outline the main ideas, experiences, and reflections you plan to include in each section.

Want to learn more about how to create an outline? Here is our comprehensive reflective essay outline guide for you.

  • Write a Catchy Introduction

Start your essay with an attention-grabbing opening that sets the tone and introduces the topic to the reader. 

Engage your audience by sharing a captivating anecdote, posing a thought-provoking question, or presenting a compelling quote. Clearly state your thesis to provide a roadmap for your reflective journey.

  • Write Main Body Paragraphs

In the body paragraphs, vividly describe the experiences or events that shaped your reflection. Use sensory details and specific examples to paint a clear picture for your readers.

After describing the experience, delve into the reflection and analysis phase. Explore the significance of the experience and its impact on your personal growth, beliefs, or worldview. 

Analyze the reasons behind your thoughts, emotions, and reactions. 

  • Provide a Thoughtful Conclusion

Wrap up your essay by summarizing your main points and reinforcing the significance of your reflection. Share the insights and lessons you gained from the reflection process. 

For instance, what did you learn about yourself? How did this experience contribute to your personal development? 

Be honest and authentic in your reflections, demonstrating vulnerability and self-awareness. Don't present new information here, but summarize everything that happened in the essay.

  • Revise and Edit

Once you have completed your first draft, revise and edit your essay for clarity, coherence, and grammar. Pay attention to the flow of your ideas, sentence structure, and word choice. 

Seek feedback from peers or mentors to gain different perspectives and refine your essay further. This way, your final draft will turn out to be an interesting and valuable piece of work.

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Reflective Essay Structure

The structure of the reflective essay is the same as other types of essays. It contains an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. 

Here is the basic reflective essay format that you can use:

Let’s learn about the components of a reflective essay in depth:

Reflective Essay Introduction 

A reflective essay also starts with an introduction, like all other essays. An essay introduction should be brief but relevant to the topic. In this part, you can give a general overview of the topic to the reader.

Start your essay with a strong hook statement . The hook statement is the first thing that the reader reads in the introduction part.

In the introduction part, state the thesis statement but don’t give too much information in this statement.  

Remember that in this part, only give a brief overview and don’t write in-depth information.

Reflective Essay Body Paragraphs

Writing the body paragraphs is the hardest part of the reflective essay. Some writers spend a lot of time writing body paragraphs. If the outline is not created well, then writing the body paragraphs is a time-consuming process.

It is the most important part of the essay and follows the proper chronological order. Describe the main issues in order related to the described event.

The body paragraphs are well-focused, and it is not a summary of your experience. Each body paragraph end with a concluding sentence.     

Reflective Essay Conclusion  

The conclusion is the last part of the essay. In this part, you should provide a summary of the entire essay. Moreover, do not repeat the same point again and again.   

Make sure the conclusion of the essay is powerful and encourages the readers to do further research. In this concluding part, restate the thesis statement, and no need to add new ideas. 

Tips for Writing a Reflective Essay

Here are some writing tips that can make your reflective essay even better, so try following these in your essay:

  • Choose the right topic for the essay, make sure that you have enough information
  • Use an engaging and narrative tone throughout the essay with an overall emotion or theme in mind.
  • Try to make the essay credible and informative
  • Reflect critically on the significance of the experiences and analyze the reasons behind your thoughts, emotions, and reactions.
  • Incorporate relevant theories, concepts, or academic frameworks to deepen your analysis.
  • Be authentic and honest in sharing your insights and lessons learned from the reflection process.
  • Connect your personal experiences to broader contexts or universal themes to create a relatable and impactful essay.
  • Support your thesis statement with strong examples and arguments.

Ref lective Essay For mat

Two commonly used formatting styles for academic writing are the APA and the MLA styles. Each style has its unique guidelines for formatting, including structure, citations, and references. 

APA Style Reflective Essay Format

Formatting your essay in APA requires the following:

  • Times New Roman 
  • Double line-spacing
  • 1" margins 
  • Page number on the top-right 
  • Include the Title Page, Main Body, and References.

MLA Style Reflective Essay Format 

The MLA style recommends the following formatting guidelines:

  • 1” margins
  • Last name and page number in the top-right
  • “Works Cited” section on the last page

Reflective Essay Examples

Check out some reflective essay samples that can give you a better understanding of the reflective essay.    

Reflective Essay Example for High School

Personal Reflective Essay Example

Reflective Essay Outline

Example of Reflective Essay on Learning Experience

Reflective Essay Example About Life Experience

Reflective Essay Topics - H2

In a reflective essay, you write about your personal experience, thoughts, and significant moments of your life. Choosing the right topic for the essay sometimes becomes a challenging task, but here are some ideas that can help you out.  

  • A surprise that you prepared for someone
  • The first thing you think of in the morning
  • When someone’s words made you cry
  • When you laughed uncontrollably with someone
  • Swimming in a mountain lake
  • The experience of an earthquake or natural disasters
  • A vacation place that you liked in particular
  • Crossing a bridge and looking out over the water.
  • Your favorite persuasive essay topic
  • Place where you feel safe

Need more topics to get your thoughts running? Here are more reflective essay topics to help you out!

Writing a reflective essay can be a transformative experience as you discover your own thoughts and feelings along the way. By following the writing steps and tips, you can enhance this experience by writing an essay that is interesting, informative, and engaging. 

So don’t hesitate to start writing a reflective paper today! You’ve got everything you need.

Still, if you are in a race against time or can’t write your essay for other reasons, don’t despair. The auto essay writer at CollegeEssay.org is here to help you out!

We also have a team of expert writers ready to assist you 24/7. Whether you need help with refining your ideas, structuring your essay, or polishing the final draft, we can lend our expertise.

So hire our custom writing service  to receive customized and professional reflective essays within the deadline!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many paragraphs are in a reflective essay.

In a reflective essay, you should follow a 5-paragraph format. However, you can add more paragraphs, and it depends on your chosen topic.

What is the goal of a reflective essay?

Writing a reflective essay aims to explore how they have changed and learned from their experiences.

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Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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10.2: John Driscoll’s “What?” Cycle of Reflection

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The previous chapter on reflection, “Writing About Writing: Becoming a Reflective Practitioner,” offered an introduction to reflective writing and explained how critical reflection is so important to the learning process. This chapter will look more closely at one of the most common and simplest models for how to practice the kind of reflection that fosters “reflective practitioner” attitude: John Driscoll’s cycle of reflection, which follows a “What, So What, Now What” process. The end of this chapter offers an example assignment based on the Driscoll model.

What? So What? Now What?

John Driscoll originally developed the “What?” cycle of reflection for healthcare practitioners, but it has since been picked up by many different kinds of learners. The model includes three very basic steps:

  • WHAT? Describe what happened.
  • SO WHAT? Analyze the event.
  • NOW WHAT? Anticipate future practice, based on what you learned.

Each step requires both different rhetorical strategies and distinct forms of cognition. Step 1, “What?”, challenges the learner to recall what happened as objectively as possible, without critiquing anything that happened. Step 2, “So what?”, requires the learner to slow down and begin looking for patterns or moments of significance. Here, the key is to bring in concepts that help shed light on what’s going on. In a writing course, for example, a student might learn different rhetorical terms that relate to persuasion, such as logos , pathos , and ethos . Analyzing the experience according to anyone of those terms is a form of analysis. Finally, Step 3, “Now what?”, encourages the learner to begin transferring new knowledge to future situations and other contexts. As the introductory chapter to this section explains, transfer is key to becoming a reflective practitioner.

Here’s a video of that carefully illustrates each step, published by the McLaughlin Library at the University of Guelph:

Example of the Driscoll Cycle of reflection

The following example of the Driscoll cycle was developed by a student at The Robert Gillespie Science of Learning .

The trickiest step for those new to practicing this kind of critical reflection is moving from the straightforward objectivity of Step 1 to the more analytical kind of writing that happens in Step 2. As the commentary for Step 2, “So what?” explains, the second paragraph practices analysis by comparing current experience with an earlier one. Comparison and contrast brings in external content (the other experience) to help do the analysis. There are other ways to accomplish this cognitive move, however. As mentioned above, another strategy for analyzing content is to map experiences to key concepts or ideas picked up from the lesson material.

Sample Assignment: “ Ceasefire Reflective Essay”

The following assignment was developed for English 101: Writing and Rhetoric I at the College of Western Idaho.

Assignment Directions : Write a reflective essay that 1) narrates and describes your engagement on the Ceasefire platform and also 2) critically reflects on that experience.

Purpose : The goal of this Unit is to practice discussing difficult issues in a civil manner, and to identify what kinds of behaviors and communication strategies work best to effectively engage with others in public and professional environments.

Genre : This is a Reflective Essay that fosters a “reflective practitioner” approach to learning. The use of the first person (I, me, mine) is encouraged. The essay should narrate and describe your Ceasefire participation, while also reflecting more generally on how the experiment might help in future situations and different contexts.

Audience : While the Ceasefire experiment and reflections are intended to benefit the writer, the writing should be directed towards other students and teachers who are not familiar with the materials in this Unit. Provide sufficient context, define important terms, and write in a style that conveys professionalism.

Basic Requirements :

  • At least 4.5 pages double-spaced
  • Formatted in MLA Style, including in-text citations and a Works Cited page
  • Revision Cover Letter
  • When participating on the Ceasefire website, you will be expected to post a position or question, as well as respond to at least two other posts.

Background on the Ceasefire experiment

While this essay will have a traditional introduction, body and conclusion (like any academic essay), the body will be composed of two main kinds of content. A considerable portion should be dedicated to describing and narrating your experiment with engaging others on the Ceasefire website. At the same time, however, you will be expected to use lessons from this Unit, including the Open Mind learning modules, to critically reflect on that engagement, explaining what it taught you about engaging other beliefs in a civil environment.

Ceasefire Website

Ceasefire is a website whose stated goal is to “improve the world’s discussions.” The mission goals of the website point out that, as our society becomes increasingly polarized, most online discussions have been limited to social media platforms. The end result is even more polarization and “heightened tensions,” rather than understanding and empathy. The Ceasefire website evolved as a solution to that problem. It aims to provide an online space “devoted to the exploration of views” in a civil environment. In this Unit you will be asked to engage with Ceasefire.

Students will be expected to register for a free account and post one of the following two options:

  • Opinion: Present an opinion you hold or lean towards to test your understanding of the issue and potentially discover flaws in your thinking.
  • Question: There may be an issue you wish to explore but have no clear stance on, perhaps due to conflict thoughts or a general lack of understanding. You can ask a question to launch a discussion about it.

In addition to creating a unique post, you will be expected to respond to at least two other posts published to Ceasefire .

OpenMind Learning Modules

In order to prepare for civil engagement on Ceasefire , we’ll start the Unit by completing Steps 1-5 of the OpenMind educational platform. OpenMind is “an interactive platform that equips people with a set of practical tools to think clearly and communicate constructively across differences.” The learning modules are based on certain psychological principles intended to help depolarize educational, corporate, and civic communities. In addition to preparing us for difficult discussions, the platform will also provide us with a variety of key rhetorical and psychological principles to help analyze our experience.

Getting Started with OpenMind & Ceasefire

There are a number of steps we’ll follow in order to get started on our “ Ceasefire Reflective Essay”. We’ll complete these steps over the course of two weeks:

Step 1: Sign up for an OpenMind account, join our group, then take the 5 modules. These modules will train us to spot cognitive bias and become familiar with moral reasoning. The “moral matrix” from will provide us with some analytical terms you may want to use when reflecting on your Ceasefire experience.

Step 2: Sign up for a Ceasefire account. As a class, we’ll also look at the site rules and examples of strong posts.

Step 3: Develop a Ceasefire post and respond to at least two others. As you engage with Ceasefire , take notes on the process. These notes will help you write part 1 of your Reflective Essay.

Step 4: Become familiar with the Rhetorical Appeals, as well as kairos and exigence . In addition to the OpenMind’s “moral matrix,” these rhetorical concepts will help you critically reflect on the Ceasefire experiment.

Step 5: Draft and revise your Reflective Essay. Use the Outline included in this prompt to help structure your essay.

Essay Outline

The following Outline uses Driscoll’s “What, So What, Now What?” structure as a way to critically reflect on our experiment with civil engagement.

The Driscoll sample of “What, So What, Now What?” above is from “ Fundamentals of Reflective Practice ,” by The Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, CC-SA 4.0.

Examples

Reflection Paper

Ai generator.

examples of reflective writing essays

Writing a reflection paper is an excellent way to enhance your critical thinking skills and delve deeper into your learning experience. Whether you’re analyzing a book, reflecting on a specific element, or even exploring your own goals and objectives, a reflection paper offers a platform for self-expression and personal growth. In this article, we will define what a reflection paper is, provide a step-by-step guide on how to write one, answer frequently asked questions, and conclude with the importance and function of this unique form of writing.

1. Student Reflection Paper

Student Reflection Paper

Size: 175 KB

2. Sample Reflection Paper

Sample Reflection Paper

Size: 43 KB

3. College Reflection Paper

College Reflection Paper

Size: 113 KB

4. Self Reflection Paper

Self Reflection Paper

Size: 34 KB

5. High School Reflection Paper

High School Reflection Paper

Size: 139 KB

6. Subject Reflection Paper

Subject Reflection Paper

Size: 160 KB

7. Class Reflection Paper

class Reflection Paper

Size: 147 KB

8. APA Reflection Paper

apa Reflection Paper

Size: 179 KB

9. Education Reflection Paper

education Reflection Paper

Size: 153 KB

10. English Reflection Paper

english Reflection Paper

Size: 274 KB

11. Reflection Paper Essay

Reflection Paper essay

Size: 261 KB

12. Reflection Paper Teacher

Reflection Paper teacher

Size: 18 KB

13. Personal Reflection Paper

Personal Reflection Paper

14. Reflection Paper Outline

Reflection Paper outline

Size: 206 KB

15. Math Reflection Paper

math Reflection Paper

Size: 40 KB

16. Work Immersion Reflection Paper

work immersion Reflection Paper

17. Reflection Paper Introduction

Reflection Paper introduction

Size: 111 KB

18. Movie Reflection Paper

Size: 116 KB

19. Psychology Reflection Paper

psychology Reflection Paper

Size: 165 KB

20. Experience Reflection Paper

Experience Reflection Paper

21. Internship Reflection Paper

Internship Reflection Paper

Size: 118 KB

22. Story Reflection Paper

Story Reflection Paper

Size: 203 KB

23. Leadership Reflection Paper

Leadership Reflection Paper

Size: 27 KB

24. Reflection Paper Project

Reflection Paper Project

Size: 10 KB

25. Community Service Reflection Paper

Community Service Reflection Paper

Size: 78 KB

26. Course Reflection Paper

Course Reflection Paper

Size: 54 KB

27. science Reflection Paper

science Reflection Paper

Size: 68 KB

28. Reflection Paper Example

Reflection Paper Example

29. Reflection Paper Template

Reflection Paper Template

Size: 304 KB

30. Basic Reflection Paper

Basic Reflection Paper

Size: 91 KB

What is a Reflection Paper?

A reflection paper is a written piece that allows you to share your thoughts, insights, and personal reactions about a particular subject, experience, or text. It goes beyond a simple summary by providing a deeper exploration of your own perceptions, emotions, and connections to the topic at hand. Reflection papers are often used in educational settings, such as college essays , to encourage critical thinking, self-awareness, and the development of analytical skills. They can focus on various aspects, including analyzing a book, discussing specific elements, or reflecting on personal goals and objectives .

How to Write a Reflection Paper

Writing a reflection paper can be an enriching and rewarding experience, allowing you to delve into your thoughts and emotions while developing critical thinking skills. However, if you’re new to the process, it can feel overwhelming. Fear not! In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of writing a reflection paper, providing you with a clear roadmap to follow. Whether you’re reflecting on a book, analyzing specific elements, or exploring personal goals and objectives, this guide will equip you with the tools and techniques to craft a thoughtful and engaging reflection paper. So, let’s embark on this journey of self-discovery and learn how to write a reflection paper format that captivates readers and unlocks new insights.

Step 1: Introduction

To begin your reflection paper, introduce the topic or experience you will be reflecting upon. Engage your readers by providing context, sharing relevant details, or posing thought-provoking questions. A compelling introduction  sets the tone for the rest of your paper and captures the reader’s attention.

Step 2: Description and Analysis

In this section, describe the subject or experience you are reflecting upon. Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture and provide necessary background information. Then, delve into the analysis by exploring your thoughts, feelings, and observations about the topic. Discuss how the experience or text has impacted you and why it stands out.

Step 3: Connection to Personal Experience or Knowledge

Make connections between the subject or experience and your personal life or existing knowledge. Relate the ideas or themes to your own experiences, beliefs, or values. This step demonstrates your ability to think critically and draw meaningful connections.

Step 4: Evaluation and Interpretation

Evaluate the subject or experience based on your own perspective. Offer your interpretations, opinions, and judgments, supported by evidence from the text or experience. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses, and consider any potential implications or broader significance.

Step 5: Conclusion

In your conclusion, summarize the key points of your reflection paper. Reflect on the overall impact of the subject or experience on your personal growth, learning, or development. Consider any new insights gained, questions raised, or future actions that might result from your reflection.

What is the importance of writing a reflection paper?

Writing a reflection paper encourages critical thinking, self-reflection, and a deeper understanding of a subject or experience. It allows you to examine your own thoughts, emotions, and connections, promoting personal growth and self-awareness. Reflection papers are widely used in educational settings to develop analytical skills and foster a deeper engagement with the material.

Do reflection papers follow a specific text structure?

Unlike traditional essays, reflection papers do not follow a rigid text structure . However, they generally include an introduction, description and analysis, connection to personal experience or knowledge, evaluation and interpretation, and a conclusion . This flexible structure allows for personal expression and creativity.

How important is punctuation in a reflection paper?

Punctuation plays a crucial role in maintaining clarity and coherence in your reflection paper. Proper punctuation enhances readability, helps convey your ideas effectively, and ensures that your thoughts flow smoothly. Take care to use appropriate punctuation marks, such as commas, periods, and quotation marks, to convey your intended meaning accurately.

In conclusion, reflection papers serve a vital function in developing critical thinking skills , self-awareness, and personal growth. They offer a platform for exploring various subjects, analyzing books or specific elements , and reflecting on personal goals and objectives. By engaging in the process of writing a reflection paper, you embark on a journey of self-discovery and deeper understanding. So, embrace this unique form of writing and uncover the valuable insights that lie within your reflections.

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COMMENTS

  1. 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.

  2. What Is Reflective Writing? (Explained W/ 20+ Examples)

    Reflective writing is a personal exploration of experiences, analyzing thoughts, feelings, and learnings to gain insights. It involves critical thinking, deep analysis, and focuses on personal growth through structured reflection on past events. In this guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about reflective writing — with lots of ...

  3. Reflective Essay Examples

    Seeing reflective essay examples can help you understand how to accomplish a reflective essay writing assignment. View examples of reflective essays.

  4. Reflective Essay Examples and Samples

    Exploring your emotions forms an essential part of the reflective writing process. In fact, reflecting on our feelings and emotions is an exercise in emotional intelligence. A reflective essay offers a safe space to navigate complex emotions, understand emotional responses, and articulate emotional growth. Whether reflecting on a life-changing ...

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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. ... 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 ...

  8. The Writing Center

    A reflection is an essay, so provide full, thoughtful responses to the questions in your instructor's prompt. The style and tone of your reflective essay should match the purpose of the overall assignment. This is a personal essay meant to showcase what you learned from the text, event, or experience that you are writing about.

  9. Tips and Examples of Reflective Essay

    In a reflective essay, you open up about your thoughts and emotions to uncover your mindset, personality, traits of character, and background. It should include a description of the experience/literature piece as well as explanations of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions. In this article, our essay writer service will share our ultimate ...

  10. Reflective essays

    Reflective essays are academic essays; what makes an essay "good" will work for a reflective essay. What is different about a reflective essay is that the essay is about you and your thinking. However, you will need evidence from your course to back up your reflections. You should structure a reflective essay as an essay, that is write to ...

  11. How to Write a Reflective Essay With Sample Essays

    Writing a reflective essay, also known as a reflective paper or reflection paper, is as easy as following the step-by-step instructions below. 1. Choose a Topic Idea. If you haven't been assigned a topic and don't have a topic in mind, check the list of topics above for inspiration. If those aren't enough, take a look at these 100 reflection ...

  12. Reflective writing: Reflective essays

    Writing a reflective essay. When you are asked to write a reflective essay, you should closely examine both the question and the marking criteria. This will help you to understand what you are being asked to do. Once you have examined the question you should start to plan and develop your essay by considering the following:

  13. How to Write a Reflective Essay

    Every essay you write, including reflective essays, should have three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The reflective essay should have those parts as well. However, the way a reflective essay is organized might be a little different. Let's go through each of those parts for a reflective essay. Each part will include a sample.

  14. Examples of Reflective Writing

    An essay diary can take the form of an annotated bibliography (where you examine sources of evidence you might include in your essay) ... Some examples of reflective writing Social Science fieldwork report (methods section) The field notes were written by hand on lined paper. They consisted of jotted notes and mental triggers (personal notes ...

  15. Reflective writing

    The language of reflective writing. Reflective academic writing is: almost always written in the first person. evaluative - you are judging something. partly personal, partly based on criteria. analytical - you are usually categorising actions and events. formal - it is for an academic audience. carefully constructed.

  16. Reflective essays

    Reflective essays tend to deal with a reflective prompt that the essay needs to address. This also often means that the essay will have to draw on a range of experiences and theories to fully and satisfactorily answer the question. The questions/prompts should not be too vague, for example 'reflect on your learning', but should define an ...

  17. Reflective Essay: Introduction, Structure, Topics, Examples For University

    A reflective essay might be academic or part of a broader piece of writing for a magazine, for example. While the format for class assignments may vary, the purpose generally remains the same: tutors want students to think deeply and critically about a particular learning experience.

  18. PDF REFLECTIVE WRITING

    Example of reflective writing Critical reflection essay in Social Work (extract) Stages / function Level of reflection The incident occurred during my first fieldwork placement, in a children's service. I was given the opportunity to assist a caseworker, Rose, in her work with the Jackson family -

  19. 2 Reflective Essay Examples and What Makes Them Good

    Reflective Essay Example #1: A Personal Account of Anorexia. Even though this essay isn't very long, it's a good example of the core component of the reflective essay: an explanation of how an event or experience affects the writer. The writer of this essay discusses a personal struggle with anorexia. She explains how the experiences shaped ...

  20. 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.

  21. Reflective Essay- Definition, Writing Steps, Examples & More

    A reflective essay is a type of essay where the writer describes a personal experience or event that they observed or examined. Reflective writing involves thinking or pondering about a specific topic and writing your thoughts. The content of a reflective essay is subjective. This means, the writer discusses the topic from their own personal ...

  22. 10.2: John Driscoll's "What?" Cycle of Reflection

    Example of the Driscoll Cycle of reflection; Commentary ; Sample Assignment: "Ceasefire Reflective Essay" The previous chapter on reflection, "Writing About Writing: Becoming a Reflective Practitioner," offered an introduction to reflective writing and explained how critical reflection is so important to the learning process.

  23. A great example of a reflective essay

    Since 2006, Oxbridge Essays has been the UK's leading paid essay-writing and dissertation service. We have helped 10,000s of undergraduate, Masters and PhD students to maximise their grades in essays, dissertations, model-exam answers, applications and other materials.

  24. Reflection Paper

    Writing a reflection paper encourages critical thinking, self-reflection, and a deeper understanding of a subject or experience. It allows you to examine your own thoughts, emotions, and connections, promoting personal growth and self-awareness. Reflection papers are widely used in educational settings to develop analytical skills and foster a ...

  25. Ace Your Graduation Speech with Aithor

    Synthesis Essay Examples. A synthesis essay is another piece of academic discourse that students often find difficult to write. This assignment indeed requires a more nuanced approach to writing and performing research. ... How To Write Reflection Essays. How often do you contemplate how the tapestry of your experiences shapes your thoughts? A ...