How to Write a Reflective Essay: Ultimate Guide + Example

• Posted on • Updated
Gradient
Gradient
How to Write a Reflective Essay: Ultimate Guide + Example
Table of Contents
  1. How to Write a Reflective Essay: Ultimate Guide + Example
  2. What is a Reflection Essay?
  3. How to Write a Reflective Paper and Format It Correctly
  4. Reflective Essay Outline: Paper Structure
  5. How to Start a Reflective Essay?
  6. How to Formulate a Strong Thesis Statement?
  7. Writing the Main Body
  8. How to Conclude a Reflective Essay?
  9. Choosing a Good Reflective Essay Topic
  10. Significant Places and Events
  11. Personal Reflective Essay Ideas
  12. Helpful Tips for Writing a Reflective Essay
  13. Reflective Essay Example
  14. Final Thought
  15. Frequently Asked Questions
  16. 1. How long should a reflective essay be?
  17. 2. What is the difference between reflective essays and narrative?
  18. 3. How to write a reflection paper on an interview?
  19. 4. How to write a reflection paper on a book?

Reflective writing requires analytical skills. You should not just narrate a story or retell the plot of a book. You should be able to explain why it is important, how it influenced you or helped you grow. This essay type is rather personal. Thus, you should take your time to pick a topic that is interesting for you to write a good paper.

We have collected the most helpful tips to create an ultimate guide on reflective writing. It contains useful information on:

  • Reflective paper structure and outline.
  • Effective writing tips.
  • Good topic ideas.
  • Excellent reflective paper examples.

If you need guidance to understand how to write a good reflective essay or just extra information to improve your paper, check the article. It contains helpful tips and excellent examples. In case you are looking for a 'write my essay online' service, don't miss out on your chance to collaborate with the true experts in academic writing. 

What is a Reflection Essay?

A reflection essay is a type of writing in which you reflect on a particular topic and present your thoughts and opinion on it. It can be an event, phenomenon, concept, book, article, or some personal experience. This type of academic writing requires critical thinking to express your viewpoint. The most common are reflective papers on books and personal reflection essays.

However, the purpose of this piece of writing is not only to tell the story or share an opinion. You also explain how this particular situation, book, or person has influenced you, how you overcame problems, what emotions, thoughts, and feelings those situations or things evoked. You should also describe how those things or situations have changed you.

Let’s cut a long story short and learn the ropes of writing a reflection essay.

How to Write a Reflective Paper and Format It Correctly

When you start writing a reflective essay, first, think of its format and how to present it. If it is a reflective paper on a book, it can be formatted as an essay, with all its structural components. However, it might also be a self-reflection essay. In such a case, it can be written in the form of a diary.

In general, reflective paper has several formats: an essay diary, learning diary reflection, self-assessment essay, reflective note, peer review, journal reflection, and logbook reflection. To choose the right one, check the given instructions and follow them to the letter. If some requirements are ambiguous, don’t hesitate to clarify those questions with your teacher. It is vital to understand all the guidelines to produce a quality paper.

When you are done with the instructions and all the requirements are quite clear, you can start your reflective writing. It encompasses the following steps.

  1. Choosing the topic. If the topic was assigned, you can skip this step. In case it wasn’t, start brainstorming to find the one that fits you the most. First write down all the ideas that come to your mind, then start narrowing down your list until the best topic is left. Choosing the right topic, the one that is interesting for you, is a vital step in essay writing. 
  2. Gathering relevant information. When you have made up your mind regarding the topic, conduct research. Find relevant information that might be used in your paper to back up your arguments. Read some articles to fill the knowledge gap in terms of the topic. You might also collect examples, interesting facts, and look through some essay examples for inspiration.
  3. Creating an outline. With all the necessary information in hands, organize your ideas in a logical order and create a plan for your essay. Write down one main idea per each main body paragraph. When you have an outline, you will complete your essay faster. There will be no need to think what to write next. You have logically ordered ideas and just develop them.
  4. Writing a draft. Write the first draft without extra focus on mistakes. Rather, concentrate on creating a catchy intro, compelling body paragraphs, and informative conclusion. After you have expressed all your ideas, correct such flaws as wrong wording, unclear sentences, grammar and stylistic mistakes. 
  5. Citing properly. An important point in essay writing is citing. If you borrow ideas, properly cite them both in text and in the reference list. Otherwise, it would be considered plagiarism. It’s a serious issue, which even might lead to expulsion.
  6. Having a fresh take. After you are done with your reflection paper, take a break. Then, proofread your paper for inconsistencies and mistakes. Do not forget to check it for plagiarism, too.

One more requirement to any type of writing is formatting style. You cannot submit a paper in a random format. It is usually mentioned in the instructions. The most common formatting styles are APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago. They all have different requirements to the title page, headings, formatting of in-text citations, and reference list.

If you are working on the paper for psychology, history, science, or law, it is highly likely to be APA format. Here are the general guidelines of the APA format to the layout of the paper:

  • Margins – 1 inch on all sides.
  • Double spacing.
  • Times New Roman or Arial 12-point font.

Mind, you should not format the paper following any guidelines you know or like. You should follow the requirements provided by your teacher.

Reflective Essay Outline: Paper Structure

Want a helpful tip? To write your paper faster and without any mess, create an outline. It is like the backbone of a paper. It contains all the main ideas discussed in paper presented in a logical order. Basically, the same order they will be discussed in your reflective essay.

Students often underestimate this step, i.e. creating an outline. They say it is a waste of time, and they can do without it. However, when you have a ready outline, you do not have to think about what idea comes next. You simply follow the plan.

How to create an outline? There are two options. First, you may write one point per paragraph or heading. Second, you only write ideas per each essay part. Definitely, the more detailed the plan, the better.

Regarding the reflective paper structure. It has the same parts as any essay:

  • Introduction with a strong thesis statement.
  • Main body paragraphs.
  • Conclusion.

Let’s discuss in detail how to write each part of reflective writing and what to include in it.

How to Start a Reflective Essay?

As any academic writing, a reflective essay starts with an introduction. It should be catchy, informative, and brief. As this is the very first part, its purpose is to get the reader interested. Thus, it usually starts with a hook sentence. It can be a relevant quote, interesting fact or statistics, real-life example, a joke, hint to how the situation influenced you, etc. Reflective essays are rather personal. Thus, a real-life example might be the most appropriate hook sentence.

After this, introduce the topic. Whether it is a reflective paper on a book or a self-reflection essay, inform the reader about the topic or event you are going to reflect on.

Finish the paragraph with a thesis statement.

How to Formulate a Strong Thesis Statement?

Thesis statement is the main idea of an essay. Missing this part means your paper misses the direction. It should be clear, succinct, and debatable. A strong thesis statement for a reflective essay should demonstrate your attitude to the situation or a thing, as well as present the outcome, the lesson learned, or the conclusion made.

It should be unique for every essay. Thus, your reflective paper thesis statement can not be:

  • A quote from a book.
  • General knowledge.
  • An obvious fact that does not express your opinion.

A strong thesis for a reflective essay should state the subject, your opinion, thoughts and feelings regarding it, or the lesson learnt and conclusions made.

Writing the Main Body

The main body is the largest part of any essay. 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, express your feelings and emotions. 

The main body paragraphs should:

  • Be logically developed.
  • Discuss only one idea per paragraph.
  • Be related to the thesis statement.
  • Be balanced.
  • Start with a topic sentence.

Reflective writing is tracing your emotions and reactions and answering personal questions. If it is a reflective essay on a book, mention the ideas that caught your attention first. Then, reflect on these parts.

Tell what emotions or ideas they sparked in your mind. What is your attitude to these or that action or thing? How would you act or respond in a similar situation. Reflect on why these things impressed you. 

When you are writing a self-reflection essay, first describe your experience. Highlight all the important details. Then answer some questions. Tell how you felt at the beginning and in the course of the event. Answer important questions.

Did your reaction change in the end or as some time has passed? Has this experience changed you or your perception of things? What lessons have you learned? What conclusions have you made? These answers will serve as the main body of your paper.

How to Conclude a Reflective Essay?

The last paragraph is the general overview and the summary of your reflective paper. A good conclusion paragraph should include the following components:

  • Restate the thesis statement.
  • Analyze and summarize (do not repeat) the main points of the paper.
  • Logically conclude the paper by drawing a general conclusion.

Considering that it is the last part of any text, its purpose is to summarize and conclude.Thus, do not introduce new ideas or those that contradict the information presented in your paper. It would be illogical.

One of the common mistakes is retelling what was written in the essay. Avoid such approaches. Instead, demonstrate your critical thinking by analyzing and summarizing the key ideas of your paper. 

Choosing a Good Reflective Essay Topic

Choice of the topic for a reflective paper is an important step. As it is a rather personal type of writing, you should pick something you want and can reflect on. If you are out of ideas, check the list of reflective essay topics. It might serve as an inspiration for you.

Significant Places and Events

  1. A day in life you would like to repeat
  2. An experience you’ll never forget
  3. A moment in life when you understood you fought your fear
  4. How has school contributed to your character development?
  5. A movie/book that has changed your life
  6. Place where you feel calm and comfortable
  7. Feelings and thoughts when you think of your childhood
  8. What do you call home?
  9. A moment when you understood you are changing your life
  10. Your feelings when you lost something valuable
  11. How does it feel to know you have people who will always be there for you?

Personal Reflective Essay Ideas

  1. What do you like about yourself?
  2. Your biggest fears
  3. How do you imagine your future?
  4. How do you overcome stress?
  5. What does freedom mean for you?
  6. Your biggest dreams
  7. What makes you feel happy?
  8. What breaks your heart?
  9. What inspires you?
  10. What are your unique qualities?
  11. How do you reach your goals?

Helpful Tips for Writing a Reflective Essay

Follow these simple but effective tips to make a successful reflective paper:

  • Use first person narration. In the reflective paper, you are allowed to write from the first person. However, you should support your opinion and feelings with facts and evidence.
  • Add transitional elements for coherence. Include to your work linking words for smooth transition between ideas.
  • Follow the guidelines. Check out if you have followed the specific requirements to your reflection paper.
  • Don't get too personal. Although you describe your own experience, omit unnecessary details. It's an academic paper.
  • Maintain classical essay structure. Consider writing an introduction, main body paragraphs, conclusion. This is the best way to start if you need to learn how to write a reflection paper.
  • Make sure your paper has a structure. Although it’s rather personal paper, express ideas clearly and develop them logically.

Reflective Essay Example

We have prepared an excellent sample to help you understand how a reflective paper looks like. 

reflective_essay_sample
 

Final Thought

Reflective writing might seem difficult at first. However, it is not that challenging if you know how to do it. The main point is not just to retell the story or a book. You should be able to analyze, explain the impact, and make conclusion.
 

Ensure you follow the classical essay structure, proofread, and check your paper for plagiarism. If you want to save some time, you may try academic assistance. They will help you with your piece of writing.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long should a reflective essay be?

Reflective papers do not have unique length requirement. You should check the instructions. They should contain all the requirements regarding length, format, and content. Usually, these are short essays, taking close to 500-1000 words. If the word count is not mentioned, you can either clarify this question with your professor or write a medium size essay of about 600-800 words.

 

2. What is the difference between reflective essays and narrative?

These are different essay types. In a narrative essay, you may use the story just to describe the situation or to express your viewpoint. The purpose of a reflective essay is not just to tell the story. You should also describe the challenge you overcome, how you managed to do that, what feelings and emotions it triggered, and what lessons you’ve learnt from the situation. If it is a reflection paper on a book, you should describe what feelings, emotions, questions it raises.

 

3. How to write a reflection paper on an interview?

No matter if you are writing a reflection paper on an interview, book, or event, the rules remain the same. There should be a clear introduction with a strong thesis statement, logically developed main body, and conclusion that summarizes the whole paper. Think of the answers you did not like, those that you consider incomplete  or unclear. Reflect on why you think they were not that good, how could you make them better. Also, point to the answers and aspects you are totally satisfied with and also explain why and how it makes you feel so.

 

4. How to write a reflection paper on a book?

If you want to learn how to write a reflection paper on a book, follow three rules, have purpose, be personal, and analyze. It is not about just saying whether you liked it or not. The goal of this essay is to present your insights regarding the book.

For sure, you are not supposed to retell the whole story. You need to demonstrate critical thinking and show that you analyzed the book. Highlight the main ideas of the book.

Even if you are writing not about your particular experience, have a personal approach. Express your position regarding the information read.