What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a common task for college students, the goal of which is to reflect on the experience you have been involved in. Accordingly, in a reflective paper, you share your impressions of this far-reaching experience. Your key task is to articulate your feelings and emotions with precision.

How to Write a Profile Essay?

Firstly, you must have understanding of what you have read or viewed. Thus, it is a splendid idea to note the things that affected you most. For instance, if your reflective essay centers on a movie, it is advisable to watch it twice - once to grasp a general impression and then again to make some notes. The same is true about books. You ought to know what details must be provided. If there were parts that are consistent with your reaction, you need to reference them.

Organizing Your Thoughts

Do not ruminate for too long on how to start a reflective essay and get down to body paragraphs first.

Supposing you have just finished the field experience for an education class. You have been observing the classroom for a week and now you have to describe everything in your reflective essay. Make some questions about your topic and also ask yourself the following ones:

  • What are your feelings about the management of the classroom?
  • How did the teacher meet the personal needs of students?
  • Were the learning activities applied?

How to Write a Good Reflection Step-by-Step?

If you wonder how to write a good reflection, this instruction will come in handy:

Step One: Define a Topic Idea

Example: I am going back to my roots, namely to my house near the beach where I spent my childhood, so I am going to expound on it in my paper.

Step Two: Examine Your Subject

Everything depends on the topic, at times you even have to shut your eyes and remember, read, watch, listen, or practice your imagination.

Example: I went for a stroll along the beach and reveled in the sun, water, and wind. I recollected other beach strolls I had taken and cast my mind back to other beach trips.

Step Three: Brainstorm

Put down everything that crosses your mind about your subject. Your task is to depict the subject as vividly as possible, so think about smells, tastes, noises, as well as what you see.

Example: I can distinctly see lots of waves approaching the shore. When looking closer at them, it seems that they are alike but at the same time unique. I saw the sun shadowed by a cloud  which displayed the light so that the rays disperse in diverse directions. The salty smell of the spray was crisp and pure. I was wandering about carrying sandals in one hand and unhurriedly taking pics of all the splendor that surrounded me.

Step Four: Choose Reflection Questions

Take example of this list of questions and pick at least 3, which you would like to answer.

  • What did I notice?
  • What did I feel at that time?
  • Was this experience a peculiar one? Did the others who were there feel this way?
  • Did it change anything in me?
  • Did I experience something like that earlier?
  • Did it affect my future life?
  • What does this event mean to me?
  • What did I derive from this experience?
  • How can it help in my life, career, studying?
  • How did it expand my understanding of my own culture?
  • How did this experience resonate with my comprehension of theology, God or religion?
  • How did this change the way I think?
  • Would this experience be the same if I repeated it again?

Step Five: Answer-Questions

Read your question and answer it.

Example: What did I notice? I clearly heard the shouts of the seagulls and the noise of families calling to one another. Parents played in the sand with their kids. I felt icy wind on my face and saw the houses across the strand.

What does this event mean to me? When I go back home, I am too short of time to go for a walk to the beach, although it is within a walking distance. I would not make this trip if not for my Alice who is a caregiver to her mother.  She told me to go to the beach for her. And I did it. I smelled the beach air, wandered about by myself and took an hour to ponder over responsibilities to others. Then I wrote "For Alice" in the sand and took a photo of it.

Step Six: Define the Main Meaning

You need to decide what this experience gave to you and what memories it left. By defining this, you will write a thesis of your paper.

Example:  My small trip to the ocean strand taught me that it is beneficial for everybody to find a place where you can isolate from the whole world. To some extent, it refreshes your mind and makes you look at the life from a different angle.

What is a reflection essay?

Types of Reflective Writing

Literature: In this type of reflective essays, your aim is to sum up a literary work, express your own impressions of it, and resonate it with your own life.

Professional: Teachers, doctors, and social workers often resort to this type of writing to investigate their own behavior in response to other people so that they could comprehend how to fulfill their jobs more effectively.

Educational: Sometimes instructors ask students to give a response to a lecture or other school task so that they could show what they understood.

Personal development: This type of a reflective essay will be useful in analyzing your own life events.

Drawing an Outline

Definitely, you can feel entirely prepared to kick off writing an essay. Still, it is imprudent to start writing without a detailed, well-organized draft of the whole paper. It is vitally important for reflective essays since writers tend to get sidetracked and disorganized when tackling such sort of an essay.

How to Start a Reflection Essay?

If you wonder how to start a reflection paper, the answer is simple. Similarly to all essays, a reflection essay begins within an introduction, which comprises both a hook and a thesis statement. The aim of a hook is to attract reader's attention from the outset. Thus, briefly mention all the striking aspects of your essay in the first paragraph with a view of retaining readership's interest. The thesis statement is a concise summary of what the essay is going to be about. Do not forget to provide a quick overview but do not reveal too much information, because otherwise your reader will become disinterested.

How to Write a Reflection Essay Body Section?

In the main part, you can elucidate the questions you have answered above and organize your responses in paragraphs. Just present more examples and details of your experience.

When comprising a body section, try to adopt a chronological approach. In practice, it involves working on everything you want to cover as it happened in actual time. This will assure a systematic and coherent plot of your reflective essay and your reflections will not be organized in a haphazard way.

Additionally, ensure the main part of your reflection essay is well-focused, and contains proper critique and reflection. This part focuses not only on summing up your experience, but above all on the impact that it made in your life.


In the summary, your prime task is to bring your work together by giving a summary of both the points made during the process of writing and the lessons you have derived from it. Also, you should briefly explain how your attitudes and behavior have changed due to this experience.

What is a Reflective Paper?

Tips on How to Write a Reflective Paper

  1. To get the grasp of the format and style of a reflection essay, find the examples of similar pieces in mass media or on the Internet.
  2. When describing a certain notion or a part of your experience, support it by providing an exact description of your feelings and thoughts at that time.
  3. Consider the idea of presenting your introduction with a witty anecdote in order to grab reader's attention or such techniques as flashbacks.
  4. Choose your vocabulary thoroughly to render your feelings and thoughts precisely. Mind that this sort of an essay somehow resembles a description and therefore it involves using miscellaneous adjectives. However, avoid such vague adjectives as "beautiful" and opt for more concrete ones.
  5. Be scrupulously honest about what you feel and think.  Your tutor expects you to give an accurate reflection rather than a review of your experience. Be critical about your experience and the response you provided to it. When evaluating and analyzing your paper, make sure you have made prudent and precious judgments.
  6. Do not evade using a variety of punctuation marks, as it makes your paper dynamic and electrifying.
  7. Make sure that you have emphasized your turning point or what otherwise is called an  “Aha!” moment. Without this part, your conclusive feelings and thoughts are not as valid, and your argument is not as plausible.
  8. In spite of the fact that a reflective essay is mostly based on your own experience, it is essential to engage other sources to display the understanding of your experience from a theoretical aspect. Therefore, review potential sources, like movies, books and journal articles to give your work more credibility. If you use multiple sources, it will suggest that you are well-read on your subject. In addition, the application of other sources shows that you are knowledgeable about multi-dimensional nature of both learning and problem-solving processes.
  9. While writing a reflective essay, make sure you have at least three main points to state and that they are supported with enough details.
  10. Do not contradict yourself. If you have mentioned that you are inspired by a book or movie, do not state that it is uninteresting or boring.
  11. How to write a good reflection? A top-notch reflection is honest and genuine. If nothing has touched you, state it directly in the main part of your reflective essay.

Reflective Essay Topics

If you have run out if ideas for your reflection essay topics, flick through the following list:

  1. Experience that engraved in your memory.
  2. What breaks your heart?
  3. What is your major driving force?
  4. How do you attain your goals?

Personal Experience Essay Topics

  1. What do you like about yourself?
  2. Your deepest fears.
  3. Your overriding dream.
  4. How do you see your future?
  5. How do you cope with stress?

If you still have some hardships with reflection writing, try mind-mapping. It will enable you to collect your thoughts and ideas. Making a mind-map will ensure that your argument is written in a systematic way that is convenient for your instructor to follow. Take into consideration this recap that can also be a bedrock for creating a mind map:

  1. Determine what topic you will write on.
  2. Take down all the ideas related to the topic that crop up in your head. Also, use a diagram to combine different topics, theories, and ideas.
  3. Allow your ideas run their own course as you can edit your work any time.
  4. Mull over how your ideas are interrelated, and then begin writing your paper.


To summarize, writing reflective papers is not as black as it is painted. The recipe for success is simple: be straightforward and outspoken, demonstrate the lessons, which you drew from your life-changing experience, and explain how they constituted to who you are now.