How to write a reflective essay

Posted: November 25th, 2020

A Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay

Are you confused about writing a reflective essay? Read through to learn how to write a reflective essay in just 6 minutes.

You may have written dozens of essays through high school. However, you might be facing a challenge when it comes to writing reflections. We are here to help. A reflective essay gives you the freedom to explore and write about your feelings or thoughts on a topic.

We all have gone through some experiences, good or bad, in life. But how often do we analyze and reflect on these experiences? It is rare, which makes it hard for most students to write a reflective essay.

Read on for a detailed guide on what a reflective essay is, how to write one, and tips to remember. We have also included a FAQs section to answer some of the common questions we receive on writing reflections.

What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of paper that describes an experience or event. It then analyzes the incident or event and the lessons learned from it. As the name suggests, it is a reflective essay because it examines an experience and compares it to the present.

Reflective writing seeks to help a person think and understand more about themselves. It answers the questions “who are you” and “how have you changed?”

When writing a reflective essay, a student should describe that experience in depth. They should discuss how they have grown, changed, or developed as a result of the encounters.

The writer should fully open up. They should communicate their emotions, thoughts, individual traits, and personality. The reader should feel the same way the writer felt when going through the event.

What Should I Write About?

My professor assigned us a reflective essay; what do I write about?

There are different subjects you can write about. However, the most common when writing a reflective essay include;

  • A real occurrence
  • An imaginative experience
  • An event
  • A special object or place
  • Something you have watched, read, seen, heard, smelled, or tasted

Are you confused about what to write about in your essay? Do not worry. Live Chat with us today and let one of our writers come up with a topic for you.


How Do You Write A Reflective Essay?

Writing a reflective paper or reflective essay is easy. You write it following the steps below;

  1. Come up with a topic

Most professors do not assign topics for reflective essays. Remember, we all have different experiences in life that are unique for each person. Therefore, most teachers let the student select a topic.

If you don’t have any topics in mind, you can go through our recommended reflective essay topics for inspiration. Choose your topic wisely!


  1. Understand the topic

You have identified a suitable topic. Now, it is time to think about the topic to understand it fully. Remember every tiny detail about it. Spend some minutes reliving the moment to get enough points to captivate the reader.


  1. Brainstorm

What comes to mind when you think about your subject? Write it down. Jot down everything that comes to mind, irrespective of whether it seems necessary or not.

What do you remember? What did it taste like? How did it feel? What did it look like? How did you react? When writing down what comes to mind, try using adjectives to describe these experiences.


  1. Ask yourself some reflection questions

Remember, a reflective essay is about how an occurrence in your life resulted in change. Therefore, you need to ask yourself some reflection questions. For example;

  • What did I see?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • Why did you feel that particular emotion?
  • Was this experience unique to me? Why? How did others experience this differently?
  • How did this experience change me?
  • Is there anything I could have done differently?
  • Does that experience have a meaning in my life?
  • Was that occurrence similar to any other event I have undergone?
  • Can I use this experience to help other people?
  • How will this experience affect the rest of my life?
  • Was the occurrence a good or bad thing?
  • What skills did going through the experience impact?
  • Can I apply this to my studies?
  • Is there a way this experience can help me in the future or my career?
  • Did the experience help me understand my culture or another culture better?
  • In what way did the experience relate to my understanding of religion, theology, or God?
  • Did this experience challenge me socially?
  • How did the encounter change my way of thinking?
  • Would I experience the same emotions if the event happened again?



  1. Answer the questions

Read the questions, choose those that are relevant to you, and answer them. While writing a draft, do not worry about your grammar or sentence construction. Instead, focus on getting answers to these questions. At this point, you are interested in getting as many ideas as possible to write down.


  1. Does your experience have a meaning?

Before writing down your reflective essay, find out if your experience had a meaning. Also, find out what the purpose was and what you learned from it. The most important part of the occurrence will form your thesis statement.


Reflective Essay Writing Help

Writing a reflective essay that scores your high grade is demanding. You need to come up with a suitable reflection and think deeply about it. Sometimes, students do not have flexible deadlines to help them handle the assignment optimally.

We can help through our reflective essay writing help. Our essay writing service is cheap and guarantees you good grades. We deliver all assignments on time to give you time to go through the essay and request changes if need be. Thus, you get a high-quality assignment that you can submit on time.


Reflective Essay Writing Format

The format of a reflective essay is similar to other papers. It should have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
However, the format you use when writing your reflective essay will change depending on your audience. For example, writing a reflective essay as a class assignment will have a different format than writing for a magazine.

Reflective essay writing structure

Reflective Essay Writing Structure

As we have earlier discussed, a reflective essay must have an introduction section, body, and conclusion.

At the introduction, the writer or speaker shares what the reflection is about.  Identify the subject you will write about and give the reader a general touch on it. The introduction should include a thesis statement. A thesis statement acts as the main point of your paper. Here is a guide on how to write a thesis statement.

The next section is the body. This section should mention why your subject made the impression and why. You should discuss what you have learned and the change that has transpired.

If you have undergone any change, intensely discuss what caused you to change. For example, most university students are asked to write about how they have become better writers since they joined college.

With such a topic, you should discuss how various lessons and assignments made you a better writer. To score high marks in your essay, you should add relevant examples.

Here is an example. If you are writing on adopting a more positive attitude in life, you can add examples. For instance, you can describe how you came to be positive in life. It could be a situation which you approached with a positive attitude

The last section of your essay is the conclusion. Here, you need to sum up your whole paper. You should also recap your thesis statement (not rewrite it). Mention how you changed and the effects of these changes. You can opt to look forward or backward.

If you opt to look ahead, you can share how the changes you made can help you in the future. On the other hand, if you choose to look backward, explain how different you are now compared to the past. Most writers opt to compare their present with their past to emphasize the change.

Phrases that you can use to introduce your conclusion

How do you let the audience know that you are concluding your reflective essay? You can use phrases such as;

  • To me, this experience means…
  • After analyzing this event, I came to learn that…
  • What this encounter taught me is to always…
  • Four things I learned from this are…
  • As I reflected on this, I learned that…

Writing a reflection may seem too easy. However, do not get it wrong. You need to follow a format, structure, and brainstorm to get enough information to write about.

If you dig deeper, you might find it a little complex. We can help. Our essay writers are available 24/7 to ensure you can place your order and receive it on time for submission.

Reflective Cycle

Why Do We Write a Reflective Paper?

Professors often ask their students to write a reflective essay. They assign this to keep the student on their toes about what they are learning. Also, writing a reflective essay helps the student describe an experience in depth. However, reflective papers are not only assigned as school assignments but also as professional tasks.

Here is how a reflective essay is essential for both students and professionals;

For Students

Personal growth- writing a reflective essay will help you learn, understand, and analyze your life experiences. Therefore, it helps you grow emotionally as you get to understand yourself better.

Literary- a reflective paper asks you to summarize your experience. Later, you can be asked to go through an existing piece of literature and use it to relate to your own experience and life

Educational- an instructor may ask students to respond to a school lecture or assignment to show their understanding. As you write about what you learn, you get to interact with the instructor and other students.

For Professionals

Some professionals use reflective writing in the course of their training. It helps both an employer and employee do their job better;

Doctors- reflective essays help them fine-tune their skills and ability to offer effective healthcare. It allows them to provide better service by analyzing how their body language, tone of voice and words affect patients.

Medical students- medical students are often asked to write about the patients they attend to. They can use reflective writing to describe the patient, the condition, and their current thoughts. Furthermore, they also get to analyze how they interacted with the patient and conclude what worked best.

Teachers- teachers also benefit from writing reflective essays that deeply share their experiences. By writing the essay, they get to review their emotions about teaching and analyzing which patterns worked. Thus, they can come up with better lesson plans and effective teaching strategies.

Nursing students- a typical nursing student’s assignment is writing a reflective essay on their patients. The paper helps them understand how they can care for their patients in a better way. Furthermore, it also helps them deal with the emotional stress they go through from doctors and patients.

Business people- people running a business also benefit from reflective writing. It helps them examine their business setting interactions. Thus, helping them envision how they can best present their product or service to customers.

Essay Topics

Top Reflective Essay Topics

We had earlier discussed some subjects you might write about in your essay. Therefore, you have an idea. If not, here are some topics you might write on;

Life-Changing Events

  • A significant conversation you had
  • A special date
  • A new experience
  • An important conversation
  • When you learned something new
  • A situation where you overcame your greatest fear or one of your fears

Places you have visited

  • Your visit to a relative’s home
  • A special room
  • Your hideaway spot
  • The desert, countryside, mountains, and beach

Impactful Experiences

  • Magazine
  • Article or journal
  • A vacation
  • A TV Show, Movie, Book, or any media
  • Social media post

Significant Thoughts

  • A dream
  • An embarrassing moment
  • A story you keep telling yourself
  • A strong emotion
  • The person you aim to be

Important People

  • Your parents or grandparents
  • Someone who hurt you
  • Your best friend
  • Someone you lost
  • Life coach, counselor, etc

Do you still need more topic ideas? You can use a topic generator.

Reflective Essay Writing Samples

Are you writing your reflective essay for the first time? Or have you always found writing reflective essays to be challenging? Having reflective essay samples that you can refer to will be of immense help.


Common Mistakes Students Make When Writing a Reflection

What are some of the common mistakes students make when writing a reflective essay?

  1. Being too informal. It is easy for a student to write informally since they are writing about personal experience. However, the essay is part of schoolwork and needs to be formal.


  1. Including too much personal information. The main aim of writing a reflective essay is to analyze a situation and how it changed you. It helps you reflect on an earlier experience. Therefore, avoid writing on an intensely personal experience.


  1. Failing to follow the essay structure. If you don’t follow the correct structure, you will write a disorganized and incoherent essay. The essay will be difficult for your reader to go through and understand.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Reflective Writing FAQs

Q: How do I share my emotions in an essay? I don’t know how to write about my emotions

A: Reflection essays are about personal experience. Therefore, it requires you to add some emotion, which a reader can relate to and “feel.” Add sentiment to your essay by explaining how the event made you feel. Also, adding stories or examples which are relevant and emotional could be helpful.

Q: Can I Write a Reflection About a Story I watched?

A: When writing a reflective essay, you need to write about encounters in your life. Nonetheless, it is possible that a story you watched had a significant impact on your life.

Therefore, it is okay to base your essay on a story you watched or a book you read. However, you need to add in all the experiences in your life, which helped you to relate to the movie or book. It could be you were facing a similar situation as that told in the film or book.

Unlike when sharing your own experience, you will not dive into all the movie or book details. Instead, you will need to explain the story’s relevant basics and how it impacted your actions, feelings, and thoughts.

Q: As a medical student, do I need to reference my healthcare reflective essay?

A: Most student essays are written in the APA, MLA, or Harvard format. These formats require a student to add references and citations. However, this is not the case for your reflective essay.

A reflective essay is based on your experiences, encounters, and observations. Thus, it is a unique story that probably has not happened to anyone else. Therefore, you won’t have to reference it.

However, if you obtained some information from an article or someone else’s thoughts, you need to include it. Consult your instructor to know which referencing format you need to use.


Q: Must I include a title for a reflective essay?

A: Yes, you must. Every essay, including a reflective one, should have a title. A title is essential since it tells your reader what your essay is about. You should ensure that the title is not too long or too vague.


Q: What are some of the things I should avoid including in my reflective essay?

A: Reflective writing is deep. It needs you to dive deep into an experience and relive it. However, you need to avoid including too much personal detail that you wouldn’t want anyone else to know.

Different people have different experiences. Some people have gone through tough times in their lives. Talking and writing about these experiences could be healing. However, writing them in an academic essay may not be the best venue.

The main aim of writing essays in college or university is to learn how to write effectively and clearly. Therefore writing a deeply emotional subject could make it hard for the instructor to critique your essay.


Q: Can I write a reflective essay about a conference?

A: Yes, you can. You can write about any meaningful event, including a conference. When writing about a forum, you can start by describing the conference. What were your expectations, and what occurred? Did the conference meet your expectations? What did you learn? How will the conference help you in the future?


Tips to Remember

We hope our FAQs section above has answered your question. As we wind up, here are some key factors to remember when writing your essay;

  • Your introduction should be engaging in prompting the reader to continue reading
  • The essay is about a personal experience. Therefore, you can use the pronoun “I” in the essay
  • Deeply describe the experience. Relay your emotions clearly and make the reader connect to your essay
  • Do not forget to mention how the experience changed you. It could be it inspired you to change your attitude or in other ways.
  • Always use relevant examples to discuss your experience or point.
  • Your thesis statement should be in the introductory paragraph
  • Ensure the essay is formal. Despite being a reflection paper, it is an academic paper too. Hence ensure it retains some level of formality
  • Follow the laid out essay structure. Start with an introduction, the body, and finish off with the conclusion.
  • If you add in someone else’s thoughts, other than yourself, always add a citation and reference. Consult with your instructor on the referencing method to use.
  • Do not be too personal. It is an academic paper and not an open letter to a friend.
  • Avoid sharing different experiences in your essay. Instead, choose one incident and write about it. It gets easier if you start by creating an outline.

Guide on writing a reflection paper

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