Are you wondering how difficult it can be to reflect on your own experiences and write about them until you sit down to write a reflective essay? You’re in for a rude awakening because it’s not as simple as it appears.

A reflective essay requires students to reflect on their life experiences, particularly those that have left an impression on them. Writing a reflective essay aims to push students to think deeply and learn from their experiences, from describing their thoughts and feelings about a specific life event to analyzing its impact and examining what they learned.

What is a Reflective Essay?

Reflective papers are about specific events or experiences. When writing one, you examine the context, meaning, and lessons that can be drawn from it. That essay format requires you to be open about your thoughts and emotions to discover your mindset, personality, character traits, and background. A description of the experience/literature piece, as well as explanations of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions, should be included in your reflective essay. Reflections are highly personal and subjective, but they must be formal and well-organized.

What is the Purpose of Reflective Writing

Teachers frequently assign these essays to encourage students to reflect on their learning and delve deeper into an experience. Aside from school assignments, reflective essays are used in the workplace to help employees learn. Here are some examples of how professionals and students use these essays.

·        Literary

This essay requires you to summarize and then respond to a work of literature to understand it better and relate it to your own life and experiences.

·        Professional

This type of writing is frequently used in the training of teachers, doctors, and social workers. It teaches employers and employees how to do their jobs better.

  1. Medical students write about their patients. They can use this essay type to describe the patient and their thoughts as they determine the best treatment. They can reflect on how well they interacted with the patient and draw conclusions about what worked and didn’t so that they can interact with patients more effectively in the future.
  2. Reflective essays can help doctors fine-tune their ability to provide adequate health care in a caring manner that causes patients to not only believe but also follow their advice. They can consider how well their body language, words, and tone of voice persuaded the patient to make healthy lifestyle choices or how well they assisted a patient in dealing with complex medical information.

·        Educational

Students may be asked to respond to a lecture or other school assignment to demonstrate their understanding. Writing about your learning can also help you share and interact with your classmates and instructor.

·        Personal growth

This type of writing can assist you in learning how to comprehend and analyze your life experiences. It can also help you grow emotionally as you better understand yourself.

When you master reflective writing, you will be able to:

  1. Analyze and conclude what you’ve read, heard, or seen
  2. Make connections between both the text and yourself or other texts and the world
  3. Consider what you’ve learned and how you can or will use the newly acquired information

The steps outlined below will help you write the ideal reflective essay.

Reflective Essay Ideas

Because it should be about your thoughts and experiences, the reflective essay is probably one that you cannot borrow a reflective essay topic. However, here are some ideas for topics to write about to get you started:

  • A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
  • When you overcome a fear.
  • The most challenging decision you had to make.
  • A time when your beliefs were called into question.
  • A time when something in your life changed.
  • The happiest or scariest moment of your life thus far.
  • Ideas for how you or others can make the world a better place.
  • A time when you felt lost.
  • An introspective examination of your choices or a time when you made the wrong choice.
  • A time in your life that you wish you could relive.

Making a chart or table to keep track of your ideas is helpful. Divide your chart into three sections:

  • In the first column, list your essential experiences or main points. You can arrange them in descending order of importance.
  • Respond to the points raised in the first column in the second column.
  • In the third column, write what you want to share in the essay based on your response.

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How to Write a Reflective Essay

Annotate your initial thoughts and emotions while reading a text if you’re writing a reflection on it. If you’re writing about yourself or a specific event in your life, make a chart with three columns: previous experiences, descriptions, and reflections. The above table should help you think up and structure your essay’s introduction and body.

Reflective Essay Formats

A reflective essay differs significantly from an argumentative or research paper in format. A reflective essay is similar to a well-structured story or diary entry rich in insight and reflection. You may be required to format your essay in either APA or MLA style.

While the average length of a reflection paper ranges between 300 and 700 words, if you were assigned one, inquire with your teacher or employer about the word count. Even though this is your essay, you should avoid using too many colloquial expressions. If your professor requires you to format your paper in APA or MLA style, here are a few shortcuts:

MLA format reflective essay

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font, double spaced;
  • 1″ margins;
  • On every page, the top right includes the last name and page number;
  • Titles are centered;
  • The header should include your name, the name of your professor, the course number, and the date.
  • The last page should include a Works Cited list.

APA style reflective essay

  • Times New Roman 12 pt font, double spaced;
  • 1″ margins; a page header at the top of each page;
  • a page number on the right;
  • The title page, abstract, main body, and references should all be included in your reflective essay.

Reflective Essay Outline

There are two methods for writing a reflection paper: traditional and original (though risky):

  1. Express the main idea in a thesis, develop it in body paragraphs with supporting arguments, and summarize facts by reinforcing the thesis statement.
  2. Begin a conversation about the topic and hint at a conclusion. Consider where the subject will lead, but leave some room for doubt. In the body, provide an analysis. Create a conclusion slightly or entirely different from what you expected initially.

Reflective essay introduction

The most crucial aspect of starting a reflective essay is expressing your feelings on a subject. Just don’t get too worked up about it. It would be best if you expressed your thoughts rationally, not sentimental manner. It should be appropriate for the academic setting. Provide context: tell the reader what to expect in the following paragraphs. Create a firm idea by summarizing the central claim in one sentence.

  • It should be informative, brief, and memorable.
  • In the text, you can pose a reflective question.
  • Do not begin with the thesis; instead, return to it later.


This is the section in which you investigate the thesis. You should explain the situation in multiple paragraphs. Use a three-paragraph format. Introduce the experience and how it influenced you in the first one. Compare your experiences with those of others in the next one. Then explain what you discovered.

  • You can begin by explaining why you chose the topic.
  • Look for nuances to explain everything thoroughly.
  • Use logic.
  • Include relevant examples and citations.
  • Explain how the topic has affected you.


The conclusion should be firm, even memorable. The bottom line of the paper demonstrates that your ideas are fully formed. Finish the discussion by using solid accents. Leave a conceivable image of your experience so that readers can reflect. We can teach you how to write a conclusion if you want to learn more.

  • Emphasize the main points.
  • Make it compelling and convincing.
  • Respond to the question you posed in the introduction.

Reflection Essay Example

If you want to see the final essay, which I wrote using the pre-writing exercises I did for this essay, check out my reflective essay sample on our website. The following is an example of a reflective essay. Browse through the samples of a reflective essay below:

“As a Southern California native, the beach feels like home.” Even so, I occasionally forget to go there when I visit my mother. I came this week to care for her during Helen’s cataract surgery. Along with assisting her with consultations and recalling her eye drops, I’d been doing minor housework that she finds difficult. We’d also gone to see my cousin and the Rose Garden, where my grandmother’s ashes are interred. Furthermore, we had a lot of positive conversations, which was undoubtedly the most critical aspect of my visit.

I still hadn’t gone to the beach the day before I was supposed to leave. That’s when I remembered what my friend Rhonda had told me the day before I left: “Go to the beach for me while you’re there!” Living in Central Texas, the beach is five hours away, and the Texas Gulf coast, while beautiful, pales compared to the Pacific coast. Rhonda, like me, looks after her mother daily throughout the year. Her only respite in the years since her father died was a one-week trip to the beach in California with her husband. So, thinking about Rhonda, I decided I needed to go to the beach alone.”

Reflective Essay Questions

Examine the list of reflection questions below and choose at least three to answer.

  1. What did I observe?
  2. How did I react to this?
  3. What made me feel this way?
  4. What made my experience with this unique to me? How did others who were present react differently? Why?
  5. How has this affected me?
  6. What would you have done differently?
  7. What does this event mean in my life?
  8. How is this similar to something else I’ve encountered?
  9. How can I put this to use to help someone else?
  10. What does this event have to do with the rest of my life?

All in All

A reflective essay is writing in which you describe a specific event or experience or share your thoughts on a piece of literature. The background should delve into your thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the event and how it impacted you. To write an effective reflective essay, you should explain the change you went through and back it up with details and examples. For example, if you’re talking about becoming more optimistic in life, you’d talk about how you took a positive approach and how it resulted in a positive outcome.

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