How to Write a Reflective Essay?

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Reflective essays are essays in which writers share their thoughts and opinions on a particular subject. The purpose of a reflective essay is to encourage the writers to think about their own experiences, learn from them, and share them with others.

In this article, we share our guide on how to write a reflective essay: what it means, the format of writing, and reflective essay examples that would help you write an outstanding essay.

When writing a reflective essay, you need to analyze an experience, its meaning, and the lessons you learned. While sharing this experience, opening up about your reasoning to reveal your mindset, personality, and background is necessary. Reflective essay writing requires you to be personal.

How do you put together a reflective essay?

  • You would want to kick off by describing the experience or encounter.
  • Examine the encounter, including personal and academic examples.
  • Share an intimate analysis of that encounter.
  • Communicate with your audience what you learned.
  • Narrate how this experience would become helpful in the future. 
  • Ensure to create an emotion within your readers while engaging with your essay.
  • It is also vital to cite or reference external real-life examples linked to your encounter.

You should also adopt a proper structure when putting together your essay. We will discuss a reflective essay's meaning in the next paragraph. Structuring your reflective essay helps build a flow and keeps your readers hooked on your paper. 

What Is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay takes a more personal approach to delivery. You can share your personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings on a particular subject instead of just providing bare facts. 

Reflective essay writing can take various approaches. Depending on the purpose and focus, it could be personal, professional, or educational. Each approach requires a slightly different tone.

For example, a personal reflective essay would require a more emotive tone, whereas a professional or academic reflective essay would need to be more formal and objective.

Reflective essay writing is usually subjective and deeply personal. However, it must maintain a formal tone while being correctly organized. You can discuss any subject that interests you, from your visit to a new city, how you felt about a new movie, to a specific theory of evolution. 

An excellent way to reflect correctly would be to pick out some questions that allow you to think more broadly about an encounter, for example:

  • What did that encounter teach you about yourself?
  • Have you grown because of it? If you have, how?
  • Share impacts from the experience. Positive or Negative.
  • If you could, what would you have done differently?
  • Did you make the right decision at the said time?
  • What are your lessons from the experience?

To write a reflective essay, remember that asking yourself many questions is key to deep reflection and critical thinking about the particular experience you are writing about. Knowing how to use questions to enhance your reflection is a skill to unlock outstanding reflective essays.

Reflective Essay Structure.

Brainstorming and scribbling ideas or thoughts spontaneously would help in knowing how to start a reflective essay. This will help you keep those thoughts. Next, analyze how your experience is connected with who you were before it happened and how the experience affects your current beliefs.

A clear reflective essay outline helps organize your thoughts and writing. Therefore, it is essential to follow an outline for your reflective essay. This would help you establish the details you wish to incorporate into your essay., and serve as a guide to keep you on track and save time.

Reflective essay outlines may differ based on the subject but usually contains an introduction, body/paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Here is a breakdown of a reflection essay structure.

  • Introduction: Create a short hook and thesis statement. The point of this is to captivate your readers from the very beginning. Portraying fascinating parts of your story in this initial paragraph will keep your readers glued to your essay.

You can start with a quote that relates to the encounter you are about to analyze. The tone of expression should fit the writing approach - personal, professional, or academic. It should be catchy, brief, and informative.

  • Body: This allows you to explore your subject or topic properly. Each paragraph should focus on a single idea. Refrain from attempting too many ideas in a single paragraph. You can adopt a three-structured paragraph approach. 

Start by introducing the experience and how it influenced you. In the next paragraph, compare the experience with other experiences, and share what you learned from it in the third paragraph. Generally, the emphasis should be on the reflection of the experience.

  • Conclusion: In this part, you should focus on bringing your essay to a striking close. This is the time to answer questions you may have asked your audience in your writing. Make sure your conclusion is persuasive. 

Reflective Essay Format.

The format of a reflective essay slightly differs from other forms of writing. Reflective essay writing allows the writers to recount a particular event vividly and share how that experience has shaped them in present times. 

Note that the format changes based on your target audience. If you are writing for a more academic audience, your tone will differ from writing a more general audience.

The word length or count should typically be between 300 - 750 words, but this depends on the reflective essay writing instructions given. Even though this writing is highly centered on your experience, avoid using too much informal language. 

If you have written at least one academic paper, you might be familiar with the reflective essay template.

Some formats for reflective essays you should know:

  • Standard A4 paper
  • The 1-inch margin on each side
  • 12-point text size
  • Readable fonts (Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, Helvetica, etc.)
  • Lines with double spaces
  • The citation should follow APA, Harvard, and Chicago style (but primarily as defined by the instructor)
  • Word count between 200 - 800 (at least).
  • Your reflective essay should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References (depending on the approach your essay is taking).

Keep this format in your mind when preparing your reflective essay.

Reflective Essay Writing Tips.

Sitting to put pen to paper to write a reflective essay can be daunting, but if you have committed to seeing your reflective essay writing through, here are some helpful tips to help ease the process. 

  • A reflective essay is more personal. If you do not feel comfortable sharing intimate encounters, stick to writing on general terms.
  • To decide your essay's tone, you can read third-party reflective pieces in magazines, blogs, etc.
  • Take your time with what to write. You can scribble down your thoughts and edit them subsequently.
  • Every time you share a point from an encounter, try to describe to your audience how you were directly affected using specific words.
  • Write using first person narrative to make it feel more personal.
  • Create an outline, so you can flow in a format as you progress
  • Try opening your introduction with an anecdote to grasp your readers' attention.
  • Be honest as you express your thoughts, feelings, or experience.
  • Reflect as you write. Ask yourself reflective questions periodically to keep your thoughts in sync and creative.
  • You can also include imagery to further interact with the reader's imagination.
  • Analyze a wide range of sources on the subject you are writing on.
  • Ensure you detail your turning point—when it all changed.
  • Again, reiterate outcomes that stuck with you from that experience. Share lessons learned.

Reflective Essay Examples.

These are some reflective essay examples and a brief.

Here are a couple of reflective essay topic examples. You can choose one that is most familiar to you:

  • What inspires you?
  • What childhood dream are you currently living?
  • The biggest challenge you have faced in your life.
  • Five qualities that you look out for in individuals.
  • Your experience on a field trip.
  • Your college experience.
  • The one experience that has shaped who you are now.
  • How the media affects your decision-making process.
  • AI and technology are changing the future of work.
  • The best visit to a restaurant you visited.
  • Your best meal and the last time you cooked it.
  • How do you feel when someone lies to you?
  • How did you handle a situation when someone maltreated you?
  • How do you de-stress?

Here is a reflective essay sample to guide you:

“Reflective Essay: My time as an English major in (college name).

As I sit down to reflect on my time as an English major at xxx college, I am in the middle of preparing for my last weeks and preparing for the reality of the world outside of these college wars.

On a relevant note, I am so grateful for the experiences and learning. Now, I am considering pursuing a career in teaching because I thoroughly enjoyed how each syllabus was delivered.

Before my time at xxx college, I was a certified introvert, but the need for constant interactions with fellow students and lecturers improved my social interaction level. So now I am ready to take all I have learned and apply it in my next career phase.”

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