What Is A Reflective Essay? How To Write A Reflective Essay? A Supreme Guide

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Did your professor just entrust you to write a reflective essay? Well, while it sounds simple, this type of writing may not be easy to write. One may wonder how tough it is to think and write about one’s experience. However, the fundamental challenges surface once you sit down to write the essay. 

Can you reflect and convey what is going on in your mind about a particular incident or experience? Are you able to put your ideas and thoughts into appropriate words? Though writing a reflective essay may appear challenging at first, it often becomes more manageable, provided you clearly know what you want to write and, more significantly, how to write.

This guide will help you understand what reflective paper writing is about and give you some tips for writing a successful essay. So, let’s start with the basics first:

What Is A Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a piece of composition written in the first person in which the writer examines life experiences and discusses their meaning or what you have learned from them. An academic analysis frequently entails reflecting on what you learned in class.

In short, reflective papers are about specific events or experiences. The essay structure asks one to be open about ideas and emotions in order to discover your mindset, personality, character traits, and background. 

You must give an explanation regarding your feelings, thoughts, and reactions, along with a description of the literature piece in the reflective essay. Remember that reflections are highly personal and subjective, yet they must be formal and well-organized. Furthermore, the writing should present a vivid recap and description of the experience.

There are three types of reflective writing:

  • A theory-based reflective essay
  • A case study
  • A personal experience-based essay
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What Purpose Does Reflective Writing Serve?

A reflective paper is a type of academic writing assignment that seeks to reveal additional information about your identity.

A reflective essay is frequently assigned as part of the academic curriculum, and students are required to write reflective essays regularly. 

Unlike conventional reflections, this essay style usually covers a theory, reading, or experience rather than an incident or recollection. Students investigate learning approaches and their effects, examining them and determining whether they are effective or if there is potential for improvement.

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

  • Analyze and draw conclusions from what you’ve read, heard, or monitored.
  • Create connections between the given text and yourself.
  • Examine what you have learned/understood so far and how you can or will use the new information.
  • Write subjectively (from your perspective) to help you determine your interests.

Is There A Reflective Essay Topic?

No, there is no right topic as such since reflective writing is about your own experiences and thoughts. However, some great ideas can help you write a reflective essay. Consider the following ideas to get started on this essay type:

  • An unforgettable experience 
  • A moment where you made the most difficult choice
  • The moment when you overcame fear
  • The happiest or scariest moment of your life so far
  • Introspection on some of the mistakes you made
  • A moment when you felt lost
  • A life-changing moment that you experienced
  • Reflect on your faith and beliefs
  • The moment you want to relive
  • Your first bike ride

Here’s how you can keep track of your ideas – create a chart and split it into three parts

  • Write essential experiences or your main points in the first column. You can organize them in descending order of importance.
  • List your personal answer to the points you made in the first column in the second column.
  • In the third column, note all the things that you want to convey through your essay based on your response.

Is There A Reflection Paper Format One Can Follow?

Yes, one can usually follow the basic essay format to write the reflection paper easily. In a reflective essay, the author investigates various scenarios and reveals their perspectives on the issues and situations. A reflective essay may appear to be a flurry of supposition due to its nature. Writings of this genre are divided into two subgroups based on their focal points –

  • Personal experience-based
  • Opinions on literary characters, events, public persons, etc.

A reflective essay must be appropriately structured and have all of the features of an academic document. It centers around three main components that contribute to its thoughtfulness and coherence.

The Three Major Reflection Components:

#1: Description

The first pillar of a reflection paper is the description. It describes an incident or experience and must be brief and included in the introductory paragraph. The report should clearly answer what occurred and what is being investigated in your essay.

#2: Evaluation

The analysis is the second most crucial aspect of a reflective essay and is the most detailed section. The writer must recognize the uniqueness of a text along with other major characteristics such as emotions, feelings, beliefs, and ideas. You can ask the following questions to strengthen your analysis further:

  • What caused that to happen?
  • What were you feeling?
  • What theories can explain what occurred?
  • What did you find interesting or challenging? Is there anything similar to what you’ve had in the past?
  • Has it influenced you? Whether positively or negatively?

#3: Result

The final feature of a reflective essay is its outcome. The writer captures the learned knowledge in this section, demonstrating its validity, usefulness, and future consequences. You can also seek follow-up questions if you have any doubts regarding the issue. These are examples:

  • What did you discover?
  • Assume what you learned or saw was eye-opening; how does it differ from what you used to think or do?
  • Will you use this information in the future? How?
  • Is the solution complete, or do you need to do further research to comprehend a theory, thought, etc.?

The Common Academic Structure

Aside from the features mentioned above, a reflective essay resembles the typical structure of an academic article, and it includes the following fundamental components:


The first paragraph introduces the topic and provides an overview. It begins with a statement that describes the core theme. An introduction also includes a thesis statement, which expresses the writer’s point of view on a particular experience, reading, or theory.


The core section typically revolves around the thesis, developing it, and describing what the writer has discovered. Every main body section investigates a single idea, concludes briefly, and moves on to the next body paragraph. Your instructor’s word limit determines the extent of body paragraphs. Assuming a five-paragraph paper, it should have two to four main paragraphs.


This is the final or concluding section of the essay. It essentially restates the topic’s idea or outcome. As a writer, you’ll have to emphasize the significance of the topic and stress the applications by examining the findings.

How To Format A Reflective Essay Outline?

Before you begin writing a reflective essay, consider its format and presentation. If it is a book-related reflection paper, it can be formatted as an essay, complete with all structural components. It could, however, also be a self-reflection essay. In this situation, it can be composed in the form of a diary. Whatever format you choose, remember not to use too much informal language.

Some examples of reflective papers are essay diaries, learning diary reflections, self-assessment essays, reflective notes, peer reviews, journal reflections, and logbook reflections. If you are writing in any of these formats, check the instructions and follow them precisely to write the paper. 

Formatting style is another essential point for any type of writing. One cannot haphazardly submit a paper. Usually, the format requirements will be typically stated in the instructions. If it is not specified, choose a format you are comfortable with.

The most frequent formatting styles are APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago. They all have various standards for the title page, headings, in-text citation formatting, and reference list. However, it is very much possible that you may be requested to format your essay in APA or MLA style.

Usually, the average length of a reflection paper ranges between 300 and 700 words. However, make sure to contact your instructor about the word length if it is not specified in the instructions. 

If your professor requires you to prepare your paper in APA or MLA style, here are a few points to follow:

Reflective Essay in MLA format

  • The font must be 12-point, and the font style must be Times New Roman
  • The margin must be 1-inch, and you must use double space 
  • On each page, the top right corner must include the last name and page number
  • The titles must appear at the center of the page
  • The header must include your name, the name of your professor, the course number, and the date in dd/mm/yy format
  • The final page must have a Works Cited list

Reflective Essay in APA format

  • The font must be 12-point, and the font style must be Times New Roman
  • The margin must be 1-inch, and you must use double space 
  • Add a page header to the top of each page
  • Add a page number to the right
  • Include the title page, abstract, body, and references in your reflective essay

Also, regarding the point being discussed, we need to know the difference between APA & MLA Formats.

Great Tips For Writing A Reflective Essay

Writing a reflective paper is basically a personal experience since it involves your views and opinions about something. Therefore, consider whether it is appropriate to mention something before including it in your paper.

  • Consider writing in general terms if you feel uncomfortable writing about something personal. 
  • Present your reflective essay professionally, even though the subject is personal. Do not use slang or abbreviations. Ensure the sentences are grammatically correct and use proper spelling. 
  • The focus of your essay must be on your personal experiences and reflections (if this is your story). 
  • Avoid writing about someone else in detail in your essay. You should remain professional and describe the acts the person took rather than the person.
  • Examine your paper to ensure that there are no errors in the sentence.
  • Ensure your sentences are short and to the point. Avoid cramming two or more ideas into a single statement.
  • Don’t leave sentences hanging; make sure each sentence serves a specific purpose.
  • Switch between arguments with the help of transitional phrases. Doing so will make your writing appear more professional.

Reflective Essay Samples

Sample 1: My first visit to a beach

“I hear the thunder of the waves as they roll up to the coast. On the beach, the waves pounded over and over. Each wave is the same, but each wave is distinct. I noticed the sun was obscured by a cloud, which reflected the light and caused the rays to spread out in all directions. The spray’s salty scent felt fresh and clean. The chilly foam of the wave’s edge coated my feet as they slid into the sand. I strolled with one hand holding my sandals. I photographed the sand, the gulls, and the waves, then humiliated myself by taking a selfie against the ocean waves.”

Sample 2: Experience in the certificate program

The Museum Studies Certificate Program exposed me to a wide range of perspectives on museological study. It propelled me to think critically about the ethics of representation in cultural institutions and museum settings. A Master’s degree in American Studies is part of a career move. 

And the Certificate program allowed me to venture outside of my academic comfort zone and apply my research procedures to understanding cultural performance as a manner of presenting. Because I am not a material culturalist, archivist, anthropologist, or archaeologist, my approach to the Certificate was likely different from that of my fellow graduate students.

With Dr. Judith Freidenberg’s approval, I centered my studies on research and performance rather than material culture or anthropological theory. My mind was deep in the issues of my Master’s thesis when I joined the program during my second semester: subcultural theory and performances of middle-aged identities in nightclub venues, and cultural performance was not yet on my academic radar.

Sample 3: 

In today’s lesson, we examined the Five Cs principles from Dr. Tseng’s introduction to the STANDARDS FOR FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING. Dr. Tseng guided us through the relearning and clarification of each national standard through her explicit and systematic delivery and her carefully designed, student-centered learning activities (role-playing and jigsaw cooperative activities) and assessed our learning outcomes through class activities and exercises.

I now have a greater comprehension of the Oral Proficiency Interview’s structure, specific definitions, and its purposes in enhancing student learning outcomes. A thorough grasp of OPI will benefit my future student evaluations and determine where I need to enhance my teaching to assist student learning.


Reflective writing may appear challenging at first. However, if you know how to do it, it is not that difficult. The key objective is not simply to relate a narrative or read a book. You should be able to investigate the situation, explain the impact, and draw conclusions.

Follow the traditional essay structure, proofread, and plagiarism-check your document. If you want to save time, consider using academic support. They will assist you with your writing.

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