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How to Write a Reflective Essay: Sample, Topics, and Format

Writing a reflective essay differs slightly from other forms of academic writing because it is meant to analyze situations and experiences. It helps you do what you do every day – reflect on things, though sometimes subconsciously.

Reflective skills will help to critically analyze matters and help you make the best of your set skills through identifying gaps that need improvement. 

Reflective Essay

In this piece, we consider the definition of a reflective essay, how to best write a reflection paper, and a few tips to help you in that process. 

What is a Reflective Essay?

What’s the meaning of a reflection essay? A personal reflection essay is an academic assignment that helps you criticize literary pieces, occurrences, and even experiences.

For example, it is common for students to reflect on their industrial attachment or internship. Here, you will explain your performance and feelings. 

Unlike other academic documents, this one allows writing in first person pronoun and opinions. However, you should remember the academic assignment that needs to be formal.

You cannot bring in all your thoughts like you are writing a diary buy you will still need to support the claims you make. 

Sometimes, you may be asked to reflect on academic engagement and how it affected your practice and thinking or analyzes an experience and how it was dealt with.

Additionally, you may reflect on the information you have read on textbooks, articles, or journals related to your discipline.

A reflective essay is also common on finished projects to assess how they were done. 

Things to Remember Before Writing your Reflective Essay

1.    Every Assignment is Unique 

Your professor will provide particular instructions you need to follow. Are the structure and format specified, or open? What topic are you writing about? Any specific reflection model you are to use? 

At this stage, understand all the peculiarities associated with your assignment. If possible, jot them down in a checklist to ensure that important is left out.

Being organized is the first step to producing unique content.

Your professor may suggest the APA format reflective essay. Omitting such detail may affect your score. 

2.    Consider Key Points and Important Questions

Now that you know what your assignment entails, the next step is to ask yourself a few questions that will help you address all essential aspects. Some of the questions to ask involve the following:

  1. How have I obtained knowledge, and what are the most outstanding things have I learned? 
  2. Which mistakes did I make? 
  3. What indicators of my performance can be improved? How am I going to improve those aspects? 
  4. Which skills are inadequate or lacking? How and why do I need to improve them? 
  5. What does research suggest about that particular situation? What literature relates to my experience? How can I have a different and better outlook on the matter? 

Be as detailed as you can in answering the above questions. Also, include your thoughts, feelings, and people involved. All this information will form the basis of your reflective essay, especially the draft. 

3.    Choose and Understand your Model of Reflection 

You can use various models, such as Gibbs reflective cycle, Driscoll model, Kolb reflective cycle, the Johns’ model for structured reflection, Atkins, and Murphy model, Brookfield, Borton, and Mezirow of transformative learning, and Schon model. 

If you have not been asked to use a specific model, you can choose from the above list. 

Gibb’s model is the most common. It requires you to consider what happened, how you felt, evaluation of the experience, and analysis of the situation and how you could have done things better. 

Reflective Essay Outline and Outline

A reflective essay takes a specific format to maintain consistency. Below is a simple to follow structure. 

Introduction for a Reflection Essay

Your reflective essay introduction should be compelling, informative, and brief. You need to tell your readers the main ideas that you will discuss.

The last sentence of your introduction should be the thesis statement. To make a strong thesis statement, give a fuller picture by providing an example.

You may also show the effects or consequences of certain events concisely. Now you know how to write a good introduction for a reflective essay. What next?


The body forms the backbone of your paper. You can easily find yourself filling it with fluff and unrelated events. To avoid that trap, plan your writing. Determine what you will leave out and what to include. 

Another thing that you may consider doing is to explain the events in chronological order. Such an organization reduces the chances of repetition and ensures your content is coherent and systematic.

Even with the timelines, the activities should tie-up with the thesis statement naturally. 

A reflective essay is not a mere presentation of facts. It includes dissecting the topic and analysis of the situation thoroughly.

You should explain how the occurrence affected you and how you felt. The goal remains reflection, not providing a summary.

Remember to include what you have learned in the process and how you will change or respond next time that you find yourself in a similar situation.

Lastly, highlight your adaptability to given circumstances. In the end, the readers will should resonate with your personality as depicted in your reflection essay. 

Conclusion for Reflective Essay

Here, you want to tie together your main points and restate your thesis statement.

You can include the things you have learned and your reflection of personal strengths and weaknesses in dealing with a particular situation. 

Avoid introducing any new thought at this point. Just wrap up and let your readers know what you may have as a plan.

For example, you can state that your problem solving or critical thinking skills need improvement. 

Edit the Reflective Essay Ruthlessly 

After completing your reflective essay, take a break, and come back to proofread your work. This break helps you have a fresh look at your paper.

This means you will identify and address all common mistakes, remove fluff, and make sure your sentences are coherent and easy to understand. 

You can use online tools to check your grammar, readability, and make appropriate changes when writing your essay

Final Remarks 

Writing a reflective essay is a fantastic venture with the right tools, tips, and resources, as provided above.

You can also make your writing better by reading widely and practicing to write a reflective essay of an article.

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