How to Write a Reflective Essay: Complete Instruction

Hello, dear readers! It’s Brandon here, and I’m going to discuss a thing that might seem difficult to write correctly: a reflective paper. What’s that? How to write it well? What pitfalls will happen on your way to the perfect grade?

My colleague Ben and I are ready to answer the questions about that type of academic assignment here and now. So, if you’ve got a reflective essay to complete by tomorrow, here is what you should do now: relax, make tea, and check this article through.

What is a Reflective Essay

Before we try to understand how to write a reflective essay, it’s reasonable to find out more about the distinguishing features making that paper what it should be. Let’s start with the basics and come up with the proper definition. It will help you shape new knowledge better.

Reflective Essay Definition

A reflective essay is an assignment where an author, obviously, reflects on something or someone. That means the writer’s emotional and thinking experience are the main focal points in the reviewed case.

A professor asking students to craft a paper of that type wants them to improve their ability to think critically and to express those thoughts in written form. Topics for reflective writing assignments can be different, and a professor can provide students with a particular theme or let them choose it independently.

Step by Step Guide to Craft a Worthy Reflective Paper

Although a “reflective essay” may sound complicated, it has multiple features in common with other types of high school or college assignments. Among the most popular essay kinds that professors like to assign, there are:

  • argumentative essay
  • cause and effect essay
  • compare and contrast essay
  • reflective essay

Do you see what is common for those assignments? That’s right, all of them are essays. This means the following instruction will contain regular tips along with specific recommendations. So, to write an effective reflective essay, try keeping up with the following points:

Define the Topic

Everything becomes simpler here if an instructor assigns a particular topic at once. Still, they frequently like to torture young people mentally a bit. You know what I mean, don’t you? They offer you to come up with a free topic, and they really think it’s easier for students to write about whatever they like. But they don’t know that freedom of choice stuns you entirely.

What to write about? The cornerstone is some event you find worth attention from the perspective of your perception and experience. Is there any specific phenomenon that influenced (or failed to influence) your personality or defined your current and future life? What’s your feeling about it at the moment? Answers to the two questions above shape your thesis statement for a paper.

Visualize the Process

A reflective essay can get much help from a regular mind map, for instance. To craft it, try placing a thesis in the center of a paper sheet and then round it up with a circle. That circle is where you place key concepts and proofs supporting the thesis.

Those points are the keywords for the body paragraphs you will soon write to let the reader understand how your experience, impression, and thinking evolved to make their way to a particular conclusion.

Give The Hook

Knowing how to start a reflective essay is probably half of the deal. The intro should not only be written strongly but contain something able to intrigue the audience. Something that’ll engage them right away and motivate every reader to make it through the entire paper.

Support Ideas with Proofs

As I said already, the paragraphs of the essay’s main body grow around the keywords you’ve got on a mind map. Expand them, explain them, and don’t forget to describe your thoughts and feelings on everything in the past. However, make sure you concentrate on one reflection point or experience source per paragraph. Checking reflective essay examples online can be helpful to understand the way to build the body correctly.

Conclusion Is to Conclude, not to Repeat

That’s what many writers miss as they do not really know how to end a reflective essay properly. To do everything right, try to sum up your thoughts shortly in the opening sentence of the concluding part.

What did you learn from a described case? What can others understand and take from your experience? What’s your point?

Try to answer those questions briefly, and then ask the reader to reflect on the topic themselves if you want.

Reflective Essay Outline

This one is critical. Although you’ve most probably got a mind map already, that’s only a scheme. An outline is a skeleton. You write it to let the paper begin and develop. It’s not obligatory to stick to it strictly during the writing process. If you feel a reflection changes its focus or direction, let it be. It’s all fine.

However, here are the points an outline should help you define:

  • The tone – make sure it’s you who reflects. The voice should be suitable
  • The paragraphs – transition expressions are very helpful to move between them
  • Errors – try not to write a reflective essay at the very last moment. Craft an outline and re-read it the next day to reveal weaknesses and mistakes
  • A third party – ask someone else to check your paper. Most probably, they’ll provide valuable suggestions or offer corrections
  • Reading – try to read an outline on your own to hear how it sounds. That’s a solid way to find even more weirdness or weakness points

What Are the Various Types of Reflective Essays?

Like any other academic assignment, reflective essays have their own subtypes. The difference between them is not something to neglect. Try to be attentive here.

Check the guidelines of your instructors. Maybe they want you to write something particular. In case the requirements do not specify the type, don’t hesitate to clarify it by asking a professor. It is always better to know what they expect you to craft.

Types of Reflective Essays

It is possible to present reflective writing in different formats depending on the focal point:

  • Personality reflection: this one is about choosing one or two of your personal qualities and then thinking to find out how it contributes to shape your overall character, to make you exactly who you are at the moment.
  • Experience reflection: this one supposes a writer to choose some of their memories, either good or bad ones, and try to connect them in order to make a conclusion, to generate new knowledge or wisdom. Still, beware of accidentally making your paper a narrative one here. Make sure it is more exciting and personal than regular stories usually are.
  • Relationship reflection: humans are deeply social creatures, so they interact with each other all the time. In this reflective paper, you focus on your relationships with another person (those shouldn’t be exclusively romantic, though) and try to understand what was the experience they brought to you. For example, you most probably could write a relationship reflective essay about your favorite school teacher.

Reflective Essay Structure

Here we go again. A reflective paper is an essay, first of all, so it has a typical structure. Still, likely elements do not give you the right to write the same things in the same ways.

Just like with any other assignment, it is crucial to understand what the structural elements are supposed to be when you want to craft a reflective essay. Proceed with reading, even if it seems that you had read that information multiple times already. Ben did his best till late night hours to shape it for you perfectly.

The Introduction

The intro is pretty standard: make sure you gave your thesis statement a clear look here. Additionally, it is great if you are able to come up with some creativity and hook the potential reader’s attention. It’s okay to let them take a quick look at the experience you are going to describe further, too.

However, finding the proper balance is key. Giving too little information won’t interest them. On the other hand, too much info at once may make the further reading look senseless. Make sure you stop somewhere in the middle.

The Body

Here comes the most challenging part. Try not to allow confusion to sneak into your final draft: make sure it does not repeat the key points of the plan but explains, develops, and reveals them as it is required for the audience’s proper understanding to appear.

Here is a tip: rebuilding a precise chronology would help. I mean, you concentrate on the milestones that led you to a particular conclusion in chronological order. That’s how your experience won’t lose anything critical, and you avoid trapping both yourself and the reader in a labyrinth with no exit.

Finalizing the body, check if there are enough reflection and concentration. Do not just retell the events, but show how they influenced your further existence. The lesson is the key. Your example should help the audience to learn it.

The Conclusion

Understanding how to conclude a reflective essay is critical. The point is, you sum up things you have learned from the events described above and conclude which changes they caused in your behavior or perception.

It is also good to think about how your personality changed. Or to tell about the skills you developed and improved. Do not forget to provide solid proof of that growth, as your professor will expect to see them there for sure.

tips on how to write a reflective essay


Now you know more about writing a reflective essay. It’s an academic assignment supposing you to write about your reflection on some event, happening, or interaction with other people. While crafting it, make sure to hook the reader in the intro, reveal and explain the topic in the main body, and conclude everything in the end without turning a paper into a narrative essay. Keeping up with the guidelines will help you craft it well and get the high grade you desire.