How to Write a Reflective Essay: Topics, Writing Guide, Samples (2023)

A reflective essay is a text in which an author uses personal life experiences to teach a lesson or give life advice. Typically, the writer starts from a starting point and moves forward using all the details of the event or events, finally coming up with some kind of conclusion to the story. The author's main task in these texts is to explain how these life experiences influenced their lives. To set the record straight, a reflective essay aims to express how the progression of events influenced one's thoughts and feelings about certain life events and what quality lessons were drawn from those events.

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What is a reflective essay?

A simple definition of a reflective essay is a document that addresses the author's experiences or opinions on chosen topics. However, to fully define the reflective role, it is necessary to learn the main types of writing and their specific characteristics. For example, at first glance, an analytical essay may seem reflective. However, articles of the first type address themes without associating them with the writer's personality.

In turn, each reflective essay differs from other types because of the personal pronouns and real-life examples related to the writer's own experience: this is exactly what makes a reflective essay. So the next time you ask "what is a reflective essay?" remember that reflective writing is an essential part of many college courses and job interviews. Regardless of the writing circumstances, the reflective essay format undergoes little change.

reflective essay format

By working in a format for a reflective essay, the author explores different situations and discovers his views on the problems and situations. By its nature, a reflective essay can feel like a flood of speculation. Generally, writings of this type form two subgroups depending on the focal points.

  • Based on personal experience

Such writings usually reveal real-life facts about the writer. The key to success is making the author's image and related stories resonate with the target audience to attract readers. Here, the author must support all main arguments and points with relevant examples.

  • Opinions about literary characters, public figures, events, etc.

Reflective essays of this subtype also allocate a lot of space for personal opinions, ideas, and reflections. However, the focus of the study here shifts from the author himself to literary characters and events.

For example, the title My Attitude Toward Holden Caulfield is a perfect example of a reflective essay dedicated to the literary character. A reflective essay format is probably the only essay where you can avoid any normal academic writing style. Of course, not unless your professor asks you to use the MLA or APA format.

MLA format

  • you should useTimes New Roman, font 12 and double spaced.
  • 1" margins.
  • All of your titles should be centered.
  • The top right corner of each page includes your last name and page number.
  • The header of your work should contain your name, professor's name, course number and date.
  • The last page must include a cited work.

APA formats

  • you should useTimes New Roman, font 12 and double spaced.
  • 1" margins.
  • Have a header at the top of each page.
  • Make sure each page is numbered in the top right corner.
  • Your essay should be divided into four parts: cover, abstract, main body, and references.

How to write a reflective essay?

  1. As mentioned above, suggested topics for this type of essay differ depending on the circumstances of the essay. Job seekers are often required to write reflective personal essays in order for employers to consider their candidacy. Children write reflective essays about their families, hobbies and summer school vacations. Define your purpose and target audience.
  2. Depending on the TA, choose the most suitable writing style and think about the relevant linguistic means to convey your idea to the readers.
  3. There are no limitations on what you can write. However, to maintain the flow of the text, even eachlaw writing helpthe writer needs to see the end goal. Whatever it is, it's up to you: a thought-provoking story, a mere throwback, a piece meant to make people cry, or even a warning.
  4. Read the instructions carefully. Some might be useful for writing a preliminary plan.
  5. When thinking about how to write a reflective essay, keep in mind that no specific chain of logic is needed to get a high score. What counts is the ability to write down your thoughts, stick to the main point and observe the life around you. Don't force yourself to follow the standard body introduction and conclusion pattern. Some reflective essay titles are synonymous with thesis statements. They may even reveal the conclusions the author draws upon in the text.
  6. Do not overload the text with excessive explanations and small details that are unrelated to the final objective.
  7. Those who have trouble thinking about how to start a reflective essay should keep two tips in mind:
  8. Write the introduction at the end when the rest of the text is ready. This trick can help you avoid clunky, unattractive sentences that tell readers next to nothing about the subject.
  9. If the text seems incoherent, try crossing out the first few sentences of each abstract idea. Experience shows that people tend to use long entries in reflective essays to make the text seem more substantial.

Remember that this type of writing requires a creative approach. For example, you could include your conclusion in the last body paragraph or end it with a cliffhanger. You can keep the suspense or reveal everything from the beginning.

How to Write a Reflective Essay: Topics, Writing Guide, Samples (1)

reflective essay outline

The order of abstracts in an essay usually boils down to three main parts. However, as stated above, in this type of writing, a traditional formula can undergo significant changes:


The introduction should intrigue the reader so he doesn't refrain from reading the rest. The writers achieve this goal through their use of contradictions, ironic instances, and suspense. A great example is a reflective essay outline that runs throughout the document and is a great approach to organize your thoughts. The order of abstracts in an essay is usually reduced to three main parts, just like in other essays. However, as stated above, in this type of writing, a traditional formula can undergo significant changes:


The introduction should grab the reader's attention so they don't miss the rest of it. The writers achieve this goal through contradictions, ironic instances, and suspense. A great example is"My first college frat party."

Example of a reflective essay introduction:

My friends invited me to my first college frat party this weekend, and the things I saw and experienced were just amazing.

This sentence is a notable example of a captivating reflective essay introduction. In one sentence, you explained to the reader what you were going to talk about and made it sound interesting. The first few sentences of your introduction should always contain a small glimpse of the big picture, which you should reveal in the body paragraph of the essay. The final sentence of the introduction is the central point of the entire work and is called the thesis of the reflective essay, which will be based on the most significant moment. In this sentence, clearly state the effects of the catalytic event and the overall significance of these changes. The thesis statement will be substantiated in the body paragraphs!

body paragraphs

The body of the text should dwell on the theme introduced by the thesis of the reflective essay. The first problem that students encounter when writing this type of essay is complete freedom of expression of thought. It's easy to lose the logical chain and start jumping from one idea to another. So, a practical suggestion: stick to the chosen narrative line. Or better yet, make a separate structural plan for the body paragraphs.

There can be as many body paragraphs as you like. Depending on the theme, the text may have, for example, a one-sentence introduction and a hidden conclusion, but the body part will always be the largest. In this middle part, use as many words as possible that make your point. Present arguments to support your position or reinforce the descriptions. The argumentative points can appear in some examples, facts, public life phenomena, events, real life situations and experiences, scientific evidence, references to academics and scientists, etc. Don't use too many examples unless you want to appear unsure of your point of view. One piece of evidence would suffice for a personal reflective essay. Two reinforcing examples will suffice for thoughtful essays involving elements of literary analysis or speculations about various phenomena. A reflective essay example with three or more examples of facts will seem overloaded.

Example of reflective writing body:

After the frat party I went to this weekend, it was clear that just about every other college student can't handle a drink.

At the top, you'll see a nice body paragraph intro. The topic sentence of that paragraph already explains what you will discuss in the paragraph. Similar to the introductory paragraph, the first sentence in the body paragraphs should encourage the reader to read the entire story. During the body paragraphs, provide vivid details and examples to give the essay real-life characteristics. In other words, immerse the reader in the story by giving relatable examples of situations and meticulously describing small details. The more creative each sentence is and the more you captivate the reader with your writing style, the higher the reader's level of enthusiasm and interest will be.


The conclusion as an autonomous element is not mandatory for reflective essays. However, keep it concise if you decide on a writing structure that requires endnotes to support the body part of the text. The main requirement for completion: it should not be purely formal. This part should organically oversee the arguments presented in the body paragraphs. If you search the Internet for sample reflective writing, you will likely find examples with a complete conclusion. You can, of course, use them as essay templates. Still, if you want to impress your readers and make them think more about your work, don't blatantly provide personal observations. Make people read between the lines and see your thoughts and emotions in the body of the text.

Reflective Essay Completion Example:

After recalling the frat party experience, I have come to the conclusion that I will not support underage drinking.

As you may already know, your conclusion is where you summarize everything you said in your essay. Then, using the information and events described in the body paragraph, bring it all back to a final conclusion point, where you briefly restate how experiences related to that event shaped and shaped your body physically or mentally. Finally, you should let the reader know your final opinion on the subject.

How to Write a Reflective Essay: Topics, Writing Guide, Samples (2)

reflective writing topics

A reflective essay is certainly one of the only essays where this essay is about you and your experiences. Therefore,write my paper, professionals have prepared some ideas that can help you find some good examples of reflective writing topics.

personal topics

1. My first volunteer experience.

2. What builds my self-confidence?

3. Reflections on how I overcame life's difficulties.

4. What I learned on a joint trip with my friends.

5. First experience as a public speaker.

6. What traits in people discourage a friendly attitude?

7. A moment when I knew it was depression.

8. White lies. The only time I had to lie to make my friend's life easier.

9. My first month of therapy.

10. My favorite children's book.

Family problems

1. What is the role of family traditions in my life?

2. What is a perfect family?

3. Meeting my partner's parents for the first time.

4. Story of how I separated from my parents.

5. The loss of a loved one and how to deal with it.

6. Take care of elderly relatives.

7. Relationship with younger siblings.

8. What holidays are celebrated most in your family?

9. Have you ever run away from home?

10. The last time my parents and I went on vacation.

nature themes

1. A bike ride up the mountain.

2. The weekend I spent by the lake.

3. What thoughts does sunset evoke in my mind?
4. From a seed to a tree. My Gardening Experience

5. Reflect on the beauty of nature during your morning walks.

6. In the desert. My first camping trip.

7. What steps do I take every day to protect the planet?

8. How living in a city has changed my perception of nature.

9. Reflections on my first encounter with a wild animal.

10. Five environmental protection laws that I consider most effective.

Themes of Significant Places

1. A first visit to the capital.

2. The first foreign country I visited.

3. A place described in a book that I plan to visit.

4. Beautiful places I visited as a kid.

5. Follow the historic paths. A visit to ancient battlefields.

6. My family's summer home and nostalgia for childhood.

7. Places that bring back memories of first love.

8. Visiting my grandparents' house.

9. My Alma Mater.

10. The city I want to move to after graduation.

Topics about Hobbies

1. Why are hobbies important in children's lives?

2. How I turned my hobby into a full-time job.

3. Reflections on how my hobby brought me closer to my parents.

4. One whole day, I devoted myself to my hobby.

5. Can a hobby bring joy and money?

6. How college gave me a new hobby.

7. Read comics.

8. How I learned to play guitar in one year.

9. Why I had to give up my hobby.

10. How I used hobbies to bolster my resume.

reflective writing rubric

The elaboration of a reflective essay implies going through the entire writing process. First, let's see the given examples:

A good reflective essay shows the following:

The essay showed the reader the "big picture" that you, as the author, tried to show. Focus on showing how your reflection on the event caused further changes in your mindset or physique!

Your essay has a general notion of "cause and effect". Something happened to you, and from that experience you changed.

Throughout the essay, you've shown the reader that you can view your actions from an outside perspective.

Preferably, have a super interesting reflective writing theme. It should be unique, something you won't read or hear often.

A bad reflective essay fails to show the following:

The essay failed to show the reader the author's "big picture".

His reflective essay has not the slightest hint of a cause and effect essay.

Throughout the essay you have failed to show the reader that they can view their actions and decisions from another perspective.

Examples of reflective writing

Here we have prepared examples of reflective essays that will inspire your writing process!

"My first day at work after graduation"

To get an idea of ​​how all the above tips work when combined, our team has prepared examples. For example, one of the reflective essay samples to consider would be the following:

Agitation. Excitement. Shock. Anger. Melancholy. Relief. Gratitude. This list barely covers half the emotional spectrum I experienced on my first day on the job.

As soon as I graduated from university as a technician, I realized that I am more interested in people than machines. I passed a professional aptitude test and found that working with people suits my personality type more than dealing with mechanisms. So, just before I graduated, I entered the HR-related internship program at a bank. Within a month, I had my degree, put it on the shelf, and landed a job as an assistant in the personnel department at a large IT company. This area caught my attention after watching many TV series.

And here it is: my first day. The air of importance and intricate business processes was so thick I thought I could touch it. The strangers, most of them older than me, seemed all-knowing and knowledgeable. Excitement filled me to the top of my head. It was hard to keep a straight face while everything inside my head was screaming, "I did it! I'm a great HR manager!" I finally got my first job. He got everything an inexperienced young manager wanted: a comfortable chair, a set of office supplies, and a computer screen that took up half the desk. Pure happiness and ecstasy enveloped by a naive soul.

In a new job, everyone wants to show off their best features. You're ready to jump out of your skin to earn the affection of your boss and colleagues when it's your first job. Unfortunately, this approach puts a lot of pressure on the new hire.

At first, everything went well. My new boss gave me a very simple task and I finished it in just a few hours. In my opinion, it should have been my first hit. As I walked across the room to show my work, I painted a picture in my head of Mr. Smith (my boss) shook my hand and said I was a capable manager and so on. Should I tell you that none of this happened at the time?

Mr. Smith did not share my enthusiasm for my presentation. Long story short, instead of the expected praise, I received a lot of criticism and returned to my desk in tears. And at first, I didn't even know how to react.

A young hiring manager named Tina from our department came up to me and offered to get some air. It was a real shock and a pleasant surprise. He was nice to me, explaining that our boss was busy developing new recruiting plans for the upcoming meeting with the CEO and that my presentation was part of the project. She said it contained errors that Mr. Smith pointed, but there was no cause for lamentation. Then he helped me to fix it and then I realized that justified criticism could become a stimulus for growth.

I took criticism and turned it into a new skill. From that day on, I began to see the different approaches to work typical of middle and senior managers.

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How to Write a Reflective Essay: Topics, Writing Guide, Samples? ›

Introduce your topic and the point you plan to make about your experience and learning. Develop your point through body paragraph(s), and conclude your paper by exploring the meaning you derive from your reflection. You may find the questions listed above can help you to develop an outline before you write your paper.

How do you start a reflective topic essay? ›

Introduce your topic and the point you plan to make about your experience and learning. Develop your point through body paragraph(s), and conclude your paper by exploring the meaning you derive from your reflection. You may find the questions listed above can help you to develop an outline before you write your paper.

What is an example of a reflective essay topic? ›

The reflective essay topics should link to strong emotions and memories. For example, you can write an essay about a day at your favorite cafe, favorite place to eat, etc. Write a reflective essay about a place that you have really good and strong memories are easy to write.

How do you write a reflective essay step by step? ›

How to write a reflection paper in 8 steps
  1. Understand and summarize the material. ...
  2. Analyze the material. ...
  3. Select a theme. ...
  4. Make connections between your opinions. ...
  5. Begin with an introduction. ...
  6. Write the body of the paper. ...
  7. End with a good conclusion. ...
  8. Proofread and edit.
Mar 21, 2023

How do you write a reflective writing example? ›

Some examples of reflective writing
  1. Description/ explanation of method.
  2. Includes discipline-specific language.
  3. Critical evaluation of method.
  4. Conclusion and recommendation based on the writer's experience.

What is a good opening sentence for a reflective essay? ›

General Analysis • The most significant issue arising from this experience was … Alternatively this might be due to … I feel this situation arose because … Reflection on self • At the time I felt that …

What are the 3 things a reflective essay needs to have? ›

A reflective essay should follow the classic essay format of introduction, body, and conclusion. Some other common formats include journaling or using a reflective model for only part of an essay or assignment.

What are 5 examples of reflection? ›

The numerous Reflections of light examples that we find around us are below.
  • Mirror images.
  • The image formed by Reflection through the spherical mirror.
  • Reflection through headlights.
  • Reflection through side mirror of vehicles.
  • Reflection of the image in water bodies.
  • Reflection through shoe polished surface.

What are common examples of reflection? ›

Common examples include the reflection of light, sound and water waves. The law of reflection says that for specular reflection (for example at a mirror) the angle at which the wave is incident on the surface equals the angle at which it is reflected.

What are the key points of a reflective essay? ›

In a reflective essay, you open up about your thoughts and emotions to uncover your mindset, personality, traits of character, and background. Your reflective essay should include a description of the experience/literature piece as well as explanations of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions.

What are the keys to writing a reflective essay? ›

Academic reflective writing should:
  • develop a perspective or line of reasoning.
  • develop a link between your experience or practice and existing knowledge (theoretical or personal)
  • show understanding and appreciation of different perspectives to your own.
Nov 2, 2020

What are the rules of reflective writing? ›

Reflective writing should include essential details, written directly and concisely. Clear examples are very useful. Deeper level reflective writing may also connect with the literature you have been reading, to support or even contradict what you have experienced.

What should you avoid in reflective writing? ›

  • Mistake #1: Thinking only about actions.
  • Mistake #2: Reflecting in isolation.
  • Mistake #3: Using only analytical skills.
  • Mistake #4: Relying only on your own experience and preference.

What is an example sentence for reflective? ›

I walked on in a reflective mood to the car. Mike is a quiet, reflective man. The German government's support of the U.S. is not entirely reflective of German public opinion.

What are 3 sentences using reflection? ›

(1) She was looking at her reflection in the mirror. (2) She grimaced at her reflection in the mirror. (3) Can you see your reflection in the glass? (4) She was studying her reflection in the mirror.

What is the structure of a reflective essay? ›

Both the language and the structure are important for academic reflective writing. For the structure you want to mirror an academic essay closely. You want an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. Academic reflection will require you to both describe the context, analyse it, and make conclusions.

What are the four most common lines of reflection? ›

The most common lines of reflection are the x-axis, the y-axis, or the lines y = x or y = −x. Notice that the notation tells you exactly how each (x,y) point changes as a result of the transformation. Write the notation that represents the reflection of the preimage to the image in the diagram below.

What are the 4 parts of reflection? ›

  • Step 1: Look back at a situation or experience. Look back at something that happened or some thought you find yourself focusing on and describe it briefly.
  • Step 2: Think in depth about your experience or thought. ...
  • Step 3: Describe what you learned about yourself or your role. ...
  • Step 4: Plan what you will do next.

What is reflection and give two examples? ›

A phenomenon of returning light from the surface of an object when the light is incident on it is called reflection of light. Examples: Reflection by a plane mirror. Reflection by a spherical mirror.

What is a real life example of multiple reflection? ›

Multiple reflections are used in periscopes. Periscopes are used in submarines, war tanks and by solders in bunkers to see objects that are not visible directly. In a barber's shop, we see the back of the head using multiple reflections of two mirrors.

What are two real world examples of reflection? ›

Such examples of reflection include mirrors, facial symmetry and projections of mountains or trees on the still waters of a lake.

What are the 5 R's of reflective writing? ›

The 5R framework for reflection will guide you through Reporting, Responding, Relating, Reasoning, and Reconstructing to make sense of a learning experience.

What is one of the biggest pitfalls of reflective writing? ›

A common mistake people make when writing reflectively is to focus too much on describing their experience.

What are the three parts of reflective writing? ›

Reflective writing example. This example of basic reflective writing can be split into three parts: description, interpretation and outcome.

How do you start a reflective introduction? ›

Your introduction should specify what you're reflecting upon. Make sure that your thesis informs your reader about your general position, or opinion, toward your subject. State what you are analyzing: a passage, a lecture, an academic article, an experience, etc...) Briefly summarize the work.

What are the 3 things for an essay? ›

The main parts (or sections) to an essay are the intro, body, and conclusion.

How do you write a 3 paragraph reflection paper? ›

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide
  1. Step 1: Create a Main Theme. ...
  2. Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas and Experiences You've Had Related to Your Topic. ...
  3. Step 3: Analyze How and Why These Ideas and Experiences Have Affected Your Interpretation of Your Theme.
Jan 16, 2023

What are 3 ways to improve reflective thinking? ›

Developing your reflective insights
  1. Stand back from the eve. ...
  2. Be critical of your own actions.
  3. Think of alternative explanations of events.
  4. Make use of evidence from a range of sources e.g. theories.
  5. Recognise that your own point of view will change with time.
May 24, 2022


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