How to Write a Reflective Essay


Before looking for a roadmap to success in reflective essay writing, it is essential to find out the essence of a reflective essay. We put our life experiences and development on paper while writing a reflective essay. Being in our early teens, perhaps all of us tried diary writing.

These processes are quite similar, but unlike the diary, an essay has a definite structure and format to observe.

How to Start a Reflective Essay

A starting point of any reflective essay is evaluating essential life experiences, both positive and negative. As a rule, your tutor may ask you to reflect on the real-life or imaginary experience, people, objects, and places that significantly influenced you and reflected on something you watched or read. However, not to make your essay simple storytelling, provide results and analysis that followed.

Do not start writing your essay without a well-planned organization. Otherwise, your content will be unclear, and the message will be lost. Instead, stick to your outline as if you are in a wood, looking for a saving route. Why is it essential to follow the system in reflective essay writing?

  • You will not lose any details that may be crucial for logical analysis.
  • You will organize your thought and ideas to make your text comprehensible.
  • You will save time following a well-thought plan, but not chaotic ideas.

Defining a topic and making an outline, you should not forget about the five senses involved in your experience for a more realistic description. Moreover, it will help to find suitable adjectives. Do not hesitate to make notes of every thought related to your assignment. You may arrange them properly afterward or use them while editing. Do not worry if the preparation for writing takes a lot of time. A well-planned organization will lead to better results and a shorter editing process.

How do You Start a Reflective Essay Using Reflection Models

Not to reinvent the wheel, you may use ready-made models for reflective writing. One of them is Gibbs Reflective Cycle, which contains six parts. You may follow this model to make sure you write a high-quality reflection.

  1. Describe event. Write a brief summary.
  2. Tell about feelings. Describe the emotions that evoke in that situation.
  3. Make evaluation. Tell what was good and bad in that event.
  4. Analyze. Write about the sense made of the case.
  5. Conclude. Make a conclusion of the situation, both specific and general.
  6. What is next? Write about your further actions or behavior in a similar situation.

This guideline may give a push for writing and serve as a plan. One more model may be handy in the case of a reflective essay. The 4Rs model of reflective thinking is convenient for those who cannot collect all the thoughts and ideas together and produce qualitative text. So, what is the essence of the model? There are four stages to follow:

  1. Reporting. Report about the relevant events and issues. Make a short observation expressing your opinion. Then, answer the question,” Why is it relevant?”
  2. Relating. Describe the connection between the issue and your experience, knowledge, or skills. Find the answers to the following questions: Is it your first experience? Were the conditions similar or different? Do you have enough skills and expertise to cope?
  3. Reasoning. Highlight the factors underlying the issue and explain their importance. Look at the incident from different perspectives. How can an experienced person cope with this?
  4. Reconstructing. Try to predict future practice or understanding. Consider the questions: How will I behave next time? Why did it work/ did not work? What might happen? What can I change to benefit the surrounding?

It is essential to consider these models before, during, and after finishing your reflection. They may be a good kick-start for your essay while writing guidelines and tools for effective proofreading.

Format of Reflective Essay

If you have a reflective writing task, you should define the format of your paper. As far as an essay is academic writing, it should follow the classical essay format. As a rule, it depends on your target audience and can vary. For example, a reflective paper for a magazine is not the same as an essay written for college. The first one is not official, but the second format requires following academic writing principles.

Your reflection mainly focuses on your gained life experience and all the following changes and growth. The most popular formats reflect literature and personal development in writing an essay for college.

  • Reflection essay on literature. One of the assignments is when students are asked to write a summary of just reading a book or story and find a connection with a student’s life experience.
  • Reflection essay on personal growth. Another widely used type of essay is where students describe and analyze their own life experiences and changes in their emotional state. It helps to make a self-analysis and understand themselves.

No matter what kind of reflective essay you write, the aim is to immerse in experience and critically evaluate it.

Structure of Reflective Essay

If you are unsure how to write a reflection essay, follow the structure. Like any essay, it contains an introduction, body, and conclusion. Write step-by-step, and the result will not take long.


Begin your reflective essay with an introduction. Use the exciting hook to catch the attention of the first lines. Write something engaging, not general phrases, to encourage further reading. Provide a thesis in the form of a summary of described events in an essay. Keep your cards face down in the introduction. Just give a tiny hint on your experience not to reveal the critical points at once.


After finishing with the introduction, move on to the body. It may be more complicated to compile the body properly. To simplify your assignment, make a short outline of what you will tell. Use the following tips to write your reflection:

  • Write everything in chronological order. It will ensure a systematic and logical approach. Although it is unnecessary to describe events according to the timeline, keeping order will prevent missing details and mess.
  • Ensure that there are enough critics and reflections. In the body, you should not only summarize but also analyze the influence of these life events. Focus on reflection, not on a summary. In addition, try to emphasize your abilities to cope with a situation or adapt to it.


This final essay part concludes with key points and obtained results. Describe the changes in your behavior and attitude. Making the correct reflective conclusion is high-graded.

How to Write a Good Reflective Essay

Students cannot concentrate and write descriptions rather than reflections in some situations. To create a high-quality essay, use some practical techniques to write catchy text.

  • Ask questions to yourself to draw out ideas. Try to answer about a positive and negative experience. In such a way, you will make the background of your opinions and thoughts.
  • Make a chronological outline. It may help not to miss any events and generate others.
  • Make a dialogue. Talk to yourself in the form of a discussion. It may help to formulate thoughts and reveal different points of view.
  • Non–stop writing. If you are inspired, and some exciting thoughts appear, you should start putting everything into a paper without paying attention to grammar and spelling. Then, later, you may check your text for mistakes, and all the ideas will stay reflected on paper.
  • Dilemma reflection. Write a list of problems that bother you, visualize them, and then express the possible ways to cope with them. Make notes of each idea and use them in your reflection.
  • Mind map your ideas. Graphic techniques assist in better compliance with your thoughts and opinions. Use any format depicting your views to add dates or pictures or divide them into positive and negative.

It is crucial to think over each step in your essay in writing reflection. However, you should not be in a hurry to provide proper analysis and results. Moreover, sometimes, students dive into a description, forgetting the aim of a reflective essay.

Few Ideas to Sum up

Perhaps, you have already realized that writing reflection is not easy, but you may still cope with it. Remember that it is essential to demonstrate the lesson you got from the described experience and what you concluded. Provide your related thoughts, knowledge, and expertise to understand your behavior clearly.

Bear in mind that the focus of reflective essay writing must be on attitude, values, and feelings. It is also an excellent tool to improve critical thinking, analyze your experience, and even a therapeutic way of analyzing a person’s inner state.

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