How to Write a Reflective Essay: Definition, Examples, Topics, and Outline

So, has your instructor ever given the overpowering task like writing your first-ever reflective essay?

Are you struggling to learn how to write a reflective essay that will earn your perfect scores?

Well, the following guide that explores in detail how a reflective essay is written, including what makes a good format, and some helpful tips on the writing process.

Reflective Essay Definition

A reflective essay is a personal type of writing where you reveal your experience and then explore how you have developed, grown, or changed from it.

It can be about a real experience, an imagination, or something you have heard, watched or read. It can also be about a special object, place, or a person who has influenced you.

Reflective Essay Format

A reflection essay is quite similar to a diary entry, except that it will not be for your eyes only. Therefore, it should have a good structure and a great deal of coherence, although it will not include facts like other types of essays.

The format varies from one reflective essay to another depending on the audience and message.

For instance, if you are writing a reflective essay intended for an academic audience, you will organize it differently from the one you are writing for a magazine.

Nevertheless, three key elements characterize a typical reflective essay: introduction, body, and conclusion.

  1. Introduction

Just like other types of essays, reflective essays should have an introduction that has a hook and a thesis statement. The purpose of the hook is to grab your audience’s attention and hold their interest long enough to read the rest of the essay.

You can consider including a short quote or anecdote or any other engaging technique that you are sure will grasp the attention of your readers. You can also pay someone to write my research paper in our last minute essay writing service.  

The thesis statement is essentially a short synopsis of the focus of your essay and in this case, a specific reader curious to find out more from the body of the essay.

  1. Body

This is usually the most involving part of the entire essay. Although you might be compelled to start telling your story right away, do not be tempted to do so.

You should start by creating an outline or plan, and think of it as a road map – you plan beforehand the points you need to navigate through and talk about in your writing. Creating an outline is beneficial in the sense that:

  • It helps you to lay out the exact points you intend to use before you begin writing. This is quite helpful as it prevents you from getting to your last paragraph only to realize that you did not include some crucial elements in the other paragraphs.
  • It provides you with a clear road map rather than wavy paths and dead ends. Therefore, you will have to keep second-guessing or wondering what comes next since the outline covers everything.
  • It will ultimately save you lots of time, as you will not have to go back to make revisions to include things that you forgot.

When creating an outline, it is advisable that you adopt a chronological approach. In other words, lay down all the essential elements of your experience in a timeline.

Just like instant essay typer, adopting the chronological approach will help you to see how to weave your narrative together and ensure that your story is logical and coherent.

To ensure that you do not leave out any important details, you need to study your subject keenly. You might want to write down some important questions that will help you reflect, including:

  • What exactly happened?
  • Was it emotionally difficult or important?
  • How did the experience affect your life?
  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • How does the experience shape your life?
  • How can you use the experience to help someone else?

Depending on the topic selected, you need to spend several minutes vividly thinking about the subject. You might want to close your eyes and imagine or remember. The practice is also common in research paper formatcause and effect essay topics, and process essay topics for college

Once your outline is complete, you can proceed with writing the body of your essay.

Just like how to do a lab report, ensure that the body covers all aspects of the selected topic. It should include a vivid summary and clear description of that particular experience so that your audience can feel like they have also experienced it.

Be sure to give out explanations of your feelings, thoughts, as well as reactions about that particular experience.

Remember that the emphasis should be on reflection rather than a summation. Therefore, you should not only summarize the experience, but you should also explore the impact it had on your life and the lessons that you learned from it.

Just like in term paper format, outline the things that triggered a change in you and how they changed you. Taking a reflective approach will enable your readers to gather insight into your experience. Furthermore, it will draw attention to your personality and your ability to adjust to or deal with particular situations.

  1. Conclusion

Your focus here should be to bring your piece together by giving out a summary of the points. Some of the things to include in brief include:

  • Lessons from the experience
  • How the experience has changed your behaviors and attitudes.
  • How the experience has affected your skills and character.
  • The conclusions are drawn relating to your approach to particular situations and your problem-solving skills
  • What you may do differently if you encounter a similar situation in future.

When writing a reflective essay, the conclusion is all about retelling your story in other words, highlighting the main points.

In essence, you should sum up the changes in the experience and their effects on your life.

You can decide to look either back or ahead. The strategy is also useful in a rhetorical analysis essay promptwriting a literary analysis, and in a persuasive essay.

If looking back, you should note how different you were in the past.

If looking ahead, you should share how you think the experiences you have been through will change you in the future.

In all cases, you should compare past and future selves to put emphasis on the difference.

Reflective Essay Topics

If your instructor has not been assigned a topic idea, you can think of the following reflective essay examples about life:

  • Experiences you have had in the past, such as a live concert that you attended, the day you broke up with a lover, etc.
  • Places from where you got lovely memories, i.e. a beach you visited last holiday, a mountain you hiked last summer, a relative’s home you visited last weekend, or the house you were brought up in, etc.
  • Events that took place such as your first day at college, a special date, a time when you acquired a new skill, or when you proposed among others
  • People that have created either positive or negative experiences for you such as parents, friends, grandparents, colleagues, lover, supervisor, best friend, or coach

Reflective Essay Topics

Here are 15 topics that make for a good killer essay:

  1. When you ate something and got a bad allergy from it
  2. A memory that breaks your heart
  3. Your trip to the Bahamas
  4. Your first night-out at a music concert
  5. The day you learned that you were out of your father’s will
  6. The moment she declined your proposal
  7. The day you got fired
  8. A conversation you had with your mentor
  9. The day you learned how to drive
  10. The first time you read a speech in front of a huge audience
  11. The day you encountered the most embarrassing incident
  12. The moment you realized your friend was a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’
  13. The day you dropped your toddler niece accidentally
  14. The day a teacher punished you unfairly
  15. The night you got robbed

Things to Remember on how to Write a Reflective Essay for University

  • If picking your own topic, choose the one that triggers a vivid memory.
  • Make a draft first just to see how things appear on paper. You can then correct all weak points and bring in good points that you might have missed.
  • Although a reflection essay is personal in nature, you should keep it professional. Do not use slang and abbreviations such as BTW, LOL, OMG, etc.
  • Use correct grammar and spelling. Review your essay carefully and get rid of any errors. Ensure that all your sentences flow well and that each one of them has a purpose.
  • If you are not comfortable sharing something personal, do not include it in your reflective essay. Alternatively, you can use general terminologies.


Reflective papers are all about writing real life or imaginary experiences, the lessons learned from those experiences, and the impact of those lessons.

Remember to make your essay catchy and simple to understand.

The idea is to describe the experience in such a way that the readers will feel as if they were there.

Feel free to check out on how to write an expository essaydefinition essay examples, and reaction paper format.

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