Reflective Essay Writing Guide - Simple and Effective

  • Jul 26, 2018

Someone once said that college gives you a lot to think about. There are classes, interactions with professors and fellow students, new knowledge, and unique life experience. College is definitely a place where a lot of things are born, including but not limited to, reflective thoughts. It's useful sometimes to stop and think over the things that had happened to you. And how better to do it if not by writing a reflective essay? Just imagine - by assigning this essay to you, your professor not only gives you a task for credits but also hands you an opportunity to vent in an academic manner. Isn't it a treat?

Back to the serious side of this - how to write a good reflective essay? No matter how relatively liberating this task is, there are still some rules. We've put together this reflective essay writing guide to help you find your way in this complex paper. Yes, you basically write in a creative and artistic manner, but it's not simply a diary entry. You need to organize and structure the contents of your essay in the according manner. Hopefully, our guidelines for writing a reflective essay will shed some light on the mysterious land of reflective writing. Load up on ink and coffee! Here is an explanation of how to write a reflective essay.

What is a reflective essay

For starters, you need to clearly comprehend the reflective essay definition. Like was mentioned before, you're not just ranting into your personal diary. Yes, a reflective essay is your retelling of a certain situation that occurred in your life. But it is also an analysis of the said situation. You have to dissect the event, reflect on what happened, and why it all went down in the manner it did. On top of that, you need to draw a certain conclusion in regards to how the episode affected your life if it did, and if it didn't have any impact, then why. Furthermore, you have to convey your ideas in a way that will be accessible to your readers. You need to demonstrate your ability to operate the language in a way that is comprehensible to others. So, what is a reflective essay? It is a written recap and analysis of a certain personal occurrence and further summarizing of its repercussions.


There are several ways to build your reflective essay. These pieces are usually styled as log entries. But for more of an academic approach, we'd a dvise you to take a different path for your reflective essay format. You see, the purpose of these assignments is to assess students critical thinking abilities, and their talent for analyzing a subjective situation in an objective manner.

  • Use sophisticated language.
  • Treat the situation as if it had happened to someone else, make an overview.
  • Write it as you would a piece of creative writing, but make it known that you're aware of your audience.
  • Evenly balance out objective and subjective parts.

Now, you can also choose your approach based on what you want to achieve with your essay. What do you want to focus on? You can write extensively about the impact that the event occurring made on you, how did it influence your personal growth. Here, focus more on the emotional, philosophical, and empirical sides of the story. Turn on your inner Socrates, if you must.

But if the 'feelings' approach isn't your cup of tea, you can focus more on the analytical and comparing side. Here, you'll need to find a series of examples, preferably from the literature pieces, that match the situation that you're reflecting on. How did the same event influence a certain character or the overall flow of the plot? What changed? What are the similarities between the fictional and the real situation? And differences? With this method, you can get help from authors, because they've already basically summarised the impact of the event. They reflected on it for you. So, just pick what fits you better, and roll with it! Or, if you're already overwhelmed with all the information, just order your essay from professionals.

Reflective essay structure

When you've settled on the approach you're going with, it's time for planning. We'll talk about reflective essay structure, but first, one more thing needs to be mentioned. An outline. It would be very wise of you to first create a plan of your essay. This is not your typical essay, so writing it right away may turn out to be a pointless waste of time. It is not easy to retell the story and make it short and precise. Just think of when you're recounting something to your friends. You get distracted easily and can waste time on details that, in retrospective, aren't so vital to your story.

It's the same with your reflective essay. Before starting your rant, you need to first sit down and plan everything out. While penning down all the details of your story, you will notice that some of them aren't exactly necessary. Trim your experience. Make it easier to follow. The same with the analytical part. Make sure you're not overanalyzing things. Draft up your reflective essay thesis and check it over to be positive that it fits into your essay.

Speaking of which, your thesis will be slightly different from the usual style. Generally, your thesis is a point you will attempt to prove in your essay. With the reflective essay, it's not the same. Here you will have to compose your thesis as a brief summary of the experience you went through. Point out the major factors that made an influence on you but don't give away too much. Otherwise, your readers will get tired of the text even before the main body of the essay starts.

And now let's get to the juicy part - how to start a reflective essay.


It's not too hard to figure out what you'll write about. But it can make the writing process halt if you don't know how to start a reflective essay introduction. Here it is the same old trick. Hook sentence. We advise you to start your reflective essay with something particularly exciting about the event. Lure your readers in with something that has a 'wow' factor. Get them excited about the contents of your paper. Pick the biggest, or the weirdest, thing, and lead with that. Remember that the value of your whole essay depends on the quality of your introduction.

Introduction is also where that thesis we've talked about comes in. It composes the last one or two sentences of the introduction. Use all the advice we provided about your thesis statement writing. Finish it on the note of continuity. Show that, although this paragraph is already interesting, there is more to come.


You nailed your introduction, and here comes the next thing - how to write the body of a reflective essay. We've already mentioned that it differs from your ordinary essay. Now let's get more into it.

The body is the hardest part of your essay. It can get messy and confusing without the advanced planning. But you, of course, made a plan beforehand, following our guidance. You need to cover basically every crucial point in your body paragraphs. Describe what happened and how exactly it went down. Now, there are two ways of handling this part.

  1. Chronological order.
    With this method, you will have to relay the events in the order they have taken place. For this, divide the whole ordeal into a few core parts. Then dedicate a paragraph to each. There's no limit for the number of passages but don't expand it too much. Lay out only the important, cut everything that isn't very relevant out. But you already did that on the planning stage, didn't you?
  2. Order of relevance.
    If you go with this technique, you'll need to arrange the parts of the event by the amount of influence. It's your choice whether to structure them by ascending or descending factors. But be aware that the flow and connection must be clearly traceable. Don't lose the thread of your narrative. This approach is more complicated than chronological, but it gives your essay more of a proper 'reflective' vibe.
  3. Combined.
    You can also merge these two methods. It's even more complex, but it can give the essay a general storytelling mood. Put the most important events first, in the order they happened. And then add the less relevant ones, also sequentially. Be careful with this one, though. It's easy to lose the required format and spiral into a simple stream of consciousness, and that is a whole separate type of essay.

After finishing the main part, read over it again. Ascertain that you didn't miss anything, but also that the content actually makes sense. Then you can move on to the last part.



What should the conclusion do in a reflective essay is an interesting question often asked by students burdened with this task. Your goal in the ending part is not only to summarize everything. You need to point out the vital parts of your main body and recap the thesis, but not in the way that simply repeats it. On top of that, you need to make, well, this one is obvious, a conclusion. It seems way too complex as a way of how to end a reflective essay, but it is what it is. Synthesize both the major points you've made in the essay and the lessons you've learned as the result of those things happening. Properly analyze and express all the outcomes. Reflect on them, as they say. It was the whole purpose, wasn't it? To reflect and learn.

Common mistakes when writing a reflective essay

Once again, a reflective essay is an unusual and sophisticated paper, so some miscalculations are to be expected. Here is the list of some common mistakes when writing a reflective essay. We hope it will help you avoid getting your grade cut just because of a simple slip-up.

  • Straying into the subjectivity field.
    Yes, it is your interpretation of something that happened in your life. And still, this isn't an autobiography. You are not simply retelling the story, you're explaining its role in your perception of the world.
  • Slang.
    No matter how much you want your essay to be genuine, nobody will appreciate it if you use slang words. Undoubtedly, the experience might have been 'lit' and 'wig-snatching' but try to express it in more sophisticated and professional language.
  • Connections.
    Don't just vent. Establish clearly how everything is connected. You don't want your best custom paper to look like an assertion of facts. Point out their significance and correlation with each other. Avoid throwing your reader into the storm of events. Give them a boat of arguments.
  • Withholding of facts.

    Be honest. If something embarrassing happened, don't cover it. Nobody is judging you, but everybody will if you alter the truth to fit the narrative you want. Reflective essay is all about openness and embracing. Apart from earning you a good grade, a well-written and honest essay will help you clear your mind.


Good reflective essay topics examples

  • First time in college.
  • The birth of a sibling.
  • The most challenging task you've had to overcome.
  • Seeing your favorite band for the first time.
  • A mistake that still haunts you.
  • Your first job experience.
  • Worst day of your life.
  • Best day of your life.
  • First heartbreak.
  • The death of a favorite pet.

Reflective essay writing - final tips

And, before we bid our goodbye and you embark on an exciting journey of reflective essay writing, there's one more thing. Don't overthink it. Make your essay sincere and your language not too self-entitled. Don't brag about something you did well, but rather think about why you did so good. Focus on the lessons of the events. Practice your writing, and always make a draft. Eat healthily. Hydrate yourself - college is a stressful and energy-consuming thing, so take good care of yourself. And last but not least - listen to professional writers' advice, and write good essays. The best of luck!


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