How to Write a Reflective Essay | Format, Topics & Ideas

reflective essay asks you to write about an experience or event from your life and the impact it had on you. These essays are often assigned in college courses, especially at the graduate level, because they require you to think critically about what you’ve done and how you reacted to certain situations in the past. Writing a reflective essay on your educational experiences, or any other experience can be an enlightening process that can provide insight into what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown since the experience took place.

However, writing a reflective essay isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Before writing your first reflective essay, be sure to check out this guide with tips on writing a reflective essay and some sample essays so you can understand the format of such writing.

What Is a Reflective Essay?

reflective essay is an essay that explains how your experiences have changed on a topic, as well as why you made these changes. A reflective essay is also known as an epiphany essay or revelation essay, and usually contains elements of persuasion, argument, and narration. The reader will notice your personal growth throughout reflective writing. You need to begin with a rough outline that shows where you’ll explain your thought process, and what topics you want to write about. A first draft doesn’t need to be perfect you can revise it later. Using sample essays can help guide you through writing one yourself, too. You don’t want your audience’s attention drifting away when they’re reading through your piece.

Purpose of Reflective Writing

A reflection essay is important in developing your skills as an effective writer. This type of writing has one major aim, which is to reveal more details about your identity. In any field of study, the reflective process will help you delve deeper into the subject matter and reflect more on it.

Mastering reflective writing allows you to:

  • Writing a reflective essay will give you a better understanding of what your strengths and weaknesses are in your writing ability.
  • You can then figure out ways how you can improve on certain areas in which you may need assistance.
  • When you know where your problems lie, it is easier for you to address them and fix them.
  • When you write an essay with reflection.
  • it allows you to see how well you have understood or grasped whatever subject matter is being discussed.
  • It also allows you to see if there are still things that need further clarification or explanations from other sources.
  • So as not to leave any gaps in your understanding of whatever topic is being discussed in an essay with reflection.

Why Is This Type of Writing Called Reflective?

The purpose of reflective writing is usually to help you learn or to clarify your understanding of concepts presented in class. In that sense, it’s quite similar to annotating text. As with any type of learning, trying to understand an idea helps you retain it better than simply reading it and moving on.

The same applies when you engage in reflective writing as you attempt to describe, analyze, interpret and synthesize what was learned, you become more invested in that knowledge and are more likely to recall it later. Moreover, once you’ve completed a piece of reflective writing, other people can read it and get insight into how you think about things and potentially how they might think about them too.

What Can You Write About?

The purpose of reflective writing is twofold to gain insight into your own experiences and beliefs, and then to share that insight with others. To be clear, you don’t need any experience or expertise whatsoever. If you’ve struggled with similar challenges as someone else and have perhaps found different ways of addressing them you should write about it. You can think back on your past experiences and use them as inspiration for future thoughts and actions. Or maybe you are facing current challenges that you can analyze from a personal or professional perspective.

However, here are some ideas subjects you can write about to help you begin:

  •  An important aspect of reflective writing is your thoughts and feelings about your experiences.
  • However, an equally important aspect is how you would advise others, who have similar struggles or situations as you, to deal with them.
  • To do that you’ll need to ask yourself and answer questions about your experiences.

Topic Ideas for a Reflective Essay

A reflective essay is a great way to formally assess your progress and decide how you want to move forward. Some Topic Ideas are given below:

Places You’ve Been

Whether it’s just around town or further abroad, travel is an amazing way to experience something new. Whether you’re in another country for business or leisure, make sure you take time out of your day to sit back and reflect on where you’ve been. Keeping a journal will help keep your memories organized and pictures are helpful when it comes time to write that reflective essay. For some inspiration check out our sample essays.

Each type of location offers its unique view. You can’t look out over an ocean and not see something beautiful. The same can be said for views of city streets or desert landscapes. No matter where you’ve been. There’s no denying that your experiences will add a new dimension to your reflective essay and it could even help you find inspiration for future travels. These two paragraphs should also have some information on different travel locations like mountains, beaches, cities, countryside, etc. Which helps give clear descriptions of what type of places they are talking about.

Life-Altering Events

Failing or succeeding at something important in your life, learning something new, or experiencing a memorable moment are all things that can make for an interesting reflective essay. The purpose of reflective writing is to use past experiences as a lens through which you can look back on your life and see how it has changed over time. Writing about these events will help you examine what’s happened in your life so far and also consider what might happen next.

Recurring or Significant Thoughts

Everyone has had dreams or daydreams, some are recurring and might serve as inspiration for your essay. Other times we have conversations in our heads about big topics or everyday interactions that stick with us for different reasons. To get started on your reflective essay, simply start taking note of recurring or significant thoughts, events, people (etc.). Whether you write them down somewhere or store them in your memory bank, they’re bound to come up again later when you need ideas for your paper. As you take note of these events and thoughts, ask yourself why they’re meaningful to you.

Writing a Reflection Paper

If you’re writing a reflection on a certain text, annotate your initial emotions. Think about what you first learned from it, how you were introduced to it, and how that initial idea evolves as you make your way through. If you are writing about yourself or an event in your life, think of ways to begin by capturing that moment the initial action or emotion, and then work backward.

Reflection Paper Format

Unlike argumentative essays, which require you to clearly articulate your ideas and support them with data or evidence, reflective essays often focus on personal experiences. Many instructors will ask that you write about a particular topic from the perspective of a specific character or archetype. Therefore, reflective essays often include anecdotal elements. This may be why it is helpful for many students to look at sample reflective essays as they try to get started writing their own. A reflective essay can be more difficult than other types of papers because you have an extra layer of reflection involved in the process. You must analyze not only your personal experience but also your thoughts and feelings regarding said experience.

Reflective Essay in MLA Format

  • Times New Roman is a typeface that was created in the 1″ margins; 12 pt font, double spaced;
  • Every page has the last name and page number in the top right corner;
  • The titles are in the middle of the page.
  • Your name, professor’s name, course number, and date (dd/mm/yy) should all appear in the header.
  • A Works Cited list appears on the last page.

Reflective Essay in APA Style

  • Times New Roman is a typeface that was created in the Double-spaced 12 pt font;
  • 1-inch margins;
  • At the beginning of each page, provide a page header;
  • On the right, write the page number;
  • The title page, abstract, main body, and references should all be included in your reflective essay.

Conclusion

As a quick wrap-up, you should remember that the essay is your opportunity to demonstrate how your life experience and academic experience have intersected. A successful reflective essay will flow like a great story. The beginning hooking readers into reading the whole piece, then with a clear path of cause and effect, then finally a conclusion that builds upon everything you’ve said. In our next part of How to Write a Reflective Essay, we’ll be looking at some excellent sample essays from universities around the world so you can see what these essays look like in practice.