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How to Write a Reflective Essay

What is the definition of a Reflective Essay? A reflective essay is a piece of writing through which a student gives account on what he/she read, discussed, wrote, or researched on. The account could cover a single semester, all the academic years, or only the period of dissertation writing. Through the reflective essay, the student highlights his/her weaknesses, strengths, and ways in which h/she can improve. In summary, it is a holistic account of the journey encountered by the student and what h/she learned during the process.

A reflective essay is a document that gives the writer a platform through which they can examine experiences in life in addition to how they have been affected, changed and developed with regard to specific experiences. The reflective essay demands the writer to take a deep insight into themselves in order to discover and share critical events with the readers. The paper allows the researcher or the writer to elaborate their life’s experiences and events – and how those situations helped to shape their lives in either positive or negative ways.

How to Write a Reflective Essay

Understand the Structure. A reflective essay is grounded on three main parts; introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction enables the writer to express directly or indirectly the overall focus of the essay by explaining which aspects of personal experiences will be covered. The body is an in-depth analysis of the writer’s experiences and how these experiences affected or shaped their life. In the conclusion section, the writer sums up how s/he has changed and the implications of these transitions.

The most effective way of writing a reflective essay is to look back on the book the student was reading, the paper h/she was writing, the class discussion, or the process of writing a dissertation. By looking back, the writer will write down all the important and unique things about the process, and after that, switch to a panorama and envision ways of improving the experience.

A reflective essay should be written about a personal experience.

    1. Identify the main theme and note the major points that stand out in minds such as sounds, images and sensory factors that are conspicuous to personal encounters.
    1. Gauge your feelings in response to the experiences and state how they affected you.
    1. Write the paper by following the ideal format and include personal information in a seamless manner.
    1. Review and proof read it to omit outstanding errors and hence ensure a clear and conversational tone is attained.

Outline Template


As an introduction, the student should briefly write about the topic of reflection. For example, if the reflection is on a dissertation, the student will start by briefly stating what the dissertation was about and the key findings. Secondly, the student will state what will be contained in the body. The last part of the introduction will be the thesis statement on how the experience has informed or influenced the student.


The example below is for an outline that is applicable for a reflective essay that is commissioned at the end of a research study.

Selection of the dissertation topic

This will give an account on how the student selected the dissertation topic, what motivated him/her to select the topic, and what did h/she hope to achieve from the research study.

The research methods

In this paragraph, the student will state why h/she used particular research methods and their effectiveness as well as weaknesses in the data collection process. Also, the student will write on the experience of collecting data.

The results of the study

Here, the student will write down the summary of key findings that were obtained from that data that was collected.


In this last part, the student will state things that h/she will do differently if there is a chance to do another research.


This section should contain the summary of all the key points from the four different parts of the body.

Most Common Topics

The most common topics on reflective essays are on account of what the student learned during a particular learning process and suggestions on what ought to be done to improve the experience.

  • What do you do to counter adversity?
  • Kindly explain what you like about yourself as a person
  • What was your first job experience?
  • Give an interesting account of time you got lost
  • What are the important aspects you look for in a friend?
  • Describe your first date
  • How was the experience of your first break-up?

Related: How to Choose Essay Topics


Reflective essays are intended to analyze and write about life, personality and important encounters – and at the same time reflect on how certain events changed, developed or influenced the writer. The essays provide individuals to express personal emotions, attitudes, and mind-sets with regard to extreme incidences and events. It is important to note that reflective essays are perhaps one of the fewest papers or documents that enable students and scholars to express themselves without significant limitations that come with academia.

A reflective essay is an account of what the student encountered during a particular learning process. It highlights the main points that were learned from the process, the weaknesses that were discovered during the process, and a suggestion on ways to improve the learning process.

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