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How to Write a Reflective Essay

3-minute read

  • 29th August 2018

If you think that a “reflective essay” is a college paper written on a mirror, this post is for you. That’s because we’re here to explain exactly what a reflective essay is and how to write one. And we can tell you from the outset that no mirrors are required to follow our advice.

how to get a first in a reflective essay

What Is Reflective Writing?

The kind of “reflection” we’re talking about here is personal. It involves considering your own situation and analyzing it so you can learn from your experiences. To do this, you need to describe what happened, how you felt about it, and what you might be able to learn from it for the future.

This makes reflective writing a useful part of courses that involve work-based learning . For instance, a student nurse might be asked to write a reflective essay about a placement.

When writing a reflective essay, moreover, you may have to forget the rule about not using pronouns like “I” or “we” in academic writing. In reflective writing, using the first person is essential!

The Reflective Cycle

There are many approaches to reflective learning, but one of the most popular is Gibb’s Reflective Cycle . This was developed by Professor Graham Gibbs and can be applied to a huge range of situations. In all cases, though, it involves the following steps:

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  • Description – You will need to describe your experiences in detail. This includes what happened, where and when it happened, who else was involved, and what you did.
  • Feelings – How you felt before, during, and after the experience you describe.
  • Evaluation and Analysis – Think about what went well and what could be improved upon based on your experience. Try to refer to ideas you’ve learned in class while thinking about this.
  • Conclusions – Final thoughts on what you’ve learned from the experience.
  • Action – How you will put what you’ve learned into practice.

If your reflective essay addresses the steps above, you are on the right track!

Structuring a Reflective Essay

While reflective essays vary depending upon topic and subject area, most share a basic overall structure. Unless you are told otherwise, then, your essay should include the following:

  • Introduction – A brief outline of what your essay is about.
  • Main Body – The main part of your essay will be a description of what happened and how it made you feel . This is also where you will evaluate and analyze your experiences, either as part of the description or as a separate section in the essay.
  • Conclusion – The conclusion of your essay should sum up what you have learned from reflecting on your experiences and what you would do differently in the future.
  • Reference List – If you have cited any sources in your essay, make sure to list them with full bibliographic information at the end of the document.

Finally, once you’ve written your essay, don’t forget to get it checked for spelling and grammar errors!

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Ultimate guide to writing a reflective essay, carla johnson.

  • June 14, 2023
  • Essay Topics and Ideas , How to Guides

Writing about yourself is a powerful way to learn and grow as a person. It is a type of writing that makes you think about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences and how they have affected your personal and professional growth. A reflective essay is a type of writing that lets you talk about your own experiences, thoughts, and insights. In this article , we’ll tell you everything you need to know about writing a reflective essay, from how to define it and figure out what it’s for to how to do it well.

What You'll Learn

Definition of a Reflective Essay

A reflective essay is a type of writing in which you write about your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It is a type of personal writing that lets you talk about your own thoughts and experiences and share them with other people. Students are often asked to write reflective essays for school, but they can also be used for personal or professional growth.

Purpose of a Reflective Essay

The goal of a reflective essay is to get you to think about your life and how it has affected your personal and professional growth. Reflective essays can help you learn more about yourself and your experiences, as well as find places where you can grow and improve. They can also help you get better at writing and better at getting your ideas across.

Importance of Reflective Writing

Writing about yourself and your work is an important way to grow personally and professionally. It can help you learn more about yourself, figure out where you need to grow and change, and learn more about how you think and feel. Writing about yourself can also help you get better at critical thinking and analysis , and it can help you get your ideas across better. It is a useful tool for anyone who wants to grow personally and professionally, and it can be used in many different situations, from academic writing to keeping a personal journal.

Writing about yourself and your work is a powerful way to grow personally and professionally. Reflective essays give you a chance to think about your own life and how it has affected your personal and professional growth. By writing about your thoughts and feelings, you can learn more about them, find ways to grow and improve, and improve your writing and communication skills . In the next parts of this article, we’ll show you how to write a good reflective essay step by step, from choosing a topic and organizing your thoughts to writing and revising your essay.

Elements of a Reflective Essay

A reflective essay is a type of writing that allows you to reflect on your personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. There are several essential elements that should be included in a reflective essay to ensure that it is effective in conveying your personal reflections and experiences.

Personal Reflection

The first essential element of a reflective essay is personal reflection. This involves exploring your own thoughts and feelings about the experience you are reflecting on. It is important to be honest and open about your thoughts and feelings, as this will make your essay more authentic and meaningful.

Description of the Experience

The second element of a reflective essay is a description of the experience that you are reflecting on. This includes providing details about the experience, such as where it took place, who was involved, and what happened. The description should be clear and concise, and should provide enough detail for the reader to understand the context of your reflection.

Analysis of the Experience

The third element of a reflective essay is analysis of the experience. This involves exploring the experience in more depth, and examining your thoughts and feelings about it. You should consider what you learned from the experience, and how it impacted your personal and professional growth .

Evaluation of the Experience

The fourth element of a reflective essay is evaluation of the experience. This involves examining the experience from different perspectives, and considering its strengths and weaknesses. You should reflect on what you would do differently if you were in the same situation again, and how you could improve your response or approach.

Identification of Key Learning

The fifth element of a reflective essay is identifying the key learning that you gained from the experience. This involves reflecting on the insights and lessons that you learned from the experience, and how these have impacted your personal and professional growth. This can include new skills, knowledge, or perspectives that you gained from the experience.

Planning for Future Action

The final element of a reflective essay is planning for future action. This involves considering how you can apply the lessons and insights gained from the experience to improve your future actions. You should reflect on how you can use what you learned to approach similar situations differently in the future.

How to Write a Reflective Essay

Writing a reflective essay can be a challenging task, but by following a few simple steps, you can write an effective and meaningful essay .

Steps for Writing a Reflective Essay:

1. Brainstorming and Selecting a Topic

Begin by brainstorming and selecting a topic for your reflective essay. Think about a personal experience or event that had a significant impact on your personal or professional growth.

2. Creating an Outline

Create an outline for your essay . This should include an introduction, body, and conclusion, as well as sections for each of the essential elements described above.

3. Writing the Introduction

Write the introduction for your essay . This should include a brief overview of the experience that you will be reflecting on, as well as the purpose and focus of your essay.

4. Writing the Body

Write the body of your essay, which should include the personal reflection, description of the experience, analysis of the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action . Make sure to use specific examples and details to support your reflection.

5. Writing the Conclusion

Write the conclusion for your essay , which should summarize the key points of your reflection and provide closure for the reader. You can also include a final reflection on the experience and what it means to you.

6. Revising and Editing

Pay close attention to grammar, spelling, and sentence structure as you reread and edit your essay . Make sure your essay is easy to read and flows well. You might also want someone else to look over your essay and give you feedback and ideas.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to write a good reflective essay. Remember to be honest and open about your thoughts and feelings, and to support your reflection with specific examples and details. You can become a good reflective writer with practice , and you can use this skill to help your personal and professional growth.

Reflective Essay Topics

Reflective essays can be written on a wide range of topics, as they are based on personal experiences and reflections. Here are some common categories of reflective essay topics:

Personal Experiences

– A time when you overcame a personal challenge

– A difficult decision you had to make

– A significant event in your life that changed you

– A moment when you learned an important lesson

– A relationship that had a significant impact on you

Professional Experiences

– A challenging project or assignment at work

– A significant accomplishment or success in your career

– A time when you had to deal with a difficult colleague or boss

– A failure or setback in your career and what you learned from it

– A career change or transition that had a significant impact on you

Academic Experiences

– A challenging course or assignment in school

– A significant accomplishment or success in your academic career

– A time when you struggled with a particular subject or topic and how you overcame it

– A research project or paper that had a significant impact on you

– A teacher or mentor who had a significant impact on your academic career

Cultural Experiences

– A significant trip or travel experience

– A significant cultural event or celebration you participated in

– A time when you experienced culture shock

– A significant interaction with someone from a different culture

– A time when you learned something new about a different culture and how it impacted you

Social Issues

– A personal experience with discrimination or prejudice

– A time when you volunteered or worked for a social cause or organization

– A significant event or moment related to a social issue (e.g. protest, rally, community event)

– A time when you had to confront your own biases or privilege

– A social issue that you are passionate about and how it has impacted you personally

Reflective Essay Examples

Example 1: Reflecting on a Personal Challenge

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on a personal challenge they faced and how they overcame it. They explore their thoughts, feelings, and actions during this time, and reflect on the lessons they learned from the experience.

Example 2: Reflecting on a Professional Experience

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on a challenging project they worked on at work and how they overcame obstacles to successfully complete it. They explore their thoughts and feelings about the experience and reflect on the skills and knowledge they gained from it.

Example 3: Reflecting on an Academic Assignment

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on a challenging academic assignment they completed and how they overcame difficulties to successfully complete it. They explore their thoughts and feelings about the experience and reflect on the skills and knowledge they gained from it.

Example 4: Reflecting on a Cultural Experience

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on a significant cultural experience they had, such as traveling to a new country or participating in a cultural event. Theyexplore their thoughts and feelings about the experience, reflect on what they learned about the culture, and how it impacted them personally.

Example 5: Reflecting on a Social Issue

In this reflective essay, the writer reflects on their personal experiences with discrimination or prejudice and how it impacted them. They explore their thoughts and feelings about the experience, reflect on what they learned about themselves and the issue, and how they can take action to address it.

These examples demonstrate how reflective essays can be used to explore a wide range of personal experiences and reflections. By exploring your own thoughts and feelings about an experience, you can gain insights into your personal and professional growth and identify areas for further development . Reflective writing is a powerful tool for self-reflection and personal growth, and it can be used in many different contexts to help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you.

Reflective Essay Outline

A reflective essay should follow a basic outline that includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. Here is a breakdown of each section:

Introduction: The introduction should provide an overview of the experience you will be reflecting on and a preview of the key points you will be discussing in your essay .

Body: The body of the essay should include several paragraphs that explore your personal reflection, description of the experience, analysis of the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action.

Conclusion: The conclusion should summarize the key points of your reflection and provide closure for the reader.

Reflective Essay Thesis

A reflective essay thesis is a statement that summarizes the main points of your essay and provides a clear focus for your writing. A strong thesis statement is essential for a successful reflective essay, as it helps to guide your writing and ensure that your essay is focused and coherent.

Importance of a Strong Thesis Statement

A strong thesis statement is important for several reasons. First, it provides a clear focus for your writing, which helps to ensure that your essay is coherent and well-organized. Second, it helps to guide your writing and ensure that you stay on topic throughout your essay . Finally, it helps to engage your reader and provide them with a clear understanding of what your essay is about.

Tips for Writing a Thesis Statement

To write a strong thesis statement for your reflective essay, follow these tips:

– Be clear and concise: Yourthesis statement should clearly state the main focus and purpose of your essay in a concise manner.

– Use specific language: Use specific language to describe the experience you will be reflecting on and the key points you will be discussing in your essay .

– Make it arguable: A strong thesis statement should be arguable and provide some insight or perspective on the experience you are reflecting on.

– Reflect on the significance: Reflect on the significance of the experience you are reflecting on and why it is important to you.

Reflective Essay Structure

The structure of a reflective essay is important for ensuring that your essay is well-organized and easy to read. A clear structure helps to guide the reader through your thoughts and reflections, and it makes it easier for them to understand your main points.

The Importance of a Clear Structure

A clear structure is important for several reasons. First, it helps to ensure that your essay is well-organized and easy to read. Second, it helps to guide your writing and ensure that you stay on topic throughout your essay. Finally, it helps to engage your reader and provide them with a clear understanding of the key points you are making.

Tips for Structuring a Reflective Essay

To structure your reflective essay effectively, follow these tips:

– Start with an introduction that provides an overview of the experience you are reflecting on and a preview of the key points you will be discussing in your essay .

– Use body paragraphs to explore your personal reflection, description of the experience, analysisof the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action. Ensure that each paragraph has a clear focus and supports your thesis statement .

– Use transition words and phrases to connect your paragraphs and make your essay flow smoothly.

– End your essay with a conclusion that summarizes the key points of your reflection and provides closure for the reader.

– Consider using subheadings to organize your essay and make it more structured and easy to read.

By following these tips, you can create a clear and well-structured reflective essay that effectively communicates your personal experiences and reflections. Remember to use specific examples and details to support your reflection, and to keep your focus on the main topic and thesis statement of your essay .

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. what is a reflective essay.

A reflective essay is a type of writing that allows you to reflect on your personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings. It involves exploring your own thoughts and feelings about an experience, and reflecting on what you learned from it.

2. What are the elements of a reflective essay?

The essential elements of a reflective essay include personal reflection, description of the experience, analysis of the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action.

3. How do I choose a topic for a reflective essay?

To choose a topic for a reflective essay, think about a personal experience or event that had a significant impact on your personal or professional growth. You may also consider professional experiences, academic experiences, cultural experiences, or social issues that have impacted you personally.

Reflective writing is a powerful tool for personal and professional development. By exploring your own thoughts and feelings about an experience, you can gain insights into your personal and professional growth and identify areas for further development. To write an effective reflective essay, it is important to follow a clear structure, use specific examples and details to support your reflection, and stay focused on the main topic and thesis statement of your essay . By following these tips and guidelines, you can become a skilled reflective writer and use this tool to improve your personal and professional growth.

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  2. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  3. Reflective Essay Examples

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  4. Reflective Essay Outline

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Reflective Essay

    Feelings – How you felt before, during, and after the experience you describe. Evaluation and Analysis – Think about what went well and what could be improved upon based on your experience. Try to refer to ideas you’ve learned in class while thinking about this. Conclusions – Final thoughts on what you’ve learned from the experience.

  2. Ultimate Guide To Writing A Reflective Essay

    4. Writing the Body. Write the body of your essay, which should include the personal reflection, description of the experience, analysis of the experience, evaluation of the experience, identification of key learning, and planning for future action. Make sure to use specific examples and details to support your reflection. 5.