What Is a Reflective Essay?
Reflective papers relate to some events or experiences. Writing one, you analyze the experience, its meaning, and lessons can be learned from it. That essay format requires you to open up about your thoughts and emotions to uncover your mindset, personality, traits of character, and background. Your reflective essay should include a description of the experience/literature piece as well as explanations of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions.
Reflections are very personal and subjective, but they must maintain a formal tone and should be well organized.
What Is the Purpose of Reflective Writing
A reflective paper is the type of academic writing assignment with the aim of revealing more details about your identity.
Mastering reflective writing allows you to:
- Analyze and conclude what you’ve read, heard, or seen
- Make connections between the text and yourself, or other texts and the world
- Think about what you’ve learned and how you can, or will, use the newly acquired information
- Write subjectively (from your point of view) and help identify your interests
The guide below will lead you to creating the perfect reflective essay.
What Do I Write About?
The reflective essay is probably an essay you can’t borrow a topic for, because it should be about your own thoughts and experiences. However, here are some ideas subjects you can write about to help you begin:
- An experience you will never forget.
- The moment you overcame a fear.
- The most difficult choice you had to make.
- A time your beliefs were challenged.
- A time something changed your life.
- The happiest moment, or most frightening moment, of your life so far.
- Ways you think you, or people, can make the world a better place.
- A time you felt lost.
- An introspective look at your choices, or a time you made the wrong choice.
- A moment in your life you would like to relive.
You may find it convenient to create a chart or table to keep track of your ideas. Split your chart into 3 parts:
- In the first column, write key experiences, or your main points. You can arrange them from most important to least important.
- In the second column, list your personal response to the points you stated in the first column.
- In the third column, write what, from your response, you would like to share in the essay.
Writing a Reflection Paper
If you’re writing a reflection on a certain text, annotate your initial emotions and thoughts while reading it. If you are writing about yourself or an event in your life, brainstorm by making a chart with three columns: past experiences, descriptions, and reflections. This table should help you brainstorm and structurize the introduction and body of your essay.
Past Experience: Volunteering in an animal shelter.
Description: The shelter is located near a vet clinic. I was there with three other volunteers and the shelter’s owner…
Reflection: I was really surprised by the number of homeless animals and how tame they were. Working there was a very enriching experience…
Reflection Paper Format
The format of a reflective essay greatly differs from the argumentative or research paper. A reflective essay is more of a well-structured story or a diary entry that’s rife with insight and reflection. You might be required to arrange your essay using the APA style or the MLA format.
And the typical reflection paper length varies between about 300 and 700 words, but make sure to ask your instructor or employer about the word length if it was assigned to you. Even though this essay is about you, you should try to avoid too much informal language.
If your instructor asks you to format your paper in APA or MLA style, here are a few shortcuts:
Reflective Essay in MLA Format
- Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced;
- 1” margins;
- Top right includes last name and page number on every page;
- Titles are centered;
- The header should include your name, your professor’s name, course number, and the date (dd/mm/yy);
- Last page includes a Works Cited.
Reflective Essay in APA Style
- Times New Roman 12 pt font double spaced;
- 1” margins;
- Include a page header on the top of every page;
- Insert page number on the right;
- Your reflective essay should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.
Reflective Essay Outline
To start organizing your reflective essay, take a look at your brainstorming table. The ‘past experience’ and ‘description’ should constitute less than 10% of your essay.
Your introduction should consist of:
- The hook: grab the reader’s attention in a short preview of what you’ll be writing about.
Example: We found Buffy head-to-toe covered in tar, starved and fur in patches, under an abandoned garbage truck.
- Thesis statement: The reflective essay thesis statement should include that ‘past experience’ information; a brief statement of what your essay is going to be about.
Example: That summer’s volunteering experience at the animal shelter inspired me to pursue this type of work in the future.
The structure of body paragraphs is best discussed in chronological events. Answer the bold questions in the ‘reflection’ section of the table; this should naturally create a linear storyline.
Here’s an example of what the body paragraph outline should look like:
- Expectations about the shelter
I thought it was going to be boring and mundane.
- First impression
- Experience at the shelter
Finding and rescuing Buffy.
- Other experiences with rescuing animals
Newly found passion and feelings toward the work.
- A newly developed mindset
How your thoughts about animal treatment have changed.
Wrap up your ideas and demonstrate a sense of how you’ve developed as a result of the experience. Describe your feelings, mention discoveries, and most importantly, plans for the future.
Example: Buffy’s case inspired me to pursue a career as a veterinarian, hopefully, one day working in an animal shelter.
Follow these advices to success with a reflective paper.
Watch What You’re Writing
A reflective paper is a very personal type of writing because it includes your feelings and opinions about something. Before adding something into your paper, ask yourself whether or not this information is appropriate to include.
If you feel uncomfortable writing about something personal, avoid including it in your essay, or, write about the issue in more general terms.
Even though a reflection paper is personal, you should keep it professional. Avoid slang and use only correct spelling and grammar. Don’t use abbreviations.
This is your story, the focus should be on your reflections and experiences. There’s no need to go into detail about someone else in your custom essay. Even if this person had a big role in the experience you will talk about, you should remain professional and describe the actions the person took, not the person.
Review your paper sentence by sentence to eliminate all of your mistakes.
- Keep your sentences to the point. Avoid squeezing two thoughts into one sentence.
- Don’t leave sentences unfinished; make sure all your sentences have a purpose.
Put the Cherry on Top of Your Cake
Use transitional phrases to shift between arguments and introduce specific details. Using transitions will help your paper look professional.
How to Conclude a Reflective Essay
A reflective essay is a type of writing in which you describe some moment or experience from your life or share your thoughts on some text. The experience should explore your personal ideas, feelings, and opinions about the event and how it affected you. In order to write a strong reflective essay, you should not only explain the change you underwent but also support it with details and examples. For example, if you discuss becoming more optimistic in life, you would discuss how you took a positive approach and how it resulted in a good outcome.