A Reflective Essay: Type, Essence, and Writing Tips for Students


However, the diary format is not equivalent – there are particular requirements, as it is an academic essay first of all. A reflective essay is very demanding for the structure and your critical thinking skills. Thus, it is one of the excellent exercises to develop them. And also, it helps to train the ability to reflect on any topic.

In this article, we present you with a guide on how to write a reflective essay. You will find all the useful tips in it.

The Writing Process Step by Step

Unlike many other essay assignments that you did in high school and college, a reflective essay has a specific “research” stage. You won’t need to check for other sources like books, articles, and stats data. The bases of this essay are your experience, memories, and reflections.

Any essay demands that you provide personal statements and ideas, but a reflective essay is focused on the “personal” side. At the same time, you should not just retell some of your memories, even with the proper essay structure. The goal of the work is to tell about the impact the event had on you, and understand why it had it.    

  • Research the topic of your memories. Try to remember that event in detail, check for some memorabilia from that day. You need to be very careful about the language at this stage – pay special attention to the adjectives. Choose words with more specific meanings to present the shades of emotions.
  • Focus on your current thought and feelings about that event. Consider how it influenced your personality, and try to formulate the reasons why it had that meaning for you. When you realize it – put your thoughts down. They will be the foundation of your thesis statement – it is still an academic essay, so you’ll need that element.
  • Outline your reflective essay. Identify the ideas supporting your thesis, as you do with any other essay. Your target is to build a kind of chain with links of events and your impressions about them. Check logical connections between all elements and ensure that they are evident. The results should be the rough draft of your essay.
  • Write the Introduction part. It must be an attention grabber with an impressive “hook” – some joke, or a provocative statement, or a question to get the audience’s reaction. Then you present the topic itself and explain why you decided to deal with it. The last element of the Introduction is the thesis statement.
  • The central part of your essay is Body. Here you should describe your feelings and thoughts about the topic. The task is at the turn of creative writing and traditional research. It can be a challenge for you, as you need to tell the story and make it interesting for your audience.
  • In Conclusion, describe briefly what your experience gave you and how it can be useful to the audience. Then make a hit ending in the last phrase – it should be something to appeal to the audience’s emotions and opinions.

Some Topics Ideas for a Reflective Essay

This assignment type usually gives you the freedom of choice of the topic. Still, if you share your experience – choose the piece appealing to you and your audience as well. You might refer to some of the below topics to develop a topic:

  1. How you made a discovery.
  2. A discussion that made you change opinion on some important subject.
  3. Watching a magnificent natural phenomenon and the emotions it provoked.
  4. Your native town and how it changed during your life.
  5. Your perception of some holiday.
  6. Your emotional experience of watching some piece of art.
  7. The turning point of your life.
  8. Travel experience.
  9. How you faced a problem and resolved it.
  10. Your impressions about reading a particular book.

Additional Writing Tips

Things to do in a reflective essay:

  • You can use the first-person – this essay type is a retelling of your personal experience. Thus, “I” is appropriate.
  • Quotations are appropriate too. You should involve some factual materials for your essay to relate to personal impressions. Also, you may use some direct quotes to add expressiveness to the story.
  • Format all citations correctly and include them in the bibliography list. You need to do it, by all means. Otherwise, your essay won’t be accepted.
  • State your thought clearly and avoid vague phrases. Your audience should understand what you want to say.

Things to avoid:

  • Don’t turn the essay into a diary entry or a letter format. It is an academic paper, so it has to match academic requirements for the essay type.
  • Don’t be too general – choose the specific moment and tell about it.
  • Don’t spoil the essay structure. Make sure that all your ideas are in a strict logical order.
  • Don’t draw too much personal information. You should analyze some past event and determine its meaning for you, but it’s not your autobiography.

We hope that this guide will help you to write a reflective essay skillfully. But if you need more assistance with this or any other academic task – you only need to contact our company. We’ll gladly support you.

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