Reflective Essay Writing Tips

Reflective Essay Definition

A reflective essay is a type of paper in which you are required to explore the material that you read or visualized. A reflective essay enables you to:

  • Examine and extract conclusions regarding the material you went through;
  • Establish the relation between the material and yourself, different materials or the society;
  • Ponder on the lessons you drew and the way in which you’ll be able to use the freshly attained knowledge;
  • Write from your own perspective;
  • Detect aspects that require additional study.

Students are often assigned writing reflective essays, as this type of paper offers you a possibility of presenting your personal views regarding a specific piece of writing. Other than that, these essays may be very helpful throughout your years of study. Although reflective essays are highly subjective, the writer needs to use an official style and follow an orderly structure.

In case you are asked to reflect on a specific matter, as you go through it, write down your original feelings and ideas. If the topic of your reflective essay is a situation you experienced or your own personality, devise a table with three rubrics: situation, presentation, and reflection. By creating this chart, you’ll find it easier to brainstorm and organize your paper.

For instance: Let’s say you want to present your experience at a retirement home.

General Information About Personal Reflective Essays

A personal reflective essay is a type of paper that showcases your individuality, actions, and impacts. In the end, by reading your personal reflective essay, the audience finds out details about your personality. As opposed to different types of papers you may have written in the past, a reflective essay is not based on certainties or examinations. Instead, it focuses on your personality. Application papers or work CVs can also be regarded as reflective essays, to some extent, because they showcase your individuality, traits, and experience. A particular element that makes all the difference between a winning reflective essay and a flawed one is planning. Therefore, you should start with a structure.

Formatting Requirements

Reflective essays entail very different formatting requirements compared to regular argumentative or research essays. One could describe this type of paper as a well-organized story or a journal note. The APA or MLA formatting style can solely be used when the topic of your reflective essay is an external piece of writing.

When writing your paper, you must steer clear of using academic style. Write in accordance to your emotions and thoughts. A reflective essay focuses on your personality rather than the material. In case your professor tells you to use the APA or MLA formatting style, you need to stick to the following requirements:


  • Times New Roman font, size 12;
  • Double spacing;
  • 1″ edges;
  • Your last name and page number in the upper right area of each page;
  • Centering on headings;
  • In the header, add your name, your instructor’s name, the course information, and the date (dd/mm/yy);
  • On the last page, add a Bibliography section.


  • Use a Times New Roman font, size 12;
  • Double space the text;
  • Edges need to be of 1”;
  • In the upper part of each page, add a header;
  • Add a page number in the right area of each page;
  • Your paper needs to include 4 sections: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body and Bibliography

Reflective Essay Structure

To begin structuring your paper, pay attention to the brainstorming chart you drafted. The “situation” and “presentation” sections ought to amount to less than 10% of the overall content. Don’t get into too many details when describing situations. Instead, illustrate your thoughts regarding the situations.


  • Hook statement: catch the audience’s interest by offering a glance of what you’ll talk about.
    • For instance: I came across a wounded old dog called Buck who was sleeping next to a dumpster.
  • The thesis statement ought to present a few details about the situation; it’s a brief presentation on the topic of your paper.
    • For instance: The time when I worked as a volunteer at a veterinary clinic encouraged me to seek this kind of job in the future.
  • The information in the body paragraphs should be ordered chronologically. Respond to the forward questions in the “reflection” segment of your chart. This way, you’ll be able to build a straightforward plot.

Body Paragraphs:

  • Anticipations regarding the clinic
    • Initial opinion
    • Anticipations – I assumed I’d have a dull and monotonous experience
  • Work events
    • Running into Buck and saving him
    • Different situations in which I saved animals
  • Revelations
    • I discovered an enthusiasm for this kind of work
    • My viewpoints on animal care were reshaped

In the conclusion section, you need to summarize your thoughts and prove how you evolved. Talk about your emotions, new discoveries and, above all else, your intentions regarding the future.

For instance: Buck’s situation stimulated me to study veterinary medicine. This way, I’ll be able to rescue many helpless animals.

Popular Subjects

When working on a reflective essay, you need to come up with a subject yourself, as the paper ought to showcase your personality. Nevertheless, here are a few of the most popular topics:

  • A memorable situation.
  • A moment in which you had to face your terrors.
  • Your hardest decision ever.
  • A time when you questioned your convictions.
  • A life-changing event.
  • The best or worst period of your existence.
  • How can you change the world?
  • A situation in which you felt disoriented.
  • A situation in which you made a bad decision.
  • An event you’d like to experience again.

Reflective Essay Criteria

Decent paper

  • It offers a general perspective on your experiences.
  • You intertwine data about particular situations and the advantages they brought. Your experience showcases original facts.
  • Your essay demonstrates that you’ve drawn lessons from your experience. It illustrates your individual targets.
  • You prove that you’re capable of reflecting on your own experience. You offer enough examples.
  • The essay proves an individual viewpoint.
  • The paper doesn’t include any grammar or spelling mistakes. It’s a well-structured essay.

Bad paper

  • The essay only shows small bits of your experience. The storyline is non-linear.
  • The paper is made of universal statements and is not original or remarkable.
  • You fail to prove that you’ve learned something from your experience. You fail to mention your individual targets.
  • You don’t reflect on your own experience adequately.
  • The essay illustrates a general viewpoint.
  • The paper includes a lot of grammar and orthography mistakes. The essay is illogical.

Reflective Essay Tips from Our Expert Writers

During middle school or the first years of high school, reflective essays aren’t considered important. As you advance towards your final years of high school, you’ll realize that this type of paper involves a more complex structure. In general, you’ll be assigned a reflective essay when you want to apply for a university or as part of distinct varieties of reports (like lab reports) for which you need to express your viewpoint rather than conduct a straightforward investigation. A particular aspect that needs to be emphasized is the fact that, when writing a reflective essay, you ought to prove what you’ve learned. Moreover, you need to shed light on the aspects that inspired you to change. A shorter alternative route is to talk about how you changed for the better. When writing a college application essay, you need to explain the lessons you drew from a situation or experience.

To write a winning essay, you need to do more than talk about the improvement. You should also provide examples as substantiating facts. For instance, in case you want to explain how you started to appreciate life better, a good idea would be to talk about a situation in which you had a positive attitude and emerged successful.

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