So, you’re here to learn how to write a reflective essay. Great!
There’s something special in this paper: While it remains formal because of its academic nature, a reflection essay is also about the author’s thoughts and emotions, which makes it less formal than other essay types. With that in mind, it’s critical to find and support that “formality” balance when writing.
In this article, we’ll reveal the types of reflection papers, explain their formatting rules, and describe how to organize the process of reflective essay writing step by step.
What is a Reflection Paper?
The purpose is to train and demonstrate your critical thinking and analytical skills. When a teacher asks you to write a reflection essay, they expect you to develop the ability to express thoughts and emotions by analyzing them.
Topics are different:
You can write a reflective essay on a book, article, or movie. Or, feel free to share your reflections on a person or an event that has influenced you. You may also want to analyze your previous works in a reflective essay, to evaluate them and specify the ways for improvement.
The types of reflection papers are two:
- Personal, aka experiential. It’s about the reflections on your personal experiences and their transformations to the learning ones.
- Reading, aka critical. Here you share reflections on other materials, such as books, films, articles, music, any other work of art, etc.
Reflection Paper Format: Before Writing
- Choose a topic
- Create a mind map
- Write an outline
The process of reflective essay writing consists of several steps, three of which relate to a pre-writing stage. What does it mean?
Before you sit and write a draft, it’s critical to choose a promising topic (if you didn’t get any particular pre-assigned), come up with a reflection question you’ll address, and write a detailed outline so it would be fast and easy to write a reflective essay step by step.
Ready? Let’s begin the journey!
Still in doubt or have no time to examine all the details?
1 — Choosing a Topic for a Reflection Essay
When students ask how to write a good reflective essay, they forget that a properly chosen topic equals around 70% of success.
In school or college, teachers often assign particular topics for reflection papers. If nothing assigned, it’s you who chooses a subject to describe, analyze, and evaluate your thoughts and emotions on it.
Brainstorm topic ideas:
Think of a material (a book, a movie, etc.) or an event that could become the topic for your essay. Remember that you will need to analyze it, not only describe it: Do your best to choose topics of your interests. Consider the following questions:
- What experience would you like to share?
- What have you learned from it?
- Why has it influenced you so much? What impressed you most?
The goal is to brainstorm several possible topics with short summaries of your experience on each. Thus you’ll see which topic sounds most promising and thesis-friendly.
What can become a topic for your reflective essay?
- A significant place where you’ve been
- Some one-time experience you had
- Any repeated experience of yours
- Life-changing events: a special day, a time when you failed, the moment when you overcame a fear, a memory, a conversation, etc.
- Something you’ve heard, seen, read, or watched
- A person who influenced you: a parent, siblings, a friend, a teacher (life coach), you name it!
2 — Mind Mapping Your Future Essay
Now that you have a topic, it’s time to create a mind map for your future essay: That’s when you decide on a reflection question. How will you organize and connect ideas into a clear thesis and cohesive picture?
First, write a thesis.
Now, identify the main arguments you’ll use to support it for readers to understand the evolution of your experiences and thoughts. Group the arguments into the future paragraphs of your reflective essay; decide on their logical sequence.
Such a map will help you better understand the structure of your future essay and ensure it will have all five components required for reflection papers: DEEAA.
- Description: What happened
- Emotions: Your reaction to that experience
- Evaluation: How valuable it was for you, the influence of that experience
- Analysis: Lessons you’ve learned
- Action: What you’re going to do with that experience
Mention all five in your essay’s mind map so you won’t miss anything when writing.
3 — How to Write a Reflective Essay Outline
To make the writing process easier, prepare a reflective essay outline beforehand. It’s like a plan for your future work: It mentions all the elements so you won’t forget any critical information while writing.
Below is a template you can use. (Sure thing, you’ll need to adjust it to your topic, paper type, and statements you’ll describe and analyze.) As well as most other college papers, reflective essays consist of an introduction, 2-4 body paragraphs, and a conclusion:
Reflection paper format:
Before writing, it would also help to know how to format a reflection paper. While your teacher may prescribe different requirements you’ll need to follow, the general format rules for reflective essays are:
- Length: between 300 and 700 words
- Text size: 12 points
- Margins: 1 inch
- Paper: A4
- Fonts: Times New Roman or Arial (Calibri sometimes)
- Citation: APA or Chicago
- Spaces: Double
How to Write a Reflective Essay
The pre-writing stage is finally over! Now it’s time to write a draft of your reflective essay. Below are your practical tips on crafting its every part:
1 — How to Start a Reflective Essay
An introduction paragraph of your reflective essay consists of three parts: a hook, background information on the topic, and a thesis statement. If you have a fear of a blank page or don’t know how to start your essay, it’s okay to write a body first: When you’ve covered the main part, it will be easier to craft a compelling introduction for your work.
How to start a reflective paper:
- Make your introduction catchy yet informative. Start with a hook to get people interested in reading your work: ask a question, share a surprising fact, make a controversial statement, etc.
- After the hook, write one or two sentences describing your topic and providing the audience with some background information: what you’ll discuss, your expectations, etc.
- Finish your introduction with a thesis statement. It’s a core element of every essay; reveal your position on the topic and tell how you’ll explain it throughout the paper.
2 — Writing a Reflective Essay Body
A reflective essay body is 2-4 paragraphs where you explain, analyze, and evaluate your thoughts and feelings regarding the topic. Here you’ll use arguments (one per paragraph) and supporting evidence to prove your thesis statement.
The must-mention elements of your essay’s body:
- Evaluation: What did you like or dislike about the experience you describe in the essay?
- Analysis and criticism: What you’ve learned from the experience; what alternative opinions do you disagree with?
- Explanation: What causes and effects led you to such reflection; how may it influence the future you?
3 — How to Conclude a Reflective Paper
A final paragraph of a reflective paper is about summarizing the points, restating the thesis, and reflecting on your knowledge gaps.
Mention the core aspects of your essay body, say what you still don’t know about the topic, and write your ideas on how to change that. Be concise: A reflective essay conclusion is a paragraph of 3-5 sentences, so craft it in the best way possible.
Dos and Don’ts of Reflection Essay Writing
As you already know, we ask our professional writers for practical advice on most topics we cover on this blog. This time, we asked them to share some dos and don’ts for students to consider when writing a reflection essay.
Here they go:
And here go some more tips on how to write a successful reflective essay:
- Share your experience, be honest and sincere
- Provide details, use your narration skills
- Analyze and evaluate your experience
- Illustrate your points with examples
- Stick to the topic and remain concise: Remember you have up to 700 words only
- Maintain a professional tone
Now that you know how to write a good reflective essay for a university, it’s time to go and craft one for your professor to get wowed and give you the highest grade! Follow the tips from this guide, and you’ll write an essay fast.
Sure thing, reflective papers aren’t about academic or college life only. We all share reflections and opinions on social media or personal blogs, so we believe this post has come in handy for every active online user.