How To Write A Reflective Essay

A reflective essay is a personal piece of writing and can be highly subjective. However, there are important steps to consider in order to make a better and more thought-provoking essay.  A reflective essay by definition is a kind of writing that requires the author to inform the reader about his or her attitude, idea or impression regarding a given topic. Alternatively, writing reflective essays is meant to help its author describe how a certain event, person or experience has impacted him or her; or to describe the process of his or her personal growth during an academic course or some other significant experience (this can be a journey, an important class etc). For example, you may be required to write about a person who has had a significant impact on your life or career – it can be your teacher, your parents or your friend. In this case, you will be writing to describe this person and explain how he or she has affected you and how your personality changed as a result.

Step 1: Know Your Subject Well

Reflective essays are not only limited to English courses. Other academic subjects may also make use of it in their curriculum. It’s common for teachers to require a reflection paper after watching a film or play in class. For this, it’s important to know the subject fairly well or have the Needed Material in order to write your essay. If a subject is foreign to you, at the very least know what questions you want to raise and explore these. Research on the topic if you need to. What is important is that you know the subject enough to establish the direction you want in your essay.      

Step 2: Outline Your Essay

A reflective essay may be personal but it still is an essay. You still need to ensure that your main ideas are clear and coherent. Plan the structure ahead and don’t neglect the format of your introduction, main body and conclusion. Use the sample Essay Outlines to get started. 

Step 3: Think Critically 

Critical thinking is probably the most important step. The essence of your reflection paper should be the perspective you bring to it. The first step towards gaining perspective is by asking questions. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and explore even the difficult Questions or those without a clear cut answer. See how you can relate these questions to any personal or meaningful experience.  

Step 4: Be Creative But Structured  

It’s easy to digress and deviate from a topic, especially if you feel very strongly about it. A reflective essay demands creativity but unity and cohesion should not be sacrificed in the process. Maintain a concise writing style all throughout and clearly define your main points.

Distinctive Features of a Reflective Essay

Reflecting on the author’s inner world, and relating feelings and emotions pertaining to the described events and experiences are the most important features of a reflective essay. As a matter of fact, the essay has received its name because its main purpose is to reflect the author’s personality. Very often this type of essay is mistakenly understood as an informative essay and students merely give an account of events or experiences. A simple enumeration of facts doesn’t make the essay reflective; in order to become one, it has to reflect the author’s inner world in relation to the described events. Let’s take a look at a quick example. Let’s imagine you have visited Tibet last summer. In an informative essay, you would inform your reader how you prepared, how you got there, what means of transport you used etc. In a reflective essay, you would tell your reader how you got interested in going there, what feelings you experienced during your visit and how it affected you as a personality. In the first case, you enumerate events one by one; in the second case, you share your thoughts and feelings with your reader. This is what makes a reflective essay different from other essay types.