What Is A Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of essay that examines a given topic but aims to offer deeper insights and add greater dimension to an otherwise ordinary essay. A reflective essay requires a certain amount of perspective from the writer. 

According to the George Lucas Educational Foundation, reflection as a learning process guides students to be able to see the significance of their own learning and hopefully use it for problem solving and self-improvement.  

5 Tips In Writing A Reflective Essay

How do you begin writing a reflective essay? What are some simple strategies that help encourage a reflective way of thinking? For high school or university students, writing reflective essays provides teachers and professors a unique insight into the student’s mind. It can be difficult to start writing one but trying these tips can help you get the ball rolling:  

Dig Into the Past: One effective way of reflecting on a particular subject is by looking back. Try to look back on important history or your own personal experiences; then apply it to the context of your essay topic. You’ll begin to discover what realizations you may have overlooked upon pondering on the past. Look To the Future: If you can look back into the past, you could also project into the future. Although, it may take a certain amount of imagination. With this approach, you can project fearless forecasts and expound on what that might mean for society or humanity as a whole. Utopian and dystopian themes are common in literature but both can also be utilized to create an impactful reflection paper. Be In the Present: If the past and future seem too difficult to grasp, another way of reflecting is by simply noticing and questioning the things happening around you. There might be things you initially overlooked. Take into account current events or what’s going on with the world and connect that with your given or chosen essay topic. Consider Other People’s Experiences: If you are tasked to write on a topic and may not have direct or first hand experience with it, you can use other people’s experiences. Interview persons who actually encountered it or have knowledge of whatever your topic is. First hand accounts are not only a good source of information, but also good points for reflection. Go a bit further and ask yourself how you think this person felt or was what was going through her mind. Are there similar concepts you can connect this to? Find ways to relate it to the subject matter. Unpack the Problem: Another strategy in writing a reflective essay is by addressing a common problem. Explain why there is a problem or why it could be a problem. Offer possible solutions and don’t forget to include the lessons you realized and apply it to the essay topic.

How To Write A Reflective Essay

Keeping in mind the tips above, you can now begin writing your essay. There are printable templates available intended to help and guide you. 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.    

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.


What is a reflective essay format?

Your reflective essay can still contain an introduction, main body and a conclusion. Although it is a semi-free style of essay, having these three basic parts will add necessary structure and help maintain a logical flow of ideas in your essay.

How do you start a reflective essay example?

When writing an introduction for your essay, you can start by providing a brief summary of the topic as you understand it. Or you could pick out details of the subject that you wish to focus on. Your introduction gives you the chance to slowly build up your key ideas, and guide the reader to a deeper understanding of them in your main essay body.

How do you write a reflective essay for university?

Whether it’s needed in your application form to enter university or it’s for a college course requirement, a reflective essay is best expressed when you can balance reason with personal insight and understanding. Your essay needs to go beyond mere opinion and your writing should truly reflect what your values and beliefs are.

Seeing yourself in the mirror is not always a pleasant experience. There are days when you just don’t feel proud or good about your reflection. It’s important to realize that’s part of the human condition. The key is taking all that and turning it into self-awareness; and channeling it into positive action and growth. Reflection is not just for reclusive monks or serious thinkers; reflection is a skill that all of us need to cultivate. Start writing your reflective essay by downloading a sample document now!