What is a Reflective Essay?

A form of reflective writing in which the author delves into a topic from their own distinct viewpoint is a reflective essay. Reflective essays, unlike academic essays, are subjective and can often use figurative language without needing academic references. The aim of a reflective essay is to examine the writer’s thoughts, perspectives, and experiences and communicate them.

Reflective essays are frequently used for college applications and cover letters, allowing the writer to discuss their background and illustrate how their experiences have shaped them into an ideal candidate. For instance, a college applicant might write a reflective essay on how frequently relocating due to a parent’s military service influenced their understanding of home.

Reflective essays can occasionally be assigned for academic credit. For instance, a student might be required to view a movie or go to an exhibition at a museum and then write a thoughtful essay discussing the themes of the movie or show. Reflective writing, like blog entries or journal entries, can also be a form of reflective essay.

Reflective Essay vs. Narrative essay

There are a few similarities between reflective essays and narrative essays. Both are personal pieces of writing in which the author explores their thoughts about their experiences. But here’s the main difference: While a narrative essay focuses on a story about events in the author’s life, a reflective essay focuses on the changes the author underwent because of those events. A narrative essay has many of the same elements as a fictional story: setting, characters, plot, and conflict. A reflective essay gets granular about the circumstances and changes driven by the conflict and doesn’t necessarily aim to tell a full story.

Reflective Essays based on Academic Material

You might be assigned to write a reflective essay on an academic text, such as an essay, a book, or an article. Unlike a reflective essay format about your own personal experiences, this type of reflective essay involves analysis and interpretation of the material. However, unlike in an analytical essay, the position you support is informed by your own opinion and perspective rather than solely by the text.

How to choose a topic?

A reflective essay can be about any topic. By definition, a reflective essay is an essay where the writer describes an event or experience (or series of events or experiences) and then discusses and analyzes the lessons they derived from their experience. This experience can be about anything, whether big life events like moving to a new country or smaller experiences like trying sushi for the first time. The reflective paper format can be serious, lighthearted, poignant, or simply entertaining.

Reflective Essay

If your reflective essay is for an assignment or an application, you might be given a topic. In some cases, you might be given a broad area or keyword and then have to develop your own topic related to those things. In other cases, you might not be given anything.

No matter which is the case for your essay, there are a few ways to explore reflective essay ideas and develop your topic.

Free write

When you write for a set amount of time, freewriting allows you to just write whatever comes to mind without thinking about grammar, structure, or even creating a meaningful piece of writing. The aim is to get your ideas down on paper and explore them creatively; you’re allowing yourself more leeway to explore these ideas by releasing the pressure to produce something that will pass muster.

Make a Mind Map

A mind map is a diagram that illustrates the connections between ideas, events, and other words centered around a main concept. Reflective paper example, a mind map for “book” might branch out to words like fiction, nonfiction, digital, and hardcover. Each of these words would then branch out to subtopics, which in turn can branch out to even more subtopics, showcasing the depth to which a subject can be explored.

Creating a mind map can be an effective method for exploring your thoughts and feelings about the experience you’re discussing in your essay.

Real-life experiences

Reflective paper can be inspired by anything in your life. Consider a particular incident that altered your perspective on life or completely changed how you do things every day. Alternatively, concentrate on small aspects such as the weekly cleaning roaster or visits to a nearby supermarket when writing reflective essays. It’s about more than merely recounting events and emotions in such reflective papers; they are also about examining how they impact our lives emotionally and psychologically.

Reflective Essay Outline

A reflective essay’s introduction paragraph needs to include:

• A hook
• A thesis statement

The hook is the sentence that catches the reader’s attention and makes them want to read more. This can be an unexpected fact, an intriguing statistic, a left-field observation, or a question that gets the reader’s mind thinking about the essay’s topic.

The thesis statement is a concise statement that introduces the reader to the essay’s topic. A thesis statement clearly spells out the topic and gives the reader context for the rest of the essay they’re about to read.

These aren’t all the things that a reflective essay’s introduction needs, however. This paragraph needs to effectively introduce the topic, which often means introducing a few of the ideas discussed in the essay’s body paragraphs alongside the hook and thesis statement.

Body paragraphs

The body paragraphs of your essay are where you delve into the experience you’re reflecting on. You might compare different experiences, describe scenes and your emotions during and after them, recount interactions, and contrast these experiences with any expectations you had beforehand.

Your reflective essay doesn’t have to have a certain amount of body paragraphs unless you’re writing it for a specific assignment writing service. Although writers typically write three body paragraphs, it’s okay if your essay only requires two, three, four, or five to adequately convey your experience and reflection.


Please Before concluding this paper first wrap up everything discussed within the body paragraphs. Summarize your thesis briefly for example by repeating. In order to give the audience a feeling of entirety, end off with another idea at least one or two more ideas. Though they must be drawn from any of the body paragraphs and not new insights to the reader. Before long, reflect on how you have been affected by what has happened here.

6 Tips For Writing a Reflective Essay

  1. Choose a Tone

Before you begin to write your reflective essay, choose a tone. Because a reflective essay is more personal than an academic essay, you don’t need to use a strict, formal tone. You can also use personal pronouns like I and me in your essay because this essay is about your personal experiences.

  1. Be Mindful of Length

Generally, five hundred to one thousand words is an appropriate length for a reflective essay. If it’s a personal piece, it may be longer. You might be required to keep your essay within a general word count if it’s an assignment or part of an application. When this is the case, be mindful to stick to the word count—writing too little or too much can have a negative impact on your grade or your candidacy.

  1. Keep Your Writing Focused on That Topic

A reflective essay reflects on a single topic. Whether that topic is a one-off event or a recurring experience in your life, it’s important to keep your writing focused on that topic.

  1. Be clear and concise

In a reflective essay, introspection and vivid imagery are assets. However, the essay’s language should remain concise, and its structure should follow a logical narrative.

  1. Professional Tone

Although you aren’t bound to a formal tone, it’s generally best to use a professional tone in your reflective writing. Avoid using slang or overly familiar language, especially if your reflective essay is part of a college or job application.

  1. Proofread your Work

Before you hit “send” or “submit,” be sure to proofread your work. For this last read-through, you should be focused on catching any spelling or grammatical mistakes you might have missed.

Reflective Essay Some FAQs

What is a reflective essay?

Reflective essays are a type of personal essay that examines a topic through the lens of the writer’s unique perspective. They are more subjective about their subjects than an academic essay, use figurative language, and don’t require academic sources.

What’s the difference between a reflective essay and a narrative essay?

While a reflective essay focuses on its author’s feelings and perspectives surrounding events they’ve experienced or texts they’ve read, a narrative essay tells a story. A narrative essay might show changes the author underwent through the same conventions a fictional story uses to show character growth; a reflective essay discusses this growth more explicitly and explores it in depth.

What are example topics for a reflective essay?

• Moving abroad and adapting to the local culture
• Recovering from an athletic injury
• Weekly phone conversations with your grandmother
• The funniest joke you ever heard (and what made it so funny)