Your instructor just told you that your next writing assignment will be a reflective essay.
Reflective essays are about you, so you go home and take a good long look in the mirror.
Before you start writing about what you see on the surface, keep in mind that a reflective essay involves more than just a cursory glance. It requires taking a deeper look at yourself, stepping through the looking glass, so to speak, to discover and show important parts of yourself to your readers.
Image by sammydavisdog via flickr
Below, I’ll show you how to create a killer reflective essay outline, and I’ll even give you a downloadable template you can use to make your own outline.
What Is a Reflective Essay and How Is It Different from Other Essays?
So you may be asking yourself what a reflective essay is exactly. You’ve written many other types of essays for many different classes, so how is this any different?
First things first… a reflective essay is one in which you reflect on your personality, places you’ve been, people you’ve met, or experiences that have influenced you. This type of essay lets you tell the reader who you are and what/who has made you that way.
Unlike most other types of essays you may have written, reflective essays typically don’t deal with researching facts and figures. They are much more personal in nature and can be more fluid in structure and style.
It can be tempting to just jump right into writing, but hold on! A good reflective essay can be a great reflective essay with the proper planning.
Using a Reflective Essay Outline to Organize Your Thoughts
The goal of any essay is to write clearly and concisely about whatever topic you choose or are assigned. Unfortunately, with reflective essays, some people tend to get a little disorganized and start sounding like the Walrus, talking about anything and everything in no particular order.
Don’t be like the Walrus!
Using a reflective essay outline can help your writing in a few ways
- An outline can help lay out exactly what details you want to use before you start writing. This is tremendously helpful because you won’t end up on your last paragraph and suddenly realize that you forgot to include a crucial element or two.
- An outline gives you a clear roadmap instead of curvy paths and dead ends. You don’t have to wonder what’s supposed to come next because it’ll all be in the outline. In other words, you won’t have to spend time “in Wonderland.”
- Because you can look at your reflective essay outline and follow it as you’re writing, ultimately you’ll save some time in your writing. Second-guessing what comes next, in what order the supporting details should go, or going back for big revisions because you forgot something important are all wastes of time.
Are you convinced yet that creating a reflective essay outline is the best option?
Good! Now let’s get to actually making that outline!
How to Craft a Good Reflective Essay Outline
Because the subject of reflective essays is different from that of, say, an argumentative essay, the structure and organization can also be quite different. However, some rules still apply. To start organizing, your reflective essay outline should include sections for the introduction, body and conclusion.
For the purposes of giving examples, let’s say Alice just got back from her adventures in Wonderland and is working on a reflective essay outline to tell about her experience there.
Image by Jessie Wilcox Smith via Wikimedia Commons
As with any essay, your reflective essay should begin with an introduction. The parts of your introduction to include in your outline are:
- The hook: you want to grab your reader’s attention from the very start. If you’re telling about an experience, give a quick preview of the most exciting part of that story.
- The thesis statement: In a reflective essay, the thesis statement will usually include a brief statement of what your essay is about as well as how the specific person, place, or experience has influenced you. You will expand on this later, so don’t give away too much in the beginning.
Alice’s introduction might go something like this:
I don’t know how I had gotten myself into such a mess, but I found myself running down a seemingly endless path with the Red Queen’s entire court shouting, “Off with her head!” I had long yearned for adventure and excitement, but my time in Wonderland made me realize that adventure comes with some serious risks.
The next part of your outline is perhaps the most important. Without your reflective essay outline, the body can get muddled and confusing. I can’t tell you exactly how to organize the body of your essay because every essay is going to be different. However, I do have a couple of tips.
- If you are writing about an experience or an event, use a chronology that makes sense. It doesn’t have to be completely linear, but if you jump around in the timeline too much, it can confuse both you and the reader. Laying out the important parts in the outline will help you figure out in what order to put everything.
- No matter what you’re writing your reflective essay about–an experience, person or place–you should include the impact it has madeand what, if anything, you learned. This should be at least as long of a section as the description of the event, person or place. It’s what shows off who you are and it’s what the reader will be most interested in.
The body paragraphs of Alice’s reflective outline may look something like this:
- Following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole
- Description of what happened
- Learning to look before I leap
- Meeting the Caterpillar
- Description of what happened
- I learned how to control my size
- I started to realize just how strange the people were in Wonderland
- Mad Tea Party
- Description of what happened
- Although a lot of fun, the tea party was very stressful
- The people I met were progressively crazier
- Croquet with the Red Queen
- Description of what happened
- It’s very hard to play croquet when the other person is cheating and threatening to behead you
- It was at this point when I realized that Wonderland had no rules, and that a world without rules is insane
As you can see, Alice’s timeline includes different events within the entire experience and with a moment of reflection on each. The final lesson learned is the epiphany–the aha! moment.
Your outline does not have to look just like this. It could be a summary of the entire experience, followed by what you learned from it. Like I said, every essay is different.
The conclusion of your reflective essay should be the finishing touch that brings the whole piece of writing together nicely. Include a brief summary of your main points (as stated in the body paragraphs), as well as the overall takeaway from your reflection.
For example, Alice’s conclusion would be similar to this:
The White Rabbit, Caterpillar, Mad Hatter, and the Red Queen are certainly faces that I’ll never forget. They each contributed to the sheer madness of Wonderland. But those people–that madness–made me thankful for the peace and security of my own home and family and its rules.
More Resources to Help with Your Reflective Essay Outline
I hope you have a better understanding of why and how to draft a good outline. To give you a bit of extra help, here’s a downloadable reflective essay outline template.
Reflective Essay Outline Template.
This outline template follows a 5-paragraph format, but you can add paragraphs and rearrange the body paragraphs to fit your needs. Just fill in the blanks with your own information, and you’ll be one step closer to a stellar essay.
Need more inspiration? Check out these reflective essay examples.
If you’re looking for topic ideas, check out 15 Reflective Essay Topics to Inspire Your Next Paper.
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“To my mind, the character of Thor from “Thor: The Movie” reflects my personality. He is brave and honest compared to his greedy and selfish brother, so I adore the God of Thunder most of all!”
It is an extract from a reflective essay of an 8th-grade schoolboy. More complex reflective essay examples are available. In this article, students who wish to learn how to highlight their personality will discover effective writing tips and top reflective essay topics.
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A reflection essay seems easy as you don’t have to defend one’s point of view or convince the reader of something. It has its challenges, so we recommend finding quick online help with academic assignments in the shape of professional writers & editors!
What Is a Reflective Essay Assignment?
A good question to start with is, “What is a reflective essay?” A reflective essay is a type of academic writing, in which the student has to test personal life experience/position towards a particular topic. Unlike in argumentative writing, the student does not have to defend the personal position. It does not require a complicated, professional language with some terminology. Do not define something - focus on sharing personal life experience, skills, development, and the most vivid examples to illustrate the topic.
The format of this essay depends on the target audience. A reflection essay student writes to meet the college writing standards has a different structure from the one a magazine writer should preset to reach the issue’s audience. Each reflective paper has a similar outline.
How to Write a Reflective Essay: Critical Elements
Personal writing helps students to stress their individuality by highlighting various skills, knowledge, behavior, feelings, and even mood. A reflective essay shows how the person changed over time and what factors played an important role in those metamorphoses.
Keep on reading this section to learn how to write different parts of the paper about yourself.
Preparing Reflective Essay Outline
The first thing every student needs to understand how to write a reflective essay is an effective, detailed outline. It has 3 typical sections:
- Body Paragraphs
The assignment of this type does not require any references – the only person to refer is the student who decides to share his thoughts & ideas.
Find 3 main reasons to include an outline of this type of writing!
- An outline assists in laying out the details the student wants to leave after narrowing down the draft before working on the final paper. It prevents from concluding the essay by realizing something is missing.
- An outline provides a clear, concise roadmap, which prevents the writer from taking curvy paths and facing dead ends. It shows the way like a compass in the woods.
- An outline helps to save a plenty of time.
- An outline helps the potential readers, including teachers & classmates, to avoid falling off the main point when reading the essay partially.
Things to Discuss in Introduction to Reflective Essay!
Start with stating the primary focus of the personal reflection. Avoid being indirect and covering a range of topics; stay direct and concise by underlining the basic purpose of sharing a life experience.
“Giving a preview of the most exciting part of the story is a clue. The target reader may lack time to read the full piece from cover to cover. “There are many things I have learned from Marketing class. The most valuable lesson I have obtained is checking the effectiveness of 2 different approaches or services through utilizing a so-called A/B testing.” It will make the reader think what is special about this specific method. The reader will go on reading the body paragraphs to find out!”
Professor Hemsworth, History & Anthropology teacher and academic writer at NerdyMates
Another way to attract attention in the introductory paragraph is to come up with the intriguing hook sentence like statistics, fact, quote, metaphor, rhetorical question, or joke. It depends on the mood of the reflective essay.
Working on Reflective Essay Thesis
Some people may say that a reflective essay does not need a thesis. However, the example shared in the previous section talking about introduction is an example of the inspiring thesis statement. Include at least a summary of the primary idea. The best idea would be to focus on previewing the peak of the plot development or highlighting the most valuable lesson learned.
“Now I realize the value of sports in the life of every student. The swimming courses I visit since 13 are the great example of the way to support positive thinking and healthy body.”
How to Write a Conclusion for a Reflective Essay?
The body paragraphs interpret the way the author evolved or what he/she has absorbed from a particular life lesson (mention 3 different lessons). The student should mention the circumstances that forced him to pass a certain way. If you study a subject like English Literature or Arts, the paper’s prompt may ask you to describe how you changed as a field professional during the course of study. It is important to choose a specific interval of time to list the improvements. Compare & contrast the initial skills to the knowledge you have today. It is a great idea to tell the audience the ways various tasks, challenges, and lessons made the author grow since the beginning of his education.
Check this awesome example of a reflective essay:
There is no need to conduct research to collect the supporting evidence. The author alone is responsible for defending every stated claim with the help of vivid examples that describe the topic the best. Example: In case the student has become more professional in the field of writing, he should list the causes of those changes (new English teacher, more practice at home, part-time job related to the field of writing). Who knows – some of the ideas may be used by other students to succeed!
The last challenge is to prepare an impressive, inspiring, and powerful conclusion, which will make the target readers want to develop the same positive way! Write a conclusion regarding the way you have changed over a given period of time. Share some forecast by looking ahead: how the experiences listed in the essay would influence further personal development. By looking at the past events, decide which of them was the most important. The good idea is to compare & contrast past and future events to stress the gaps between the obtained skills and experience, possibly gained in the future.
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30 Exciting Reflective Essay Topics to Explore Yourself!
It is time to cover the list of reflective essay topics. The top students and their college professors recommend personalized, interesting ideas that could give a hint to other adolescents.
Good Reflective Essay Topics
- Personal trait the author likes most about himself
- The greatest phobia the student has faced
- The ways to overcome adversity
- The methods to do homework fast
- The biggest strength of the author
- Student’s greatest achievement to date
- Most vivid holiday memory
- Lessons learned from the first official date
- Describing the situation, in which the student faced a complex moral dilemma
- Discussing the biggest ethical issue in life
Personal Reflective Essay Ideas
- Surviving blindness of the example of close friend
- Staying alone for the first time in a life
- Sharing room on campus with another student
- Living under one roof with parents
- Previous summer job experience (ice-cream seller, waiter, etc.)
- What was the best winter location to celebrate Christmas?
- Who does the student admire out of the female celebrities?
- What kind of relationships does the author have with his/her mom?
- Traits to look for when choosing a partner
- The most helpful thing an old man told me
Reflective Essay on English Class
- The most hurtful thing the student heard in his life
- Describing the period of deep, personal depression
- Things that make the author laugh
- Discussing the loudest & most exciting gig
- Attending guitar lessons
- Launching personal small business
- The process of studying foreign languages
- The impact of technology on the personal development
- The tastiest food based on personal investigation
- Favorite book/movie/author/band (do not confuse such type of reflective essay with the movie review)
Reflective Essay Examples from Successful College Students
No recommendations, tips & tricks help the students to understand the way a particular assignment should look like in the end as effectively as the examples. The article contains one of the up-to-date reflective essay examples from a college student.
Where to Get Premium-Quality Help with High School & College Reflection Essay
The person explains personal progress with the help of Facebook experience. It may sound a bit commercial. The writer has a right to promote what he likes in the reflective essay. Do not forget to combine the description of the tools that helped you to develop with the personal experience & real-life examples.
Are you aware of the places to look for other great reflective essay examples? The best idea is to download free examples of reflective essays from the professional academic writing team, which posts only checked papers online.
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