Writing Beginner

What Is Reflective Writing? (Explained W/ 20+ Examples)

I’ll admit, reflecting on my experiences used to seem pointless—now, I can’t imagine my routine without it.

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing is a personal exploration of experiences, analyzing thoughts, feelings, and learnings to gain insights. It involves critical thinking, deep analysis, and focuses on personal growth through structured reflection on past events.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about reflective writing — with lots of examples.

What Is Reflective Writing (Long Description)?

A serene and introspective setting with a man writing -- What Is Reflective Writing

Table of Contents

Reflective writing is a method used to examine and understand personal experiences more deeply.

This kind of writing goes beyond mere description of events or tasks.

Instead, it involves looking back on these experiences, analyzing them, and learning from them.

It’s a process that encourages you to think critically about your actions, decisions, emotions, and responses.

By reflecting on your experiences, you can identify areas for improvement, make connections between theory and practice, and enhance your personal and professional development. Reflective writing is introspective, but it should also be analytical and critical.

It’s not just about what happened.

It’s about why it happened, how it affected you, and what you can learn from it.

This type of writing is commonly used in education, professional development, and personal growth, offering a way for individuals to gain insights into their personal experiences and behaviors.

Types of Reflective Writing

Reflective writing can take many forms, each serving different purposes and providing various insights into the writer’s experiences.

Here are ten types of reflective writing, each with a unique focus and approach.

Journaling – The Daily Reflection

Journaling is a type of reflective writing that involves keeping a daily or regular record of experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

It’s a private space where you can freely express yourself and reflect on your day-to-day life.

Example: Today, I realized that the more I try to control outcomes, the less control I feel. Letting go isn’t about giving up; it’s about understanding that some things are beyond my grasp.

Example: Reflecting on the quiet moments of the morning, I realized how much I value stillness before the day begins. It’s a reminder to carve out space for peace in my routine.

Learning Logs – The Educational Tracker

Learning logs are used to reflect on educational experiences, track learning progress, and identify areas for improvement.

They often focus on specific learning objectives or outcomes.

Example: This week, I struggled with understanding the concept of reflective writing. However, after reviewing examples and actively engaging in the process, I’m beginning to see how it can deepen my learning.

Example: After studying the impact of historical events on modern society, I see the importance of understanding history to navigate the present. It’s a lesson in the power of context.

Critical Incident Journals – The Turning Point

Critical incident journals focus on a significant event or “critical incident” that had a profound impact on the writer’s understanding or perspective.

These incidents are analyzed in depth to extract learning and insights.

Example: Encountering a homeless person on my way home forced me to confront my biases and assumptions about homelessness. It was a moment of realization that has since altered my perspective on social issues.

Example: Missing a crucial deadline taught me about the consequences of procrastination and the value of time management. It was a wake-up call to prioritize and organize better.

Project Diaries – The Project Chronicle

Project diaries are reflective writings that document the progress, challenges, and learnings of a project over time.

They provide insights into decision-making processes and project management strategies.

Example: Launching the community garden project was more challenging than anticipated. It taught me the importance of community engagement and the value of patience and persistence.

Example: Overcoming unexpected technical issues during our project showed me the importance of adaptability and teamwork. Every obstacle became a stepping stone to innovation.

Portfolios – The Comprehensive Showcase

Portfolios are collections of work that also include reflective commentary.

They showcase the writer’s achievements and learning over time, reflecting on both successes and areas for development.

Example: Reviewing my portfolio, I’m proud of how much I’ve grown as a designer. Each project reflects a step in my journey, highlighting my evolving style and approach.

Example: As I added my latest project to my portfolio, I reflected on the journey of my skills evolving. Each piece is a chapter in my story of growth and learning.

Peer Reviews – The Collaborative Insight

Peer reviews involve writing reflectively about the work of others, offering constructive feedback while also considering one’s own learning and development.

Example: Reviewing Maria’s project, I admired her innovative approach, which inspired me to think more creatively about my own work. It’s a reminder of the value of diverse perspectives.

Example: Seeing the innovative approach my peer took on a similar project inspired me to rethink my own methods. It’s a testament to the power of sharing knowledge and perspectives.

Personal Development Plans – The Future Blueprint

Personal development plans are reflective writings that outline goals, strategies, and actions for personal or professional growth.

They include reflections on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Example: My goal to become a more effective communicator will require me to step out of my comfort zone and seek opportunities to speak publicly. It’s daunting but necessary for my growth.

Example: Identifying my fear of public speaking in my plan pushed me to take a course on it. Acknowledging weaknesses is the first step to turning them into strengths.

Reflective Essays – The Structured Analysis

Reflective essays are more formal pieces of writing that analyze personal experiences in depth.

They require a structured approach to reflection, often including theories or models to frame the reflection.

Example: Reflecting on my leadership role during the group project, I applied Tuckman’s stages of group development to understand the dynamics at play. It helped me appreciate the natural progression of team development.

Example: In my essay, reflecting on a failed project helped me understand the role of resilience in success. Failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s part of its process.

Reflective Letters – The Personal Correspondence

Reflective letters involve writing to someone (real or imagined) about personal experiences and learnings.

It’s a way to articulate thoughts and feelings in a structured yet personal format.

Example: Dear Future Self, Today, I learned the importance of resilience. Faced with failure, I found the strength to persevere a nd try again. This lesson, I hope, will stay with me as I navigate the challenges ahead.

Example: Writing a letter to my past self, I shared insights on overcoming challenges with patience and persistence. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come and the hurdles I’ve overcome.

Blogs – The Public Journal

Blogs are a form of reflective writing that allows writers to share their experiences, insights, and learnings with a wider audience.

They often combine personal narrative with broader observations about life, work, or society.

Example: In my latest blog post, I explored the journey of embracing vulnerability. Sharing my own experiences of failure and doubt not only helped me process these feelings but also connected me with readers going through similar struggles. It’s a powerful reminder of the strength found in sharing our stories.

Example: In a blog post about starting a new career path, I shared the fears and excitement of stepping into the unknown. It’s a journey of self-discovery and embracing new challenges.

What Are the Key Features of Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing is characterized by several key features that distinguish it from other types of writing.

These features include personal insight, critical analysis, descriptive narrative, and a focus on personal growth.

  • Personal Insight: Reflective writing is deeply personal, focusing on the writer’s internal thoughts, feelings, and reactions. It requires introspection and a willingness to explore one’s own experiences in depth.
  • Critical Analysis: Beyond simply describing events, reflective writing involves analyzing these experiences. This means looking at the why and how, not just the what. It involves questioning, evaluating, and interpreting your experiences in relation to yourself, others, and the world.
  • Descriptive Narrative: While reflective writing is analytical, it also includes descriptive elements. Vivid descriptions of experiences, thoughts, and feelings help to convey the depth of the reflection.
  • Focus on Growth: A central aim of reflective writing is to foster personal or professional growth. It involves identifying lessons learned, recognizing patterns, and considering how to apply insights gained to future situations.

These features combine to make reflective writing a powerful tool for learning and development.

It’s a practice that encourages writers to engage deeply with their experiences, challenge their assumptions, and grow from their reflections.

What Is the Structure of Reflective Writing?

The structure of reflective writing can vary depending on the context and purpose, but it typically follows a general pattern that facilitates deep reflection.

A common structure includes an introduction, a body that outlines the experience and the reflection on it, and a conclusion.

  • Introduction: The introduction sets the stage for the reflective piece. It briefly introduces the topic or experience being reflected upon and may include a thesis statement that outlines the main insight or theme of the reflection.
  • Body: The body is where the bulk of the reflection takes place. It often follows a chronological order, detailing the experience before moving into the reflection. This section should explore the writer’s thoughts, feelings, reactions, and insights related to the experience. It’s also where critical analysis comes into play, examining causes, effects, and underlying principles.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion wraps up the reflection, summarizing the key insights gained and considering how these learnings might apply to future situations. It’s an opportunity to reflect on personal growth and the broader implications of the experience.

This structure is flexible and can be adapted to suit different types of reflective writing.

However, the focus should always be on creating a coherent narrative that allows for deep personal insight and learning.

How Do You Start Reflective Writing?

Starting reflective writing can be challenging, as it requires diving into personal experiences and emotions.

Here are some tips to help initiate the reflective writing process:

  • Choose a Focus: Start by selecting an experience or topic to reflect upon. It could be a specific event, a general period in your life, a project you worked on, or even a book that made a significant impact on you.
  • Reflect on Your Feelings: Think about how the experience made you feel at the time and how you feel about it now. Understanding your emotional response is a crucial part of reflective writing.
  • Ask Yourself Questions: Begin by asking yourself questions related to the experience. What did you learn from it? How did it challenge your assumptions? How has it influenced your thinking or behavior?
  • Write a Strong Opening: Your first few sentences should grab the reader’s attention and clearly indicate what you will be reflecting on. You can start with a striking fact, a question, a quote, or a vivid description of a moment from the experience.
  • Keep It Personal: Remember that reflective writing is personal. Use “I” statements to express your thoughts, feelings, and insights. This helps to maintain the focus on your personal experience and learning journey.

Here is a video about reflective writing that I think you’ll like:

Reflective Writing Toolkit

Finding the right tools and resources has been key to deepening my reflections and enhancing my self-awareness.

Here’s a curated toolkit that has empowered my own reflective practice:

  • Journaling Apps: Apps like Day One or Reflectly provide structured formats for daily reflections, helping to capture thoughts and feelings on the go.
  • Digital Notebooks: Tools like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote allow for organized, searchable reflections that can include text, images, and links.
  • Writing Prompts: Websites like WritingPrompts.com offer endless ideas to spark reflective writing, making it easier to start when you’re feeling stuck.
  • Mind Mapping Software: Platforms like MindMeister help organize thoughts visually, which can be especially helpful for reflective planning or brainstorming.
  • Blogging Platforms: Sites like WordPress or Medium offer a space to share reflective writings publicly, fostering community and feedback. You’ll need a hosting platform. I recommend Bluehost or Hostarmada for beginners.
  • Guided Meditation Apps: Apps such as Headspace or Calm can support reflective writing by clearing the mind and fostering a reflective state before writing.
  • Audio Recording Apps: Tools like Otter.ai not only allow for verbal reflection but also transcribe conversations, which can then be reflected upon in writing.
  • Time Management Apps: Resources like Forest or Pomodoro Technique apps help set dedicated time for reflection, making it a regular part of your routine.
  • Creative Writing Software: Platforms like Scrivener cater to more in-depth reflective projects, providing extensive organizing and formatting options.
  • Research Databases: Access to journals and articles through databases like Google Scholar can enrich reflective writing with theoretical frameworks and insights.

Final Thoughts: What Is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing, at its core, is a deeply personal practice.

Yet, it also holds the potential to bridge cultural divides. By sharing reflective writings that explore personal experiences through the lens of different cultural backgrounds, we can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of diverse worldviews.

Read This Next:

  • What Is a Prompt in Writing? (Ultimate Guide + 200 Examples)
  • What Is A Personal Account In Writing? (47 Examples)
  • Why Does Academic Writing Require Strict Formatting?
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Reflective Essay | Definition, Examples & Purpose

Samantha Nunez has a Master of Arts in English from Southern New Hampshire University. Samantha holds a Teacher Certification in Secondary Education English administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Samantha has two years of experience as an instructional designer, and seven years of experience as an English teacher.

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Sasha Blakeley has a Bachelor's in English Literature from McGill University and a TEFL certification. She has been teaching English in Canada and Taiwan for seven years.

Table of Contents

What is a reflective essay, examples of reflective essays, lesson summary, reflective essays: explore further.

This lesson taught you what a reflective essay is and how it is structured, as well as giving you some important examples. In this lesson extension, follow the prompts below to examine this idea further.

How do reflective essays compare to other kinds of writing that you're already familiar with? What do they have in common with, for example, prose fiction writing? How about with expository or persuasive essays? Draw a Venn diagram comparing reflective essays to one or more other types of writing.

Other Essays to Explore

This lesson gave you three great examples of reflective essays. If you want to see more examples to get a sense of the writing style and how it works in different contexts, check out one or more of the essays listed below:

  • ''Goodbye to All That'' by Joan Didion
  • ''Once More to the Lake'' by E.B. White
  • ''Ticket to the Fair'' by David Foster Wallace
  • ''Self-Reliance'' by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • ''The Death of a Moth'' by Virginia Woolf

Write Your Own

Now it's time to write your own reflective essay. This should be about an important event or journey in your life. It should be about something that changed the way you see yourself and the world. Think carefully about what you want to say. Start by outlining your thoughts, and then write your first draft. It's always good to go back and edit your work to make it the best that it can be. Have fun learning this new style of writing!

What is the meaning of a reflective essay?

Reflective essays are essays in which the writer looks back on, or reflects upon, his or her experiences and how they caused personal change. Reflective essays require a writer to delve into memories that trigger a strong emotional response.

How do you write a reflective essay?

First, the writer should brainstorm and choose an event from their past to write about. The writer should format the reflective essay into an introduction, body, and conclusion. Within the essay, the writer should work to convey the most important lesson learned from the experience.

Reflective essays are essays in which the writer looks back on, or reflects upon, his or her experiences and how they caused personal change. Reflective essays involve self-reflection. Typically, the writer examines the past and analyzes it from the present. This is different from an informative essay , where the writer would present facts about a particular subject from a non-biased point of view. Reflective essays express the writer's attitude or feelings toward a subject, whereas an informative essay requires the writer to remain objective. Reflective essays are often compared to narrative essays . The key difference, however, is that a narrative essay focuses on a specific event in time, whereas the reflective essay focuses on the writer's personal changes due to their experiences.

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  • 0:00 Format of a Reflective Essay
  • 0:40 Structure of a…
  • 2:20 Examples of Reflective Essays
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary

''Mr. Lytle, an Essay,'' by John Jeremiah Sullivan, a popular magazine writer, reflects on Sullivan's time being mentored in his twenties by the Southern renaissance writer, Andrew Lytle. Sullivan writes with such grace about art and futility, the Old South, and male relationships. Sullivan's reflective essay can be read online at the Paris Review .

"Once More to the Lake" is a reflective essay by E.B. White. Writer of popular children's fiction, including Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little , White was also an accomplished essayist . In this reflective essay, White reflects on the time that he and his son spent a week together on a lake in Maine. It is the same lake that White visited with his father as a boy. White's essay can be found in The Collected Essays of E.B. White .

''Notes of a Native Son'' was written by James Baldwin , who is also the author of Go Tell It on the Mountain . Baldwin opens this reflective essay with a stark contrast between life and death. Baldwin reflects on how his father died on the same day that his father's last child was born. He goes on to explore the memories and complicated relationship he had with his father.

Purpose and Uses of Reflective Essays

The purpose of the reflective essay is to allow the writer to reflect on their personal growth. Therefore, the reflective essay is typically assigned to students in high school or those who are preparing for college. Often, universities will have prospective candidates submit reflective essays with their application. In addition, reflective essays are used in more business-type settings, where employers are looking to see maturity, growth, and the ability to analyze and think critically.

Writing a Reflective Essay

Great writers go through the writing process when composing their reflective essays. The steps below provide a helpful guide in creating a reflective essay.

  • First, brainstorm and choose a good topic. When choosing a topic, the writer should make sure it is not too broad or too narrow. When selecting the topic, the writer should consider such questions as how it has affected their life, what their feelings are about it, and how it has impacted the person they are today.
  • Second, research the topic. Gathering facts and details will aid in the development of the reflective essay. The writer can identify all of the main arguments to help express their thoughts and experiences.
  • Third, chart things out. The writer can use a graphic organizer, maps, or charts to organize and sort the information. The writer should work on organizing the main points and supporting details of each paragraph.
  • Next, recognize the experience. The writer should work to convey the most important lesson learned from the experience. The most significant moment will serve as the thesis of the reflective essay.
  • Then, write the essay by following the correct structure. The essay should include an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Last, revise and edit. The writer should work to revise sentence structure, organization, and development of ideas. The writer should also fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

Reflective Essay Format

The format of a reflective essay is similar to that of a narrative. However, the writer may change the format depending on what type of reflective essay that the audience is reading. For example, the audience would have different expectations when reading a business-type reflective essay as opposed to a student's academic essay. Typically, reflective essays follow the following format:

Introduction: The introduction can be one or two paragraphs. The introduction should begin with a ''hook,'' or an interesting statement to grab the reader's attention. It should also establish the thesis and frame of the reflective essay. Either directly or indirectly, the writer should use the introduction to state what the overall focus of the reflection will be.

Body: The body will be the longest section of the reflective essay. Typically, the body will resemble a narrative, in which the writer tells the story from their point of view. The body of the paper is where the writer gives full explanatory details on how the writer has changed and why. Furthermore, the writer should use imagery and descriptive language, rather than a simple retelling of key events.

Conclusion: The conclusion of the reflective essay will be one or two paragraphs. Here, the writer should reflect on the links between their experiences and the impacts these experiences have had on their personal growth. They should reflect on how they have changed and were affected by the topic. The writer may also use the conclusion to sum up the main points in the reflective essay. The writer should leave the reader with some final key insights about their future.

Choosing Topics for a Reflective Essay

Choosing a good topic for a reflective essay can be difficult. The following is a list of common topics:

  • A happy (or sad) childhood moment that had an impact.
  • An event, such as a holiday or celebration that has changed the writer's way of thinking.
  • A new person in the writer's life, such as a sibling or friend, who has affected how they developed as a person.
  • A first job or internship that helped the writer develop skills and relationships.
  • A complex relationship, such as a first love, that reflects on new emotions and changes.
  • The death of someone close to the writer and how it has affected them over time.
  • A great accomplishment and the steps that led to achieving that goal.
  • A lifelong regret that has affected the writer's actions and attitude.
  • Any experience that leads to self-improvement, from a mental, physical, or emotional standpoint.

Reflective essays are essays in which the writer looks back on their experiences and their personal changes. Because reflective essays require the writer to analyze their past, these types of essays are usually assigned to older students. Reflective essays are also common in business-type settings, where employers are looking for candidates with the ability to express maturity, growth, and the ability to analyze and think critically.

When writing a reflective essay, writers should first choose a topic that triggers a strong emotional response. Next, the writer should research their topic, prepare an outline or graphic organizer, and organize their thoughts and ideas. Then, the writer can begin drafting the reflective essay. The writer may adapt the format of the reflective essay depending on their intended audience . However, most reflective essays will follow the typical narrative format: introduction, body, conclusion. In the introduction the writer should reveal, either directly or indirectly, what the overall focus of the reflection essay will be. In the body the writer should reflect on their experiences, changes, and personal growth. The writer will use the conclusion to sum up how they have changed and how they have been affected by the topic.

Video Transcript

Format of a reflective essay.

A reflective essay is an essay in which the writer examines his or her experiences in life. The writer then writes about those experiences, exploring how he or she has changed, developed or grown from those experiences.

The format of a reflective essay may change slightly depending on who the audience is. For example, writing a reflective essay for a college course and an academic audience will have slight changes in how the essay is organized from writing a reflective essay for a magazine or a collection of essays, which has a broader audience, without people who have necessarily gone to college. However, some major elements go into a typical reflective essay: introduction, body and conclusion.

Structure of a Reflective Essay

Reflective essays always have an introduction , where the speaker shares, either directly or indirectly, what the overall focus of the reflection will be. Many popular essay writers might be a bit indirect about their main topic, or about what part of their lives they will focus on. However, an academic writer should be more direct in explaining what aspect of his or her experiences that he or she will talk about.

The body of the reflective essay explains how the writer has changed or what the writer has learned. It also explains what things caused the writer to change. For example, many academic writers are asked to reflect on how they improved as writers over the semester or quarter. Those writers often share how different assignments and lessons made them stronger writers.

A strong reflective writer will not only share the change but also give examples as supporting details. For example, if a writer discusses becoming more optimistic in life, then examples should be given of what made this change, such as sharing an incident in which the writer took a positive approach to resolving the incident.

In the conclusion of a reflective essay, the writer sums up how he or she has changed or the effect of those changes. The writer also might look ahead or look backward. If looking ahead, the writer shares how he or she thinks the experiences in the essay will change him or her in the future. If looking backward, the writer will note how different he or she was in the past. Often, the writer will compare past and future selves to emphasize the difference.

Numerous essayists have used the reflective essay style to share ideas that are important to them or lessons that they have learned through personal experience. Examples include the following:

  • James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son is a collection of essays that shares a reflection of the author's relationship with his father and compare it to the turbulence within society during the Civil Rights era.
  • Scott Russell Sanders' Looking at Women reflects on the author's complex relationship since he was a pre-teen with being attracted to women sexually, but not wanting to harm them by objectifying them.
  • Barbara Kingsolver's The One-Eyed Monster and Why I Don't Let Him In reflects on her and her family and their experiences with not having television in their household and how it makes their lives better.

Reflective essays are written in order to look back on personal experiences and measure how that experience has helped the author to grow or change. Reflective essays should have a clear introduction, body and conclusion in order to share the past events and how those events created change in the writer. A few examples of reflective essays are Notes of a Native Son and Looking at Women.

Table of Things to Remember

Terms/Authors Definitions/Works
written to look back on personal experiences and measure ways in which they helped the author grow or change
the speaker shares what the overall focus of the reflection will be
explains how the writer has changed or what the writer has learned
sums up ways in which the author has changed or the effects of those changes

Learning Outcomes

So you're done with the video lesson? Now find out if you are ready to:

  • Provide the definition of 'reflective essay'
  • Enumerate the three major parts of the essay
  • Cite examples of well-known reflective essays

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what is reflective essay mean

How to Write a Reflective Essay?

what is reflective essay mean

What Is a Reflective Essay?

Reflective essay outline, how to write a reflective essay in 4 steps, tips for writing a reflective essay.

Reflective essays offer a unique avenue for personal expression and self-discovery, inviting writers to delve into their thoughts and emotions in a structured yet introspective manner.

In this article, we'll dive into the basics of reflective essays that hit home. We'll cover everything from why they're important and how to structure them to how to dig deep into your thoughts and feelings. By the end, you'll have the tools you need to write reflective essays that are both genuine and thought-provoking.

A reflective essay is a type of writing that delves into personal trials, thoughts, and emotions, often exploring how they have influenced one's growth, learning, or perspectives. When you write a reflective essay, it typically focuses on presenting arguments or analyzing external sources, reflective essays prioritize introspection and self-examination.

The purpose of a reflective essay is twofold: firstly, it serves as a tool for self-discovery and personal growth, allowing individuals to gain deeper insights into themselves, their values, and their trials. Secondly, reflective essays offer opportunities for communication and connection as writers share their stories and reflections with others, fostering empathy, understanding, and mutual learning. Use our paper writer services to get a fully tailored document delivered to you overnight.

A reflective essay follows a basic outline structure that helps organize the writer's thoughts and experiences. Here's a simple outline you can follow:


A reflective essay introduction sets the stage by engaging the reader, providing context for the experience being reflected upon, and presenting a clear thesis statement to guide the reader's understanding of the writer's perspective.

Begin with a captivating opening line or anecdote that draws the reader in and sets the stage for your reflection.

Provide background information about the experience or subject you will reflect upon. Explain why it's significant or memorable.

  • Thesis statement

Clearly state the main theme or takeaway of your reflection. This should give the reader a preview of what to expect in your essay.

Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs provide detailed descriptions of what happened to you, thoughtful reflections on those episodes, and insights gained from them, supporting the overall theme or thesis of the essay.

  • Experience description

Start by describing the situation you are reflecting on. Provide details about what happened, where and when, and who was involved.

Reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the experience. Explore why the event was meaningful to you and how it impacted your growth or understanding.

  • Insights and lessons learned

Share the key insights or lessons you gained from the occurrence. Discuss how it has influenced your beliefs, attitudes, or behavior and what you have learned about yourself or the world around you. In case the deadlines are too short, pay for papers online and streamline the writing process.

The conclusion in a reflective essay summarizes key insights and reflections, reinforces the significance of the escapades discussed, and often suggests potential implications or future actions based on the writer's reflections.

Summarize the main points of your reflection, highlighting the key exploits, insights, and lessons learned.

  • Final thoughts

Offer some concluding thoughts or reflections on the significance of the experience. Discuss how it has shaped your perspective or contributed to your personal development.

  • Call to action (optional)

Close with a call to action or a thought-provoking question that encourages further reflection or prompts readers to consider their own affairs and insights.

Got Stuck with a Reflective Essay?

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what is reflective essay mean

A reflective essay can be a meaningful way to explore and analyze your experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Here's a simple guide in four steps to help any English or Spanish essay writer cope with such an assignment effectively:

Choose a Topic

Reflective essays often revolve around personal experiences, so start by selecting a topic or knowledge you want to reflect upon. It could be an event, a relationship, a book you read, or even a concept you encountered. The key is to choose something that significantly impacted you and about which you have strong feelings or thoughts.

  • Seek challenge.
  • Consider your audience.
  • Brainstorm multiple ideas.
  • Opt for a clear narrative arc.
  • Stay open-minded.

Once you have your topic, take some time to reflect on it. Think deeply about what happened, how it made you feel, and what you learned from the life challenge. Consider both the positive and negative aspects and any challenges or obstacles you faced. Reflect on how the trial changed you or your perspective.

  • Schedule dedicated time.
  • Use prompts or guiding questions.
  • Consider different perspectives.
  • Focus on emotions.
  • Write freely.

Organize Your Thoughts

Structure your essay in a way that allows you to convey your reflections clearly and coherently. A typical structure for a reflective essay includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

In the introduction, provide some background information about the experience and introduce the main points you will reflect on. In the body paragraphs, delve into each point in more detail, providing examples and evidence to support your reflections.

Use descriptive language to bring the wisdom to life for the reader. Finally, summarize your main reflections in the conclusion and discuss any lessons learned or insights gained.

  • Create an outline.
  • Use effective transitions.
  • Group similar ideas.
  • Experiment with structures.
  • Stay focused.

Recommended for reading: What is religion essay .

Write and Revise

Start writing your essay, focusing on expressing your thoughts and feelings honestly and authentically. Don't worry too much about grammar or structure at this stage; you can always revise later. Once you have a draft, take some time to revise and refine it.

Pay attention to the clarity of your writing, making sure your ideas flow logically from one paragraph to the next. Check for grammatical errors or awkward phrasing, and make revisions as needed. Consider asking someone else to read your essay and provide feedback before finalizing it.

  • Take breaks.
  • Read aloud.
  • Seek feedback.
  • Be willing to make changes.
  • Proofread carefully.

These tips will surely help you take your reflective essay to the next level:

reflective essay tips

Be Vulnerable

To write your reflective essay effectively, share your vulnerabilities to create a deeper connection with your readers. Reflect on moments of doubt, fear, or insecurity, and discuss how these emotions shaped your growth. Authenticity breeds empathy and resonance.

Use Vivid Imagery

Transport your readers into the scene by employing sensory details and descriptive language. Describe sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures to evoke a visceral response. Engaging the reader's senses enhances the emotional impact of your reflection.

Connect to Larger Themes

Explore how your trials intersect with broader societal issues, cultural norms, or universal truths. Consider the implications of your reflection paper on topics such as identity, belonging, justice, or resilience. Linking your narrative to larger themes adds relevance and depth.

Explore Contradictions

Embrace the complexities and contradictions inherent in human memory. Reflect on moments of ambivalence, conflict, or paradox, and delve into the tensions between different aspects of your identity or values. Acknowledging contradictions fosters nuance and critical thinking.

Consider Alternative Outcomes

Contemplate the "what-ifs" and alternate paths that could have unfolded from your past. Explore hypothetical scenarios and discuss how different choices or circumstances might have led to divergent outcomes. Reflecting on alternative possibilities illuminates the significance of your decisions.

Show Growth or Change

Reflect on how the experience has catalyzed personal transformation or spurred intellectual development. Discuss lessons learned, insights gained, or values reaffirmed due to the occurrence. Highlighting your growth journey demonstrates introspection and self-awareness.

Leave Room for Interpretation

Invite readers to engage with your reflection on a deeper level by leaving space for interpretation and introspection. Avoid prescribing definitive conclusions or moral lessons. Instead, encourage readers to draw their insights and parallels to their lives. Cultivating open-ended reflection fosters meaningful dialogue and resonance.

What Is the Structure of a Reflective Essay?

The structure of a reflective essay comprises an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction sets the stage by introducing the topic being reflected upon. Body paragraphs delve into specific aspects of the experience, while the conclusion summarizes key points and reflects on the overall significance.

How Do I Write a Reflective Essay?

When writing a reflective essay, focus on personal reflection, exploring how the event impacted you and what you've learned from it. Utilize descriptive language to convey emotions and insights effectively, allowing readers to connect with your escapade. Aim for clarity and coherence throughout your writing to communicate your reflections clearly.

Reflective essays can be challenging for students because they require introspection and self-examination, which can evoke discomfort or hesitation in sharing personal experiences.

Additionally, articulating thoughts and emotions may be difficult for those with limited writing skills with reflective writing. But with the help of our APA paper writing service , this won’t be a problem.

  • added new tips;
  • added FAQs.
  • How to write a reflection paper. (n.d.). https://www.rhulisc.com/blog/how-to-write-a-reflection-paper
  • Reflective writing. (n.d.). Students. https://students.unimelb.edu.au/academic-skills/resources/reading,-writing-and-referencing/reflective-writing/reflective-writing
  • LibGuides: Reflective Practice Toolkit: Reflective writing. (n.d.). https://libguides.cam.ac.uk/reflectivepracticetoolkit/reflectivewriting

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Full Guide: How to Write a Reflective Essay

What you need to know.

  • Reflective essays encourage self-exploration
  • Write the essay in first person
  • Reflective essays help you become a better writer and thinker

Reflective essays are often written in psychology, sociology, education, and business courses. Like many other papers, writing a reflective essay is not an easy task. You need a lot of creativity, time, and good writing skills; otherwise, you will hardly get a good grade. In this guide, our reflective essay helpers outline a guide on how to write a reflective essay that meets expectations.

What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is different from typical college essays because it is based on personal experience. This is an assignment where your instructor asks you to think about a situation, topic, or course. You will then tell how the situation or course has affected your life.

What is the Purpose of a Reflective Essay?

Reflective essays have several purposes. First, they encourage students to reflect on a particular experience and develop a deeper understanding of its meaning. They also encourage critical thinking and self-awareness. Therefore, learning how to write a reflective essay adds value to your academic and personal life.

Types of Reflective Essays

There are various forms of reflective essays. The most common types our essay helper has helped students with include:

  • Personal reflection essay
  • Professional reflection essay
  • Experiential reflection essay
  • Educational reflection essay
  • Creative reflection essay
  • Critical reflection essay
  • Interpersonal reflection essay

What is the Format of a Reflective Essay?

There is no specific format for a reflective essay. However, it follows a structure similar to that of ordinary academic papers. It consists of an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. The lecturer will also expect you to include a cover page and a reference page.

How to Write a Reflective Essay: The Writing Process

Writing a reflective essay begins with choosing a topic you want to think about. Then create an outline for your essay, including key points and structure.

Once you have an outline, write a draft of your essay.

Then revise it to make sure it is error-free and well-structured. Make final corrections before submitting the essay.

How to Write a Reflective Essay: How to Format

When it comes to formatting a reflective essay, you have many styles to choose from. The style you choose will depend on two main factors: the topic and your instructor’s preferences. For example, if you are writing a reflective essay for a psychology course, use the APA formatting style. It is best suited for social sciences.

Other formatting styles you can use are:

  • AMA (American Medical Association)
  • Harvard / Turabian
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers Style)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)

How to Write a Reflective Essay: Importance of Writing

In our experience as a top site to buy reflective essays, reflective essays are among the easiest academic assignments to complete. Writing such an essay gives you the opportunity to improve your grade point average (GPA).

Aside from the ease of writing, learning how to write a reflective essay has many benefits; among the most common are:

  • Improved personal growth. By writing reflections, you will learn to explore and reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This will give you insight into your strengths and weaknesses. You can then address your weaknesses to become a better version of yourself.
  • Skills development. Writing a reflective essay can help you develop many academic and professional skills. For example, this assignment encourages critical thinking because you have to analyze and reflect on experiences. You also develop emotional intelligence, empathy, and the ability to set goals.
  • Improved writing. Learning how to write a reflective essay will help you improve your writing skills. The assignment will improve your coherence, clarity, and creativity. You will also improve your organization and sentence structure.
  • Better decision-making. Reflecting will help you better understand your thoughts, beliefs, and values. This understanding encourages you to consider multiple perspectives when making important life decisions.
  • Increased self-awareness. Reflection essays teach you the art of self-reflection. This skill allows you to recognize the strengths and weaknesses that define you as a person. You will also better understand the values and beliefs that make up your personality .

How to Write a Reflective Essay: Top Writing Tips

Essay writing can sound like an easy task at first. But our years of experience with students who pay to write reflective essays have shown that it’s not easy. You need the right approach so that you do not make several mistakes that will later lower your grade. To make sure you get the maximum points, you should follow these tips. Our team has used them to improve the grades of students who have used our reflective essay writing service.

  • Use a first-person perspective. Ordinary academic essays are written in the third person. Reflective essays, however, are different because you should write them from a first-person perspective. They are an account of personal experience.
  • Support your reflections with examples. Giving examples is a good way to increase your chances of scoring more points in a reflective essay. The examples illustrate your arguments and make your essay more engaging. For example, if you are writing about your experiences as a leader, give examples of how you motivated your team to achieve a particular goal.
  • Show your personal development over time. A good reflective essay shows two things. First, it shows a reflection of your experiences. Second, it explains how those experiences have helped you develop over time. So an essay that meets expectations should show your development over time, not just describe an experience.
  • Revise your essay. It is important that you revise and edit your reflective essay. This exercise allows you to refine your ideas. You will eliminate grammatical errors, awkward sentence structures, and inconsistencies in tone.
  • Follow your instructor’s guidelines. Your instructor will give you guidelines to guide you through the writing process. The guidelines will specify many things, such as the length of the essay and the formatting style to use. In general, follow the guidelines to write an essay that meets the instructor’s expectations.

How to Write a Reflective Essay: Common Mistakes Students Make When Writing

Mistakes are inevitable when writing essays. So if you want to learn how to write a reflective essay, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the most common mistakes students make.

This knowledge will help you perfect your writing and increase your chances of writing an essay that earns a good grade. Some common mistakes are:

  • You do not give enough examples. When writing a reflective essay, it is easy to forget to give examples. However, our experts who write essays for you claim that illustrations are essential; they add depth to your essay.
  • Personal experiences are not linked to relevant concepts. Reflective essays require a balance between personal reflection and theoretical analysis. Without linking personal experiences to relevant concepts, your essay becomes purely descriptive. It does not have the depth necessary to achieve the highest score.
  • You do not address the objectives of the assignment. Like any academic paper, a reflection essay has objectives. Common goals include demonstrating critical thinking or learning from experience. Therefore, before submitting, make sure your essay meets the learning objectives.
  • Lack of critical reflection on the experience. A reflective essay that describes an experience without critical reflection lacks depth. Your instructor will give you a failing grade for such an essay. Critical reflection involves analyzing your thoughts, questioning assumptions, and considering different perspectives.
  • Disorganized writing and no appropriate transitions between ideas. Without proper transitions between ideas, the essay can become disjointed. Your instructor will have a hard time following the text, which can lower your overall grade.

How to Choose Topics For Your Reflective Essay

As with our reflective essay writing help , choosing a topic is an essential point to consider when learning how to write a reflective essay . This skill will help you choose a topic that will make your writing easier.

So how do you decide on a topic for your reflective essay? Your cheap reflective essay writer has put together three tips to help you get started:

  • Write about an impressive experience. Generally, choose a topic that has impacted your life in a special way. With such a topic, it will be easy for you to think and write about it. However, if you find it difficult to select a topic, let us write your essay for you.
  • Choose a topic that you can explore from multiple perspectives. Such a topic will challenge your assumptions, allowing you to delve deeper into the topic and write an insightful essay.
  • Select a topic that is relevant to your course. Reflective essays are assigned as part of your coursework. So, if you pick a topic that relates to the course material, you can buy a reflective essay that is not only interesting but also relevant. With such a topic, your instructor will not penalize you for straying off topic.

Examples of Reflective Essay Topics

A good topic for a reflective essay should focus on an experience that has shaped your life. The topic should also be unique and relevant to your course.

Some common topic examples that our essay writer has worked on for students seeking help with a reflective essay are:

  • Reflect on a time you failed and how it helped you develop as a person
  • Reflect on the importance of self-care in your life and how it has helped you maintain your overall health
  • Reflect on how technology has changed the way we interact
  • Reflect on the impact that travel has had on your life
  • Reflect on the role that education has played in your personal development

How Long Should A Reflective Essay Be?

There is no minimum or maximum number of words for reflective essays. Some can be between 500 and 1,200 words, while others can be up to 3,000 words long. Always follow your lecturer’s guidelines for the exact word count.

If the instructor leaves the word count up to you, you can use the following estimates as a guide:

  • High school: 500 – 750 words
  • College: 750 – 1,200 words
  • University: 750 – 1,200 words
  • Masters: 750 – 1,200 words
  • PhD: 750 – 1,200 words

Learn More About How to Write a Reflective Essay

We are the leading essay writing help for students who want to improve their grades and do not have time to write their essays. We have an experienced team that delivers high quality papers, including reflective essays.

Whether you are in high school, college, university, or pursuing a PhD, we have the right reflective essay writing help for you. Our service is affordable, confidential, and fast. Trust us, we will complete it on time and to your satisfaction.

Buy a reflective essay and let our online team complete your essay.

FAQs About Our Reflective Essay Writing Service

Here you will find quick answers to frequently asked questions about writing reflective essays.

How do you write a reflective essay?

Choose a topic or experience that you want to reflect on. Then reflect on your thoughts and identify key moments or experiences that stood out to you. Then put your thoughts down on paper in a clear and concise essay.

What should I include in a reflective essay?

A reflective essay consists of an introduction and a reflective presentation of the topic. It ends with a conclusion that summarizes your thoughts.

Can I pay someone to write my essay?

Yes, you can ask us, “ Can I pay someone to write my reflective essay? ” One of our essay writing experts knows what it takes to write a good reflective essay. He/she also has the time to take care of the article and deliver it on time.

Full Guide: How to Write a Response essay

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Introduction to reflective essays

what is reflective essay mean

What is a reflective essay?

Reflective writing describes your own thoughts, experiences and insights. When we reflect on something, we think deeply about it.

Some reflective essay topics are:

  • That day I learnt a lesson I will never forget.
  • The most difficult thing I have ever had to do.
  • My personal achievements and struggles this year.
  • The languages I speak and how i feel about them

In a reflective essay you are sharing your thoughts and feelings, and so the style can be personal and even informal.

A reflective essay is not the same as a diary entry. Of course they can be similar, because they both describe your own experience. But a diary entry can be just a good description of an event. A reflective essay should have some analysis of the event. So it is more thoughtful than a diary entry. It tells what you learnt from an experience or event.

What are some of the features of a reflective essay?

A reflective essay is always written in the first person. So you will use the pronouns I and me a lot.

  • I realised that I can overcome any problem in my life. √
  • He realised that he could overcome any problem in his life. ×

You can use direct speech in a reflective essay. Giving the words that you say or that others say to you can help the reader to imagine the people you describe. It is good to draw specific examples from your life to illustrate what you mean.

Although you are going to be reflecting on your experience, avoid ‘preaching’ at the reader and telling them what to do. Make it clear you are giving your own thoughts eg I think girls should not go out with boys until they have finished school. NOT Girls should not go out with boys until they have finished school.

Use full sentences and correct grammar.

How to plan a reflective essay

You could plan a reflective essay like this:

Introductory paragraph: Start with an interesting hook . This could be an unusual description, or a statement that will get the attention of the reader.

Paragraph 2: Describe the events . Probably chronological order will be best. (Chronological means in the order in which they occurred.) This paragraph will be in the past tense.

Paragraph 3: Describe the consequences or results .

Paragraph 4: Analyse the event.

Concluding paragraph: End by bringing the different parts of your essay together. Think of an interesting essay so that the reader understands your ideas.

Note: This is just ONE way of structuring a reflective essay, and certainly not the ONLY way.

Should you choose a reflective essay in an exam?

  • Faculty of Arts
  • School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
  • Current students
  • Undergraduate

Reflective essay

One aspect of assessment which can be puzzling is the distinction between the two main types of essays you will be asked to write, the research essay and the reflective essay. A number of students have confirmed that they are not completely certain what a "reflective essay" is, and how it differs from a normal research essay. Of course, individual lecturers often state their own expectations of the essay form, and these will in all cases over-ride the general comments offered as a guide here. We can, however, offer you these general pointers, and leave you to apply them with discretion.

Writing on a "horizontal" axis: an overview of the course

First, if you think of a research essay as a "vertical" axis (delving quite deeply into a quite narrow field of inquiry), then the reflective essay works on a more "horizontal" axis, attempting to range quite broadly over the whole course and, consequently, not trying to go into as much detail as you might for a research essay

Telling the reader what you make of the topic

The topics of reflective essays are often much broader, and more general, than those of research essays. This is a deliberate ploy to open the course up as widely as possible to your speculation. Nonetheless, the greater breadth can be a problem, and can put you at risk of writing a very general and vague essay. Far more so than a research topic, the reflective essay question usually puts the onus on you to state what you have made of a general topic, and to explain to your reader how you intend to address it. Look out for deliberately vague terms such as "political" revolution and "social" revolution, or "conservative" and "radical". They are open invitations for you to weigh in and do some purposeful personal definitions

A (relatively) decreased emphasis on substantiation

A corollary of this is your substantiation. In a research essay, you are trying to prove that you have read and understood the texts on a set list of readings: you have to put them on an extensive bibliography, and you have to footnote extensively, if only to demonstrate that you have really read them. These readings are extra readings, in addition to tutorial readings. In a reflective essay, you are not expected to do extra reading, although you may do so if you wish to. You are really responding to work you have already done in the course, so in a sense you may take it as "read". True, if you refer to a reading, you should do so clearly by author and title, so that your reader knows exactly to whom you are referring. You would not be expected to footnote extensively unless you quote directly from the author's text, in which case you are obliged to do so. Your lecturer might tell you to put only a minimal bibliography, or none at all

The secret of revision: "trawling" through your notes

A reflective essay might require some ingenuity, as well as some basic revision. It is true that, in many historical studies subjects, you could write a basic sort of an essay using only the readings from the final weeks of semester, but a truly excellent essay would seek to engage with the course as a whole. In a sense, you are trying to throw a broad net over the whole course,both in terms of addressing the large themes that run through it, and in terms of mentioning some of the key readings

Demonstrating your intellectual mastery of the readings

You should also try, however, to tie in some of the more specific articles, and you should learn to refer to an important article in one short, deft statement which demonstrates that you have understood the essence of its argument or historical significance. This does not mean that your essay should become one monotonous review of every reading: you should weave these references meaningfully into the overall line of reflection you are pursuing. In a sense, you are giving a "cameo sketch" of a piece of scholarship, showing that you have a command of its broad significance, and that you have now reflected upon how that unit of meaning fits into a broad reflection on the period of study. One of the most painless ways of doing this is to cruise back through your book of readings, perhaps also your tutorial notes, maybe even your lecture notes, and you will be surprised how much information, both factual and analytical, will come flooding back to you. With so much information ready at hand, you will find that your mind will be free to concentrate on the more difficult part of the exercise, which is that of pondering the broad themes and significance of the period of study

Setting up time-frames

Remember that because you are pondering the broad span of an historical period, rather than the highly specific time-frame typical of a research essay, it might be useful to set up a distinction between the short term and the long term

Showing awareness of the changing meanings of key terms

One of the most useful distinctions you can draw is a linguistic one: remember that it might be relevant to take key words from your field of study - words which are so common as to have a fixed, universal meaning - and to do a subtle analysis of how they had radically different meanings a) between different social types and b) at different times

Demonstrating a sense of the definition of social class

As in a research essay, remember to avoid vast social categories which can be meaningless. Remember that a category that is too broad can lead you into a statement that is absurd. If you are doing a course which involves writing about a social class, try to "nail it down" before you get too far into your essay: try to give a quick little definition of who they are and what sorts of people you are talking about. Remember that in the vast majority of cases, the terms we use to describe classes, such as 'bourgeoisie' and 'working class' are woefully inadequate to capture their full complexity, so you can impress your reader with a sense of real accuracy and sophistication by setting up clearer definitions and distinctions

what is reflective essay mean

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What is a Reflective Essay?

what is a Reflective Essay

Mastering Reflective Writing: A Comprehensive Guide to Crafting Profound Reflective Essays

Critical elements of a reflective essay, how to write a reflective essay, how to choose a reflective essay topic, step-by-step guide on how to write a reflective essay.

The reflective essay empowers writers to get to the bottom of their intimate feelings, thoughts, and experiences. This blog serves as a perfect means of soul search through introspection, personal self-determination, and growth. With the advent of the modern age and diversions increasing daily, we pay attention to the reflective part of our lives.

Writing for contemplation acts as a light of self-awareness. It allows one to stop, think, and connect to the lived experiences. It is the via medium for students on a life-transforming journey. Individuals in the professional field ruminate through their career aspirations and can use reflective essays. The individuals within the confinements of life can explore and reflect on themselves. Here, we visit an extensive guide with tells us about ourselves through a journey of self-discovery. In essence, deciding on a reflective essay topic is a tough choice. It is not different from choosing a compass for the journey that is a quest for self-discovery. It could be the key to the door, pave the way for us, and lead to questions. We are confronted by a trillion things that can inspire our ideas, reflections, and improvements. They occur when we explore the large world of our lives.

As exploration through curiosity, eagerness, and authentic self-expression, we can embark on a voyage of self-discovery. It exceeds the limit of that thought and encourages a connection beyond ourselves and the environment. In this reflective essay, we go on the journey of self-exploration, which involves traveling into the depths of ourselves. We face our fears and concerns and become wiser, stronger, and more prepared.

The feature that sets reflective essays apart is that their primary objective is the analysis of personal experiences. It focuses on emotional assessment rather than neutral analysis or argumentation.

Such effect papers ask to scrutinize the thoughts, feelings and life events well-considered and reflectively, for instance, to trace the causes of certain impressions in the previous experience and the present analysis. Some topics to write about may be celebrating successes, lamenting failures, and tackling challenges. These can be the themes for reflective essays where students can express themselves and get to know themselves deeply.

Mastering Reflective Essay Writing

Personal Reflection

Through reflective essays, what distinguishes them is the process of self-discovery, self-expression, and exploration of self-feelings. For this purpose, they aim at the writers the authors obligate to reflect and self-introspect to discover their inner meaning and teachings from past encounters.

Critical Analysis

While reflective writing is evident, given its subjective quality, it also incorporates, to a large degree, critical analysis and evaluation of lived experiences. It serves the purpose of writing a reflective essay. Whether to question your thoughts or motivation for particular actions, writers should think critically about assumptions, implications, and, ultimately, the state of the self.


Reflective essays frame personal experiences within the broader social, cultural, and occupational environments that create the context. Writers could think about why they feel, get, or are influenced by external factors. It could be what others do and how you understand or love them.

Structure and Organization

Reflective and other essays generally follow a well-defined structure comprising an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. However, similar scripted questions can certainly be creative, incorporating elements such as anecdotes, dialogue, or descriptive language to enhance storytelling.

Authenticity and Vulnerability

Essays can only grow when truth and self-reflection are the key points, creating an environment where people can share their genuine emotions, doubts, and insecurity without fear or knowledge. Authors of book's readership must eliminate shame and embarrassment and tell their readers such true stories with authenticity and heart.

Here are some steps to follow while writing a reflective essay.

Select a Topic

Select an issue or incident from your past that can be a positive experience or one that you want to be. It can be a success in your life, a course you did well in, or faced a challenging assignment at work, or discovered something about yourself.

Cultivate Ideas

Sit in your notebook and brainstorm about your preferred topic. Please write down your critical memories of the experience, how emotions are attached, and what insights and feelings it brings you. Think of your experience as a shape, a circle representing your personal life, an iron shaped as intellect, or a kite flying high with emotions.

Create an Outline

Create a detailed plan highlighting crucial points and the order in which the essay will be written. This will help you keep your essay logical and coherent. Order your ideas chronologically or thematically to avoid chaos and make them easy to follow.

Write the Introduction

  • Start with an appealing introductory sentence or statement that will interest the reader and set the mood for the writing.
  • Enunciate the context of the experience on the background for which you'll be reflecting by briefly stating the background and significance of the topic.
  • Start by stating your thesis or central argument, and then share what has emerged as the primary learning from the experience. Reflective essay examples are a great way of learning good introduction ideas.

Develop the Body

  • The first topic sentence of each paragraph in your body should represent a straightforward concern involving a vital aspect or dimension you reflected upon. It should elaborate on the main points and include detailed illustrations, examples, and analysis.
  • Provide examples from your own story, perception, thinking, etc., to support your claims and delve into your experience.
  • When researching and analyzing different points of view, critically reflect on your attitude, emotions, and behavior, trying to understand the cause of the reasons, the type of prejudices, and the assumptions.

Offer Insight and Analysis

  • Ponder the ultimate meaning of everything in your life while noting the changes it brings to your perspectives on values, beliefs, and goals.
  • Examine the knowledge gained from past events, discover strengths and weaknesses, and explore new professional or private development openings.
  • Imagine how it impacts your behavior in the future, your current choice, and your ambitions.

Conclude Effectively

  • List the main ideas and critical thoughts in the essay to support the argument you have effectively made.
  • Focus on highlighting the importance of the events you experienced and the relevant lessons you learned from them, further highlighting their long-lasting imprint on your personality or perception.
  • Offer a closing remark, inquiry, or call for attention that effectively recaps the message and lets readers reflect longer on the problem.

Revise and Edit

  • Review your reflective essay thoroughly, considering such things as simplicity, transparency, and the arrangement of material.
  • Editing for punctuation, grammar, and spelling mistakes makes essential changes, producing clean and proficient writing.
  • Ask other students, teachers, or writing tutors for their opinions to get more viewpoints and corrections. This will help you identify your weaknesses and what needs improvement.
  • Modify your essay based on the feedback received using any of the mentioned approaches, such as improving your arguments, explaining the ideas better, or improving the writing.

Reflection is a personal issue that requires self-introspection and is determined mainly by the inner awareness and memorization of past experiences. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you choose a reflective essay topic:

Reflect on Significant Experiences

As your first step, take some time to analyze your personal life. Get into the details of both positive and negative experiences that played an especially big role in it. Many people remember their college years with a great deal of nostalgia. It is because they were a time of significant personal development, overcoming big challenges, and outstanding accomplishments.

Identify Themes or Patterns

Explore the underlying ideas or lessons relevant to you. They may have shaped the process of reflection. Topics could center on resilience, personal identity, transportation, leadership, immigrants, or fighting adversity.

Consider Emotional Significance

Recall events that deepen or instill unforgettable emotions and past achievements that genuinely make you emotional. These experiences can contain some mind-opening subjects and may be hot theory-of-life sources.

Think about Transformational Moments

Try to pull out the most essential life-changing experience that expanded your horizons. Experiences that led to personal development or took you to a different level of spirituality, belief, and values. Think about what has changed because of these events, and now look back. Realize how these experiences have formed your identity and impacted your worldview.

Explore Academic or Professional Experiences

If you're writing a reflective essay for academic or professional purposes, relate to your study or career experiences, i.e., the places that affected you most: your classes, internships, or volunteer work. Look back at all these experiences and remember the difficulties you faced and the skills you've learned on the farm.

Examine Relationships and Interactions

Look back on your interactions with others that left you with a deep impression. These may involve your family members, friends, mentors, colleagues, and occasional meetings with strangers. Consider how those relationships have shaped your becoming someone new and self-conscious.

Think outside the Box

Innovative subjects or tectonic journeys are not restricted. Reflective essays allow us to live from a previously unseen perspective and observe ourselves with a great view from the outside and sometimes even from the interest level of human existence. You should tackle subjects that will make people think twice or move deep in their hearts.

Consider Audience and Purpose

Visualize the audience you will reflect. Use the reflective essay and pinpoint the purpose of this reflection. Pick subject matter that appeals to readers while meeting required writing or introspection demands.

Brainstorm and Freewrite

Use brainstorming or freewriting sessions to develop many ideas for your reflective paper topic. Jot down any memories, feelings, or thoughts that come to the surface, and have a chance to unleash the ideas and topics you find attractive without any self-rejection.

Trust Your Intuition

Eventually, you will rely on your intuition only and select the theme that stimulates your interest and makes you curious to discover it. Your ability to show your honest convictions and emotions while writing the essay makes your essay more exciting and to the point.

Be Honest and Authentic: Reflective essays mostly rely upon honesty and authenticity; therefore, the most essential requirement is a willingness to express yourself truthfully, sincerely, and honestly without being afraid of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Use Descriptive Language

Use vivid details to evoke readers' feelings, senses, and many aspects of your experience, increasing the reader's understanding and engagement.

Engage in Critical Reflection

Critical reflection should follow your experience, making you aware of your thoughts and actions’ hidden implications, assumptions, and prejudices.

Connect Theory to Practice

If applicable, highlight your level of theoretical knowledge and your connection with it through personal experiences. This will help your instructor see, that there exist links between theoretical concepts and your life.

Embrace Vulnerability

Embrace the possibility of the present moment, and don't be afraid to be vulnerable when you write. This could help readers understand what you were trying to say in depth.

Reflect on Growth and Change

Give an account of the ways your past experiences have led to self-improvement, positive development, change, or transformation over time and in how far you strive to improve your quality of life and well-being.

Review the moments that have enabled your personal development, growth, or transformation. Work by incidentally changing your self-concept.

Consider Multiple Perspectives

Ponder multidimensional viewpoints and divergent readings about your experiences. These will not reveal the whole picture and can be more a matter of subjectivity.

Stay Organized and Focused

Preserve a clear and systematic composition for your reflective paper throughout the essay. Each paragraph should be connected to the central argument of your essay and link together the whole idea.

Revise and Seek Feedback

Spend enough time revising and editing your reflective essay to get additional remarks from potent peers. They have much experience from many issues or your tutor, considering rearrangement wisdom, clearness, and effectiveness.

Be Open to Learning

See reflective writing as a continuous instrument for self-growth and self-realization. Write about more than just the difficulties. Try to write about the challenges that will lead to the next level of your discovery.

Writing a reflective essay is a truly personal and introspective act that helps the writer gain insight into his/her thoughts and feelings and, as a result, experience literary mastery in a thoughtful and sophisticated manner. To meet the objective, readers can follow the tips step-by-step and utilize the highlighted ones in this article. It helps them develop a well-written reflective essay that appears thought-provoking and engaging.

Such an act as reflection writing that can be viewed from many angles, for example, academic success, professional hurdles, or personal development, can be an effective tool for individual expression, awareness, and development. Hence, utilize the power of expression by thoughtfully reflecting, deeply contemplating, and indulging humanity. Involve in the truthfulness of your unwinding through the art of reflective writing. “ Sample assignment ” services help students with writing reflective essays. It provides proper guidance and support to them.

Nick is a multi-faceted individual with diverse interests. I love teaching young students through coaching or writing who always gathered praise for a sharp calculative mind. I own a positive outlook towards life and also give motivational speeches for young kids and college students.

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How to Write a Reflective Essay?

How to Write a Reflective Essay?

If you want to produce a high-quality reflective paper, it is essential to know in depth how to write a reflective essay. Apart from considering your personal attitude to a specific issue while working on a reflective paper, it is essential to properly understand the structure and organization of an English reflective essay. Particularly, you should pay attention to how to start a reflective essay introduction as well as come up with a proper way of organizing reflective essay ideas in the body paragraphs. In case you encounter challenges in the process of developing body paragraphs, be sure that you can rely on professional assistance from expert writers. Essays Writer.net will gladly provide you help with college reflective essay writing and any other types of academic essays. When you visit Essay Writer net website and contact us “ Write My Reflective Essay for Me “, be sure that you will get an immediate response.

For many students, writing a reflective narrative essay seems like an easy task to write but actually they may be hard to cope with. First of all, when you are required to write a critical reflective essay, you need not only to provide your personal reaction to an issue, problem or topic but to base it on critical examination. In other words, you need to analyze your personal life experience and apply it to a specific situation. If you want to know how to cope with reflective essay writing, check out guidelines provided below in the article.

What Is a Reflective Essay?

It is essential to investigate the definitions of what is a reflective essay before you sit down to write it. Check out the most widespread types of reflective essay definition:

  • A reflective essay is a type of academic writing that is aimed at describing an experience or specific event and then critically analyzing its meaning and role it played specifically for you. Moreover, you may also pinpoint to what lessons you have derived from it or how you have enriched your experience afterwards. In order to make the essay well-understood and comprehensive for the reader, it is essential that you use vivid descriptions and detailed narrations. This writing strategy may help your reader better imagine the situation and make them feel as if they have personally experienced it.
  • A reflective essay is an academic paper that provides a reflection of yourself. In other words, you have a specific topic and you share your own reflections in relation to it – you discuss the topic from your perspective and you share your own experience in relation to it. You may even focus on different memories, emotions, thoughts, and feelings that overwhelm you when you hear about a particular topic. Be ready to explain many things, especially if they are closely related to your feelings or your experience.
  • When writing a reflective essay, you will express your emotions and feelings about specific phenomena or events. When fulfilling this kind of assignment, you will have to apply your critical thinking skills as well as train your capabilities to discuss specific topics.
  • When working a reflective essay, be ready to examine and monitor the progress of your own experience. When dealing with specific topics, it is a good idea to reflect on how your own experienced has been changing over time. When you nee to provide a reflective essay as a part of your writing portfolio, it may be a good idea. In this case, it will pinpoint to your self-development.

Writing a Reflection Paper on a Movie

What Is the Purpose of a Reflective Essay?

It is not enough to get to know the definition of reflective essay writing – it is equally important to realize what is the purpose of a reflective essay. First of all, the main goal of writing reflective papers if to ensure that one gets in-depth understanding of the contexts when a specific situation occurred. For example, if you are writing on some event, you need to focus also on the setting, i.e. what led to the development of a specific story. Second, the purpose of a reflective essay is to structure your thoughts that correspond to the topic. Normally, when you hear a specific story, you reveal that a lot of thought appear in your mind. Here the main purpose is to mention them but make sure you develop them logically and highlight to some relations between them. In this way, you will explain your thinking process.

When developing your reflection paper, you will have to ensure there is a basic idea or argument in the paper. Afterwards, you will have to add the arguments, examples, and illustrations in order to make the paper vivid. Furthermore, you need to highlight what has been learned and what effect the experience has overall (both positive and negative influence).

The ultimate purpose of reflective paper writing is to:

  • provide readers with a call to action;
  • make it clear how the story you tell relates to the event;
  • investigate numerous perspectives of the issue/ event;
  • investigate what feelings, emotions, and thoughts one has in relation to the topic.

When working on a reflective essay, you should keep in mind your target audience and make sure they get more than just a narration of the story. Apart from merely retelling about some event, you need to focus on your experience and provide a clear and detailed outline of events that led you to specific changes.

If you wonder why teachers like to assign reflective essay writing, they want to check not only students` writing fluency but also let them delve deeper into the experience they previously had. Moreover, they want students to practice their analytical and critical thinking skills.

Personal Reflective Essay Outline

Personal Reflective Essay Outline

Before starting to work on the reflective paper dealing with your own experience, it is advisable to devise a personal reflective essay outline. Read on to find out what benefits devising an outline brings to you.

  • With the help of an outline, you will be able to identify the fundamental parts of details that you will incorporate in your essay. Thus, you will be able to differentiate between relevant and unnecessary information. With the help of an outline, you will be able to make the essay more specific and detailed.
  • The outline will serve the role of a road map for developing ideas in your paper. With the help of an outline, you will be able to structure the idea in the proper order (either according to chronological order or in some logical sequence).
  • Even though writing an outline requires some time, it will actually save time for essay writing in the end. When you have a written outline in front of your eyes, you will hardly ever encounter writer`s block in the middle of writing.
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Before starting to write your outline, you have to consider the following steps:

  • Select an interesting topic. To come up with a catchy topic, recall an event that you might be interested in writing about or write down some interesting personal reflective essay topic ideas. Once you have chosen the approximate topic, try to delve into your emotions and feelings and investigate how you feel, what emotions you have, what you have learned from the event, how it has influenced your life, etc.
  • Collect information on your topic. To better organize the information still in the process of reading and investigating some facts, try to draw a mind map. Afterwards, come up with the main arguments you would like to present in the paper. When you provide a mind map, you will see the approximate structure of your essay from the very beginning. To make the ideas well organized, think of the logical transitions you will incorporate in the paper. Take a look at some reflective essay examples to better understand what proper structure entails.
  • Think of the strong and attention-grabbing opening paragraph. It should be eye-catching enough for the readers to be interested in your paper.
  • Prepare a rough draft. Once you have an opening paragraph, go on with supporting your arguments, providing examples, illustrations, etc. Make sure that each body paragraph is devoted to a single idea.
  • Provide a conclusion that summarizes the key ideas of the paper. Pinpoint to what new experience you have acquired, what you have learned, etc.
  • Come up with references.

Reflective Essay Structure

It is essential to know the reflective essay structure since it has both similarities and differences with the other essay types. Check out the main principles of structuring paragraphs in a reflective paper:

  • The very first paragraph should be an introduction. Here you need to identify the subject of your writing and provide background information on the topic. Do not ignore your own emotions and feelings and state what emotional impact the topic has on you. Be sure to end the introduction with a reflective essay thesis statement, where you outline the main idea of your paper.
  • Switch over to the first body paragraph, where you outline the first idea of your paper. Remember to provide your own reflection on the first paper aspect, i.e. what impression you have got.
  • In the second body paragraph, write about the second reason/ aspect and the impression it had on you. Make sure to provide explanation or justification. At the same time, be sure that there are no right or wrong answers – the thing is, how you reflect on it and how well you manage to explain everything.
  • The third body paragraph should be devoted to the explanation/ discussion of the third paper aspect. Follow the same principles of paragraph development as in the former two paragraphs.
  • Write a conclusion and be sure to reiterate your thesis statement for reflective essay and also summarize the main findings. Particularly, focus on the effect the experience had on you.

Self Reflection Essay Writing Tips

Self Reflection Essay Writing Tips

Despite the fact that there is much theoretical information about the proper ways of organizing an efficient paper, students may still lack self reflection essay writing tips that bear more practical role to them. Check out some of them below:

  • Use the first-person pronouns to reflect on your ideas.
  • After you have identified the topic, you want to write on, be sure to jot down all ideas that come to your mind when you think of the topic. To structure them, use brainstorming techniques, a mind map, a diagram, a table, etc.
  • Try to explain your topic briefly in the introductory paragraph. Do not write more than ten sentences.
  • Be sure to write a coherent one-sentence thesis statement. Be sure to support it further in the body paragraphs.
  • Provide sufficient evidence, examples, and illustrations throughout the body paragraphs.
  • In the conclusion, do not repeat the same phrases taken from the paper body but highlight the main points.
  • On the whole, do not overthink before writing, i.e. do not think too much before writing the first sentence of each paragraph. First, as you are working on a draft, write everything that comes to your mind. Do not demand perfect sentence structure from the very beginning.
  • Always proofread and edit the paper after you have written it.
  • Pay attention to the overall tone and writing style. Check whether it is appropriate.
  • Choose appropriate vocabulary in order to make your reflection as vivid as possible.
  • Be honest when writing about your emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Always pinpoint to why a certain experience is valuable and significant for you.
  • Double-check punctuation rules and make sure your paper is error-less in terms of grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.
  • Make your piece of writing catchy but brief.
  • Avoid slang and colloquial phrases in your essay.


A List of Reflection Questions

The following questions will help you write a reflection essay:

  • What have I noticed?
  • Why I feel particularly these emotions concerning this issue?
  • What made me encounter these specific emotions?
  • What kind of uniqueness lies behind this experience? Are there any other people who have undergo a similar experience but feel differently about it?
  • Could I have done something in a different way?
  • What is the role of this occurrence in my life?
  • Do I have some other events of my life that made me feel similarly?
  • Can I use this experience to help other people deal with similar situations in life?
  • Does this event have a specific impact on the rest of my life?
  • How typical are similar events in my life?
  • Overall, was it a positive or a negative experience in my life?
  • Have I learned some new skills or overall something new from this experience?
  • Can I apply the experience I have derived from this situation to the rest of my life situations?
  • What challenges did this experience bring to my life?
  • Why did I have a specific reaction when I first encountered this situation?
  • How would I react if I had the same situation in my life?
  • Would I like to repeat this experience in my life?

Common Mistakes in Writing a Reflective Essay

  • Excessive amount of personal information.
  • Deviating from the principles of essay structure.
  • Informal tone of writing.
  • Attempts to cram all detailed information about yourself in the paper.
  • Trying to write everything you have planned at once.
  • Free writing style, when you are just trying to cram everything into the paper (ideas, thoughts, and feelings) without any logical coherence.

What Is a Reflection Paper?

If you want to get in-depth understanding of what is a reflection paper, read the information presented below. It will help you realize the core differences between reflection essay writing and the other types of essays.

The essential thing you have to know about the reflective essay meaning is that it is mainly a personal reflection on a given topic. Normally, you do not have to overestimate the task since you are not expected to conduct any additional research on the topic or compose a literature review. It is less formal than the majority of academic essays, namely it can be written in first person. More so, it mainly focuses on your providing your personal opinion on a specific subject. At the same time, apart from merely being able to express your opinion in a logical and concise way, you have to also rely on expert evidence and opinion from professionals. When you support your opinion, it will make it more reliable and credible.

Types of Reflection Paper

Types of Reflection Paper

Actually, the whole process of writing a reflection essay depends on the types of reflection paper you have been assigned. Check out the following types of reflective essay in high school and college that you may be assigned by your professors:

  • Educational. Normally, this kind of reflective writing refers to the reflective paper on a movie, book, article, video, etc. It can be anything studied in academic setting and that needs to be reflected on. If you look at the educational reflection paper example, you will see that it reflects on the material that a student has learned.
  • Professional. This paper focuses on the analysis of your professional conduct in relation to a specific topic. As a rule, professional reflection papers are written in social, business, medical, as well as in the educational sector (among teachers). A nursing reflective essay may be one of the examples of professional reflective paper.
  • Personal growth. In this reflective essay type, you have to investigate your feelings, thoughts, and emotions you have when it comes to some sphere of your personal growth and development.

How to Write a Reflection Paper on a Book: Tips and Strategies for Writing

One of the most frequent questions among students is how to write a reflection paper on a book since frequently students are assigned to read a book and then reflect on it.

The very first thing one has to understand about writing a reflection paper on a book is that reflection writing has some specific characteristics. As such, you need to adhere to specific features of writing in order to make sure it can be called reflective.

Writing a Reflection Paper on a Book

Reflection Paper Writing Prompts on How to Provide a Successful Essay on a Book

  • The essay should be polished. If you are to provide a paper in APA style, be sure that you follow reflective essay APA format. Moreover, always proofread and edit the paper in terms of content, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
  • Make the writing brief and clear. Do not exceed the word count limit of your paper. Normally, reflective papers range from 250 to 750 words in length. Therefore, include only the most relevant information.
  • Adhere to the proper tone of writing. Be professional despite the fact that semi-formal style may be appropriate.
  • Provide a reference page and cite all the sources properly in text. If needed, look through reflective essay examples to know how to format the sources correctly.
  • Proofread the paper before submitting it.

Reflective Essay Topic

If you have not been assigned a specific reflective essay topic for your paper, be sure to come up with an interesting one that you are most passionate about. Check out the following categories of topics provided below.

Reflective Essay Topics

Reflection Essay Topics on Relationships

  • Recall a conversation when you became angry. When did the conversation take place? With whom did you talk? What were you angry about? Can you understand now why?
  • Recollect a specific moment when you felt disappointed about something. What was it?
  • Reflect on the very first moment in your life when you realized you were falling in love.
  • How do you feel when you see that someone is proud of you?
  • Have you ever met a new family member you did not know before? Who was it? How did the situation occur?

Reflection Essay Topics on Nature

  • Reflect on your feelings and emotions when you are observing a sunrise.
  • How do you feel when your feet are buried in the sand?
  • Your reflections when you go to the forest to pick mushrooms or berries.
  • Reflections on the first time you started swimming.
  • Reflections of your childhood memories how you played at the seashore with other children.

Reflection Paper Topics about Important Places and Events

  • How has your room changed as you were growing up?
  • Your favorite shop as you were a child.
  • Your experience of attending an amusement park.
  • Reflections on your favorite kind of transport.
  • Your favorite holiday.

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UMGC Effective Writing Center Narration: Writing to Reflect

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Narration is one of the most common types of communication in our world. It seems we are either telling about something we did or hearing about something that happened to others on an almost hourly basis. This constant practice makes narrative writing--also called reflective writing--natural for us and a common writing assignment in school.

It seemed only logical that we ask a successful student to reflect upon and narrate her experience with narrative writing.

Meet Kris Nelson

Kris is a typical adult student: returning to school to complete degree work while holding down a job and raising a family. Her approach to this writing assignment was meticulous and thorough. Her description of the writing process, from pre-writing to final draft, also provides an excellent model for both beginning and experienced writers.

What follows is Kris' answers during an interview in which we asked how she went about producing an effective narrative or reflective essay. 

How Did You Begin?

The first thing I did was to review the assignment instructions and make sure I understood everything my professor wanted. Then I looked up a definition of a narrative or reflection essay. The definition I liked was simple: an essay that  shares a significant personal discovery . The discovery could be about anything—something you found out about yourself, about other people, even the world. In reflection writing you tell a story. Everybody loves a good story. Once I put those two things together--a good story about finding out something—the assignment came together for me.

I also tried to find a way to relate the assignment to the real world. I thought about how often I use narrative writing in the real world. I work in the medical field and we have to write patient histories that tell a story about that patient, including their presenting complaints, the doctor's treatment, the patient outcomes, and follow-ups. Sometimes we've been in legal depositions where we had to narrate our version of what happened in a certain patient's case. Knowing that I was practicing a skill that I needed at work gave me more motivation.

How Is a Reflection/Narration Organized?

There are usually five parts in this type of essay. First the introduction . You set the scene, but with a little mystery or something exciting or spicy to make it interesting. Next is conflict . There has to be some complication. Some drama, problem to be solved, or decision to be made. Then you present the effects of the problem or conflict. What happened? This is where the reader’s interest is usually most intense. Finally, the problem is over. There’s a solution . That’s why this section is usually called the resolution. Many reflections also have a conclusion. This part reinforces the point and circles back to the beginning, closing the loop, so to speak.

Describe Your Writing Process

I try to follow pretty much the same process, no matter what I'm writing. Sometimes there is stronger emphasis in one area because of the type of writing. In this narrative essay, for example, I really relied on my outline.

  • Prewriting : I start with a list of possible topics. I brainstorm them as fast as I can and do not worry about what is coming out. I want quantity, not quality. Then I pick one or two to play with. I brainstorm about it. For this topic, I tried to remember as much as I could about the summer of the infamous cookie dough incident.
  • Outlining : After the topic is set, I outline. I’m a big believer in outlines. My motto is: If I can outline it, I can write it . The writing just seems to take care of itself with a good outline. On one side of the page I put the five parts— intro, complication, effects, resolution and conclusion . Then I filled in each part with as much detail as I could as fast as I could. I ended up with more detail than I needed, but that’s a great position to be in! Then I did a last outline, the one I try to follow when writing.
  • Drafting : On a first draft, I write fast and don’t worry about anything except getting down my thoughts. I stick to the outline, but if I need to go in a different direction I will. It’s just a draft.
  • Revising : After the first draft, I go back and throw out anything that takes away from my point or the effect I’m going for. Then I find somebody else to read it and give me their reactions. That really helps me to understand how well I communicated the ideas and feelings I wanted to get across, what belongs and what doesn't.
  • Editing/Proofing : On the final draft, I edit and proofread. I like to use the spelling and grammar checker on my computer, then get someone else to look it over again for errors. For this essay, I felt like my cousins and my grandmother deserved my best writing so I really tried to make it shine.

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Reflective Essay: Definition, Guidelines and Format

what is reflective essay mean

Students are usually requested to write a reflective essay about a certain book, lecture, or class. Also, it may be a simple college essay. While a reflective essay pretends to be very subjective and personal, it should also be well structured and keep a formal tone.

Keep reading the article to become the perfect essay writer .

If you were asked to reflect on a particular book, start writing down your thoughts and emotions during your first reading. If you were asked to describe an experience from your life, make a little brainstorm to distinguish the most highlighted experience in your life. Some of your thoughts may contradict each other or fall apart, but at the end, your reader should feel that unique territory of philosophical discoveries and insights that you have experienced.

If you don’t know how to start a reflection paper, it’s not a problem! A full guide by Essayseek.com on how to write a reflective essay was created to help you with your reflective essay writing!

Reflective Essay: Definition

what is reflective essay mean

The purpose of your reflective essay writing is to show the way you think about a particular experience you gained in life. The writer should show how those experiences influenced their life choice, and how they have grown or developed from those experiences. The reflective essay may have a more simple structure than persuasive or analytical essays, but it doesn’t beat around the bush.

Your reflective essay will:

  • Contain an analysis or conclusions about what you have seen, heard, read, or experienced.
  • Express a connection between you and this experience.
  • Describe what you have learned from the situation and how you can use this new information.
  • Identify your own point of view on the situation and philosophical musings.

what is reflective essay mean

Unlike other academic papers, a reflective essay typically doesn’t require profound research as it is more personal in nature. Style and structure may vary to requirements, as well as the paper topic and its purpose. A reflective essay may follow APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, and other styles. Be sure that you have properly formatted the title, headings, page numbering , spacing, font, bibliography, etc.

Reflective essay format traditionally consists of classical essay parts:

  • Introduction (Describe the place where the story took place)
  • Body paragraph (Explain how you have changed or what you have learned)
  • Conclusions (Sum up your experience)

what is reflective essay mean

Writing a reflective essay may sound easy, but in practice may become a hard thing. In fact, a reflective essay covers your own experience and situations from your own life instead of conducting scientific research. Sometimes it is very difficult to be critical of ourselves and such essays help us become better and think more critically about ourselves and learn more from our experiences. It is better to have a to-do list to gain more effective writing .

  • Examine the requirements. Read attentively all questions that were given by your tutor and write down the main moments that you should consider in your essay. Identify the area and aspects that you should focus on when reflecting.
  • Decide on the experience or event. Brainstorm to indicate topics that interest you the most. You’ll want to shape your ideas and come up with interesting information, so you will need time to properly understand what direction you should choose.
  • Write an outline. Write an exemplary structure of your future essay. Keep in mind that the body paragraph should consist of chronological events and have a linear storyline.
  • Write a catchy introduction. Use an attention grabber and tell in a few words about your experience that you are going to describe in the body paragraph. Don’t give much at the beginning and hold the cards close.
  • Write the body paragraph. It may consist of several parts according to your situation. Each thought or idea should be structured into different paragraphs and follow the logic. Usually, a body paragraph will contain the following two parts which paint the situation and your own thoughts about it. Start the body with a description of the situation and its physical environment. Here you can use a wide arsenal of expressions to take your reader into those places to see and sense the moment. Answer the questions like: – Where and when did the situation take place? – Was there prehistory before the main story? – Who was with you? – What did you do? Write your reflection. Tell me about your feelings and thoughts. Answer the questions like: – What did you expect to happen? – What did happen in fact? – What were your feelings? – How could you change the situation?
  • Finish with conclusions . It should be like a finishing touch that ties the whole text into an organic whole. Describe the main points from the body paragraph and the substance of your reflections.
  • Proofread your text. Don’t skip this essential step. Make sure that your thoughts have a logical structure, and your text is free from grammatical mistakes and punctuation and spelling errors.

what is reflective essay mean

Q: How to start a reflection paper?

A: If you are sitting behind a blank window in Microsoft Word, answer the following questions, and it will be a great start!

  • Description: what experience did you have?
  • Feelings: what feelings and thoughts did you have?
  • Evaluation: what were the positive and negative sides of those experiences?
  • Analysis: what previous experiences can you relate to this one?
  • Conclusion: what else could be done?
  • Action plan: what would you do if it happens to you next time?

Q: How to write a reflection paper introduction?

A: In an introduction, the writer should directly or indirectly share the overall focus on the experience that will be described in the essay. For example:

“I think that every person has books that cause many warm memories and associations, books that have become true friends and wise helpers, books without which it is difficult to imagine your life. What is the role of books in the formation of a person’s personality? Here I will tell you about one book that made a huge impact on my life and my way of thinking.”

Q: What is a good example of a reflective essay outline?

A: As an example, if you plan to write about volunteering in a nursing home, the structure of your reflective essay will look like the following.

Expectation about volunteering in a nursing home:

  • First impression
  • Expectations

Working experience:

  • Finding hard to help older people
  • Finding friends among older people


  • New-found passion and feelings toward the work
  • A changed mindset about helping people and being helpful

Q: What should I do if I get stuck with writing?

A: Use a free writing technique . You should start writing everything that is on your mind for a set period of time. This method will help you generate ideas for your essay. It happens that writers just get so caught up with writing that they can’t stop writing after the set time is over.

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what is reflective essay mean

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Reflective Essay - Writing Steps with Examples, Tips, and Topics

Published on: Sep 21, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 29, 2024

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A reflective essay is a form of writing where the writer reflects on a personal experience. Have you been assigned one but don’t know how to write? 

Don’t fret! 

Read on to learn in simple steps and follow the useful tips and examples given below. By the end of the blog, you will know everything you need to write an excellent reflective essay.

So let’s dive in!

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What is a Reflective Essay?

A reflective essay is a type of essay where the writer describes a personal experience or event that they observed or examined. Reflective writing involves thinking or pondering about a specific topic and writing your thoughts.

The content of a reflective essay is subjective. This means, the writer discusses the topic from their own personal point of view.  

The writer presents their thoughts and reflections in a structured and coherent manner. It combines elements of storytelling, analysis, and introspection to create a narrative that engages the reader and offers valuable insights.

What is the Purpose of Reflective Writing? 

Self-reflective essays are often used as an opportunity to explore your thoughts and feelings more deeply. The main goals of reflective writing are to;

  • Make a connection between yourself and the text 
  • Analyze what you have heard, read, or seen
  • Write subjectively and help identify your interests
  • Think about what you have learned.
  • Develop your critical and narrative skills

Here is a video that reflective writing in simple terms:

How to Write a Reflective Essay? 

Reflective essays can be very difficult to write. However, following the steps below can make your writing process easier and more effective.

  • Select a Meaningful Topic

The first step in writing a great reflective essay is to choose a good topic. You need to do a lot of brainstorming, mind mapping , and a bit of research to come up with a good topic. 

Choose a topic that holds personal significance for you. It could be a specific event, a challenging situation, a memorable encounter, or a period of personal growth. Select a topic that allows for deep introspection and provides ample material for reflection.

  • Reflect and Introspect

Ponder on your chosen topic and explore your thoughts, feelings, and reactions associated with it. 

Ask yourself probing questions, such as " How did this experience impact me? " or " What did I learn from this situation? " This introspective phase forms the foundation of your essay, allowing you to dig deep and extract valuable insights.  

  • Develop a Clear Thesis Statement

Craft a concise and focused thesis statement that encapsulates the main point or lesson learned from your reflection. 

This statement will serve as a guiding principle for your essay, ensuring that your writing remains coherent and purposeful. 

  • Chart an Outline

Create an outline that organizes your thoughts and provides a logical structure for your essay. 

Divide your essay into sections including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Outline the main ideas, experiences, and reflections you plan to include in each section.

Want to learn more about how to create an outline? Here is our comprehensive reflective essay outline guide for you.

  • Write a Catchy Introduction

Start your essay with an attention-grabbing opening that sets the tone and introduces the topic to the reader. 

Engage your audience by sharing a captivating anecdote, posing a thought-provoking question, or presenting a compelling quote. Clearly state your thesis to provide a roadmap for your reflective journey.

  • Write Main Body Paragraphs

In the body paragraphs, vividly describe the experiences or events that shaped your reflection. Use sensory details and specific examples to paint a clear picture for your readers.

After describing the experience, delve into the reflection and analysis phase. Explore the significance of the experience and its impact on your personal growth, beliefs, or worldview. 

Analyze the reasons behind your thoughts, emotions, and reactions. 

  • Provide a Thoughtful Conclusion

Wrap up your essay by summarizing your main points and reinforcing the significance of your reflection. Share the insights and lessons you gained from the reflection process. 

For instance, what did you learn about yourself? How did this experience contribute to your personal development? 

Be honest and authentic in your reflections, demonstrating vulnerability and self-awareness. Don't present new information here, but summarize everything that happened in the essay.

  • Revise and Edit

Once you have completed your first draft, revise and edit your essay for clarity, coherence, and grammar. Pay attention to the flow of your ideas, sentence structure, and word choice. 

Seek feedback from peers or mentors to gain different perspectives and refine your essay further. This way, your final draft will turn out to be an interesting and valuable piece of work.

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Reflective Essay Structure

The structure of the reflective essay is the same as other types of essays. It contains an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. 

Here is the basic reflective essay format that you can use:

Paragraph 1

Paragraph 2

Paragraph 3

(Follow the same structure for as many body paragraphs as needed)

Let’s learn about the components of a reflective essay in depth:

Reflective Essay Introduction 

A reflective essay also starts with an introduction, like all other essays. An essay introduction should be brief but relevant to the topic. In this part, you can give a general overview of the topic to the reader.

Start your essay with a strong hook statement . The hook statement is the first thing that the reader reads in the introduction part.

In the introduction part, state the thesis statement but don’t give too much information in this statement.  

Remember that in this part, only give a brief overview and don’t write in-depth information.

Reflective Essay Body Paragraphs

Writing the body paragraphs is the hardest part of the reflective essay. Some writers spend a lot of time writing body paragraphs. If the outline is not created well, then writing the body paragraphs is a time-consuming process.

It is the most important part of the essay and follows the proper chronological order. Describe the main issues in order related to the described event.

The body paragraphs are well-focused, and it is not a summary of your experience. Each body paragraph end with a concluding sentence.     

Reflective Essay Conclusion  

The conclusion is the last part of the essay. In this part, you should provide a summary of the entire essay. Moreover, do not repeat the same point again and again.   

Make sure the conclusion of the essay is powerful and encourages the readers to do further research. In this concluding part, restate the thesis statement, and no need to add new ideas. 

Tips for Writing a Reflective Essay

Here are some writing tips that can make your reflective essay even better, so try following these in your essay:

  • Choose the right topic for the essay, make sure that you have enough information
  • Use an engaging and narrative tone throughout the essay with an overall emotion or theme in mind.
  • Try to make the essay credible and informative
  • Reflect critically on the significance of the experiences and analyze the reasons behind your thoughts, emotions, and reactions.
  • Incorporate relevant theories, concepts, or academic frameworks to deepen your analysis.
  • Be authentic and honest in sharing your insights and lessons learned from the reflection process.
  • Connect your personal experiences to broader contexts or universal themes to create a relatable and impactful essay.
  • Support your thesis statement with strong examples and arguments.

Ref lective Essay For mat

Two commonly used formatting styles for academic writing are the APA and the MLA styles. Each style has its unique guidelines for formatting, including structure, citations, and references. 

APA Style Reflective Essay Format

Formatting your essay in APA requires the following:

  • Times New Roman 
  • Double line-spacing
  • 1" margins 
  • Page number on the top-right 
  • Include the Title Page, Main Body, and References.

MLA Style Reflective Essay Format 

The MLA style recommends the following formatting guidelines:

  • 1” margins
  • Last name and page number in the top-right
  • “Works Cited” section on the last page

Reflective Essay Examples

Check out some reflective essay samples that can give you a better understanding of the reflective essay.    

Reflective Essay Example for High School

Personal Reflective Essay Example

Reflective Essay Outline

Example of Reflective Essay on Learning Experience

Reflective Essay Example About Life Experience

Reflective Essay Topics - H2

In a reflective essay, you write about your personal experience, thoughts, and significant moments of your life. Choosing the right topic for the essay sometimes becomes a challenging task, but here are some ideas that can help you out.  

  • A surprise that you prepared for someone
  • The first thing you think of in the morning
  • When someone’s words made you cry
  • When you laughed uncontrollably with someone
  • Swimming in a mountain lake
  • The experience of an earthquake or natural disasters
  • A vacation place that you liked in particular
  • Crossing a bridge and looking out over the water.
  • Your favorite persuasive essay topic
  • Place where you feel safe

Need more topics to get your thoughts running? Here are more reflective essay topics to help you out!

Writing a reflective essay can be a transformative experience as you discover your own thoughts and feelings along the way. By following the writing steps and tips, you can enhance this experience by writing an essay that is interesting, informative, and engaging. 

So don’t hesitate to start writing a reflective paper today! You’ve got everything you need.

Still, if you are in a race against time or can’t write your essay for other reasons, don’t despair. The auto essay writer at CollegeEssay.org is here to help you out!

We also have a team of expert writers ready to assist you 24/7. Whether you need help with refining your ideas, structuring your essay, or polishing the final draft, we can lend our expertise.

So hire our custom writing service  to receive customized and professional reflective essays within the deadline!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many paragraphs are in a reflective essay.

In a reflective essay, you should follow a 5-paragraph format. However, you can add more paragraphs, and it depends on your chosen topic.

What is the goal of a reflective essay?

Writing a reflective essay aims to explore how they have changed and learned from their experiences.

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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Reflective Portfolio: Definition, Contents, and Writing Tips

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What Is Reflective Portfolio? How does It Differ from Other Academic Assignments?

What are parts of the reflective portfolio, how to write a great reflective portfolio.

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Most of the students have never received a task to write a reflective portfolio. So for some of you, this assignment is weird and hard to complete. However, the tasks are not as difficult as it may seem.

The reflective portfolio is a portfolio where students need to explore and comprehend their own learning methods, personal opinions, and points of view. In this kind of writing assignments, students describe their objective view on the work they have completed and skills they have developed. To write reflective portfolio successfully, the one needs to show true engagement with the subject. Visiting classes and passing exams are not enough.

Please keep in mind that content of your portfolio may vary according to instructions and discipline. However, there are some basic elements such as:

  • Examples of your work: photos (if you are studying photography); artworks (for artists); lesson plans (teachers); etc. The main thing here is to add materials that will show your practical experience.
  • Journals: usually, students are required to write an informal journal during their practical work. The content of journal should be the following: summary of completed tasks, results, and list of skills a student has developed during practical work. It is a good idea to add a few examples of challenging situations you have solved.
  • Reports: write a short summary of the situation that improved the learning process. It can be both positive and negative experience with a strong possibility to enhance your professional skills.
  • Achievements: describe everything you achieve during practical work and add some valid evidence.
  • Personal Statement: in this part of the reflective portfolio, a student can summarize all conclusions and achievements, describe how this experience changes his/her professional skills.
  • This portfolio is reflective, but you should not forget about the critical analysis of everything you describe.
  • Add enough good examples of work you have completed during your practical experience. You may even outline one or two moments but they have to be connected to your overall experience.
  • Don’t be afraid to describe problematic moments. Everyone makes mistakes, so show what lessons you have learned.
  • Create a plan for the future development where you’ll describe your action plan.
  • Make sure your portfolio looks professionally and well-organized. Also, keep in mind that reflective portfolio can be written in semi-formal writing style. However, this does not mean it can be poorly organized.

Remember, that writing a reflective portfolio is still academic assignment, so all normal rules and tips can be applied when writing portfolio.

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Reflective Pedagogy

Reflective pedagogy is a teaching model where educators continually reflect upon their lessons and curriculum to improve future iterations of their course. Instructors who use the reflective pedagogy model regularly gather data on student satisfaction, engagement and belonging to help inform subsequent lessons. They typically poll learners before, during and after class to ensure their course is taught in a way that’s conducive to student success.

Reflective pedagogy refers to a curriculum approach where educators collect and analyze evidence of effective teaching. Educators typically turn to evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data from students, colleagues’ perceptions, personal experiences and educational theory and research. Self-assessment is a core component of reflective pedagogy. Here, educators may record themselves giving a lecture and then observe their behavior and delivery to critique the efficacy of their lessons. Educators may also use a teaching inventory to assess their current teaching practices and spark new ideas for future lessons and/or courses.

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Sofia Barnett

ChatGPT Is Making Universities Rethink Plagiarism

A Ctrl shortcut button and a copy shortcut button on a black background

In late December of his sophomore year, Rutgers University student Kai Cobbs came to a conclusion he never thought possible:  Artificial intelligence might just be dumber than humans. 

After listening to his peers rave about the generative AI tool  ChatGPT , Cobbs decided to toy around with the chatbot while writing an essay on the history of capitalism. Best known for its ability to generate long-form written content in response to user input prompts, Cobbs expected the tool to produce a nuanced and thoughtful response to his specific research directions. Instead, his screen produced a generic, poorly written paper he’d never dare to claim as his own. 

“The quality of writing was appalling. The phrasing was awkward and it lacked complexity,” Cobbs says. “I just logically can’t imagine a student using writing that was generated through ChatGPT for a paper or anything when the content is just plain bad.” 

Not everyone shares Cobbs’ disdain. Ever since OpenAI launched the chatbot in November,  educators have been struggling with how to handle a new wave of student work produced with the help of artificial intelligence. While some public school systems, like New York City’s, have banned the use of ChatGPT on school devices and networks to curb cheating, universities have been reluctant to follow suit. In higher education, the introduction of generative AI has raised thorny questions about the definition of plagiarism and academic integrity on campuses where new digital research tools come into play all the time. 

Make no mistake, the birth of ChatGPT does not mark the emergence of concerns relating to the improper use of the internet in academia. When  Wikipedia launched in 2001 , universities nationwide were  scrambling to decipher their own research philosophies and understandings of honest academic work, expanding policy boundaries to match pace with technological innovation. Now, the stakes are a little more complex, as schools figure out how to treat bot-produced work rather than weird attributional logistics. The world of higher education is playing a familiar game of catch-up, adjusting their rules, expectations, and perceptions as other professions adjust, too. The only difference now is that the internet can think for itself. 

According to ChatGPT, the definition of plagiarism is the act of using someone else’s work or ideas without giving proper credit to the original author. But when the work is generated by some thing rather than some one , this definition is tricky to apply. As Emily Hipchen, a board member of Brown University’s Academic Code Committee, puts it, the use of generative AI by students leads to a critical point of contention. “If [plagiarism] is stealing from a person,” she says, “then I don’t know that we have a person who is being stolen from.”

Hipchen is not alone in her speculation. Alice Dailey, chair of the Academic Integrity Program at Villanova University, is also grappling with the idea of classifying an algorithm as a person, specifically if the algorithm involves text generation.

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Dailey believes that eventually professors and students are going to need to understand that digital tools that generate text, rather than just collect facts, are going to need to fall under the umbrella of things that can be plagiarized from. 

Although Dailey acknowledges that this technological growth incites new concerns in the world of academia, she doesn’t find it to be a realm entirely unexplored. “I think we’ve been in a version of this territory for a while already,” Dailey says. “Students who commit plagiarism often borrow material from a ‘somewhere’—a website, for example, that doesn’t have clear authorial attribution. I suspect the definition of plagiarism will expand to include things that produce.” 

Eventually, Dailey believes, a student who uses text from ChatGPT will be seen as no different than one that copies and pastes chunks of text from Wikipedia without attribution. 

Students’ views on ChatGPT are another issue entirely. There are those, like Cobbs, who can’t imagine putting their name on anything bot-generated, but there are others who see it as just another tool, like spellcheck or even a calculator. For Brown University sophomore Jacob Gelman, ChatGPT exists merely as a convenient research assistant and nothing more.

“Calling the use of ChatGPT to pull reliable sources from the internet ‘cheating’ is absurd. It’s like saying using the internet to conduct research is unethical,” Gelman says. “To me, ChatGPT is the research equivalent of [typing assistant] Grammarly. I use it out of practicality and that’s really all.” Cobbs expressed similar sentiment, comparing the AI bot to “an online encyclopedia.”

But while students like Gelman use the bot to speed up research, others take advantage of the high-capacity prompt input feature to generate completed works for submission. It might seem obvious what qualifies as cheating here, but different schools across the country offer contrasting takes.

According to Carlee Warfield, chair of Bryn Mawr College’s Student Honor Board, the school considers any use of these AI platforms as plagiarism. The tool’s popularization just calls for greater focus in evaluating the intent behind students’ violations. Warfield explains that students who turn in essays entirely produced by AI are categorically different from those who borrow from online tools without knowledge of standard citations. Because the ChatGPT phenomenon is still new, students’ confusion surrounding the ethics is understandable. And it's unclear what policies will remain in place once the dust settles—at any school.

In the midst of fundamental change in both the academic and technological spheres, universities are forced to reconsider their definitions of academic integrity to reasonably reflect the circumstances of society. The only problem is, society shows no stagnance. 

“Villanova’s current academic integrity code will be updated to include language that prohibits the use of these tools to generate text that then students represent as text they generated independently,” Dailey explained. “But I think it’s an evolving thing. And what it can do and what we will then need in order to keep an eye on will also be kind of a moving target.”

In addition to increasingly complex questions about whether ChatGPT is a research tool or a plagiarism engine, there’s also the possibility that it can be  used for learning. In other educational settings, teachers see it as a way to show students the shortcomings of AI. Some instructors are already  modifying how they teach by giving students assignments bots couldn’t complete, like those that require personal details or anecdotes. There’s also the matter of detecting AI use in students’ work, which is a  burgeoning cottage industry all its own. 

Ultimately, Dailey says, schools may need rules that reflect a range of variables.

“My guess is that there will be the development of some broad blanket policies that essentially say, unless you have permission from a professor to use AI tools, using them will be considered a violation of the academic integrity code,” Dailey says. “That then gives faculty broad latitude to use it in their teaching or in their assignments, as long as they are stipulating explicitly that they are allowing it.”

As for ChatGTP, the program agrees. “Advances in fields such as artificial intelligence are expected to drive significant innovation in the coming years,” it says, when asked how schools can combat academic dishonesty. “Schools should constantly review and update their academic honor codes as technology evolves to ensure they are addressing the current ways in which technology is being used in academic settings.”

But, a bot would say that. 

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Edmond O'Brien and Jan Sterling during the filming of a 1956 adaptation of George Orwell's 1984

In recent years, some conservative American groups have adopted the slogan “Make Orwell fiction again,” a line that suggests the dystopian depictions of totalitarianism, historical revisionism and misinformation found in George Orwell ’s 1984 are now reality. Liberal groups may agree with some of those concepts—but would likely apply them to different events.

Seventy-five years after its publication on June 8, 1949, Orwell’s novel has attained a level of prominence enjoyed by few other books across academic, political and popular culture. 1984 ’s meaning has been co-opted by groups across the political spectrum, and it consequently serves as a kind of political barometer. It has been smuggled behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War and used as counterpropaganda by the CIA; at moments of political crisis, it has skyrocketed to the top of best-seller lists.

The language and imagery in the novel—which Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange , once called “an apocalyptical codex of our worst fears”—have also been reinterpreted in music, television, advertisements and films, shaping how people view and discuss the terror of political oppression. The terms the book introduced into the English language, like “Big Brother” and “thought police,” are common parlance today. “ Big Brother ” is now a long-running reality TV show. 1984 -like surveillance is possible through a range of tracking technologies. And the contortion of truth is realizable via artificial intelligence deepfakes . In a world that is both similar to and distinct from Orwell’s imagined society, what does 1984 mean today?

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Jean Seaton , director of the Orwell Foundation and a historian at the University of Westminster in England, says that 1984 has become a way to “take the temperature” of global politics. “It goes up and down because people reinvent it [and] because people turn to it … to refresh [their] grasp on the present. It’s useful because you think, ‘How bad are we in comparison to this?’”

In 1984 , three totalitarian states rule the world in a détente achieved by constant war. The all-seeing Party dominates a grimly uniform society in the bloc called Oceania. As a low-level Party member, protagonist Winston Smith’s job is to rewrite historical records to match the ever-changing official version of events. As a Party slogan puts it , “Who controls the past controls the future: Who controls the present controls the past.”

Winston begins to document his contrarian thoughts and starts an illicit affair with a woman named Julia, but the two are soon caught and tortured into obedience by the regime. Ultimately, Smith’s individuality and attempt to rebel are brutally suppressed. While most contemporary societies are nothing like the book’s dystopia, in the context of today’s proliferating misinformation and disinformation , the Party’s primary propaganda slogans—“War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery” and “Ignorance is strength”—don’t seem all that far-fetched.

George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm​​​​​​​

According to Orwell’s son, Richard Blair , the writer thought his novel would “either be a best seller or the world [would] ignore it. He wasn’t quite sure which of the two it would be.” But soon after its publication, 1984 ’s best-seller status became clear. The book has since sold around 30 million copies. It most recently returned to the top of the American best-seller list in January 2017, after a Trump administration adviser coined the doublespeak term “alternative facts.”

“It’s a very relevant book … to the world of today,” Blair says. “The broad issue [is] the manipulation of truth, something that large organizations and governments are very good at.”

Many other dystopian novels carry similar warnings. So why does 1984 have such staying power? Orwell’s novels “all have exactly the same plot,” says the author’s biographer D.J. Taylor . “They are all about solitary, ground-down individuals trying to change the nature of their lives … and ultimately being ground down by repressive authority.”

1984 , Taylor adds, is the apotheosis of Orwell’s fears and hypotheses about surveillance and manipulation: “It takes all the essential elements of Orwell’s fiction and then winds them up another couple of notches to make something really startling.” Orwell’s precise, nightmarish vision contains enough familiar elements to map onto the known world, giving it a sense of alarming plausibility.

A row of Ministry of Information posters on a wall in the United Kingdom in 1942

The novel traces the dystopian future onto recognizable London landmarks. “The really scary thing for the original readers in 1949 was that although it was set in 1984, it’s there: It’s bomb-cratered, war-torn, postwar England,” says Taylor. The University of London’s Senate House inspired the novel’s “ Ministry of Truth ,” as it had housed the Ministry of Information during World War II’s propaganda push.

Born Eric Blair in 1903, Orwell had a short but prolific writing career, chronicling politics, poverty and social injustice before his early death from tuberculosis in January 1950, just seven months after 1984 ’s publication. Though an accomplished essayist, Orwell is best known for 1984 and Animal Farm , his 1945 satire of Stalinist Russia.

Born in Bengal when the region was under British colonial rule, Orwell studied at Eton College but left the school to follow his father into the civil service. He became disillusioned with the colonial British Raj while serving in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days . In 1927, Orwell returned to England and Europe, where he immersed himself in working-class poverty to write Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier . He fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, almost dying from a throat wound. The conflict reinforced his socialist politics : “Everything he wrote after that was against totalitarianism [and] for democracy,” Blair says.

Photo of Orwell from his Metropolitan Police file

Orwell wrote 1984 while battling tuberculosis on the Isle of Jura in Scotland, aware that his condition was deteriorating as he wrote the novel, Taylor says. Upon finishing the manuscript, he went to a London hospital for treatment, where he married editorial assistant Sonia Brownell from his hospital bed. The writer died three months later at age 46. Blair, whom Orwell had adopted with his first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy, shortly before her death in 1945, was 5 years old at the time.

Though Orwell described 1984 as a warning rather than a prophecy, scholars have demonstrated significant interest in mapping the author’s imaginings onto the modern world. “When I started writing, what I was involved in was something you could call ‘Orwell Studies.’ And now there's an Orwell industry,” says Taylor, who has published two biographies of the author. (His latest , released in 2023, was informed by new primary source material.)

Taylor attributes this popularity to Orwell’s “uncanny ability … to predict so many of the things that trouble us here in the 2020s.” He notes that in the United Kingdom, Orwell mainly draws political and literary audiences, while in the United States, scientific circles are increasingly curious about Orwell’s foreshadowing of modern technology and surveillance methods.

A poster from a 2013 protest against the National Security Agency invokes Orwell's image.

“There’s something about his work that keeps getting reinvented and reactivated” in relation to events that happened well after Orwell’s death, says Alex Woloch , a literary scholar at Stanford University. “I think of Orwell as a text that people can turn to in confronting many different kinds of political problems, and particularly propaganda, censorship and political duplicity.”

Orwell’s “main relevance in the U.S. was forged during the Cold War,” Woloch says. A democratic socialist and anti-Stalinist, Orwell was able to “represent the contradictions of the communist ideology, the gap between its self-image and its reality.” 1984 and Animal Farm “were understood as the exemplary anti-communist texts ,” embedded in U.S. curriculums and widely taught in the decades since.

“With the end of the Cold War,” Woloch adds, “Orwell’s writing could be claimed by many different people who were arguing against what they saw as various forms of political deceptiveness,” from the Marxist Black Panther Party to the ultraconservative John Birch Society .

“It’s very difficult to think of another writer who’s so much admired across all parts of the political spectrum,” Taylor says. “He’s almost unique in that way.”

Adapted to the needs of a broad range of readers, 1984 took on a life beyond its author and its pages. In her forthcoming book, George Orwell and Communist Poland: Émigré, Official and Clandestine Receptions , Krystyna Wieszczek , a research fellow at Columbia University, explores the use of 1984 as a tool of resistance. The novel “provided an easy-to-use vocabulary … that [readers] could use to name the phenomenon” of oppression, Wieszczek says. Copies were smuggled into Poland and other countries behind the Iron Curtain that divided Eastern Europe from Western Europe, some even in the diplomatic bag of a secretary to the French Embassy in Warsaw.

what is reflective essay mean

In the 1950s, a CIA operation sent Animal Farm and other “printed matter from the West [into communist countries] in gas-filled balloons,” Wieszczek says. But many Poles objected to this tactic, fearing a reprise of the devastating and unsuccessful 1944 Warsaw Uprising . Through distribution points across Europe, the U.S. also sent millions of copies of anti-communist literature, including 1984 , to Poland. According to Wieszczek, surveys suggest that as much as 26 percent of Poland’s adult population—around seven million people—had some access to clandestine publications in the 1980s. Polish émigré imprint s like Kultura in Paris also ensured banned publications reached audiences in the Eastern bloc during the Cold War. Cheekily, one of Kultura’s editions of 1984 even used a “Soviet militant poster as a cover,” Wieszczek says.

“Many people read 1984 as a very negative, pessimistic book, but … it had a kind of liberating impact … for some readers,” she explains. They were reading a banned book about banned books that reflected, to an extent, their own circumstances.

“ 1984 is a horrible book,” Wieszczek adds. “You never forget—it stays with you, this big pressure on the chest and the stomach. But somehow, it brought hope. There was this man on other side of the Iron Curtain who understood us. … There is hope because people understand.”

A protean text for political, intellectual and underground movements, 1984 has also resonated in popular culture. Its myriad artistic interpretations are explored in Dorian Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 . The novel inspired television shows, films , plays, a David Bowie album (though Orwell’s widow, Sonia, turned down the artist’s offer to create a 1984 musical) and even a “ Victory gin ” based on the grim spirits described in the novel. It was cited in songs by John Lennon and Stevie Wonder and named by assassin Lee Harvey Oswald as one of his favorite books. And its imagery continues to inform the public’s perception of what might happen if 1984 weren’t fiction after all.

what is reflective essay mean

In January 1984, an Apple Macintosh ad directed by Ridley Scott aired during the Super Bowl. It depicted a maverick woman smashing a Big Brother-esque screen that was broadcasting to the subordinate masses, and it ended with the tagline , “You’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’” The implication was that buying Apple products would set people apart from the crowd. In an Orwellian twist, although the ad positioned Apple as the underdog against the dominant IBM, the company actually had a competitive market share, claiming 25 percent to IBM’s 24 percent at the end of 1983.

While the term “Orwellian” can be used to describe Orwell’s style, “the classic use … is for politicians [who] grotesquely misuse language for ideological purposes and use language to disguise or pervert reality rather than to expose it,” Woloch says. Today, the phrase has become a “floating signifier,” Taylor says. “It’s so regularly used it doesn’t actually mean anything.” He cites a politician misusing “Orwellian” to complain about a perceived personal injustice (a canceled book contract).

“[Orwell’s] books have such widespread currency that you can use him to describe anything, really,” Taylor adds. “The word can mean anything and nothing at the same time.”

what is reflective essay mean

This is ironic, given how precise Orwell was about language. The reduction of language and creative thought to “ Newspeak ” in the novel figures largely in the population’s oppression. Orwell “was passionately committed to language as a contract crucial to all our other contracts,” writes Rebecca Solnit in Orwell’s Roses . He is “an exemplar of writing as the capacity to communicate other people’s experience,” Seaton says, “… so to read Orwell is, in a sense, to defend language and writing.”

Orwell’s main question, according to Woloch, “is how, as a thinking person and a fair-minded person, … do you confront the genuine pervasiveness of political problems that make up the world that we’re in?” The scholar quotes Orwell’s famous line from a 1938 New Leader essay : “It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.”

“The big three themes [of 1984 ] that people ought to bear in mind,” Taylor suggests, “are the denial of objective truth, which we see everywhere about us, every war that’s currently taking place anywhere in the world and in quite a lot of domestic political situations, too; the manipulation of language … and the use of words to bamboozle people; and the rise of the surveillance society. … That to me, is the definition of the adjective ‘Orwellian’ in the 21st century.”

what is reflective essay mean

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Anne Wallentine

Anne Wallentine | | READ MORE

Anne Wallentine is a writer and art historian with a focus on the intersections of art, culture and health. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and the Courtauld Institute of Art, she writes for outlets that include the Financial Times , the Economist , the Art Newspaper  and Hyperallergic .


  1. How to write a Reflective Essay?

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  3. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  4. How to Write a Reflective Essay

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  5. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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  6. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples) ᐅ TemplateLab

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