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what is reflection in essay

The Purpose of Reflection

Why is reflection important in the writing classroom .

Reflection— a process where students describe their learning, how it changed, and how it might relate to future learning experiences (“ Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind ,” 2008) —is a skill that often goes undervalued in classrooms that are packed with content. However, reflection is an important practice for students to make sense of and grow from a learning experience, and it is a practice backed by scholarship (see List of Scholarship below). A 2014 study by Harvard also confirmed that reflecting on one’s work improves job performance. Although often situated in the humanities and social sciences, reflection is an important practice across academic disciplines including nursing, business, the sciences, and more (see WAC Clearinghouse for a list of disciplinary reflection articles). As a result, reflective writing is one great method for students to reflect on their learning experiences in the English 106/108 classroom. Students, therefore, should be exposed to continuous reflective writing practices so that they become “producers” and not “consumers” of knowledge ( Costa and Kallick, 2008 ). 

In terms of writing studies, reflection has been tapped as an important skill for students’ abilities to transfer writing skills. Writing transfer, according to forty-five writing researchers from the Elon Research Seminar , is defined as “the phenomenon in which new and unfamiliar writing tasks are approached through the application, remixing or integration of previous knowledge, skills, strategies, and dispositions.” In fact, two enabling practices within the Elon Research Seminar focus specifically on metacognition—i.e., thinking about thinking. Additionally, the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing —a collaboration between the Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project—further supports the use of reflection as it is one of the eight habits of mind needed for student success. 

Reflection is a broad term that includes many different applications . Instructors can assign many different reflective activities, both guided and unguided (e.g., class discussion, journals, interviews, questioning, etc.). Nevertheless, the goal of reflection, according to Yancey (1998) in Reflection in the Writing Classroom , is as follows: 

In method, reflection is dialectical, putting multiple perspectives into play with each other in order to produce insight. Procedurally, reflection entails a looking forward to goals we might attain, as well as a casting backward to see where we have been. When we reflect, we thus project and review, often putting the projections and the reviews in dialogue with each other, working dialectically to discover what we know, what we have learned, and what we might understand. (p. 6)

Furthermore, there are two purposes of reflection according to Ryan’s (2013) “The Pedagogical Balancing Act: Teaching Reflection in Higher Education” : 

  • Reflection allows students to make sense of material/experience in relation to oneself, others, and the conditions that shaped the material/experience;
  • Reimagine material/experience for future personal or social benefit (p. 147).

Recurring reflection activities encourage students to think critically about their writing practices and to make sense of and reimagine their experiences for future benefit (see Dyment et. al, 2010 for further discussion). 

Benefits of Reflection: 

  • What Benefits Reflective Writing Might Have for My Students—WAC Colorado State: Discusses the various benefits reflection has for students, and it also contains a list of reflection scholarship in various disciplines.
  • Cultivating Reflection and Metacognition—Sweetland Center for Writing : Discusses how and why reflection is beneficial within the classroom. In addition, the website discusses how to incorporate reflection into practice. 
  • Learning Through Reflection—ASCD : A discussion of reflection’s benefits in K-12 classrooms, but provides scholarship for why reflection is beneficial overall. 
  • Writing@CSU: The Writing Studio : Colorado State University’s page provides information on the benefits of reflection, how to facilitate reflection, and activities to use within the classroom. This resource is service-learning focused. 

Reflection Activities: 

  • Facilitating Reflection : Contains a plethora of writing and non-writing reflection activities to incorporate into the classroom. Some of these activities are short and others could potentially take an entire class period. 
  • Digging Deeper : Contains reflection activities from Depaul University that works through the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. 
  • 15 ways to spark student reflection in your college classroom by Tricia Whenham: As the name foreshadows, Whenham briefly discusses 15 activities that spark reflection in students. 
  • What Are Some Strategies for Reflection Activities—UMSL Center for Teaching and Learning : Provides a list of reflective activities to include within the classroom.

Teaching Resources:

  • Reflective Writing Guide—Auburn University Office of University Writing : This fantastic resource succinctly provides instructions for incorporating reflective activities, how to assess them, and provides examples.
  • Reflective Writing in Education—Monash University : An excellent resource that discusses reflection as a whole and how it factors into disciplines outside of writing (e.g., critical incidents in nursing). This source also presents sample assignments that are composed in other disciplines, including trigger warnings when necessary (e.g., law reports). 
  • Reflective Writing Guide—Dundee and Angus College : Provides an overview of reflection and various methods for incorporating it into your classroom. 
  • A Short Guide to Reflective Writing—University of Birmingham : Similar to the other guides as it presents examples for reflective writing and how to include it into the classroom. 


  • John Zubizarreta (2008) The Learning Portfolio: A Powerful Idea for Significant Learning : This article discusses writing portfolios, or learning portfolios as they are termed in the article, and why reflection is critical to its success. In addition, the article argues for reflection to be collaborative, consistent, and guided.
  • Kathleen Blake Yancey (1998) Reflection in the Writing Classroom : A pivotal piece on reflection and its use within the writing classroom. This work provides several chapters on reflection in various areas, including the classroom, assessment, and reading.
  • Kathleen Blake Yancey (2016) A Rhetoric of Reflection : An edited collection of various writing scholars and how reflection factors into their practice.
  • Mary Ryan (2011) Improving Reflective Writing in Higher Education: A Social Semiotic Perspective : This article discusses the various theories of reflection and uses systemic functional linguistics to build a social semiotic model for reflective writing. 
  • Vankooten (2016) Identifying Components of Meta-Awareness about Composition: Toward a Theory and Methodology for Writing Studies : Works towards a theory of meta-awareness in composition and discusses the four observable areas of metacognition: 1) process, 2) techniques, 3) rhetoric, and 4) intercomparativity. 
  • Jenson (2011) Promoting Self-Regulation and Critical Reflection through Writing Students’ use of Electronic Portfolio : This empirical study discusses reflection and how its consistent use illustrated a deeper mode of thinking in students. 
  • Zohar and Dori (2012) Metacognition in Science Education : Discusses research in metacognition and its use within science education. 
  • Israel, Block, Bauserman, & Kinnucan-Welsch (2006) Metacognition in Literacy Education : This source brings research from education, psychology, linguistics, and reading to illustrate the need for reflection within literacy education. 

*Note: This is not an exhaustive list of reflection scholarship and a simple database search will yield more results.

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Writing reflectively is essential to many academic programmes and also to completing applications for employment. This page considers what reflective writing is and how to do it. 

What is reflection?

Reflection is something that we do everyday as part of being human. We plan and undertake actions, then think about whether each was successful or not, and how we might improve next time. We can also feel reflection as emotions, such as satisfaction and regret, or as a need to talk over happenings with friends. See below for an introduction to reflection as a concept. 

Reflection in everyday life [Google Slides]

Google Doc

What is reflective writing?

Reflective writing should be thought of as recording reflective thinking. This can be done in an everyday diary entry, or instruction in a recipe book to change a cooking method next time. In academic courses, reflective is more complex and focussed. This section considers the main features of reflective writing. 

Reflective writing for employability

When applying for jobs, or further academic study, students are required to think through what they have done in their degrees and translate it into evaluative writing that fulfils the criteria of job descriptions and person specifications. This is a different style of writing, the resource below will enable you to think about how to begin this transition. 

There are also lots of resources available through the university's careers service and elsewhere on the Skills Guides. The links below are to pages that can offer further support and guidance. 

what is reflection in essay

  • Careers and Placements Service resources Lots of resources that relate to all aspects of job applications, including tailored writing styles and techniques.

The language of reflective writing

Reflective academic writing is: 

  • almost always written in the first person.
  • evaluative - you are judging something.
  • partly personal, partly based on criteria.
  • analytical - you are usually categorising actions and events.
  • formal - it is for an academic audience.
  • carefully constructed. 

Look at the sections below to see specific vocabulary types and sentence constructions that can be useful when writing reflectively. 

Language for exploring outcomes

A key element of writing reflectively is being able to explain to the reader what the results of your actions were. This requires careful grading of language to ensure that what you write reflects the evidence of what happened and to convey clearly what you achieved or did not achieve. 

Below are some ideas and prompts of how you can write reflectively about outcomes, using clarity and graded language. 

Expressing uncertainty when writing about outcomes:

  • It is not yet clear that…
  • I do not yet (fully) understand...
  • It is unclear...
  • It is not yet fully clear...
  • It is not yet (fully?) known… 
  • It appears to be the case that…
  • It is too soon to tell....

Often, in academic learning, the uncertainty in the outcomes is a key part of the learning and development that you undertake. It is vital therefore that you explain this clearly to the reader using careful choices in your language. 

Writing about how the outcome relates to you:

  • I gained (xxxx) skills… 
  • I developed… 
  • The experience/task/process taught me… 
  • I achieved…
  • I learned that…
  • I found that… 

In each case you can add in words like, ‘significantly’, ‘greatly’, ‘less importantly’ etc. The use of evaluative adjectives enables you to express to the reader the importance and significance of your learning in terms of the outcomes achieved. 

Describing how you reached your outcomes:

  • Having read....
  • Having completed (xxxx)...
  • I analysed…
  • I applied… 
  • I learned…
  • I experienced… 
  • Having reflected…

This gives the reader an idea of the nature of the reflection they are reading. How and why you reach the conclusions and learning that you express in your reflective writing is important so the reader can assess the validity and strength of your reflections. 

Projecting your outcomes into the future:

  • If I completed a similar task in the future I would…
  • Having learned through this process I would… 
  • Next time I will…
  • I will need to develop…. (in light of the outcomes)
  • Next time my responses would be different....

When showing the reader how you will use your learning in the future, it is important to be specific and again, to use accurate graded language to show how and why what you choose to highlight matters. Check carefully against task instructions to see what you are expected to reflect into the future about. 

When reflecting in academic writing on outcomes, this can mean either the results of the task you have completed, for example, the accuracy of a titration in a Chemistry lab session, or what you have learned/developed within the task, for example, ensuring that an interview question is written clearly enough to produce a response that reflects what you wished to find out. 

Language choices are important in ensuring the reader can see what you think in relation to the reflection you have done. 

Language for interpretation

When you interpret something you are telling the reader how important it is, or what meaning is attached to it. 

You may wish to indicate the value of something:

  • superfluous
  • non-essential

E.g. 'the accuracy of the transcription was essential to the accuracy of the eventual coding and analysis of the interviews undertaken. The training I undertook was critical to enabling me to transcribe quickly and accurately' 

You may wish to show how ideas, actions or some other aspect developed over time:

  • Initially 
  • subsequently
  • in sequence 

E.g. 'Before we could produce the final version of the presentation, we had to complete both the research and produce a plan. This was achieved later than expected, leading to subsequent rushing of creating slides, and this contributed to a lower grade'. 

You may wish to show your viewpoint or that of others:

  • did not think
  • articulated
  • did/did not do something

Each of these could be preceded by 'we' or 'I'.

E.g. 'I noticed that the model of the bridge was sagging. I expressed this to the group, and as I did so I noticed that two members did not seem to grasp how serious the problem was. I proposed a break and a meeting, during which I intervened to show the results of inaction.'

There is a huge range of language that can be used for interpretation, the most important thing is to remember your reader and be clear with them about what your interpretation is, so they can see your thinking and agree or disagree with you. 

Language for analysis

When reflecting, it is important to show the reader that you have analysed the tasks, outcomes, learning and all other aspects that you are writing about. In most cases, you are using categories to provide structure to your reflection. Some suggestions of language to use when analysing in reflective writing are below:

Signposting that you are breaking down a task or learning into categories:

  • An aspect of…
  • An element of…
  • An example of…
  • A key feature of the task was... (e.g. teamwork)
  • The task was multifaceted… (then go on to list or describe the facets)
  • There were several experiences…
  • ‘X’ is related to ‘y’

There may be specific categories that you should consider in your reflection. In teamwork, it could be individual and team performance, in lab work it could be accuracy and the reliability of results. It is important that the reader can see the categories you have used for your analysis. 

Analysis by chronology:

  • Subsequently
  • Consequently
  • Stage 1 (or other)

In many tasks the order in which they were completed matters. This can be a key part of your reflection, as it is possible that you may learn to do things in a different order next time or that the chronology influenced the outcomes. 

Analysis by perspective:

  • I considered

These language choices show that you are analysing purely by your own personal perspective. You may provide evidence to support your thinking, but it is your viewpoint that matters. 

  • What I expected from the reading did not happen…
  • The Theory did not appear in our results…
  • The predictions made were not fulfilled…
  • The outcome was surprising because… (and link to what was expected)

These language choices show that you are analysing by making reference to academic learning (from an academic perspective). This means you have read or otherwise learned something and used it to form expectations, ideas and/or predictions. You can then reflect on what you found vs what you expected. The reader needs to know what has informed our reflections. 

  • Organisation X should therefore…
  • A key recommendation is… 
  • I now know that organisation x is… 
  • Theory A can be applied to organisation X

These language choices show that analysis is being completed from a systems perspective. You are telling the reader how your learning links into the bigger picture of systems, for example, what an organisation or entity might do in response to what you have learned. 

Analysing is a key element of being reflective. You must think through the task, ideas, or learning you are reflecting on and use categories to provide structure to your thought. This then translates into structure and language choices in your writing, so your reader can see clearly how you have used analysis to provide sense and structure to your reflections. 

Language for evaluation

Reflecting is fundamentally an evaluative activity. Writing about reflection is therefore replete with evaluative language. A skillful reflective writer is able to grade their language to match the thinking it is expressing to the reader. 

Language to show how significant something is:

  • Most importantly
  • Significantly 
  • The principal lesson was… 
  • Consequential
  • Fundamental
  • Insignificant
  • In each case the language is quantifying the significance of the element you are describing, telling the reader the product of your evaluative thought. 

For example, ‘when team working I initially thought that we would succeed by setting out a plan and then working independently, but in fact, constant communication and collaboration were crucial to success. This was the most significant thing I learned.’ 

Language to show the strength of relationships:

  • X is strongly associated with Y
  • A is a consequence of B
  • There is a probable relationship between… 
  • C does not cause D
  • A may influence B
  • I learn most strongly when doing A

In each case the language used can show how significant and strong the relationship between two factors are. 

For example, ‘I learned, as part of my research methods module, that the accuracy of the data gained through surveys is directly related to the quality of the questions. Quality can be improved by reading widely and looking at surveys in existing academic papers to inform making your own questions’

Language to evaluate your viewpoint:

  • I was convinced...
  • I have developed significantly…
  • I learned that...
  • The most significant thing that I learned was…
  • Next time, I would definitely…
  • I am unclear about… 
  • I was uncertain about… 

These language choices show that you are attaching a level of significance to your reflection. This enables the reader to see what you think about the learning you achieved and the level of significance you attach to each reflection. 

For example, ‘when using systematic sampling of a mixed woodland, I was convinced that method A would be most effective, but in reality, it was clear that method B produced the most accurate results. I learned that assumptions based on reading previous research can lead to inaccurate predictions. This is very important for me as I will be planning a similar sampling activity as part of my fourth year project’ 

Evaluating is the main element of reflecting. You need to evaluate the outcomes of the activities you have done, your part in them, the learning you achieved and the process/methods you used in your learning, among many other things. It is important that you carefully use language to show the evaluative thinking you have completed to the reader.

Varieties of reflective writing in academic studies

There are a huge variety of reflective writing tasks, which differ between programmes and modules. Some are required by the nature of the subject, like in Education, where reflection is a required standard in teaching.

Some are required by the industry area graduates are training for, such as 'Human Resources Management', where the industry accreditation body require evidence of reflective capabilities in graduates.

In some cases, reflection is about the 'learning to learn' element of degree studies, to help you to become a more effective learner. Below, some of the main reflective writing tasks found in University of York degrees are explored. In each case the advice, guidance and materials do not substitute for those provided within your modules. 

Reflective essay writing

Reflective essay tasks vary greatly in what they require of you. The most important thing to do is to read the assessment brief carefully, attend any sessions and read any materials provided as guidance and to allocate time to ensure you can do the task well.

Google Slides

Reflective learning statements

Reflective learning statements are often attached to dissertations and projects, as well as practical activities. They are an opportunity to think about and tell the reader what you have learned, how you will use the learning, what you can do better next time and to link to other areas, such as your intended career. 

Making a judgement about academic performance

Think of this type of writing as producing your own feedback. How did you do? Why? What could you improve next time? These activities may be a part of modules, they could be attached to a bigger piece of work like a dissertation or essay, or could be just a part of your module learning. 

The four main questions to ask yourself when reflecting on your academic performance. 

  • Why exactly did you achieve the grade you have been awarded? Look at your feedback, the instructions, the marking scheme and talk to your tutors to find out if you don't know. 
  • How did your learning behaviours affect your academic performance? This covers aspects such as attendance, reading for lectures/seminars, asking questions, working with peers... the list goes on. 
  • How did your performance compare to others? Can you identify when others did better or worse? Can you talk to your peers to find out if they are doing something you are not or being more/less effective?
  • What can you do differently to improve your performance? In each case, how will you ensure you can do it? Do you need training? Do you need a guide book or resources? 

When writing about each of the above, you need to keep in mind the context of how you are being asked to judge your performance and ensure the reader gains the detail they need (and as this is usually a marker, this means they can give you a high grade!). 

Writing a learning diary/blog/record

A learning diary or blog has become a very common method of assessing and supporting learning in many degree programmes. The aim is to help you to think through your day-to-day learning and identify what you have and have not learned, why that is and what you can improve as you go along. You are also encouraged to link your learning to bigger thinking, like future careers or your overall degree. 

Other support for reflective writing

Online resources.

The general writing pages of this site offer guidance that can be applied to all types of writing, including reflective writing. Also check your department's guidance and VLE sites for tailored resources.

Other useful resources for reflective writing:

what is reflection in essay

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Critical Reflection

A Critical Reflection (also called a reflective essay) is a process of identifying, questioning, and assessing our deeply-held assumptions – about our knowledge, the way we perceive events and issues, our beliefs, feelings, and actions. When you reflect critically, you use course material (lectures, readings, discussions, etc.) to examine our biases, compare theories with current actions, search for causes and triggers, and identify problems at their core. Critical reflection is not a reading assignment, a summary of an activity, or an emotional outlet. Rather, the goal is to change your thinking about a subject, and thus change your behaviour.

How to Critically Reflect

Writing a critical reflection happens in two phases.

  • Analyze: In the first phase, analyze the issue and your role by asking critical questions. Use free writing as a way to develop good ideas. Don’t worry about organized paragraphs or good grammar at this stage.
  • Articulate: In the second phase, use your analysis to develop a clear argument about what you learned. Organize your ideas so they are clear for your reader.

First phase: Analyze

A popular method for analyzing is the three stage model,

What? So What? Now what?

In the  What?  stage, describe the issue, including your role, observations, and reactions. The what? stage helps you make initial observations about what you feel and think. At this point, there’s no need to look at your course notes or readings.

Use the questions below to guide your writing during this stage.

  • What happened?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you expect?
  • What was different?
  • What was your reaction?
  • What did you learn?

In the second  So What? stage, try to understand on a deeper level why the issue is significant or relevant. Use information from your first stage, your course materials (readings, lectures, discussions) -- as well as previous experience and knowledge to help you think through the issue from a variety of perspectives.

Tip:   Since you’ll be using more course resources in this step, review your readings and course notes before you begin writing.

Below are three perspectives you can consider:

  • Academic perspective : How did the experience enhance your understanding of a concept/theory/skill? Did the experience confirm your understanding or challenge it? Did you identify strengths or gaps in your knowledge?
  • Personal perspective: Why does the experience matter? What are the consequences? Were your previous expectations/assumptions confirmed or refuted? What surprised you and why?
  • Systems perspective: What were the sources of power and who benefited/who was harmed? What changes would you suggest? How does this experience help you understand the organization or system?

In the third Now what? stage, explore how the experience will shape your future thinking and behaviour.

Use the following questions to guide your thinking and writing:

  • What are you going to do as a result of your experiences?
  • What will you do differently?
  • How will you apply what you learned?

Second phase: Articulate

After completing the analysis stage, you probably have a lot of writing, but it is not yet organized into a coherent story. You need to build an organized and clear argument about what you learned and how you changed. To do so, develop a thesis statement , make an outline , write , and revise.

Develop a thesis statement

Develop a clear argument to help your reader understand what you learned. This argument should pull together different themes from your analysis into a main idea. You can see an example of a thesis statement in the sample reflection essay at the end of this resource.

Make an outline

Once you have a clear thesis statement for your essay, build an outline. Below is a straightforward method to organize your essay.

Write and revise

Time to get writing! Work from your outline and give yourself enough time for a first draft and revisions.

Sample Critical Reflection

Below are sample annotated paragraphs from one student’s critical reflection for a course on society and privilege.

Ross E O'Hara, Ph.D.

The Power of Self-Reflection

Students can get more out of college when they reflect on the value of learning..

Posted November 2, 2023 | Reviewed by Michelle Quirk

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  • Reflection portfolios could be students' foundation for outstanding resumes and job applications.

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Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the annual conference of the Association for Continuing Higher Education . This organization is dedicated to the success of students who don’t follow the direct path from high school to college to degree. These are folks who…

  • tried college but couldn’t finish.
  • put their education on hold to raise children.
  • joined the armed services.
  • got laid off (or quit, or want to quit) and need workforce training.
  • don't have a college credential for a million other reasons.

The excitement at this conference was infectious. These professionals, who have devoted their careers to students who aren’t 18- to 22-year-old undergrads, clearly see themselves as the misfits of higher education. But they’re having their moment as continuing education now represents 40 percent or more of college enrollment. These numbers will surely grow as colleges, businesses, and states are all focused on getting working adults back into the classroom to boost economic prosperity and reduce inequities. I left Charleston plenty buzzed, but one talk really got me excited, despite its seemingly mundane topic: Credit for Prior Learning (CPL).

Credit for Prior Learning

CPL is when students earn academic credit for skills they learned outside of college, such as at a job or in the military. CPL makes adult learners more likely to graduate and to graduate faster. While I’ve known about the benefits of CPL for a while, not until now did I understand how someone might earn CPL. And it’s the how that speaks to something that may be missing from much of higher education.

CPL can be awarded through several mechanisms , including exams, job training certifications, and military training. Dr. Matt Bergman, however, described how students at the University of Louisville create a portfolio of their prior learning as part of a credited course. Students must describe each “occupational experience,” along with documentation, and write a reflection essay on what they learned from it. These skills are linked to specific college credits, and students may earn up to 48 credit hours (or 40 percent of a degree).

What intrigues me most about these CPL portfolios is the reflection essays. I’ve written before about the power of self-reflection to motivate persistence. In crafting a CPL portfolio, adult learners similarly write about the utility-value of their work or military experiences: what they learned, how it applies to college, and how it will apply to their future career . It was unsurprising to hear Dr. Bergman describe the pride these students feel when they submit their final portfolios, describing them as “peacocks.”

Reflecting on the Value of Education

As I flew home, I wondered whether CPL portfolios tell us something about how to help students get the most out of college. Recent surveys indicate that about 40 percent of college graduates regret their major, and perhaps as many as one-third regret college altogether. While student debt and a tough job market are not easily dismissed, perhaps some of this regret stems from a lack of guided self-reflection.

Many college students have a culminating experience, such as an internship, thesis, or experiential learning. While these capstones can be transformational—I certainly wouldn’t be a Ph.D. behavioral scientist without my undergraduate senior thesis experience—they tend to highlight a subset of skills learned in college, mostly within one’s major. Moreover, not all students have access to these culminating experiences.

What if every student created a portfolio of their college experience, similar to how Louisville students earn CPL? For each class, students would describe what they learned and reflect on how it applies to other college classes, their future careers, or their lives in general. This could be especially enlightening for students’ gen-ed courses, which are often viewed as a stepping stone to the “important” classes, but lacking inherent value. These portfolios could also include reflections on internships, work experience (even if not earning CPL), student organizations, and sports, helping students write the story of their time in college that they will one day share with potential employers.

These portfolios could be created on a term-by-term basis, which would convey multiple advantages:

  • The portfolio would be a living document that grows over time, rather than a massive lift at the end of college that wouldn’t be feasible for many students.
  • The portfolio could support students’ conversations with faculty and advisors about course registration, major selection, and career paths.
  • The portfolio would provide documentation of skills learned by students who need to work during college, or who take a break from college to work.
  • The portfolio could provide better feedback for faculty than traditional student evaluations.

what is reflection in essay

In the end, the portfolio would provide the foundation for an amazing resume, and could perhaps itself be a document submitted to employers to demonstrate one’s competencies. The mere act of consistent self-reflection might be impressive enough on its own.

College students have several ways to earn credits, including taking classes, AP courses, CPL, and experiential learning. But many of these options (especially classes) lack self-reflection on why it’s important. The “traditional” college experience could be enriched if we took inspiration from Louisville’s CPL process. Ultimately, we need to encourage all students to better understand what they’ve learned, why they’ve learned it, and how it will benefit their lives both professionally and personally.

Ross E O'Hara, Ph.D.

Ross E. O'Hara, Ph.D. , is a behavioral researcher and he applies his expertise in behavioral science to develop scalable interventions that improve college student retention.

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With a reflection essay on your informational interview in which...

With a reflection essay on your informational interview in which you examine and articulate what you learned from the interview.

  • What did you find most interesting or surprising about this person's career path or professional field?
  • In what ways can you envision following a path similar to that of the person you interviewed? What would you do differently?
  • What did you learn about best strategies for breaking into the field of your choice? 
  • What skills do you need to develop further and what specific actions would you take to do so?
  • Did this experience change the ways you perceive your immediate future?

Answer & Explanation

Answer to the question is showing below please check. 

Title: Reflections on an Informative Interview: Nurturing Career Insights 

Introduction: Reflecting on my recent informational interview, I explored a valuable career path and gained deep insights into the professional field that I aspire to enter. This essay aims to articulate my key learnings, highlighting the most interesting aspects of the interviewee's career path, envisioning my own path, identifying areas for improvement, and understanding strategies to break into my chosen field. Main Body: 1. Most Interesting Aspects: During the interview, the most fascinating aspect of the interviewee's career path was their ability to navigate diverse industries and roles. They had started their career in marketing, transitioned to project management, and currently held a senior leadership position in a technology firm. This flexibility and adaptability stood out as a testament to the interviewee's resilience and willingness to explore new opportunities. 2. Envisioning a Similar Path: Inspired by the interviewee's career trajectory, I could envision myself following a similar path. By embracing diverse experiences, I can acquire a wide range of skills and knowledge that will be instrumental in tackling future challenges. Learning from their experiences, I understand the importance of being open to change and seizing opportunities that align with my passions and strengths. 3. Strategies for Breaking into the Field: The interview provided valuable insights into strategies for breaking into my desired field. One key strategy highlighted was the significance of networking and building strong professional relationships. The interviewee emphasized the power of informational interviews and mentorship in gaining industry knowledge and creating opportunities. Additionally, continued education, certifications, and keeping up with the latest trends were identified as essential for establishing credibility within the field. 4. Areas for Improvement: Through the interview, I recognized specific skills I need to further develop to excel in my chosen profession. The interviewee stressed the importance of effective communication, both written and verbal, in professional success. Additionally, honing analytical skills and staying proactive in acquiring technical competencies were identified as areas requiring further attention. To address these gaps, I plan to take courses, participate in workshops, and seek opportunities to practice and refine these skills.  

5. Perceiving my Immediate Future: This valuable interview experience has certainly impacted my perception of my immediate future. It has reinforced my belief in the significance of continuous learning and personal growth. Understanding the importance of remaining adaptable, I am now more open to exploring diverse opportunities that align with my long-term career aspirations. The interview provided me with a clearer vision and sparked a renewed motivation to work towards my goals. Conclusion: Through this reflection essay, I have gained valuable insights into the interviewee's career path and the professional field I aspire to enter. I have identified the most intriguing aspects of their journey, envisioned a similar path for myself, and recognized the strategies essential for breaking into my chosen field. By acknowledging areas for improvement, I am now equipped with a plan to develop the necessary skills. Overall, this interview experience has reshaped my perception of my immediate future and has invigorated my determination to succeed in my chosen career.

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Reflective Essay

Barbara P

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

Published on: Sep 21, 2020

Last updated on: Jul 18, 2023

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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!

On This Page On This Page

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:

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 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 essay 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 writing: What is reflection? Why do it?

What is reflection why do it.

  • What does reflection involve?
  • Reflective questioning
  • Reflective writing for academic assessment
  • Types of reflective assignments
  • Differences between discursive and reflective writing
  • Sources of evidence for reflective writing assignments
  • Linking theory to experience
  • Reflective essays
  • Portfolios and learning journals, logs and diaries
  • Examples of reflective writing
  • Video summary
  • Bibliography

On this page:

“Whether we focus on problematic experiences or positive ones, reflecting on them will provide us with opportunities for growth and development.” Bassot,  The reflective journal

To build on the definition of reflection from the previous page, it is useful to consider its purpose while you are at university. The following points are the core reasons why you may be asked to reflect (or why you may want to reflect yourself):

1) Consider the process of our own learning

Think about how you learn with the aim of improving this process. This is particularly useful for revision.

2) Critically review something

Think about a particular event or personal aspect. This could be your own behaviour, that of others or the product of behaviour.

3) Build theory from observations

Think about your experiences and observations to construct your own theories. Often we use the theories of other authors and this provides you with an opportunity to construct your own.

4) Engage in personal or self-development

Reflection is focused on producing useful outcomes from the future. It can help you becoming more self-aware and can make you a better learner, researcher, practitioner or employee.

5) Make decisions or resolve uncertainty

Thinking about previous experiences can help you make decisions about new ones

Note: While all of these reasons for reflection are valid, different disciplines place emphasis on different areas. You do not necessarily need to cover all of the above in every reflective assignment. Think about why you are being asked to reflect and make sure you focus on the most appropriate area.

Having an experience in itself is not a guarantee that learning will take place. All the major theories of reflective practice suggest that reflection on an experience provides the context for learning. It is this reflection that leads to the formulation of new concepts and ways of thinking - not the act of having an experience.  Gibbs (1988 ), for example, maintains that:  

‘It is not sufficient simply to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting upon this experience it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. It is from the feelings and thoughts emerging from this reflection that generalisations or concepts can be generated. And it is generalisations that allow new situations to be tackled effectively.’

Gibbs (1988 ) in Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods

Why reflect?

A positive by-product of engaging in the reflective process is that it can help you grow in self-confidence. Some of the other areas of self-change could include:

  • gaining control over your own thoughts and emotions, especially when confronted by others and new situations
  • developing deeper insights
  • make more informed judgements
  • monitoring your own performance
  • gauging not only your progress, but also your speed of change
  • tapping into your true motivations for doing something (e.g. examining your commitment to others)
  • establishing your learning preferences and thinking styles
  • developing a realistic image of yourself.

Therefore, whether you are examining yourself or your academic work, you need the ability to stand back and see the broader picture.

Self confident

Reflection is an important part of learning through experience. By reflecting on our experiences, we maximise the potential of any new learning. This is particularly important when considering positives. They are often harder to recall than the bad elements of any experience.

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what is reflection in essay

How to Write a Reflective Essay: Easy Guide with Pro Tips 2023

what is reflection in essay

Defining What is a Reflective Essay: Purpose + Importance

Being present is a cornerstone of mindfulness and meditation. You must have often heard that staying in the moment helps you appreciate your surroundings, connects you with people and nature, and allows you to feel whatever emotions you must feel without anxiety. While this is helpful advice as you become more focused and avoid getting lost in thought, how can you truly appreciate the present without reflecting on your past experiences that have led you to the current moment?

We don't say that you should dwell on the past and get carried away with a constant thought process, but hey, hear us out - practice reflective thinking! Think back on your previous life events, paint a true picture of history, and make connections to your present self. This requires you to get a bit analytical and creative. So you might as well document your critical reflection on a piece of paper and give direction to your personal observations. That's when the need for reflective essays steps in!

In a reflective essay, you open up about your thoughts and emotions to uncover your mindset, personality, traits of character, and background. Your reflective essay should include a description of the experience/literature piece as well as explanations of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions. In this article, our essay writer service will share our ultimate guide on how to write a reflective essay with a clear format and reflective essay examples that will inspire you.

How to Write a Reflective Essay with a Proper Reflective Essay Outline

To give you a clear idea of structuring a reflective essay template, we broke down the essential steps below. Primarily, the organization of a reflective essay is very similar to other types of papers. However, our custom writers got more specific with the reflective essay outline to ease your writing process.

Reflective Essay Introduction

When wondering how to start a reflective essay, it is no surprise that you should begin writing your paper with an introductory paragraph. So, what's new and different with the reflection essay introduction? Let's dissect:

  • Open your intro with an attention-seizing hook that engages your audience into reflective thinking with you. It can be something like: 'As I was sitting on my bed with my notebook placed on my shaky lap waiting for the letter of acceptance, I could not help but reflect, was enrolling in college the path I wanted to take in the future?'
  • Provide context with a quick overview of the reflective essay topic. Don't reveal too much information at the start to prevent your audience from becoming discouraged to continue reading.
  • Make a claim with a strong reflective essay thesis statement. It should be a simple explanation of the essay's main point, in this example, a specific event that had a big impact on you.

Reflective Essay Body Paragraphs

The next step is to develop the body of your essay. This section of the paper may be the most challenging because it's simple to ramble and replicate yourself both in the outline and the actual writing. Planning the body properly requires a lot of time and work, and the following advice can assist you in doing this effectively:

  • Consider using a sequential strategy. This entails reviewing everything you wish to discuss in the order it occurred. This method ensures that your work is structured and cohesive.
  • Make sure the body paragraph is well-rounded and employs the right amount of analysis. The body should go into the effects of the event on your life and the insights you've gained as a consequence.
  • Prioritize reflecting rather than summarizing your points. In addition to giving readers insight into your personal experience, a reflective stance will also show off your personality and demonstrate your ability to handle certain challenges.

Reflective Essay Conclusion

The goal of your reflective essay conclusion should be to tie everything together by summarizing the key ideas raised throughout, as well as the lessons you were able to take away from experience.

  • Don't forget to include the reasons for and the methods used to improve your beliefs and actions. Think about how your personality and skills have changed as well.
  • What conclusions can you draw about your behavior in particular circumstances? What could you do differently if the conditions were the same in the future?

Remember that your instructor will be searching for clear signs of reflection.

Understanding a Reflection Paper Format

The format of reflective essay greatly differs from an argumentative or research paper. A reflective essay is more of a well-structured story or a diary entry rife with insight and reflection. You might be required to arrange your essay using the APA style or the MLA format.

And the typical reflection paper length varies between 300 and 700 words, but ask your instructor about the word length if it was assigned to you. Even though this essay is about you, try to avoid too much informal language.

If your instructor asks you to use an APA or MLA style format for reflective essay, here are a few shortcuts:

Reflective Essay in MLA Format

  • Times New Roman 12pt font double spaced;
  • 1" margins;
  • The top right includes the last name and page number on every page;
  • Titles are centered;
  • The header should include your name, your professor's name, course number, and the date (dd/mm/yy);
  • The last page includes a Works Cited.

Reflective Essay in APA Style

  • Include a page header on the top of every page;
  • Insert page number on the right;
  • Your reflective essay should be divided into four parts: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

Reflective Essay Writing Tips

You may think we've armed you with enough tips and pointers for reflective writing, but it doesn't stop here. Below we gathered some expert-approved tips for constructing uncontested reflection papers.

tips reflective essay

  • Be as detailed as possible while writing. To make your reflective essay writing come to life, you should employ several tactics such as symbolism, sentence patterns, etc.
  • Keep your audience in mind. The reader will become frustrated if you continue writing in the first person without taking a moment to convey something more important, even though you will likely speak about something from your own perspective.
  • Put forth the effort to allow the reader to feel the situation or emotion you are attempting to explain.
  • Don't preach; demonstrate. Instead of just reporting what happened, use description appropriately to paint a clear picture of the event or sensation.
  • Plan the wording and structure of your reflective essay around a central emotion or subject, such as joy, pleasure, fear, or grief.
  • Avoid adding dull elements that can lessen the effect of your work. Why include it if it won't enhance the emotion or understanding you wish to convey?
  • There must be a constant sense of progression. Consider whether the event has transformed you or others around you.
  • Remember to double-check your grammar, syntax, and spelling.

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Reflective Essay Topic Ideas

As a reflective essay should be about your own views and experiences, you generally can't use someone else's ideas. But to help you get started, here are some suggestions for writing topics:

  • An experience you will never forget.
  • The moment you overcame a fear.
  • The most difficult choice you had to make.
  • A time your beliefs were challenged.
  • A time something changed your life.
  • The happiest or most frightening moment of your life so far.
  • Ways you think you or people can make the world a better place.
  • A time you felt lost.
  • An introspective look at your choices or a time you made the wrong choice.
  • A moment in your life you would like to relive.

You may find it convenient to create a chart or table to keep track of your ideas. Split your chart into three parts:

Reflective Essay Topic Ideas

  • In the first column, write key experiences or your main points. You can arrange them from most important to least important.
  • In the second column, list your response to the points you stated in the first column.
  • In the third column, write what, from your response, you would like to share in the essay.

Meanwhile, if you're about to enroll in your dream university and your mind is constantly occupied with - 'how to write my college admissions essay?', order an academic essay on our platform to free you of unnecessary anxiety.

Reflective Essay Sample

Referring to reflective essay examples can help you a lot. A reflective essay sample can provide you with useful insight into how your essay should look like. You can also buy an essay online if you need one customized to your specific requirements.

How to Conclude a Reflective Essay

As we come to an end, it's only logical to reflect on the main points discussed above in the article. By now, you should clearly understand what is a reflective essay and that the key to writing a reflective essay is demonstrating what lessons you have taken away from your experiences and why and how these lessons have shaped you. It should also have a clear reflective essay format, with an opening, development of ideas, and resolution.

Now that you have the tools to create a thorough and accurate reflective paper, you might want to hand over other tasks like writing definition essay examples to our experienced writers. In this case, feel free to buy an essay online on our platform and reflect on your past events without worrying about future assignments!

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Self reflection essay

what is reflection in essay

How to write a self reflection essay

A self-reflection paper writing assignment should not be confused with any sort of academic admission essay, which usually focuses on only one aspect relevant to the subject – typically your views or stance on something in particular.

In a self reflection essay assignment, you can discuss or examine as many aspects of the experience as you wish. Ideally you will be given a broad statement to start off with, and then use that as an outline for your own self-reflection topic sentence.  This way it becomes apparent how much more freedom this essay has than an admission essay would typically have.  

What is a self-reflection essay?

A self-reflection essay is a type of essay that requires a student to reflect on an experience and write about how it has changed them as a person. It is a very useful writing task because it gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a way that they can be rewarded for.  It allows you to evaluate where you were at one point in life, and draw conclusions about who you are now.  

  • How to start a reflection paper | Introduction Paragraph Examples

reflection paper outline

Reflection paper topics, internship reflection essay, how to write a movie reflection paper, reflection paper examples.

If written properly, this type a self reflection paper should show the reader not only where you are currently at in life but also where you came from and why change happened when it did. It is essential to use examples and real-life experiences so that the audience understands what is happening.

The structure of a self reflection essay – outline format

Introduction : Explain what self reflection essay is is,give some tips of self reflection essay .

Essay body :  Put your experiences into sentences from beginning to end,give more details if you had anything happened in your life that could be reflected back to the future .What have I gained? What have I lost? How does my present image differ from how I used to see myself in the past?  How will I continue to grow in the future?

Reflection :  In this section of a self reflection paper, ask yourself what you have learned from the experience. Be honest with your response and be confident that through this, you will grow as an individual.

Conclusion :  In this section of your essay write a closing statement in which you summarize your experience. Refer back to the theme statement given at the beginning of the assignment, if desired. End by writing a sentence expressing how this topic has changed or influenced your life now or in the future. Conclude by thanking the reader for taking time out of their day to read about your thoughts and opinions on this particular subject matter. Sum up what you have said,give some last words and make a conclusion of your essay.

How to write a 5 paragraph self reflection essay with examples

In this section, we will use an example to learn how to write a self assessment reflective essay using an example of a 5 paragraph self reflection essay. This paper assumes the 5 paragraph essay outline we discussed earlier in our guide on how to write an essay for school .

Introduction: How to start a self reflection essay

A self-reflection paper introduction section of any type of personal essay should always include your theme statement first and foremost. This will be the topic sentence for your entire essay, and should represent the main idea behind why you chose to write this paper in particular.

Example: “I had a truly transformative experience when I…” or “Ever since my brother died three years ago, I have been wondering who I am without him.” 

In addition to the essay topic statement , an introduction also needs a thesis statement that supports and explains the theme statement as well as gives specific examples of what kind of changes you can expect from reading about your experiences.

A good thesis statement for a self reflection essay , (like this one) will not only give an idea of where the rest of your essay will lead, but also introduce the readers to specific examples that you will be covering in the self-reflection paper. 

Example: “In my experience as a good Samaritan to a woman stranded on a road late at night, I learned how precious life really is and how important it is to help others.” 

Body paragraph #1 (exposition): -The body paragraphs are individual stories or experiences that support your theme statement. The first one should be written about an event that occurred before your true transformation took place.

For example, if you chose to write about how someone’s death affected you, then your first story might be about when they passed away and what happened prior to them dying. If you chose to write about a fight that you had with a family member, then your first story might be about how the argument went down and why it happened.  Try to include as many descriptive details and examples from events as possible. Make sure to clearly identify these points in your paper so your readers don’t get confused.  

Example: “We were so devastated by our lack of communication with our son while he was overseas fighting for our country that I was really losing my sense of self.” 

Body paragraph #2 (conflict): -This paragraph should address the conflict or important event that led up to your transformation. It should talk about what happened after the situation described in body paragraph #1 occurred and what action/s you decided to take. Example: “I never thought that I could live without my brother, and just when I was about to lose myself completely in self pity one of the elders at church handed me her daughter’s baby and challenged me to raise it as my own.” 

Body paragraph #3 (new understanding): -This is where you describe your new perspective or way of thinking. This should be included in any type of personal essay because it shows how much your life has changed from the experience you chose to write about. It also helps explain why you reacted so strongly to something that happened in the past if this topic falls under a common human struggle like death or loss or even a family conflict.  

Example: “Instead of being bitter that I lost my big brother to the war, I realized just how blessed we really were for having him in our lives for as long as we did. It also made me realize that life is too short and precious to worry about silly old things like material possessions.” 

Conclusion paragraphs: -This section should wrap up your essay on a strong note by re-stating your theme statement and reiterating why it is important to you. It can also be used as a way of tying everything together if it seems like some of the body paragraphs didn’t quite fit into the three categories (before, during and after).  

Example of a self assessment reflective essay conclusion : “Although my brother’s tragic death was devastating to us at first, it helped all of us learn the importance of being grateful for the time we have with our loved ones. After my brother passed away I realized how incredibly precious life really is.”

Be sure to proofread and edit your paper before submitting it!! It’s always good manners to include a reference page so that your teacher can verify the sources used

Note : You must keep track of all sources used and cite them properly for academic writing assignments.

Self reflection essay examples

Before we can delve in various self reflection paper examples listed below, let us first review the content above in a few points for those still asking “how to do a self reflection essay” kind of questions.

A self reflection essay assignment is one of the most important part of coursework at the end of each term and examination in most schools.

A self reflection essay writing involves two steps: looking back into one’s own achievements, analyzing oneself to improve the next time; also should include some suggestions for future improvement.

It doesn’t need not be written in traditional academic writing style. It may take a form of “the diary of my achievement”, “my review” or what you have learnt from this term etc. as long as it clearly indicates your thinking process and improvement plan.

Let’s now look at various examples of self reflective essays:

Self Reflection Essay Example 1

Self Reflection Essay: How I have changed as a person during my stay at XXXX University?

This semester’s courses were very demanding and tough. There has been too much to learn, write, memorise and present. However, with the help of my colleagues and friends around me I was able to come through it all. I can say that that this semester’s work has caused me to develop in many ways. For example, before university life ,I had no idea what pressure is; how to manage my own time for learning-writing-presenting and so on…Now after several lessons learnt from school ,I would say yes, strong pressure does exist but it drives you forward! It also makes you appreciate how far you have progressed. It is a good thing to let me see my own weaknesses and strengths more clearly – it’s all about knowing how to use your time wisely: whether for studying or socializing.

Then there are things that I was always not worried about at the beginning but after some time with them ,they become the most important things in my life -I can’t do without them now- such as sleeping, drinking water ,and exercising.The problem time management is probably one of the main reasons why students fail their university exams and courses;today, I’m able to control my learning schedule better than before…..This reflection essay has helped me answer the question: “how do we change during our stay at university?.”

It is easy to see changes in other people but it’s hard to notice changes in oneself. However, I have changed dramatically this semester. I am much more tolerant of others and their opinions. My thoughts are a lot more open-minded than before. Bearing the test of different cultures and ways of thinking has broadened my outlook toward life greatly! The reflection essay on how I have changed during my stay at xxxx university reminds me that university is not only about studying but also making friends from all over the world. You can get to know their ideas and chill with them.

Example self reflection essay 2

How do you feel about your progress in school?

This term was a busy one for me. I encountered various tests and challenges. I am glad that I have managed to complete them all successfully! As a result, my knowledge has grown significantly. It is important for me to look back now on my progress in order to decide where I would like to go next. For example ,I can see that there are certain aspects of my abilities which need improvement, such as effective time management skills and how to handle pressure in a better way. On the other hand, it seems that some of my skills have improved greatly; for instance, communicating clearly with friends from different cultures or speaking more fluently after attending several language courses over the past few terms .

How have you developed during this term? During this term i had been faced with many challenges. However, I was able to overcome them due to my hard work and dedication. I have gained a lot of knowledge about the history of several countries in Asia . Furthermore, i am now better at communicating in different languages as well as being more independent of how to manage my time within certain deadlines. Personally, i think that reflection is an important thing for students to do because it allows us ,to look back on what we have achieved and how much we have improved by deciding where we would like to go next.

Example self reflection essay 3

Write a self reflection paper on “how has this term affected you?”

This semester course has taught me many things such as critical thinking skills, teamwork and cooperation. The feedback from this course is very valuable to me because I could check my own performance; and see that I still have some things to learn and improve. For example, during this term, it was the first time that I worked with people from different backgrounds. It was very interesting for me to get to know people from another country ,and also learnt more about their culture.

It was a good experience for me because although we had different cultural backgrounds there were no major problems in our group work . Our relationship became better than before which made our cooperation stronger. We would like to thank all lecturers who really helped us to develop so much!

Example self reflection paragraph sample – 100 words

This semester has been a busy one for both academically and socially .On the one hand, I have been an active member of a club called Xxxx. Although this hasn’t had any effect on my academic performance ,on the other hand it has benefited me in many ways .For example, in this semester I learnt to be confident and more open minded when dealing with people from different backgrounds .I also improved communication skills through interacting with people from various walks of life.

Example self reflection paper 5

This term was a busy one for me. I had to cope not only with regular study loads but also quite a few group projects! As a result, my knowledge has grown significantly and my empathy towards others has become stronger as well. For instance, all these challenges have made me more independent and confident in dealing with people from different backgrounds. In the future, I plan to spend more time on my studies ,and think about whether or not I should apply for a career in management consulting.

In addition, there are some things which require further development such as effective time management skills and how to handle pressure better . On the other hand, it seems that some of my skills have improved greatly; for instance, communicating clearly with friends from different cultures or speaking more fluently after attending several language courses over the past few terms/semesters.

Example self reflection essay 6

Throughout this term i have been faced with various challenges such as group projects and examinations as well as changing personalities in class . Also as a result of this , i have been able to improve on various aspects such as my ability to solve problems and work independently. I would also like to thank all the lecturers who really helped me develop these skills throughout this term. However, there are still some areas where i would like to see further improvement in my personality and academic performance especially with regards to time management and communication skills.

Example life self reflection essay 7

Throughout my life so far, i have gone through many changes both academically and socially. One semester which had a big impact on my career was [semester name]. In particular, it impacted me by allowing me to become more independent when dealing with people from different cultures. Now i am aware that there are many people from different backgrounds, who have a number of differences. However, these differences do not matter because if you take the time to understand them ,you will be able to communicate smoothly and effectively with others having different cultures and learn new things from them. This is how we can all improve ourselves and develop as individuals .I would like to thank my lecturers for their continuous support!

Example self reflection essay 9

As an individual who values individuality and independence ,i was interested in taking part in a seminar course that would improve student’s communication skills. The past few terms/semesters have been instrumental in my personal development both academically and socially . For instance, i used to be very shy before but now i am not afraid of giving speeches or presenting work in front of students. I also got to know more people from different backgrounds during the group presentations and debates. Therefore ,as a result of this semester, i had improved on beneficial attributes such as being more confident when speaking English . In addition, it was an opportunity for me to meet new people with similar interests since there were quite a lot of seminars organized by our lecturer [name].

In general ,i had benefited greatly from meeting different kinds of people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences which i had not had the opportunity to do so before. However, there are still some areas where i would like for further improvement especially with regards to time management in order to improve my grades even more!

Example self reflection essay 10

Over the past few terms/semesters ,i have learnt a lot about globalization as well as how it impacts us nationally and globally . More specifically, this semester has greatly impacted me by allowing me to understand what globalization is all about and how it has contributed positively towards helping people from different countries .There are many issues that are common among people living in developed nations such as high tech advances, large sized organizations or corporations, high speed internet connections, improving healthcare services, etc. However, globalization has both positive and negative impacts on us in the long run . On one hand, it allows for better distribution of resources and provides a platform where people can work together to solve global issues like poverty or environmental problems; on the other hand, it also leads to unemployment as well as growing disparity between different countries/nations .

As such ,the implications of globalization are huge and there is still much debate going on about how best to deal with the issue including whether we should slow down on globalization in order to prevent major problems such as pollution, war and extinction of species from happening.

In conclusion, globalization has impacted me strongly by allowing me to realize that i am more interconnected than ever before as everything we do nowadays is somehow connected to other people in different countries.

Other self reflection essay examples for students

A semester self assessment reflective essay example.

This semester has greatly impacted me because it allowed me to understand better how globalization affects the world by having a closer look at USA and China . I was able to learn about their economies ,culture, politics and society as well as their education systems which are widely known for being very different from each other’s. For example ,even though both countries possess highly developed economies ,the way they achieve this is quite different due to cultural differences between them .For instance, whereas American citizens’ work ethic is often praised worldwide ,people in China might not have worked as hard since they tend to prefer having more leisure time instead .In addition, although there are many similarities in terms of their educational systems ,the USA’s education system is more oriented towards critical thinking whereas the Chinese would prefer rote memorization due to a difference in their culture and beliefs .In other words, i have learnt how different cultures lead to different core values which eventually shape people’s thoughts, beliefs and actions.

Furthermore ,it has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the way globalization forces nations to work together as well as its impact on economics, politics and society .For instance, because both countries import raw materials from each other as well as export finished products especially electronics such as computers and mobile phones, it leads to an increase in trade volume between them. Thus ,i have also realized that thanks to globalization industries are now able to operate on a global scale ,making them more competitive and productive . In addition, as both nations are becoming increasingly wealthy due to globalization, it leads to political stability. For example ,increased wealth can help maintain the country’s political system by ensuring that the government has enough money for its military and other departments in order to prevent any social unrest, war or overthrow of their government.

In conclusion, this semester has allowed me to gain a greater understanding about how each nation works individually as well as how they work together globally. As such ,i am now more aware of the importance of globalization especially in terms of economics, politics and society internationally.

Course Reflection Essay Sample:

What was your favorite part of this course?

My favorite part of this course was learning about sustainable development . I have learned a lot from the readings, lectures and discussions that were held on this topic. This subject taught me a lot about how humans impact their environment in different ways by using more resources than they actually need and thus creating negative effects such as pollution and climate change. In addition, i also learned a lot about what can be done to solve these problems as well which is what gave me newfound appreciation for recycling and being eco-friendly in my everyday life. As such ,I used to not care too much about protecting our Earth since it seemed pointless to do so when you consider how big our planet is; however, now I realize the importance of saving Earth’s resources for future generations in order to ensure their survival.

As such, my favorite part was learning about green business and legal issues since they taught me a lot about the importance of finding ways to reduce pollution and being mindful of our actions so that we don’t hurt our environment . As an example ,I have learned how food manufacturers are increasingly choosing biodegradable plastics as well as vegetable-wrapped or paper containers over plastic packaging in order to minimize their negative impacts on marine life. This is important because it shows that everyone can be proactive in terms of protecting Earth’s changing environment by making small changes every day at work or home.

In conclusion, I loved this course because even though we only focused on three specific topics during this semester; they were interesting and essential components in general to understanding what can be done for our planet.

Once you have reviewed the essay examples listed above, It is now up to you to write your self-reflection essay.

Self reflection essay writing help

Need help writing a self reflection essay or a college self assessment reflection essay, click here to find the best self-reflection paper writers online. Tutlance homework tutoring help also offers a fully fledged and reliable essay help service  that connect students with professional essay writers to help with self reflection essay among other writing tasks


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Reflection paper conclusion, class reflection essay, biographical narrative essay, how to write a nursing reflective essay, related guides, course reflection essay, how to start a reflection paper | introduction....

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How to Write a Reflection Paper

Last Updated: July 8, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Alicia Cook . Alicia Cook is a Professional Writer based in Newark, New Jersey. With over 12 years of experience, Alicia specializes in poetry and uses her platform to advocate for families affected by addiction and to fight for breaking the stigma against addiction and mental illness. She holds a BA in English and Journalism from Georgian Court University and an MBA from Saint Peter’s University. Alicia is a bestselling poet with Andrews McMeel Publishing and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets including the NY Post, CNN, USA Today, the HuffPost, the LA Times, American Songwriter Magazine, and Bustle. She was named by Teen Vogue as one of the 10 social media poets to know and her poetry mixtape, “Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately” was a finalist in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,737,730 times.

Reflection papers allow you to communicate with your instructor about how a specific article, lesson, lecture, or experience shapes your understanding of class-related material. Reflection papers are personal and subjective [1] X Research source , but they must still maintain a somewhat academic tone and must still be thoroughly and cohesively organized. Here's what you need to know about writing an effective reflection.

Things You Should Know

  • Write an introduction that outlines the expectations you had and provide a thesis statement in the last sentence.
  • State your conclusions in the body paragraphs of the paper. Explain how you arrived at your conclusions using logic and concrete details.
  • Conclude the paper with a concise summary of your overall experience.

Sample Outline and Paper

what is reflection in essay


Step 1 Identify the main themes.

  • These sentences should be both descriptive yet straight to the point.

Step 2 Jot down material that stands out in your mind.

  • For lectures or readings, you can write down specific quotations or summarize passages.
  • For experiences, make a note of specific portions of your experience. You could even write a small summary or story of an event that happened during the experience that stands out. Images, sounds, or other sensory portions of your experience work, as well.

Alicia Cook

  • In the first column, list the main points or key experiences. These points can include anything that the author or speaker treated with importance as well as any specific details you found to be important. Divide each point into its own separate row.
  • In the second column, list your personal response to the points you brought up in the first column. Mention how your subjective values, experiences, and beliefs influence your response.
  • In the third and last column, describe how much of your personal response to share in your reflection paper.

Step 4 Ask yourself questions to guide your response.

  • Does the reading, lecture, or experience challenge you socially, culturally, emotionally, or theologically? If so, where and how? Why does it bother you or catch your attention?
  • Has the reading, lecture, or experience changed your way of thinking? Did it conflict with beliefs you held previously, and what evidence did it provide you with in order to change your thought process on the topic?
  • Does the reading, lecture, or experience leave you with any questions? Were these questions ones you had previously or ones you developed only after finishing?
  • Did the author, speaker, or those involved in the experience fail to address any important issues? Could a certain fact or idea have dramatically changed the impact or conclusion of the reading, lecture, or experience?
  • How do the issues or ideas brought up in this reading, lecture, or experience mesh with past experiences or readings? Do the ideas contradict or support each other?

Organizing a Reflection Paper

Step 1 Keep it short and sweet.

  • Verify whether or not your instructor specified a word count for the paper instead of merely following this average.
  • If your instructor demands a word count outside of this range, meet your instructor's requirements.

Step 2 Introduce your expectations.

  • For a reading or lecture, indicate what you expected based on the title, abstract, or introduction.
  • For an experience, indicate what you expected based on prior knowledge provided by similar experiences or information from others.

Step 3 Develop a thesis statement.

  • This is essentially a brief explanation of whether or not your expectations were met.
  • A thesis provides focus and cohesion for your reflection paper.
  • You could structure a reflection thesis along the following lines: “From this reading/experience, I learned...”

Step 4 Explain your conclusions in the body.

  • Your conclusions must be explained. You should provide details on how you arrived at those conclusions using logic and concrete details.
  • The focus of the paper is not a summary of the text, but you still need to draw concrete, specific details from the text or experience in order to provide context for your conclusions.
  • Write a separate paragraph for each conclusion or idea you developed.
  • Each paragraph should have its own topic sentence. This topic sentence should clearly identify your major points, conclusions, or understandings.

Step 5 Conclude with a summary.

  • The conclusions or understandings explained in your body paragraphs should support your overall conclusion. One or two may conflict, but the majority should support your final conclusion.

As You Write

Step 1 Reveal information wisely.

  • If you feel uncomfortable about a personal issue that affects the conclusions you reached, it is wisest not to include personal details about it.
  • If a certain issue is unavoidable but you feel uncomfortable revealing your personal experiences or feelings regarding it, write about the issue in more general terms. Identify the issue itself and indicate concerns you have professionally or academically.

Step 2 Maintain a professional or academic tone.

  • Avoid dragging someone else down in your writing. If a particular person made the experience you are reflecting on difficult, unpleasant, or uncomfortable, you must still maintain a level of detachment as you describe that person's influence. Instead of stating something like, “Bob was such a rude jerk,” say something more along the lines of, “One man was abrupt and spoke harshly, making me feel as though I was not welcome there.” Describe the actions, not the person, and frame those actions within the context of how they influenced your conclusions.
  • A reflection paper is one of the few pieces of academic writing in which you can get away with using the first person pronoun “I.” That said, you should still relate your subjective feelings and opinions using specific evidence to explain them. [8] X Research source
  • Avoid slang and always use correct spelling and grammar. Internet abbreviations like “LOL” or “OMG” are fine to use personally among friends and family, but this is still an academic paper, so you need to treat it with the grammatical respect it deserves. Do not treat it as a personal journal entry.
  • Check and double-check your spelling and grammar after you finish your paper.

Step 3 Review your reflection paper at the sentence level.

  • Keep your sentences focused. Avoid squeezing multiple ideas into one sentence.
  • Avoid sentence fragments. Make sure that each sentence has a subject and a verb.
  • Vary your sentence length. Include both simple sentences with a single subject and verb and complex sentences with multiple clauses. Doing so makes your paper sound more conversational and natural, and prevents the writing from becoming too wooden. [9] X Research source

Step 4 Use transitions.

  • Common transitional phrases include "for example," "for instance," "as a result," "an opposite view is," and "a different perspective is."

Step 5 Relate relevant classroom information to the experience or reading.

  • For instance, if reflecting on a piece of literary criticism, you could mention how your beliefs and ideas about the literary theory addressed in the article relate to what your instructor taught you about it or how it applies to prose and poetry read in class.
  • As another example, if reflecting on a new social experience for a sociology class, you could relate that experience to specific ideas or social patterns discussed in class.

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About This Article

Alicia Cook

To write a reflection paper, start with an introduction where you state any expectations you had for the reading, lesson, or experience you're reflecting on. At the end of your intro, include a thesis statement that explains how your views have changed. In the body of your essay, explain the conclusions you reached after the reading, lesson, or experience and discuss how you arrived at them. Finally, finish your paper with a succinct conclusion that explains what you've learned. To learn how to brainstorm for your paper, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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What Is a Reflection Essay?

Michael stratford, 25 jun 2018.

What Is a Reflection Essay?

A reflection essay, also called a reflective essay, is an exercise in introspection. It explores your personal thoughts, feelings and opinions about a topic and how it affects you. It also challenges your critical thinking about your own feelings, and, as the most free-flowing of all essays, is often the most enjoyable kind to write.

Explore this article

  • Reflection Needs a Thesis
  • A Thesis Needs Arguable Prongs
  • Writing the Reflection Essay
  • Reflection Essays Are Skillful Fun

1 Reflection Needs a Thesis

Unlike expository or persuasive essays, a reflection essay need not have specific proofs, quotations or facts to support its thesis because its subject is your personal opinion of an experience, news story, crisis situation or cultural event. It must still have a thesis statement that is arguable and branches into prongs -- separate topic areas -- through which you can make claims or voice ideas in support of your thesis.

2 A Thesis Needs Arguable Prongs

Expanding an opinion means explaining why you have that opinion in the first place. "I like 'Star Wars' movies" may be an opinion, but as a thesis it needs to include reasons for the "I like." It must begin to answer the "because" part of the question. "I enjoy the 'Star Wars' films for their unique characters, plot lines from ancient mythology and exciting action sequences" works well, since it expands the topic into three areas of reflection, each of which you now can address in separate paragraphs or sections of the essay.

3 Writing the Reflection Essay

Once the prongs of the essay are clear, you now can explore your own opinions of each point in separate sections. You might include examples of the characters, why you consider them unique, sample action sequences and why you feel they work viscerally. You also could include mythological references you discover, such as "Darth Vader is a Grendel archetype." Again, keep the discussion clearly centered on one prong of the thesis per paragraph or section. Reflection essays, if not well organized, tend to drift and lose focus.

4 Reflection Essays Are Skillful Fun

Reflection essays can be highly enjoyable. They hone your critical thinking skills, invite you to think and speak your own mind, and they're not judged with the stringency of research papers or expository essays. Opinions are what they are; no professor confronted with "I like Rocky Road ice cream and can prove why" will critique with "Wrong answer, should be chocolate chip." As long as your opinions are supported through a multiple-prong thesis, your reflection essay will succeed.

  • 1 DePaul University: Types of Writing: Reflective Essays
  • 2 University of North Carolina: The Writing Center: Thesis Statements

About the Author

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.

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Essay About Reflection: Top 5 Examples and 8 Prompts

If you want to write a reflective essay for your next writing project, here are examples of an essay about reflection and helpful prompts to get started.

Because writing helps us explore and organize our thoughts better, it’s the best way to express our reflection. However, not everyone finds it easy to convey what’s in their mind through words. 

Essays about reflections are personal, and you must know how to communicate through words effectively. Below are essay examples and writing prompts to help you create an eye-catching essay about reflection:

1. My Portfolio by Andrew Duffy

2. a community learning reflection by celeste angeles, 3. self reflection by lamar walton, 4. self-reliance by ralph waldo emerson, 5. what is value of life by jake johnson, 8 writing prompts on essay about reflection, 1. your role model and their effect on your decisions, 2. experiences you want to relive, 3. things you are grateful for, 4. your failures and how you picked yourself up , 5. memory you cherish the most, 6. the best advice someone has given you, 7. one thing you wish others knew about you, 8. your biggest personal success.

“Writing is not something that you leave behind after leaving school, so it is important that I take these skills… for the rest of my life. If I succeed in doing that, then I will always be prepared for any assignment that my field of interest throws at me.” 

In this essay, the author talks about his love for writing and how he improves his skills by taking different courses. Duffy reflects on how writing helped him develop critical thinking, comprehension, and grammar. It also taught him practical ways of drafting topics.

“…I learned that it is important to give back to our community… I learned that I enjoyed volunteering and missed doing something that I feel helps make a difference.”

Angeles shares how community services impacted her life. She mentions that it didn’t matter how much time she had to give up on volunteering. Instead, she sees volunteering as both fun and fulfilling. She says that if we love what we are doing, we always look for time to make it happen, even if it isn’t in our field of work.

“More people have to stand up and say that something has to be done. More have to come forth and show their support and cures. It was sad to read some of the things I read and saw, but one day all this will soon go to someone’s heart, causing them to either do something or make better choices.”

Walton discusses how sad he is for poor orphans with HIV/AIDS whose lives could be saved. However, since antiretrovirals are too expensive, most orphanages can’t afford the drug. He wrote the essay hoping that someday, someone would stand up to do something about this problem, and hopefully, people would at least try to prevent the spread of the disease.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own, but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

Emerson believes that we have to rely on ourselves instead of depending on others. To achieve freedom and independence, people must reflect on their thoughts and trust what is true to them.

“For decades, society has based the value of somebody’s life around the amount of money that person has and how popular the person is. That is wrong because the value of one’s life should be determined by how happy they are, the experiences they’ve had, and the relationships they’ve acquired.”

Johnson considers different viewpoints from famous individuals and literary works such as Steve Jobs and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He concludes that the essential thing in life is attitude and thinking positively since the value of life is so much more than our social status and financial situation.

Since reflective essays can seem a daunting task, we’ve compiled interesting essay prompts to create a piece that can grab your reader’s attention. 

Read our best essay writing tips to write excellent essays. 

Essay About Reflection: Your role model and their effect on your decisions

Writing an essay about a person you look up to is an excellent subject when writing a reflective essay. First, discuss your role model and the characteristics or traits you respect and admire. Then, explain why you hope to have those unique characteristics and how the individual influenced your decision-making and who you are today.

Sometimes we make mistakes, and hopefully, we can rewind time to correct our wrongs. On the other hand, some experiences make us so happy that we want to experience them over and over. 

Reflect on those thoughts and relay them through writing. Doing so can help lessen your guilt over your mistakes and help you reminisce great memories. Picking this topic may also persuade your readers to create unforgettable memories of their own or deal with the faults they’ve made.

Writing about the things you’re grateful for is therapeutic and makes you realize the positive things in your life. Incorporating it in your essay will also sway your readers to think about what they should appreciate in their life.

The things you’re grateful for can be small or big, already happened or still happening. Share your experience and why you consider these things important to who you are today.

Everyone faces and has experienced failures. This is why writing about it will help you immediately build a connection with your readers. First, be transparent about the failure, why it happened, what you felt, how it affected your life, and what you did to move on. Then, incorporate the lessons you’ve learned. 

Our memories are part of us and play a vital role in shaping our identity. Write about a core memory you will never forget, one you cherish, and why. It can be as simple as coming home to your mother cooking dinner or a time you visited a place you’ve always dreamt of. 

It can also be a sad memory that makes you realize a life lesson, such as falling out with someone who used to be your best friend or attending a funeral. Each individual’s experience has different meanings.

In dealing with life, we handle situations the way we see fit. Sometimes, we don’t know how to handle them at all. Write about a particular time in your life when you realize you’re in that very situation. 

During those challenging times, you might have received a piece of advice that helped you overcome the difficulties that you’re using to this day. Sharing the advice can even help your readers as well.

Some experiences help us be better people, while others ruin us. But, we must always learn from life experiences, whether good or bad.

In this essay topic, you can share one great experience, practice, or something that made you who you are now. You can also focus on a trait you want to be more prominent so people can stop a notion or assumption about you.

You cannot aim for success if you don’t look for it. So, reflect on what you consider your most significant personal success and why. You can also give tips on how you achieved that success. Your essay may even inspire and motivate your readers.

Are you feeling intimidated by the thought of writing essays? Then you can start with a 5-paragraph essay first .

what is reflection in essay

Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.

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Reflective essays

Purpose of each section of the essay

Reflective writing

  • » Learning journals
  • » Reflective essays

Reflective essays are academic essays; what makes an essay "good" will work for a reflective essay. What is different about a reflective essay is that the essay is about you and your thinking. However, you will need evidence from your course to back up your reflections.

You should structure a reflective essay as an essay, that is write to persuade your reader of your key reflections (or argument). The diagram above, details how to stucture your reflections through the essay. To find out more see the section on essay writing .

Business example

The following example comes from business. Thanks to Dr Colleen Hayes for the three samples.

Students were asked to write a reflective essay on their learning in the course by responding to the following question:

What key thing have you learned about corporate social responsibility in the course?

Example 1: Retelling

This writing is (1) descriptive/listing of content, not reflective and (2) not properly referenced (the definition of stakeholders is directly copied from Freeman in the lecture slides.

Example 2: Relating

This writing involves relating to personal experience and has some integration of course concepts (stakeholders).

Example 3: Reflecting

More reflective (forward-looking), better citation and integration of multiple course concepts, and reflection that links with personal experience.

An anthropology marking rubric

For this assessment, students were required to write a 1500-1800 word essay building on the themes of the course to address the question "We are all pirates". Attached under reference documents is the rubric used to mark the essay (thanks to Dr Caroline Schuster). Notice that it requires both the reflection (reflect, relate and retell) as well as the poor traditional requirements of an essay (Writing and organisation, Supporting claims with scholarly sources).

Reference documents

Use contact details to request an alternative file format.


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what is reflection in essay

What Is a Reflection Essay and Why Do I Have to Write It?

Academic writing involves various types of essays. Even though the most recurrent type is a research essay, you would have to write a bunch of reflections during your uni years. At first glance, they might seem pretty easy and do not give many benefits in the long run.

However, there is much to learn about reflection essays and gain new skills from this format. So, here is a comprehensive explanation of what a reflection essay is and why you need to write it.

what is reflection in essay

What is a reflection essay?

Reflective writing is rooted in awareness and deep analysis of thoughts and emotions. You’d need to be sure that your essay is deeply engaged with the source, so do not hesitate to buy an essay online to trust this analysis with professionals. Especially considering that reflective writing can take a lot of time.

The reflection essay consists of two main elements:

  • describing your experience with a certain event or piece of media
  • analyzing said experience

Hence, a reflection essay is a writing assignment that requires you to describe what happened, what you think, and how you feel about it and analyze those thoughts and feelings.

Reflection is organizing all thoughts and emotions in a constructive description and analysis. Do not confuse it with journaling that involves reflection but does not require structure. A reflective essay has specific requirements and guidelines to follow. So do not get carried away too much by the freedom that reflective writing proposes.

The specificities of reflection

Do not forget that your reflection essay still has to be based on the thesis statement. It is your personal evaluation, but there has to be a central theme reflected in one well-thought-out thesis. Concentrate on the main thought around your reflective process and craft a mockup of your thesis.

You will also need to follow your typical five-paragraph structure of the essay to organize your thoughts. Note that this is always followed by professional writers, as you can see in the essay hub review of services. Thus, the academic reflection still abides by the introduction-3 body paragraphs-conclusion structure.

Still, the body paragraphs differ from your typical argumentative essay. In the first one, you would need to describe the matter of the reflection. The second one involves how you feel about it and what you think about it. And the third is your analysis of the thoughts and feelings.

what is reflection in essay

Critical observation

One of the most significant benefits of reflective writing is developing critical observation. By gradually describing and analyzing events or pieces of media, you’re able to enhance your awareness about certain things and be more attentive to details.

For example, if you’re training yourself to reflect on certain events, you can pinpoint why something happened. It helps you to understand the topic not only from the research perspective but on a more personal level. Thus, a reflection essay helps you to uncover the “why?” behind certain events, actions, or reactions.

Plus, you’ll be more in tune with your surroundings and the people around you. The trained ability to reflect on yourself and your environment makes you more aware and conscious. For once, you can understand someone’s unique experience better if you give yourself time to reflect on it. Hence, writing reflection papers is useful for honing interpersonal skills as well.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Reflection Essay

Writing an essay including reflections of your own experiences and feelings can be a challenging task. As a writer, you must maintain a thought-provoking and insightful approach and avoid common mistakes that can take away from the quality of your work. To write an effective reflection essay, here are some essential tips to help guide you:

  • Keep it personal: While reflections don’t have to be purely autobiographical, it is important to write from your own personal experience; otherwise, it can feel like the reflection lacks authenticity.
  • Avoid rehashing facts: Reflection essays go beyond simply reflecting on facts that occurred in the past—they should also interpret them in order to draw meaningful conclusions about them. Don’t merely restate events without offering your perspective on why they happened or what lessons might be drawn from them.
  • Don’t use cliches or universal statements: Reflections should offer interesting insights based on unique experiences—avoid regurgitating cliched expressions or platitudes that do not add any real value to the piece.
  • Make sure there is a clear structure: Before writing, consider how you want to organize your thoughts into an effective structure; this will help create a strong foundation for developing a coherent essay that successfully communicates its underlying message(s).
  • Be mindful of grammar and spelling mistakes : If a reader finds grammatical errors or typos throughout the text, they may be less likely to trust its actual content—be sure to make proofreading your work part of the writing process!

what is reflection in essay

Crafting your self-expression

Finally, the reflection essay is about your self-expression. It is the one type of academic paper that actively involves your personal perspective on things. Thus, you can learn how to form your opinions concisely and engagingly, which will be a huge asset when entering the job market.

The trick of reflective writing is being self-aware and using your feelings to your advantage instead of letting them cloud your judgment. You can describe a heartbreaking event by using the most effective language to translate how you feel about it. You can literally develop the skill of punching with words.

A reflection essay still requires you to stay within academic limitations in your expression. It gives you enough freedom to experiment with how you want to present yourself. Thus, you develop a skill of constant self-awareness and analysis that will help you in your life even after uni.

The bottom line

And that’s about it. A reflection essay includes describing certain events or pieces of media and analyzing personal feelings and thoughts on the matter critically. This type of writing still requires following the typical academic essay structure. But it involves description, explanation, and analysis of your thoughts and feelings.

The primary benefits of the reflection essay are enhancing your critical observation and helping to craft your best self-reflection. Keep this in mind when opening up your document to write your next assignment, and be sure to sharpen highly needed analytical and rhetoric skills.


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Reflection as a tool for constructing meaning from experience

Campground debrief, students reflect on their day at the Spring 2023 Experiential Leadership Intensive, Sylvan Dale Ranch, Loveland, CO. “It is the sin of the soul to force young people into opinions…but it is culpable neglect not to impel young people into experiences.” – Kurt Hahn, German educator, and founder of Outward Bound
“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer
“Knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” – David A. Kolb, American psychologist, professor, and educational theorist

Hahn and Dewey were onto something in the first half of the 20 th century and helped lay the foundation for experiential learning theory and practice as we know it today—students learn and create knowledge through a concrete experience, and by reflecting on and making meaning of the experience they can transfer and apply new understandings to future situations.

leadership challenge course debrief, students reflect on their group experience at the Fall 2023 Experiential Leadership Intensive, Outdoor Pursuits Challenge Course, CU Boulder Campus.

Leadership challenge course debrief, students reflect on their group experience at the Fall 2023 Experiential Leadership Intensive, Outdoor Pursuits Challenge Course, CU Boulder Campus.

Harvey et al. (2016) define reflection as the intentional process of engaging a student’s cognitive, emotional, and physical capacities to mindfully consider past experiences to learn, grasp and potentially improve future actions. Active reflection enhances both classroom and experiential learning by helping students connect their experience and ideas to future contexts (Kolb & Kolb, 2018).

While the importance of reflection can be critical to learning, it is easy to neglect if dedicated time and space are not provided for it to occur. Intentional and active reflection can take several forms, from prompted writing and journaling to facilitated dialogue, and needn’t be complex or burdensome to include in a course or program.

One of many approaches, Borton’s (1970) model for reflection is commonly used in experiential education settings due to its ease of application and includes three primary questions to pose to students – What? So What? and Now What?

The integration of reflection in the learning process, regardless of the form or model utilized, can aid students in constructing meaning from their experience—thereby creating new knowledge and skills to be applied in other areas of their lives.

Seth Webb serves as the Director of Experiential Education in the CU Boulder Center for Leadership . The mission of the Center for Leadership is to invest in the leadership potential of all students and develop ethical, impactful leaders.

Borton, T. (1970). Reach, touch and teach: Student concerns and process education . McGraw- Hill.

Harvey, M., Coulson, D., & McMaugh, A. (2016). Towards a theory of the ecology of reflection: Reflective practice for experiential learning in higher education. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 13(2), 3-22.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice Hall.

Kolb, A., & Kolb, D. (2018). Eight important things to know about the experiential learning cycle. Australian Educational Leader, 40 (3), 8-14.

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  4. 50 Best Reflective Essay Examples (+Topic Samples)

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  5. How to Write a Reflection Paper in 5 Steps (plus Template and Sample Essay)

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    The Power of Self-Reflection Students can get more out of college when they reflect on the value of learning. ... What intrigues me most about these CPL portfolios is the reflection essays.

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    Writing reflectively Reflective Assessments Video summary Bibliography On this page: What is reflection? Why do it? Why reflect? "Whether we focus on problematic experiences or positive ones, reflecting on them will provide us with opportunities for growth and development." Bassot, The reflective journal What is reflection? Why do it?

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    Reflect on those thoughts and relay them through writing. Doing so can help lessen your guilt over your mistakes and help you reminisce great memories. Picking this topic may also persuade your readers to create unforgettable memories of their own or deal with the faults they've made. 3. Things You Are Grateful For.

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