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Don’t Know How to Write a Good Reflective Essay? That Could be a Problem

  • Author: Veronica
  • July 05, 2017
Don’t Know How to Write a Good Reflective Essay? That Could be a Problem

Just what is a Reflection Essay?


It’s kind of a common assignment, especially when you get to college. And it’s not tough to understand. You will be given a piece to read or view, or you will be involved in some type of field experience, and then you be asked to reflect on it in an essay or paper. That reflection is your personal reaction to your experience.

How to write a reflection essay


Good News and Bad News

The good news is that reflective essay writing does not require any more research than what is already in your head.  No looking up resource material, taking notes, and being mindful of citations and plagiarism. A reflection essay is a personal reaction to an experience you have had – from reading an article or book, watching a speech or a movie, or from some personal experience, such as student teaching, a field trip, or an internship.

The bad news is that the reflective essay can be tough to write. You will not be organizing information and data that others have provided. You will be organizing your own thoughts in a logical, fluent way. And sometimes emotions are involved. While describing your emotions during an experience is important, they cannot “muddy the waters” so much that your reader does not get a full “picture.”  

With all of this in mind, let’s unpack the process for writing a solid reflective essay.

How to Write a Reflective Essay

Taking Notes

First things first. You have to understand what you have read or viewed. It’s a good idea to take some notes in the process, especially of those things that had an impact on you. If, for example, you are going to write a reflective essay on a movie, it would be a good thing to view that movie twice – once for a general reaction and then once while you take your notes. The same goes for a book. Part of understanding how to write a reflective essay on a book or movie involves knowing that detail must be provided. If there were parts that support your reaction, you need to reference them.

If you are writing about an experience, such as attending a speech or participating in a field experience, you cannot re-create that experience. You need to make a note of those things that impacted you as that experience occurs. You won’t get a second chance. 

Sometimes it may not be possible to take notes during an experience. In this case, make your notes as soon after the experience as possible so that you will trigger your memory later on when you begin to compose the essay.

Questions to Ask

Before you worry about how to start a reflective essay, you have some work to do. Start by asking yourself some general questions:

  1. What is my overall response?

  2. How did the experience make me feel in general – happy, sad, inspired, motivated, bored, energized, etc.?

  3. Has this experience changed me in some way – do I have a different opinion about something? Did it change the bias or prejudice I previously held?

  4. If I was unaffected by the movie, book, or experience, why? Perhaps it was something in which you had no interest at all, and reading, viewing, or experiencing didn’t change your opinion at all.

Write down your answers to these questions. These will begin to form the points you will make in your reflection paper essay.

Remember, in a reflective essay, you should focus only on your reaction, and your reactions will be the points you make.

Organizing Your Thoughts

Don’t worry about the introduction to reflective essay pieces in the beginning. You really want to focus on your body paragraphs first. This is typical of most essays and papers you write in school.

Let’s suppose you have finished a field experience for an education class. You spent a week observing in an actual classroom. Now it is time to write a good reflection paper on all that you observed. You will want to ask yourself the questions above, but also formulate some questions based on the topic itself:

  • How did you feel about the management of the classroom?

  • How did the teacher accommodate the individual needs of students?

  • Were the learning activities engaging?

These three questions can give you the structure of your essay – three major sections. So, how do you write a reflective essay? Pretty much the same way you write any essay. The only different thing is the content and resource (you).

Reflective Essay Writing Tips

Here are some basic tips for writing a reflection paper.

  1. Your introduction to a reflective essay should focus more on the first questions listed above. You want to give a general impression, and the answers to those three questions will give you your thesis statement. This should answer your question, “How do I start a reflective essay?”

  2. In writing reflective essay pieces, be certain that you have at least three main points to make and that they are backed up with enough detail to prove what you say.

  3. Be careful not to contradict yourself. If your introduction of a reflection paper has spoken to being inspired by a book, movie, speech, or other experience, then do not include a paragraph with statements and detail about being bored or uninterested.

  4. A good reflective essay is honest and genuine. Do not make stuff up just to have a reaction. If you were not impacted by something, you need to say so and why. Come up with three reasons why you were unmoved and address them directly in the body paragraphs of your reflective piece.

Taking a Look at How to Start a Reflection Paper

The Importance of an Outline

While you may feel like you can jump right into your reflective essay, don’t. You need a plan, just like you would for any essay you write. In short, you need an outline. This gives you a clear and logical line of thought – one that your reader can follow. Usually, this is an outline. It doesn’t have to be formal, but it does have to list the points you plan to cover and in what order you will do so. And it will save you time in the long run.

The Format

You should use the same format that you do for any essay you write – Introduction, body, and conclusion. Write the body paragraphs first – you’ve heard this before.

The Introduction

Once you are ready to compose your reflective essay introduction, remember what you have been taught about them. You need a “hook” to grab your reader’s attention. Maybe you can find a quote that sums up how the experience has impacted you somehow or some bias that has been challenged. Here’s a simple example. Suppose you have recently watched the entire Shrek movie series. You thought these were just for children. As you watched them, though, you began to realize a couple of things – there was some humor that adults would “get” that children might not. And there was some solid social commentary as well. You might speak to this in your introduction. “Who would have thought that Shrek would become one of my favorite film series? I can hardly wait for the next one.” This should lead to your thesis statement. Should all adults watch the series? Why? But don’t give away too much detail here!

The Conclusion

Here, you want to focus on giving a summary of the points you made. Also, spend some time speaking about how you were changed (or not) by the experience. 

Are You Struggling? Check Some Reflective Essay Examples

What may have seemed like an easy assignment has turned out to be not so simple. One thing that may help is to find and review some personal reflective essay examples. They are all over the internet. Look for an example related to the type of essay you must craft – a book, movie, article, speech, or physical experience. Having a few sample models always helps.

Still Need Help?

You may not know how to write a good reflection paper because you have not had enough experience writing them. Perhaps your English composition skills are not what they should be. You have lots of company here. Rather than agonize over your assignment, get some reflective essay help. There are lots of solid writing services out there, and you can find the best writing websites by checking out some writing service review sites. You will be able to get the professional help you need while you develop your own skills.