What Is a Reflective Essay?

Reflective essays ask you to talk about your own emotions or experiences. It’s essentially a tool for personal reflection.

Sometimes the essay explores how an event, experience, or idea affects the author. Oftentimes it details the author’s growth over time. Either way, reflective essays offer a place to chart one’s personal development for the benefit of others.

Here are some tips to help you write a reflective essay:

  1. Select one aspect of your life
  2. Keep a journal
  3. Analyze your experience

  1. Select one Aspect of Your Life
  2. Reflective essays are focused on aspect of your life. Pay attention to the guidelines. Your assignment may ask you to focus on some particular event or experience. If it doesn’t, here are some areas you can focus on:

    • A powerful experience
    • An experience that helped you grow
    • A book or movie that changed how you see the world
    • A person that taught you something about life
    • An event that shocked you

  3. Keep a Journal
  4. Reflective essays are essentially personal, which is why they are often compared to journals and why keeping a journal will help you write one. Just remember: a journal is different than a diary. Don’t write down every experience or thought that comes into your head. Instead focus on the details that relate to your essay topic.

    Even when writing about something other than your own personal growth, the important thing about a reflective essay is to focus on your own emotions or insights. Unless you write them down, they might escape you. Even if the experience you’re writing about happened long ago, thoughts may come and go. It’s good to have a journal to jot down those thought when they come.

  5. Analyze Your Experience
  6. Simply listing emotions or thoughts isn’t enough. You are, after all, being asked to write an essay, not a journal. Instead, tie your emotions or thoughts together and analyze the experience as a coherent whole.

    The best essays provide a narrative of sorts. How did you see the world before the experience happened? How do you see the world after? Reflective essays are great ways to chart your personal development or growth over time. If you can organize your thoughts and emotions into one overarching narrative, you’ll make your essay stand out of the pile.