How to Write a Reflection Essay Like a Pro  

Reflection essay..umh

“You miss your mom.”Those are some of the common contents of a diary. Do you have a diary? Yes? No? Never?

If you do, then you wrote about your daily experiences or recorded something that happened in the past. Unlike a diary, a reflection essay tends to explore your interpretation of an experience.

So if you miss your mum, how does that make you feel?

It’s that simple. In this reflection paper, y

What is a reflection essay?

According to edutechwiki, a reflective paper is paper that is meant to help individuals or learners reflection their experience or actions.

The essay is used to test your creativity and critical thinking of a subject. The subject can be anything on the planet (even traveling to mars) and your interpretation of it.

If you are in a history class, you may be asked to write a reflection essay on a history subject. This is the same with the other classes; psychology, literature, business, law, management and so forth.

How do you write a reflection paper step by step?

Step 1# Examine the question

Before you write anything, you have to understand the reflection question. What does it seek to answer? Example of an essay question:

Identify and discuss a historic figure whose contributions made his/her community thrive economically.

  • This question is specific – a historic figure (could be anyone, any gender, from any century)
  • Contributions – what did they do
  • How did their actions affect the economy of the community?

Personal information about the historical figure is not essential to such a question.

Step #2 Identify the events you want to reflect on


If the assignment’s question is specific, then you don’t have much choice. But if it’s a general reflection essay question, then you need to identify the specific event you want to reflect on.

We are still using the same essay question – Identify and discuss a historical figure whose contributions made his/her community thrive economically.

Pick anyone. I know you can be overwhelmed by a list of many people but just pick anyone that comes to your mind. Then stick with that. In our sample reflective essay, we chose John Rolfe.

In short,  reflection essay topic may vary depending on the instructions

Step 3# Ask yourself questions based on the event

To give the reader (professor/tutor) of the reflective essay a clear understanding of the reflection, you need to ask ‘who, what, where, when, how, and why’ is related to the event.

Such questions will give specific details about the event you want to reflect on. If you are familiar with the event you want to reflect on, then you don’t have to do research but if you aren’t then this is the time to head to the library.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is (John Rolfe)?
  • Which community did he change (Virginia)?
  • What did he do to make (Virginia) thrive economically?
  • When was that (year or period)?
  • How did he do it (actions)?
  • Why did he do it?

From the questions, you should come up with the main points related to your reflection.

Step #4 Make the reader understand who the subject is in the reflection essay

Just assume that your lecturer has no idea about your experience or the event you want to reflect on. How would you describe it to them?

Reflection essay sample

The description should be clear and specific for the reader to understand.

For example: see the bolded words in the sample.

John Rolfe’s legacy and impact in America’s development cannot be underestimated.  His work began in the early 17th century when he settled in James town, Virginia.  Prior to settling in Virginia, Tobacco growing was dominated by the Spanish and the Native Americans (Britannica., 2008). But once he began and soon dominated the colonies, tobacco production increased along with its fragrance and quality.  In fact, Rolfe takes the credit for teaching the Native Americans the different brands of tobacco.  While he was growing tobacco, Rolfe decided to involve himself in politics, and that is when he enhanced the exportation of tobacco to England (Wisconsin Historical Society., 2017).

The reader of the reflection essay can clearly identify who the subject is, what, where and how he contributed towards economic growth.

Step #5 Compare, contrast and relate to the subject

The most important part of a reflection essay are the subjects, their actions, and results of their actions. You need to give details of their actions and describe to the reader how this actions affected them.

Tooltip:  A subject can be a book, a person, an event, an essay, or a story

Let’s say you are writing a reflection paper on how moving from one town to another affected your life while growing up. One of the main points could be you didn’t have many friends while growing up. Why didn’t you have friends?

Probably when you were just about to make one, it was already packing time. So you had to start all over again. With time you gave up trying.

To support your point you should give a real-life example of how you got frustrated making new friends over and over again.

Step 6# Relate your points to literature

Just like other academic essays, you still need to relate your points to published literature. The only exception is when writing a reflection essay is based on your personal experiences.

But it’s always advisable to have relevant references even when writing personal experiences.

Step 7# Tense that you should use

Because a reflective essay is based on the past, most of your sentences will be in the past tense. Present tense is used when you are quoting from a source

For example

“In his book, Sam says…”

Future tense is used when making a conclusive statement about your reflection. For instance,

“What you would do differently or what you hope to achieve”

Step 8# Points of View

In the previous point, we noted that you should not use the first person when writing an academic essay but that is not necessarily right.

You can use first person (I, My, We) when describing your personal experience and third person (John Rolfe, He/she, they) when giving details of another person’s opinion or experiences. Just like everything else, don’t overdo it. Starting every sentence with “I”? Not cool!

If the reflection is based on another subject then still use the subject’s actions to come up with a conclusive statement.

Related:  14 Secrets Ways to Write a Winning Academic Essay

Reflective Paper Language

Just because you get a free pass on using the first-person point of view doesn’t mean you should write the essay using informal writing.

It is still an academic paper so avoid fillers, colloquial phrases, and using words that add no meaning to the sentences.

There is no right or wrong opinion in a reflection essay

Lastly, as long as your views are related to the reflection and you have supporting events then there is no wrong or right opinion.

The basis of a reflective essay as stated above is to make you think (critically and creatively) about a situation in the past, analyze and give your opinion.

 Related:  How to Write an Argumentative College Essay

How do you start a reflective essay?

Before starting your reflection essay, you need to understand that it’s personal and aimed at keeping the reader on point. While it may be easy to write the body of your reflection essay, starting the reflection essay is tough.

The introduction of a reflection essay all depends on your creativity and experience. Better yet, you might consider retelling a story. Begin by thinking how a certain situation affected your life. For example, you might be asked to write a reflective paper on your journey to the museum. In this scenario, it may be important for you to think about how the museum made you feel.

However, the key for you is not to engage the reader in a story telling session. What’s important is for you to relate your experience with the situation.

If I were you, I would begin the first paragraph with an overview of what your experience made you feel.  Remember to add the thesis statement.

What is the purpose of a reflective essay?

When the teacher assigns the reflective essay to the student, they expect to get a deeper understanding into your experience. Unlike common school assignment, reflections are also used by businesses to improve people’s learning experience.

On the basic level, reflection essays asks you to do the summary of an event or piece of literature and relate it your experience.  However, on a professional level, reflection may be used by social workers to explain their reaction to a specific environmental issue.

In business writing, people may use reflections to focus on what they are doing well and what they are doing badly.  The idea is to improve their settings.  Surprisingly, some reflections may include emotional experiences.

In the educational setting, the teacher may ask you to write a reflection on your course or semester.  Writing about your experience for the semester is important because it can help the teacher prepare a better next semester or even help you prepare for your next semester.

Sample introduction for a reflective essay

Example #1

As an Electrical Engineering major, I have learnt that creativity and openness is important in acquiring knowledge.  As Sir Francis Bacon used to say, “Knowledge is power,” I have always wanted to understand the true meaning of study for more than just marks.  It is important to interpret this idea while reflecting on the role a major in Electrical Engineering has played on my views.

Example #2

I have been studying at the Santa Monica College for 6 semesters and from my experience, I have achieved more than I thought. I joined this college through a scholarship and I already knew that I wanted to study psychology.  As psychology major, I have learnt the importance of understanding others while remaining passionate to their needs.  More importantly, I have through my 6 semesters improved my writing

What do you write in a reflection?

It would be a good of an idea for you to be calm before writing your essay. Although there is a normal pattern for reflection essay, most instructions are unique and different.

When writing your paper, focus on the most important personal experiences but avoid using details that other people may not related with. Be objective but not too biased. Do not focus on what you did not like.  Some of your audience may have traumatizing experiences and touching on the difficult experience may be bad for your essay.

You don’t have to be perfect in your writing. The point of your reflective writing is to help you get better in the writing exercise, do not over think.

How do you finish a reflection essay?

To conclude you reflective essay, it is recommended for you to recount the meaning of the experiences or events.  Ask yourself questions like:

  1. What did I gain from the experience? 
  2. How did the events change you?
  3. What would you have improved in a different situation?
  4. How it impacted your personal life. 

If you answer this, you are well on your way to a winning reflection essay.

Do reflective essays have references?

Using references in a reflective is depends on the topic. When asked to work on a reflective paper after reading a book or piece of literature, it’s recommended that you cite the book accordingly.  However, when writing a paper on your experience, better not use the references.

Can you use I in a reflective essay

Yes. Since reflective essays focus on personal opinions, it would not be a bad idea to use first person tense.  As a disclaimer, different universities have different requirement for personal essays.  Make sure to check with your instructor before anything.

Reflective essay template Introduction


Overview: “I have been reading the Shakespeare’s book for over 5 years now from high school to college and I relate too much in Hamlet’s book. I read to the book, Hamlet is struggling with a personal issue.   Continue your overview and give a general background on your experiences.

Thesis statement: Create a clear thesis statement here summarizing your reflection in one or two sentences.


Paragraph 1

Topic Sentence: Begin with a simple summary of what you will cover in the paragraph.   Take one specific angle and focus on it. Do not mix ideas in the paragraph. Unlike other assignments, you do not have to give evidence, but you can include a story. Recount your story and relate it to the specific idea in that paragraph.  Conclude with a sentence that relates to the topic you initially chose.

Paragraph 2:

Repeat the same thing for paragraph two and follow exactly the same thing as you did in the first paragraph.


Recount your story or thesis statement in one or two sentences.

Example reflective essay

Example1 #: Reflection Essay on Rhetorical Analysis Group Assignment  

Not that this was my first group assignment; but, I feel as if this is one of the assignments that has had much effect on my academic life and social skills as well. I came to learn the truth behind the statement that ‘more than one mind is the best for each situation’. During this project, while I was confident in my skills in rhetorical analysis, it turned out that I had only mastered the most common one which are the rhetorical appeals; pathos, logos, and ethos.
Therefore, identifying these three appeals was rather easy for me, and I explained them to my partner in a manner that he could understand. On the other hand, my partners knew very little of these appeals; but, unlike me, he had the idea of the existence of other appeals. While I disregarded the rest of the strategies, my partner succeeded in convincing me that one can appeal to the audience using symbolism, analogies, and parallelism, among others using examples. At this point, I learned that if one’s group work is to succeed one must possess the necessary convincing skills and that the better approach to persuading others is by having information on the fingertips. After I was convinced that there were other appeals, we decided that each one of us was to do individual studies on the subject of rhetorical analysis using the available resources in the school library.
As a result of the large number of information that I had to ready, I learned the skills of reading such as scanning and skimming in search of points. Also, I learned the process of note-taking where I noted the important points from my sources waiting to present them during the group meetings. Lastly, by working in a group, I come to learn how to analyze one’s points especially through grouping related points, explanations and examples supporting these points.
In short, my experience in this group assignment has been extremely amazing. I have learnt how to work with others while analyzing related issues.

Example #2: Reflection Essay on Experience Gained from the Writing Center

Writing centers are maintained by majority of the educational institutions since the core values of these centers purposely provide learners with aids concerning various fields such as web pages, report writings and projects. Main objective of the writing centers is to enhance proper bestowment of knowledge.  Running errands at the working center for a considerable period of time has not only enhanced my skills pertaining to school work but also has improved my professional skills. My academic skills have improved drastically now that I have to concentrate on blunders I make. My view has been impacted concerning excellent and worthwhile writer. Through this writing centers, I am capable of producing better results as well as modified my approach towards writing.
Notably changes concerning my intake for writers was transformed as I came to note a good writer was not only exquisite unless evolution was evident throughout the learning process.  Constantly, changes must take place for one to get on the right truck. Individuals who considered working with me had a strong will of persistently visiting repeatedly for critical assessment of information they produced. No wonder from the period I worked at the center hence forth my colleagues have since had iron clad request to peruse my work constantly. Specific papers I strife has been analyzed by more than five students so as to improve my understanding. Similarly, this was depicted from authors who have their books viewed by almost four or more parties. Evaluation of many gives goo results has since been my motto.
             Experience on knowledge of comparison and contrast was farther acquired at the center. Probably in order to understand how the above work in the essay I had to elaborate the meaning first. I had to note the relationship falling out between contrast and compare. When I want to use the idea of comparing and contrasting what I first do is acquire the idea first, that later can help to raise argument. It is very easy for me to note subject-verb concordance mistakes through the papers. I noted a number of words that work perfectly in contrast and compare and they included similarly, in the same way, compared with, and contrasted with, on the other and many more.
Persistently, I have had grammatical errors and mistakes in sentences. Although improvement on my writing has been noted.  Plans are underway to subdue such mistakes in future. My philosophy is that when I expect to teach other so I must be willing to make myself learn from as it was one alluded no man is an island.

Sample reflection essay questions

Below is a list of 10 questions that you may encounter in your college.

  1. Identify the main experiences that helped you during the trip to Mexico
  2. From your trip to Africa, what have you learnt both about yourself? And your family.
  3. What is your most important experience in your way to the museum?
  4. After reading the book about nature, what did you learn?
  5. The experience to visit your grandma was amazing. But what could you have done to make the vacation better?
  6. What did you learn from your last college? And what will you do to make your experience at UC Davis better?
  7. After your visit to the Madison square garden last week, what did you learn?
  8. What do you think after watching the ‘Black Panther’ at the Imax
  9. Write a reflection essay on the importance of social media on your life a student.
  10. Write a reflection essay on the most important events in your life.

To Wrap up

Reflection writing can be easier than it is now.  Take everything one step at a time and improve your writing skills.  If you need help with writing your draft, head over to and  you will get matched with a writer.  Otherwise, if you have a question or something to say, leave you comment below.

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