A Guide to Reflective Essay Writing

Reflective essays are very similar to other types of writing assignments. The big difference is that they require students to reflect upon their learning experiences and integrate them into their thinking.


In addition, these papers require students to show evidence of critical thinking, synthesis, analysis, evaluation and application.

When writing a reflection paper, it helps to begin with a clear thesis statement. This means that students should begin by identifying a central idea, or theme, that is supported throughout the paper.


Then, students should organize the body of their paper around this central idea. Finally, the conclusion section should summarize both the topic and the central idea. This guide will discuss how to write an excellent reflective essay.

What Is Reflective Essay Writing?

The term “reflective” refers to the process of reflecting on one’s thoughts and actions. It also implies that students can analyze their own beliefs and attitudes to make changes.


This type of writing assignment requires students to think critically about their ideas and opinions.

This can be difficult for many people because we often have strong feelings about things. However, when writing a reflective essay, students must try to remain objective. They need to keep an open mind and avoid getting caught up in their emotions.


Students who struggle with this task may benefit from using some self-reflection techniques. For example, they could ask themselves questions such as: What am I feeling right now? Why does this matter to me?

Writing a good reflective essay involves more than just stating your opinion on a particular issue. Students should consider all sides of the argument in their reflective essay.


They should also take time to identify what they learned during the semester. By doing so, students can use their reflections to improve their understanding of the subject matter.

Once you understand the purpose of a reflective essay, you can start brainstorming topics for your paper.


There are several different ways to approach a reflective essay. You might want to choose a specific topic that interests you, or you could simply pick something at random.

Regardless of which method you decide to use, remember that you don’t have to stick to one specific format.


Models Of Reflection That Could Be Used

There are different models that you could use to structure your reflective essay. Here are a few of them:

Brookfield’s Model of Reflection

This model was developed by Brookfield (1962). In his book, he suggests that there are four steps involved in the process of reflection.


First, students must define the problem. Then, they should describe their initial reactions to the situation. Next, they should explain why they feel the way they do. Finally, they should provide suggestions for future action.

In other words, students should first identify the problem, then explain their reasons for having those feelings, and finally suggest solutions to the problem.


Atkins & Murphy Model Of Reflection

Atkins and Murphy (1991) developed a model that is based on the work of Brookfield. Their model includes five stages:

1. Identify The Problem

Students must first recognize that they have a problem before they can begin to reflect.


2. Describe The Problem

Students must describe the problem in detail. This step helps them clarify their thoughts and feelings.

3. Analyze The Problem

Students must examine the causes of the problem.


4. Evaluate The Solution

Students must evaluate possible solutions to the problem. These include both positive and negative aspects of each idea.

5. Make A Decision 

Students must choose among various options.


Gibbs Reflective Cycle

The Gibbs cycle (Gibbs, 1965) is another model that can help students organize their ideas for a reflective essay. It consists of three phases:

Phase 1 – Define The Problem 

The first phase of this model requires students to define the problem clearly. They should be able to state exactly what it is that they need to learn about a certain topic.


Phase 2 – Explain The Problem

After defining the problem, students should explain how they feel about it. They should write down any emotions that they experience while thinking about the problem.

Phase 3 – Suggest Solutions 

Once they’ve explained their feelings, students should come up with potential solutions to the problem. They may even find additional problems that they didn’t think of originally.


Johns’ Model Of Reflection

Johns (1993) has developed a model that emphasizes the importance of self-reflection. His model involves six steps:

Step 1: Determine The Goal 

Students must determine their goals for writing a reflective essay. For example, they may want to improve their academic performance or develop better study habits.


Step 2: Establish The Context 

Students must establish the setting in which they will conduct their reflections. This means that they must consider factors such as time constraints, the type of assignment, and the purpose of the assignment.

Step 3: Select An Issue 

Students must select one specific issue to focus on during their reflections.


Step 4: Develop A Plan 

Students must create a plan for conducting their research. They should determine who they will interview, what questions they will ask, where they will look for information, and so forth.

Step 5: Conduct Interviews 

Students must conduct interviews with people who are knowledgeable about the selected issue.


Step 6: Write Your Reflection 

Students must coherently write their reflections.

Kolb’s Reflective Learning Cycle

The Kolb learning cycle (Kolb, 1984) is similar to Johns’ model because it also focuses on the importance of planning and organizing activities.


However, it differs from Johns’ model in that it emphasizes the importance of identifying the learner’s current level of knowledge before beginning a new activity. In other words, students begin by observing themselves and then move on to more abstract concepts.

Students start by becoming aware of their knowledge and skills. Then, they observe themselves using these skills.


Next, they reflect upon their observations and attempt to identify the underlying reasons why they behaved in the way they did. Finally, they use this understanding to change their behavior.

These models will help you develop an outline for your reflective essay. If you’re struggling to figure out where to start, try using one of these models as a starting point.


The Structure Of A Reflective Essay

Reflective essays have three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. Each part has its structure. Here is a brief description of each section.


This is usually written at the very beginning of the paper. It provides background information about the topic and explains how the student became interested in it.


Main Body

This is the most important part of the essay. The writer describes his/her thoughts and experiences related to the topic. You can include any number of examples and details here.


This is the final paragraph of the essay. It summarizes the key points discussed in the body of the paper.


Writing Tips & Strategies

There are many different ways to approach a reflective essay. These tips will help you get started.

1. Start With An Idea

Before you even think about writing your reflective essay, you need to know what you want to say.


2. Think About Your Purpose

Your purpose for writing the essay should be clear. What do you hope to accomplish? Why are you doing this project?

3. Plan Ahead

You should have a general idea of what you want to cover in your essay. Make sure that you have enough time to complete it.


4. Be Specific

Be specific when describing events or situations. Don’t just tell readers what happened. Instead, describe the event in detail.

5. Use Examples

Use concrete examples whenever possible. This helps make your ideas easier to understand.


6. Focus On One Issue At A Time

Don’t try to address too many topics at once. Choose one issue and focus on it throughout the entire paper.

7. Write Clearly

Make sure that your writing is easy to read. Avoid long sentences and complex vocabulary.


8. Proofread Before Submission

Read over your work carefully before submitting it. Look for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and other problems.

9. Use Appropriate Formatting

Always follow the formatting guidelines provided with your course materials. For example, if you’re writing a research paper, always cite sources within the text.


10. Include References

Include all relevant sources (books, articles, websites) in your bibliography. Remember to provide full citations.

11. Keep It Organized

Keep track of all your sources by using a separate document. Try to keep your notes organized so that you don’t forget anything.


12. Read Other Student Papers

Reading other students’ papers can give you valuable insight into effective writing techniques.

13. Ask Questions

If you have questions about the assignment, ask them! Many professors are willing to help their students learn more about academic writing.


14. Get Feedback

Ask your professor for feedback after completing the assignment. He/she may offer suggestions on how to improve your writing.

15. Revise As Needed

Revising your paper will ensure that you meet all requirements. If you find yourself stuck, take some time off from the task until you feel ready to continue working on it.


How To Write A Reflective Essay

The main goal of a reflective essay is to allow the student to examine his/her own beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors.

The following steps outline the process for writing a reflective essay:


Step 1: Define The Topic

The first step is to define the topic. You must identify the question you wish to answer.

Step 2: Select An Approach

Selecting an approach involves deciding whether you will use a personal narrative, a case study, or a comparison-contrast essay.


Step 3: Develop An Outline

An outline is a plan of action that shows where you intend to go with your essay. The outline includes information such as the thesis statement, supporting details, and conclusion.

Step 4: Research The Topic

Researching the topic means gathering information about the subject matter. You may need to conduct interviews, review books, and visit websites.


Step 5: Organize Your Notes

Organizing your notes is important because it allows you to easily locate the information you need.

Step 6: Draft The Introduction

Drafting the introduction requires you to write a summary paragraph that introduces your topic. This introductory paragraph should include the title of the essay, a brief overview of the topic, and any background information.


Step 7: Draft The Body Paragraphs

Drafting the body paragraphs is similar to drafting the introduction. In this section, you develop each point by providing evidence to support your argument.

Step 8: Proofread And Edit

Proofreading and editing are necessary steps to ensure that your essay meets all the criteria required by your instructor.


Writing Tips For Students

We’ve outlined some tips to help you write a high-quality reflective essay below:

1. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

Before beginning your reflective essay, think carefully about what you want to achieve. Is there a specific purpose? Do you want to make a particular point? Do you want to convince someone else of something?


2. Be Specific

Be sure to be very clear about the topic you choose. Make sure you know exactly what you are trying to say.

3. Use Evidence

Use facts and examples to prove your points. When possible, provide quotations from sources.


4. Avoid Plagiarism

Plagiarism is when you copy another person’s work without giving credit to the original author. It is illegal and unethical.

5. Read Your Paper Carefully

Read your paper over several times before submitting it. Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.


6. Don’t Rush

Don’t rush through the writing process. Take enough time to do a good job.


Reflective essays are a great way to improve your critical thinking skills and learn how to express yourself more effectively. They also help you analyze your thoughts and feelings.



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