How to write a reflective essay

A reflective essay is a special type of an essay where the writer recollects their past experiences in the racecourse of their life. In the essay, the writer explores all those experiences and how they have shaped, changed, grown and developed their personal life.

Format of a reflective essay

Unless otherwise required by the course instructor, a reflective essay does not so much tie itself to the rules of format. Its format is different from that of research essays and argumentative essays. However, a reflective essay is a well-structured diary or story entry. A reflective essay in MLA or APA is only applicable if attached to an external text that the writer is reflecting upon. When writing a reflective essay, it is advisable not to use the academic writing style. The writer is supposed to stick to their emotions, authentic ideas and feelings. This is because the essay reflects on your personal experiences, not other outside topics.  Any format can be used according to the lecturers’ instructions.


A reflective essay have the structure of an introduction, the body and the conclusion. In the introductory part, the writer shares directly or indirectly what ought to be their topic of focus of their reflection. It is from the introduction that the reader can be able to figure out what aspect of life experience the writer is talking about. The body of the essay explains the experiences of the writer in life and how they have influenced their life skills. It is in the same part where the writer explores the most emotional experiences, whether negative or positive and how they have changed the life of the writer. Most unforgettable life encounters by the writer are vividly described. The conclusion sums up the main ideas of the essay in a simple and clear language. In the conclusion, the reader is able to create a mental picture of the writer’s current status of life that has been shaped by the experiences in life.

The Outline

The introduction of the reflective essay should have the ‘hook’ to capture the attention of the reader. The thesis statement includes the information about the past experiences. It should be brief. The body discusses the events in a chronological order. The conclusion wraps up ideas and demonstrates development. It is also futuristic in the sense that it shows the writer’s stand as far as the future life is concerned.


Reflective essay is basically on personal experiences that influenced your life. The following are some of the examples.

    • The hardest decision you were required to make
    • The moment you were overwhelmed by fear
    • The day you felt misplaced

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