A reflective essay is an academic piece of writing that aims to observe, examine, and describe an individual or personal experience that the author has had. When writing such essay, you need to keep in mind that the focus is on your deeper, inner emotions rather than the event. The key is to make your essay actually reflective and the key to achieving that is to put your own personality in it. After reading such an essay, the reader should have a clear image of you and your feelings.
Structure of a Reflective Essay
A reflective essay has a similar structure to the other types of essays out there and it’s mainly formed by an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
Introduction – this is the part of your work where you have the opportunity to introduce the thesis statement of the essay. It should reveal the main theme of the essay but not completely since you want to keep it wrapped in some mystery so that you catch the attention of the readers.
Main body – the thesis statement is expanded, detailed, and told in perspective so that the reader can put themselves in your shoes and see the events through your eyes.
Conclusion – it’s basically a summary of the main points presented above.
Reflective Essay Topics
Since in this type of essay we’re mostly talking about our own experiences, we’re going to split the topics according to certain kinds of personal experiences.
Relationships are often associated with the strongest emotions. This makes it quite easy to write a reflective essay about a relationship issue and describe the emotions and feelings you had. Even more than that, writing a reflective essay about relationships and feelings might help you understand some past things that happened to you and get some closure if you didn’t.
- A contradictory conversation that made you angry
- A moment when you felt discouraged and disappointed by something that someone said
- When you first heard that someone was proud of you
- The moment you realized you’re in love
- When you met a family member for the first time
- The birth or adoption of a sibling or child
- Watching someone you love and care about lose their memory due to dementia
- When you apologized to someone and really felt it
- When you were extremely embarrassed
- When you got caught lying and tried to cover it
- When you wanted a thing that wasn’t yours
- An argument with your boss, teacher or an authority person
- When you got punished by your parents
- When you were crying and someone comforted you
- When you were a child and played with your friends
- A time when you were so close with someone you felt like their sister or brother
- When you were helped by someone or you helped another person
- A big reunion with your family or when you met new relatives
- A very special trip that you took with a friend
- When you laughed uncontrollably with someone
- When you realized that your parent or another figure of authority was not perfect
- When you first spoke in public
- A time when you went on an adventure with your friends without your parents knowing
- When you shared a secret with a friend or someone shared a secret with you
- When you were really scared
Outdoors and Nature
In a reflective essay, it’s always better to connect to a deeper layer of yourself and what can go deeper than the connection you feel with nature? You can write about an actual experience you had in nature or you can simply imagine being in a field of wild poppies, getting caressed by the sun. Here are some topics that cover the nature and outdoor themes.
- Standing on the beach, watching the ocean with your feet in sand
- Admiring the sunset
- Looking over a valley from the top of a hill
- Admiring a bird in flight
- Gently smelling a wildflower
- Picking-up berries and wild fruits
- Taking a hike through a forest
- Climbing a mountain
- Standing on the seashore playing with sand
- Swimming in a mountain lake
- Standing on a bridge looking down at the water
- Skiing with the wind in your face, amazed by all the snow
- Outdoors running
- Trail hiking
- Fooling around in the mud
- Simply walking through the rain
- Hiking in the desert among the dunes
- Scuba diving
- In the mountains, backpacking
- Visiting a historic battlefield
- Walking or sitting in a field of wildflowers
- Watching how a nest is built by birds
- Seeing an insect, snake or spider
- An encounter with a wild animal in its natural habitat
- Visiting the zoo
- Quality time with your pet
- Watching the clouds form for a big storm or tornado
- The experience of an earthquake or natural disasters
Relevant Places for Your Memories
Sometimes, a place about which you have some really good and strong memories will be enough for you to experience a boost and write some very good reflective essays. Here are some examples:
- The room where you grew up
- Your hometown
- A particular place in school, the lunchroom perhaps or a specific spot where you used to hang out with your friends
- Your favorite store in the mall
- A former workplace
- The house of your grandparents
- A coffee shop or a bookstore that you loved to visit when you were young
- Your old car, the bus you took to get home from school or any other means of transportation
- An amusement park
- The football field where you used to play with your friends all day long
- An ice skating rink
- Your favorite place to eat
- A vacation place that you liked in particular
- The place where you work
- Your online personal spaces
Both special and ordinary events can be turned into a very good reflective essay topic. It’s enough to just think about that important moment and all the meaningful experiences surrounding that event will come to life. At the same time, one-of-a-kind events or experiences are also very likely to make excellent topics.
- Big Holidays – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, 4th of July, Valentines, etc.
- Visiting the zoo or a museum
- Even ordinary daily chores such as walking the dog, studying with friends or preparing dinner
- A surprise birthday party that you threw for your best friend
- Renovating your room or an entire house
- When you were left in the dark because of a blackout
- A severe blizzard, flood or any other extreme weather event
- A surprise neighborhood party where you got the chance to meet new people
- A concert or award ceremony you attended
- Taking care of someone who was sick or needed your help
- A church service
- Going on a vacation or a trip
- Changing the city you live in
- Going to another school or getting a new job
- Starting your first job, getting your first paycheck or your first new car
- Getting married or engaged
- When you were lost
- Something that made you proud
- A sporting activity you watched or took part in
- Going on a very special date
- A surprise you got from someone or that you prepared for someone special
- An unexpected gift
- Eating something you considered very bad
- A time when you were sick, went to the dentist or something similar
- A nightmare or a dream that stayed with you for a while
- When you lost something valuable or when your laptop broke
- When you were a victim of robbery or assault
- A time when you stood up for someone else
- When you skipped school or any other type of responsibility
- When you first voted
Questions That Should Help Develop Your Reflective Essay
Developing the reflective side of your essay might be hard at times simply because you have to speak about the way you felt and that’s never easy. It’s sometimes quite hard to admit certain feelings to yourself, not mentioning doing so in an essay that others will read. With that in mind, we would like to aid you with some questions that you can use for developing the essay. Based on the questions you choose, the answer can be your thesis or you can build your entire essay in such a way that it answers one or several of the following questions.
- What were the emotions I felt? Why?
- What did I notice during that experience? What made me focus on that thing especially?
- What did I learn from this experience? How did I determine that?
- Did I get surprised by something during this experience? What was the specific thing that surprised me?
- Is there something I learnt from this and what do I need to change in order to improve things?
- Are there any past experiences that are similar to this one? How is the present experience compared to those past ones?
- How does this experience modify the way I look towards the future?
- How did this experience change me? Is it a good change or a bad one?
- Was this a turning point? In what ways?
- Is there something that I could do differently?
- Could this be an analogy for something else? What are the metaphors I can identify in this experience?
- Can I use this experience to help someone else?
- What exactly happened there? Is this in any way different to how I perceived things?
- Can this be applied to improve my career or life?
- What are the skills that I can underline from this experience?
- What are the questions this experience made me ask myself?
- Was I challenged to think differently because of this experience? Does it have any effects on race, social class, faith or gender?
- Did this experience change the way I think and analyze things?
What Are the Different Types of Assignments?
Reflective essays can be about imaginary or real experiences. They assist you in learning and applying those experiences in real life or in similar situations you will face in the future. And here are some examples of different assignments.
- During English class, you can be asked to write a reflective essay on a novel, movie or poem in order to assist you in understanding the way this creation interacts and bonds with your experiences
- In history class, the teacher may ask you to write such an essay about the meaning of an important battle or another historical event so that you can better grasp its outcome and benefits
- In medical school, students may need to write reflective essays regarding their patient experiences so that they can self-analyze and improve those relationships
- Reflective essays could be especially helpful in psychology classes where it can help you grow and understand your beliefs or why you choose to act in a particular way
- Perhaps the most used form of reflective writing is having a journal. No matter if it’s a task or you just do it by yourself, it will help you know yourself better and look back to register your own personal growth