Reflective Essay Outline: Template, Examples, & How-to Guide

The picture contains a reflective essay definition.

Everyone has gone through some crucial events in life, which somehow made an impact on their perspective and personality. A reflective essay is a way to share these moments and show how this experience changed you.

A reflection paper is a common type of academic writing, such as college assignments. However, it is also might be seen in magazines or collections of essays. Depending on the audience, the layout of the reflective writing might vary, although the structure of the introduction, body, and conclusion remains similar.

In this article, you’ll find the following:

  • Definition and a reflective essay outline guide
  • Reflective essay outline template and examples.

🔤 Reflective Writing: Definition

Reflective writing aims at describing, evaluating, and analyzing a certain situation in your life that has left an impact on you or somehow changed your perspective on something.

While a narrative essay focuses more on the story itself, a reflective essay should show a lesson you have learned.

Unlike an argumentative essay, reflective writing is to show your ability to connect the theory you’ve learned and your real-life experience.

The following are some of the examples of reflective writing assignments:

  1. Share your internship or placement experience.
  2. Evaluate your group work experience.
  3. Describe your life-changing experience.
  4. Share a reflective journal or a report on a work placement.
  5. Analyze your learning experience.
  6. Living with ADHD: the key challenges.
  7. Gender roles at work: share your experience.
  8. Analyze your profession and its impact on your personality.
  9. Describe your experience of facing stereotypical and discriminatory behavior.
  10. Gender differences in communication: share your experience.
  11. Your cultural identity and how it impacted your self-reflection.
  12. Analyze your senior year in high school.
  13. Have you ever faced bullying while at school? Describe your experience.
  14. Describe the inspiration for your research paper topic.
  15. Describe your Gibbs Reflection Cycle results.

You are welcome to use any of the topics listed above for your reflective essay. If you haven’t found anything suitable, you are welcome to use our essay topic generator for more ideas.

📑 Reflective Essay Outline: How to Make It

Before starting writing any type of essay, it is essential to plan it out first. An outline can help you organize your ideas and leave out all the unnecessary information.

The picture contains a list of reflective essay outline elements.

Reflective Essay Introduction

The introduction should include a hook, some background information, and a thesis statement, which we will break down later.

A hook is usually one or two sentences long. It serves to grab your reader’s attention. It can be a quote from a literary work, some interesting statistics, or a catchy phrase.

Let’s say you’re writing an essay about your teamwork experience. Your hook can be something like “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Another example is “True life is lived when tiny changes occur” by Leo Tolstoy for an essay about a life-changing event.

Reflective Essay Thesis Statement

The thesis statement for a reflective essay should let your reader know what your essay is about. It might include information on how the experience you are describing in your essay has affected you. Don’t make it too short or too long. Instead, it should be informative enough to reflect your main point.

Bad thesis statementGood thesis statement
I learned a lot during my first job experience.My first job experience has taught me many crucial skills, such as time management and leadership.
Studying abroad changed my perspective on many things.I got to learn about other cultures while studying abroad, and this experience has broadened my mind.

If you have any difficulties with formulating a thesis statement, you might want to use our free thesis maker.

Reflective Essay Body: The Perfect Model

If you are wondering about how to write a good body part for your reflection essay, you can take the following structure into account:

  1. Context
  2. The lesson learned
  3. The result

Let’s break down each of the parts.


Start your body part off by providing your reader with the background information. Let your reader know the setting, time, and other important details. By reading the context, your reader can understand the situation you are describing better. You can answer the following questions:

  • When did it happen?
  • Who were the people involved?
  • Why did it happen?

The Lesson Learned

Talk more about your experience and why it is important for you. Write about what you feel and what you think about this experience. You can answer the following questions:

Does it resonate with the previous similar experiences you had before?

  • Why do you feel this way?
  • What makes you think so?
  • What impact does it have on you?

The Result

Here you can share the outcome of this experience. You can describe what you are going to do after you have learned the lesson. You can also answer the following questions:

  • How can you use the knowledge you gained through this experience?
  • What parts of this experience would you like to share?
  • What are you going to avoid doing in the future?
  • What does this experience make you think about?

Try to answer all the previous questions before making an outline for your essay to make it more structured.

Reflective Essay Conclusion

A reflective essay conclusion should include a summary and review of your points. So, summarize the information you stated in the body part. You might want to do this automatically with our summarizing tool.

Then, as you have written the thesis statement for your reflective essay, you can rephrase it in the conclusion part to remind your reader about the main idea of your paper.

🔖 Reflective Essay: Outline Template

Here’s the sample of the reflective essay outline template.

  1. Introduction
    • Hook (can be a quote)
    • Background information
    • Thesis statement
  2. Body
    • Context (setting, reason, time, etc.)
    • The lesson learned (your thoughts and feelings)
    • The result
  3. Conclusion
    • Summary
    • Restated thesis

👀 Reflective Essay: Outline Examples

As we have learned the theory, let’s now take a look at some reflective essay outlines on some common topics.

Reflective Essay on High School Experience

Here’s a reflective essay on the high school experience outline.

  1. Introduction
AHook (can be a quote)“What I remember most about high school are the memories I created with my friends.” J.J. Watt.
BBackground informationI learned a lot during the classes, but I also created many memories with my friends there.
CThesis statementHigh school provided me with valuable knowledge, but it also gave me life-long friends.
  1. Body
AContext (setting, reason, time, etc.)I went to high school from 2014 to 2018 (more details to be added).
BThe lesson learned (your thoughts and feelings)The memories I created there are the ones I treasure the most (more details to be added).
CThe resultI have my high school friends by my side.
  1. Conclusion
ASummaryYou can experience many things during your high school years.
BRestated thesisNot only can you gain knowledge in high school, but you can also find friends that will always be by your side.

Reflective Essay on the Writing Process

Here’s an outline for a reflective essay on the writing process.

  1. Introduction
AHook (can be a quote)“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce
BBackground informationI have been attending this class for almost a semester now.
CThesis statementThanks to the instructor, material, and group work, I’ve learned a lot during this class.
  1. Body
AContext (setting, reason, time, etc.)I chose to attend this class for a few reasons (more details to be added).
BThe lesson learned (your thoughts and feelings)This class was very informative (more details to be added).
CThe resultI can now write various types of essays.
  1. Conclusion
ASummaryThis class provides a lot of helpful information.
BRestated thesisThe combination of material, instructor’s help, and classmates’ teamwork made the class very useful for me.

What Nursing Means to Me: Reflective Essay

Here’s an outline for “What nursing means to me” reflective essay.

  1. Introduction
AHook (can be a quote)“Save one life, you’re a hero. Save 100 lives, you’re a nurse.” Unknown
BBackground informationI chose to be a nurse because I can help people.
CThesis statementNursing is a way I can contribute to society by helping the ones in need.
  1. Body
AContext (setting, reason, time, etc.)I first had thought of becoming a nurse when I was a child (more details to be added).
BThe lesson learned (your thoughts and feelings)Nursing taught me to treat everyone equally and to always do my best (more details to be added).
CThe resultI always try to do as much as I can while working with patients, even when I am exhausted
  1. Conclusion
ASummaryBeing a nurse is not easy, but I receive as much as I give.
BRestated thesisBy helping the patients, I can give back to society.

❓ Reflective Essay Outline: FAQ

What is the purpose of reflective writing?

The purpose of reflective writing is to demonstrate your personal development after a particular situation in your life. Through this type of writing, you can show how you can connect the theory you have learned with the real-life situation. It might be a memorable day or event or a person that has impacted you.

How long should a reflective essay be?

A reflective essay for a university assignment is usually around 500 words long. However, it might depend on particular instructions. Most of the reflective essays have a 5-paragraph structure. The introduction and conclusion are usually one paragraph long, while the body has three.

How to start a reflective essay?

You can start your reflective essay introduction with a hook. The hook should grab your reader’s attention, so it is better to be short and catchy. You can use a quote for your hook. Remember to provide some background information and a thesis statement in your introduction too.

How to conclude a reflective essay?

A reflective essay conclusion should include a summary of the main points you have stated in your paper. Make sure to end your essay with a restated thesis to remind your reader about the main idea of your essay. The conclusion should be one paragraph long.

🔗 References

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