Writing a reflective essay sounds like an exciting experience for many students unless they get to actual writing. The thing is that when students receive the assignment, it seems like it will be a 20 minute deal. Describing personal experience and reflecting on it doesn’t sound like a difficult task at all as opposed to composing an argumentative essay for example. Nevertheless, a lot of young people have a tough time developing this type of essay. They say that structuring the kind of information that has to be included in the essay isn’t that easy. It takes certain knowledge and skills to be able to describe the facts that made up a specific event and evaluate this experience in a way that would result in a good grade. In order to write clearly and concisely and not get disorganized talking about anything and everything in a chaotic order, make sure you compose a reflective essay outline before you get to writing.


Working on an Outline

Creating an outline will provide you with a clear roadmap you can follow. You won’t have to take curvy paths to end up in your last paragraph realizing you suddenly forgot to include an important detail or two. Besides, you will save time if you prepare an outline as you won’t have to go back for revisions or insert missing supporting details. Now as you know the importance of a well-written outline, we can move on to the question of how to write a good reflective essay outline. It should look like a plan with specific names of each bullet point to help you understand what you should write about in every particular section.


Introduction. This is the opening paragraph where writers are to provide the overall focus of the reflection to be uncovered in the upcoming paragraphs. Since we are talking about reflective essays in the academic context, the introduction is to be more direct in regards to explaining what aspect of the past experience the writer will talk about in the essay.

Main Body. Taking up the most space of your essay, the main body is usually split into three paragraphs. That’s where most students have a hard time organizing their thoughts. First of all, we recommend using a chronology that will be easy to follow for the readers (you don’t have to be completely linear, but still don’t jump around in the time too much). Secondly, include the impact the event has made and what you learned. Now here is a good way to organize information of the main body:

Paragraph 1. Describe the event along with your feelings about it.

Paragraph 2. Outline what was good about the experience and what was bad.

Paragraph 3. Analyze the event (compare and contrast, cause and effect)

Conclusion. This portion of information should nicely bring all paragraphs together. Students should concentrate on providing a brief summary of the main points stated in the main body paragraphs along with the key highlight of one’s reflection.

Final Remarks

Drafting a good outline will make your experience of writing a reflective essay much easier. Despite the common opinion that composing an outline is a waste of time and one should better spend this time on developing the essay, we believe the opposite is true. Working on an outline takes time in the beginning but then significantly reduces the writing time since a student doesn’t have to think on the go because everything has already been thought of in terms of ideas and text structure. The only thing students have to know when drafting an outline is that providing specific details is vitally important. In other words, all points of the outline should be very specific to the situation/event/experience you are going to describe in the essay. This way no important details will be missed when writing the reflective essays. The aforementioned guideline is to be used for a 5 paragraph essay but you can still add more paragraphs and rearrange the main body organization to adjust to your needs. Keep in mind the main principle though – a reflective essay outline should look like a specific roadmap you should follow when writing.

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