Your instructor just told you that your next writing assignment will be a reflective essay.

Your instructor just told you that your next writing assignment will be a reflective essay.

Reflective essays are about you, so you go home and take a good long look in the mirror.

Before you commence writing about what you see on the surface, keep in mind that a reflective essay involves more than just a cursory glance. It requires taking a deeper look at yourself, stepping through the looking glass. so to speak, to detect and showcase significant parts of yourself to your readers.

Pic by sammydavisdog via flickr

Below, I’ll demonstrate you how to create a killer reflective essay outline, and I’ll even give you a downloadable template you can use to make your own outline.

What Is a Reflective Essay and How Is It Different from Other Essays?

So you may be asking yourself what a reflective essay is exactly. You’ve written many other types of essays for many different classes, so how is this any different?

Very first things first… a reflective essay is one in which you reflect on your personality, places you’ve been, people you’ve met, or practices that have influenced you. This type of essay lets you tell the reader who you are and what/who has made you that way.

Unlike most other types of essays you may have written, reflective essays typically don’t deal with researching facts and figures. They are much more private in nature and can be more fluid in structure and style.

It can be tempting to just hop right into writing, but hold on! A good reflective essay can be a excellent reflective essay with the decent planning.

Using a Reflective Essay Outline to Organize Your Thoughts

The objective of any essay is to write clearly and concisely about whatever topic you choose or are assigned. Unluckily, with reflective essays, some people tend to get a little disorganized and begin sounding like the Walrus, talking about anything and everything in no particular order.

Don’t be like the Walrus!

Using a reflective essay outline can help your writing in a few ways

  • An outline can help lay out exactly what details you want to use before you begin writing. This is tremendously helpful because you won’t end up on your last paragraph and abruptly realize that you left behind to include a crucial element or two.
  • An outline gives you a clear roadmap instead of curvy paths and dead completes. You don’t have to wonder what’s supposed to come next because it’ll all be in the outline. In other words, you won’t have to spend time “in Wonderland.”
  • Because you can look at your reflective essay outline and go after it as you’re writing, ultimately you’ll save some time in your writing . Second-guessing what comes next, in what order the supporting details should go, or going back for big revisions because you left behind something significant are all wastes of time.

Are you wooed yet that creating a reflective essay outline is the best option?

Good! Now let’s get to actually making that outline!

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How to Craft a Good Reflective Essay Outline

Because the subject of reflective essays is different from that of, say, an argumentative essay. the structure and organization can also be fairly different. However, some rules still apply. To commence organizing, your reflective essay outline should include sections for the introduction, assets and conclusion.

For the purposes of providing examples, let’s say Alice just got back from her adventures in Wonderland and is working on a reflective essay outline to tell about her practice there.

Picture by Jessie Wilcox Smith via Wikimedia Commons


As with any essay, your reflective essay should begin with an introduction. The parts of your introduction to include in your outline are:

  • The hook . you want to grab your reader’s attention from the very begin. If you’re telling about an practice, give a quick preview of the most arousing part of that story.
  • The thesis statement : In a reflective essay, the thesis statement will usually include a brief statement of what your essay is about as well as how the specific person, place, or practice has influenced you. You will expand on this later, so don’t give away too much in the beginning.
  • Alice’s introduction might go something like this:

    I don’t know how I had gotten myself into such a mess, but I found myself running down a seemingly endless path with the Crimson Queen’s entire court shouting, “Off with her head!” I had long yearned for escapade and excitement, but my time in Wonderland made me realize that venture comes with some serious risks.


    The next part of your outline is perhaps the most significant. Without your reflective essay outline, the bod can get muddled and confusing. I can’t tell you exactly how to organize the bod of your essay because every essay is going to be different. However, I do have a duo of tips.

  • If you are writing about an practice or an event, use a chronology that makes sense. It doesn’t have to be totally linear, but if you leap around in the timeline too much, it can confuse both you and the reader. Laying out the significant parts in the outline will help you figure out in what order to put everything.
  • No matter what you’re writing your reflective essay about-an practice, person or place-you should include the influence it has madeand what, if anything, you learned. This should be at least as long of a section as the description of the event, person or place. It’s what shows off who you are and it’s what the reader will be most interested in.
  • The assets paragraphs of Alice’s reflective outline may look something like this:

    1. Following the white rabbit down the rabbit crevice
    2. Description of what happened
    3. Learning to look before I leap
  • Meeting the Caterpillar
  • I learned how to control my size
  • I began to realize just how strange the people were in Wonderland
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Albeit a lot of joy, the tea party was very tense
  • The people I met were progressively crazier
  • Croquet with the Crimson Queen
  • It’s very hard to play croquet when the other person is cheating and menacing to behead you
  • It was at this point when I realized that Wonderland had no rules, and that a world without rules is insane
  • As you can see, Alice’s timeline includes different events within the entire practice and with a moment of reflection on each. The final lesson learned is the epiphany-the aha! moment.

    Your outline does not have to look just like this. It could be a summary of the entire practice, followed by what you learned from it. Like I said, every essay is different.


    The conclusion of your reflective essay should be the completing touch that brings the entire lump of writing together nicely. Include a brief summary of your main points (as stated in the figure paragraphs), as well as the overall takeaway from your reflection.

    For example, Alice’s conclusion would be similar to this:

    The White Rabbit, Caterpillar, Mad Hatter, and the Crimson Queen are certainly faces that I’ll never leave behind. They each contributed to the sheer madness of Wonderland. But those people-that madness-made me grateful for the peace and security of my own home and family and its rules.

    More Resources to Help with Your Reflective Essay Outline

    Your instructor just told you that your next writing assignment will be a reflective essay.

    Reflective essays are about you, so you go home and take a good long look in the mirror.

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