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 start 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 discover and show important parts of yourself to your readers.
Image by sammydavisdog via flickr
Below, I’ll show 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?
First things first… a reflective essay is one in which you reflect on your personality, places you’ve been, people you’ve met, or experiences 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 personal in nature and can be more fluid in structure and style.
It can be tempting to just jump right into writing, but hold on! A good reflective essay can be a great reflective essay with the proper planning.
Using a Reflective Essay Outline to Organize Your Thoughts
The goal of any essay is to write clearly and concisely about whatever topic you choose or are assigned. Unfortunately, with reflective essays, some people tend to get a little disorganized and start 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 start writing. This is tremendously helpful because you won’t end up on your last paragraph and suddenly realize that you forgot to include a crucial element or two.
- An outline gives you a clear roadmap instead of curvy paths and dead ends. 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 follow 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 forgot something important are all wastes of time.
Are you convinced yet that creating a reflective essay outline is the best option?
Good! Now let’s get to actually making that outline!
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 quite different. However, some rules still apply. To start organizing, your reflective essay outline should include sections for the introduction, body and conclusion.
For the purposes of giving 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 experience there.
Image 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 start. If you’re telling about an experience, give a quick preview of the most exciting 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 experience 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 Red Queen’s entire court shouting, “Off with her head!” I had long yearned for adventure and excitement, but my time in Wonderland made me realize that adventure comes with some serious risks.
The next part of your outline is perhaps the most important. Without your reflective essay outline, the body can get muddled and confusing. I can’t tell you exactly how to organize the body of your essay because every essay is going to be different. However, I do have a couple of tips.
- If you are writing about an experience or an event, use a chronology that makes sense. It doesn’t have to be completely linear, but if you jump around in the timeline too much, it can confuse both you and the reader. Laying out the important 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 experience, person or place–you should include the impact 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 body paragraphs of Alice’s reflective outline may look something like this:
- Following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole
- Description of what happened
- Learning to look before I leap
- Meeting the Caterpillar
- Description of what happened
- I learned how to control my size
- I started to realize just how strange the people were in Wonderland
- Mad Tea Party
- Description of what happened
- Although a lot of fun, the tea party was very stressful
- The people I met were progressively crazier
- Croquet with the Red Queen
- Description of what happened
- It’s very hard to play croquet when the other person is cheating and threatening 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 experience 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 experience, followed by what you learned from it. Like I said, every essay is different.
The conclusion of your reflective essay should be the finishing touch that brings the whole piece of writing together nicely. Include a brief summary of your main points (as stated in the body 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 Red Queen are certainly faces that I’ll never forget. They each contributed to the sheer madness of Wonderland. But those people–that madness–made me thankful for the peace and security of my own home and family and its rules.
More Resources to Help with Your Reflective Essay Outline
I hope you have a better understanding of why and how to draft a good outline. To give you a bit of extra help, here’s a downloadable reflective essay outline template.
Reflective Essay Outline Template.
This outline template follows a 5-paragraph format, but you can add paragraphs and rearrange the body paragraphs to fit your needs. Just fill in the blanks with your own information, and you’ll be one step closer to a stellar essay.
Need more inspiration? Check out these reflective essay examples.
If you’re looking for topic ideas, check out 15 Reflective Essay Topics to Inspire Your Next Paper.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
What does a good thesis statement look like?
There is one big tip on writing a good essay almost every article on the web gives you. It’s to come up with a clear and specific thesis statement.
But how one does it? You need to understand what is the main idea of your paper and how to communicate it in a comprehensive and concise way. Here are some of the thesis statement examples to help you make this task less problematic.
Thesis statement formula
As you can see, there is no universal thesis statement formula as every type of a writing assignment requires a different approach. In some cases, you will have to include counterarguments, and in others presenting solely your point of view will suffice. Here are a couple of examples:
While there is a common belief that ……., a closer examination proves that …….
Despite the ……., the recent facts show that ……
The reason for is …… and as a result …….
- Endorsement of child labor by international companies should not be supported.
Consumers should not buy items from the countries that endorse child labor because this kind of financial approval encourages big corporations to increase the production, the exhaustion of a child’s body can lead to severe health problems, and the hard work deprives children of their childhood.
- The morality of atheists and theists.
Even though atheists do not have an instruction of good behavior provided by the superior beings, they are not less moral than theists. They have their own moral compass and laws established by society to differentiate good deeds from the bad ones.
- Testing drugs on animals is the sacrifice we have to make.
The greatest value we have is a human life. If testing a new drug on a cute little rabbit could result in saving your mother or father from a terminal illness, then this is the sacrifice we need to make. Animal testing can lead to our healthier future, less incurable diseases, and more saved lives.
- Getting a university diploma is necessary.
Even though there are some examples of successful people without a college degree, everybody should go through this stage of self-development. The years in college give you knowledge, improve your soft skills, and connect you with other bright people who can help you get to the top in the future.
- Personal information on the web should have a legislative basis.
Even though we can’t imagine our life without social media, we have to be careful about the information we provide as it can be used for research reasons. There should be specific laws about the availability of big data and who can use it because it will be easy to manipulate people’s minds, gather the personal information without permission and use it for someone’s benefits.
- Landing on the Moon is a fake.
Despite the presence of a documentary video of landing on the Moon, it should be recognized as the biggest fraud. The details of the video and the fact that we still have not made a come back there after more than 40 years indicate that it could not be filmed on the Moon surface.
- Parents monitoring their children internet use is the right thing.
While there is a lot of useful and educational information on the internet, parents should regulate the internet use of their children. Children get distracted, spend more time on harmful web sites, and avoid social interaction.
- Money as a motivation for good grades is an option.
The approach of encouraging the children to get good grades by paying them can be a model of the real world situation. If you work hard and get good results, you will get paid accordingly. This way of encouragement is acceptable and can be used by parents.
- The line between exaggeration and lies in advertising.
There are not enough regulatory norms to make the modern advertisement less deceiving. The line between exaggeration and lies is not clear and the products advertised turn often don’t meet the customers’ expectations. If we introduce more rigid rules to advertising, there will be less disappointed customers.
- Space missions should not be a priority.
We spend billions of dollars on developing the strategies of Mars colonization while there are millions of people suffering from famine here, on our planet. It would be more beneficial to spend more on saving people in Africa from starvation and water shortages than sending someone to a distant planet.
- Unfair salary rates of doctors.
In the world where human life is the biggest value, doctors should get the highest salary rates, not actors and singers. They save lives, deprive us of physical pain, and have to spend years of studying and practicing to be able to do that.
- Euthanasia should be legalized.
Euthanasia should be recognized as one of the possible ways of ending a person’s life. The right of life is given to every person and we are free to take decisions we consider to be right.
- Homeschooling is effective.
Homeschooling is an effective way of educating children as it gives an opportunity to focus on personal strength and weaknesses, make emphasis on the particular subjects a child has an interest in, and adapt the studying approach to the most convenient for a child.
- Diets are just waste of time.
Multiple cases show that all the diets have a short-term effect on the body. Diets are ineffective because people start gaining weight once they stop and the organism goes through an unnecessary stress.
- The production of cigarettes should decrease by 90%.
The production of cigarettes should decrease by 90% so that with time, the harmful habit could disappear. A significant decrease in the production of tobacco products will lead to the minimization of demand on it as the price will get higher, the supply will decrease and people will not be able to buy it.
- Reverse discrimination at the workplace is a problem.
The fear of being punished for the discrimination of ethnical minorities at the workplace leads to the discrimination of the rest of the population. There should be a law that balances out this inequality.
- Redistribution of money spent on the space programs is needed.
The government should not spend money on the search for new exoplanets as it has no practical value for people on Earth. Instead, they should focus on asteroid mining projects to be able to get the vital resources after they are all used on our planet and survive.
- Plastic surgeries should not be allowed to everyone.
Even though plastic surgeries are aesthetically justified, they do not solve the psychological problems of desire to change one’s appearance. They should be allowed only in severe cases because they give people the fake satisfaction, can cause an addiction, and support the objectification of one’s image.
- Video games advocating violence should be banned.
Video games featuring violent episodes should be banned as they lead to violence at schools, damage the mentality of minds, and create the perverted image of reality.
- Abortions should be legal.
The legalization of abortions should be legalized as women should have the freedom to make decisions regarding their bodies and there are cases when there could be no other solution to the problem.
- Endorsement of child labor by international companies should not be supported.
- Studying abroad.
Although the idea of studying abroad might sound costly, the experience one will get from the interaction with another culture and different approach to teaching is worth it.
- Marriage at a young age.
There is nothing good about getting married at a young age except for it being romantic. People’s personalities change dramatically between 20 and 30 years old and young marriages are almost never a good idea.
- Getting a degree.
Higher education is no longer a requirement for getting the dream job. Online short-term courses can give you the necessary theoretical information.
- Women choosing not to have children.
There is nothing scandalous about a woman who chooses not to have children and our society has to understand that. It is her time and body that are at stake but not someone’s beliefs.
- Modern art.
Modern art becomes more and more meaningless as almost every creative project has a goal of provoking negative emotions.
- National identity.
We will see more and more regions demanding independence in the upcoming years because the question of national identity has become extremely the top of the agenda in Europe.
There is an urgent need of educating people about AIDS as there are many countries even in Europe where the information about this disease is inaccurate and unspecific.
- Protecting animals.
Every civilized country should ban circuses that use animals for their shows. This kind of entertainment is not worth the sufferings those animals go through.
Becoming a vegetarian is a new stage of the human development as you stop being an animal and make a conscious choice of not eating meat for the sake of other animals just like you.
Choosing death instead of life is a selfish deed by which you take the joy of your life not from yourself but from the people who love you.
- Studying abroad.
- Plants in the developing countries.
International companies having their factories in the developing countries provide thousands of people with work and stable income. The question of ethics should not stand in the way of helping those people to survive.
- 6 hour work day
The U.S. should introduce a 6 hour work day for office workers to reduce sick-leave and increase the motivation.
- The importance of exams.
Exams are not an effective way of assessing students’ knowledge. There should be an alternative to measuring the abilities while exams will be banned.
- School uniforms.
School uniforms work perfectly for erasing the difference of families’ income levels and can always be individualized by the students to express their creativity.
- Space debris.
Space debris is a serious threat to our planet and there should be more information and publicity on the topic.
- Personal information.
The federal government should not have access to the personal information we state online and should not be able to use it.
- Food at school cafeterias
The food at school cafeterias is one of the main reason of children’s obesity in the U.S. the government should introduce legal regulations regarding this issue.
- Maternity leave
The period of paid maternity leave should increase up to 2 years. A woman should be able to get a salary from the government during this time while staying with children at home.
- Harmful ads.
The ads of alcohol and cigarettes should be banned as they advocate the unhealthy way of life.
- Beauty contests.
Beauty contests do not have any value for the society and should be eliminated from the lives of civilized societies.
- Plants in the developing countries.
- Plato and Socrates.
While the two Greek philosophers had their differences in understanding the world around us, they both were the founders of Western philosophy and made a huge impact on philosophy as we know it today.
- Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
The similarities between the two dictators are striking and they need a thorough investigation to understand the specific reasons for their horrid behavior.
- Judaism and Christianity.
Although they bear some similarities, the differences between Judaism and Christianity are remarkable and cause massive disputes until today.
- Online and on-campus studies.
While online classes provide students with more flexibility, they require more organizational and time-management skills to succeed at studies.
- Darwin and Lamarck
Although Darwin and Lamarck had similar views on the idea of species evolving over time, they had reached to different results in terms of the acquired traits inheritability.
- Hobbes and Locke
While Hobbes and Locke both had a major impact on the political philosophy, their views on the origin of moral principles of the right and wrong a man has.
- TV series and full-length film
The quality of modern TV series has increased immensely and sometimes matches the one of a full-length film, even though the two forms have some dramatic differences.
- Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir
Although the two painters had a close working relationship, they used different approaches to communicating their inner understanding of the world’s beauty.
- eBooks and paper books
While both eBooks and paper books have the same goal, the experience they bring to a reader is different and leads to several major distinctions between the two.
- Google and Facebook
Although Google and Facebook are designed for different purposes, they have multiple similarities of influencing people’s perceptions.
- Plato and Socrates.
Gambling addiction can be caused by several factors – impulse control disorder, genetics, past trauma syndrome- each having its particular impact on the behavior.
The success of any tennis player depends on his physical, mental, and emotional skills.
- Being a popular writer.
There is no unified success formula for authors to become successful but there are 5 main factors that can influence the writing career.
- Missions to the Moon.
The main reason for stopping further missions to the moon are the high cost and focus on more strategically important expenditures.
- How to survive on an island after a shipwreck.
There is a list of things one can do to prepare for a shipwreck and survive on an island before getting rescued that includes some physical training and thorough strategy.
- Random shootings.
The reasons behind the increasing number of random shootings in the U.S. are the growing fear of population and feeling of vulnerability.
Children diagnosed with autism need their parents to take a special approach to upbringing which includes a particular schedule of activities to avoid stress.
- Creative Professions.
The popularity of creative professions in the 21st century can be explained by the possibility of making robots do the hard routine tasks.
To minimize a major damage caused by a hurricane, every household needs to take thorough preventive measures.
- Caste system in India.
The phenomenon of a caste system in India was introduced as a mean of taking the local populations under control.
- Diversification in business is one of the most effective ways of assuring its success as it lets you have an alternative service or product to focus on during a critical situation.
- The symptoms of most of the eating disorders appear due to the stressful way of life.
- Creating a positive environment at a workplace increases employees’ motivation and reduces days of sick leave.
- Sharing responsibilities in the workplace between the members of one team project increases productivity by X% and helps people feel involved in the process.
- The lack of effective communication between colleagues and subordinates can lead to the decrease of productivity.
- The urge of changing workplaces and professions in the 21st century has the main reason of overall dissatisfaction with life. The feeling of uselessness and depression makes millennials search for a better place to work and live.
- Skills and knowledge do not matter for a top manager as long as they do not have a strong personality and leadership skills.
- The individual approach to every employee of New Balance corporation is an example of building a positive brand image without investing too much money in PR.
- Translation fails multinational companies make have a serious impact on the sales revenue.
- The case of IKEA demonstrates how good PR and social practices can turn society’s attention from the weaknesses of the company and make them its strengths.
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela is a marvelous example of inspirational writing that shows how it is possible to fight for civil rights on the streets and behind the prison bars.
- Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald shows us all the drastic consequences of having an illusion of a better life and making it the sense of one’s life.
- Pride and Prejudice was a revolutionary novel depicting a woman as a self-sufficient human being and not just a supplement to a man.
- The idea of the struggle against growing up plays the central role in The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.
- In Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, we see that wealth and social class are secondary to loyalty and affection.
- The Odyssey is an epic masterpiece that teaches us that any life journey is filled up with a great number of obstacles and the outcome depends on how good we can cope with them.
- Through Goethe’s Faust, we can understand the real value of life and the significance of all the decisions we make as some of them may lead us to dramatic results.
- The central point Lord of the Flies makes us think about is the constant conflict between personal barbarism and the rigid rules of society.
- In the heart aching novel Of Mice and Men, we see the upsetting nature of human life as the sense of loneliness becomes dominant in all main characters.
- In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky paints a picture of faith and doubt conflict and the unbearable burden of free will can change one’s life dramatically.
- There should be no controversy in terms of a gay character appearing in a Disney movie – Beauty and the Beast- in 2017 as the norms of our society has changed a lot.
- Donald Trump’s illogical and offensive behavior can be just a distraction from the world’s bigger political issues so that there would be no panic amongst the people.
- The phenomenon of higher education will be replaced by online courses and seminars in the nearest future as it is a more effective approach.
- Despite the protests, women’s objectification remains to be one of the central problems of perception of female beauty.
- Elon Musk’s ideas can help Australia and other countries to fight the energy problems and will be the future for the technological development as they are feasible and affordable.
- The government should stop supporting space missions trying to find extraterrestrial life due to the time factor. Unless we build a time machine, the time barrier will not let us find other forms of life elsewhere in the Universe.
- There should be more severe punishment for the sex offenders to reduce the cases of violence. The capital punishment is the most effective option in fighting these crimes.
- Parents should pay more attention to the time their children spend online because they need to know the difference between the real and virtual world from the early age.
- The biggest thing one can thieve from someone is no longer material but ephemeral – personal information. Because of the constant hackers attacks, it’s become impossible to feel safe.
- If the universities with a long history will not make the necessary adaptations to the modern educational system, the online education will take over the majority of world countries.
- The human factor is the reason of multiple aircraft extreme situations as only a few pilots are able to take fast and logical decisions under stress.
- The stereotype of a woman’s place being at home upbringing children starts to disappear, the gap between the salaries between two genders remains to be dramatic.
- Clothing is still the best way of introducing yourself to a person without saying anything.
- The type of a teachers’ salary that depends on the results of his work and not on the experience they have is becoming more and more popular.
- The concept of family is often the central topic in many of the world’s literature masterpieces.
- The effects of global warming become more visible with every year and can lead to the distinction of species.
- The sanctions upon the Russian Federation do not prove to be effective even a year from their initiation.
- The idea of degradation can be clearly seen in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”.
- Homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo effect for a person.
- With the development of the digital era, the advertisers move their focus to online ads ignoring the effects of outdoor advertising.