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How to write a reflective essay: 10 fundamental steps

Writing a reflection paper may be overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. These ten simple steps will make it a breeze for even the most inexperienced writer, or for the skilled student that’s short on time.

  • Brainstorming and note taking

    Read over the source material you will be reflecting on. Take notes! Write down anything and everything that crosses your mind while reading the text or watching the film or play. Once you’ve finished, review your notes and identify the main themes by summarizing the source in a paragraph or two.

  • Organize notes in more detail

    Once you’ve identified the main themes, create a few categories that you feel are important to the reflection essay. Do a second reading or watching of the source material, this time, taking notes carefully and organizing them as you go so you have plenty of material for writing the paper.

  • Create an outline

    Your reflective essay should introduce your expectations, describe how the source met them, exceeded them, or fell short, and end on a strong conclusion.

  • Polish your theme

    After making the outline it’s often necessary to tweak your thesis or your main idea; this is easier after writing the initial outline as you’ll have a better idea of the paper’s direction.

  • Create a rough draft of the body of the paper

    Before you write the intro or conclusion, write the body of the paper. It’s easier to introduce the paper when you know it contains; it’s easier to summarize once it’s in front of you!

  • Create a rough draft of the intro and conclusion

    Once the body is done, write your introduction, and then write your conclusion, restating your thesis in each.

  • Edit the paper

    Go through and make sure you didn’t miss anything and correct sentence structure and flow.

  • Proofread the paper

    Check for spelling and grammar mistakes and fix them.

  • Have a friend edit and proofread

    It’s easier for another person to catch mistakes you might miss yourself, so have a friend or fellow student read over the paper and make suggestions as to corrections and changes it may require.

  • Final Draft

    Once you’ve had someone look over it, set it aside for a few days so you can read over it once more with a fresh eye. Make final corrections and print out the finished copy.