Hooks For 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 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

Introduction

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.

Body

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:

  1. Following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole
    1. Description of what happened
    2. Learning to look before I leap
  2. Meeting the Caterpillar
    1. Description of what happened
    2. I learned how to control my size
    3. I started to realize just how strange the people were in Wonderland
  3. Mad Tea Party
    1. Description of what happened
    2. Although a lot of fun, the tea party was very stressful
    3. The people I met were progressively crazier
  4. Croquet with the Red Queen
    1. Description of what happened
    2. It’s very hard to play croquet when the other person is cheating and threatening to behead you
    3. 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.

Conclusion

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.

Good luck!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

Ever sit under a tree on a beautiful summer day and reflect about your life and what you’ve learned?

No? That’s okay if you haven’t. A lot of students are way too busy to spend their days reflecting. But if you’ve been assigned to write a reflective essay, here’s your chance to do so.

Are you reflecting on the writing assignment right now?  Perhaps you’re thinking, “I don’t even know what a reflective essay is and have no idea how to write one.”

If that’s the case, then you should stop reflecting and start reading, as this blog post will teach you how to write a reflective essay that’s interesting.

What Is a Reflective Essay?

The goal of the reflective essay is to describe how a person, event, or experience affected you. Your objective is to reflect upon your personal growth.

To do this, you’ll need to share your thoughts and emotions. Don’t worry; you don’t have to share your deepest, darkest secrets (unless, of course, you want to).

While this definition might sound a lot like a narrative essay, be careful not to confuse the two.  A reflective essay doesn’t simply tell a story or explain an event like a narrative essay does.

Here’s an example from a narrative essay written by the classic cartoon mischief-maker Bart Simpson.

Last week at church I switched the organist’s music. I would’ve gotten away with it, but Milhouse snitched on me, and the reverend ordered us to clean the organ as punishment. Milhouse cleaned the organ because he feared for his soul. I didn’t believe in souls, so I sold mine to Milhouse for $5. When bad things started happening to me, I quickly realized I needed to get my soul back.

Bart tells the story of selling his soul and finding a way to get it back. He’s not reflecting about how the experience affected him.

Narrative essays don’t usually reflect upon events or explain how they changed you. (If they do, the reflection is kept brief, as the narrative’s purpose is to tell the story.)

Okay, so now you know how a narrative essay is different from a reflective essay. But, what the heck is a reflective essay anyway? Let’s use another example.

Here’s an example from a reflective essay written by Bart Simpson.

When I sold my soul to Milhouse for $5, I thought it was a great deal, but soon after the sale my life took a turn for the worse. My pets hated me, and I couldn’t even laugh at Itchy & Scratchy cartoons. I knew I had made a terrible mistake. Thanks to Lisa, I was able to get my soul back, and I’m a new man; I definitely learned an important lesson.

See the difference?  The narrative essay describes events. A reflective essay explains how the events shaped you.

Bart briefly retells the story of selling his soul, but the focus of the essay will be the lesson he learned and how the event changed him.

Though you’ll still need to tell your story in a reflective essay, it will only be a small part of your paper. In other words, don’t spend too much time explaining the details of the events. If you do, you won’t have enough space to reflect.

Still wondering how to actually write a reflective essay that’s interesting? Read the following for some helpful advice.

How to Write a Reflective Essay: Q & A

Q: How do I know what to write about?

A: Sometimes your professor will decide this for you. You might have to reflect on your learning in a course or, perhaps, during field experience or internship.

If you’re writing about your learning in a course, think about the course content. (Pull out the syllabus if you need to remember the key topics of the course.)

Or, you might write about how a specific teacher changed your life.

Lisa Simpson might write about how a substitute teacher inspired her and taught her that life was worth living.

If you are allowed to choose your own topic, pick something that has affected you on meaningful level.

Don’t write about how your new XBox changed your life because you can now play your favorite games at any time.

Do write about something that will allow you to reflect on the subject in a meaningful way.

Lisa Simpson might write about how entering a beauty contest as a feminist really did make her a stronger person and helped her self esteem.

Q: What does it really mean to reflect?

A: Reflecting means you’ll have to think more deeply about your subject. Don’t just write about anything that comes to mind.

Reflection takes time.

Think about cause and effect, how ideas compare, how you feel about the topic, and how you have been affected.

Lisa Simpson might write about the time she fell in love with a lamb at the petting zoo. When her mom served lamb chops for dinner, she struggled with the idea of lambs as living creatures and animals as food. Her inner struggles led her to become a vegetarian.

Like Lisa, you may have a lot to consider, and it may take a while to actually decide how you feel about an experience.

Keep reflecting, and, before you write, jot down as many feelings and reflections as you can on your topic. You won’t end up writing about everything you put in your notes, but this process will help you decide what’s most important and will allow you to narrow your focus.

Q: How do I make my reflective essay interesting?

A: Choose relevant content. If you’re writing about how volunteering at a homeless shelter affected you, choose key points that really changed your life in a significant way.

You may have realized the importance of wearing comfortable shoes while standing and serving meals for hours, but did the revelation about proper footwear really change your life? Is this really what your audience wants to read about? I doubt it.

Choose more complex insights. Consider how and why the events, the interactions, and your experiences changed your outlook or your goals for your own life.

Homer Simpson might write about the time doctors found a crayon lodged in his brain, and how when they removed it, he instantly became smarter. His story would focus on how the events changed him and how he felt when he was finally able to relate to his daughter, Lisa.

In Homer’s reflective essay, stories of driving to work or sitting at Moe’s drinking a beer wouldn’t be relevant, as they don’t offer any insight to his reflections about his relationship with Lisa.

Q: Can I write in first person?

A: Yes (unless your professor says otherwise). Most academic writing is formal and requires you to write in third person, but because reflective essays are more personal, and you’re reflecting about your thoughts and experiences, in most cases you may use first person.

Q: If I can use first person, does that mean I can write like I talk?

A: No. Remember, you’re still writing an academic essay. Your tone should be formal, and you should avoid slang and jargon.

Q: How do I structure a reflective essay?

A: The structure of a reflective essay is like most other essays. You need to include an introduction, body, and conclusion. You’ll also need a strong thesis that informs readers of the focus of your paper. (Read Use This Reflective Essay Outline to Get Your Paper Started)

Reflective Essay Checklist

Now that you know how to write a reflective essay, don’t forget to proofread and revise your paper once it’s done.

Here’s a quick proofreading and revision checklist to help polish your essay.

Check the opening. Have you used a good hook sentence? Does your opening grab readers’ attention? Does anyone actually want to read your reflection?

Check transitions. Have you used appropriate transition words to link ideas? Have you used transitional sentences to move readers from one point to the next?

Check essay format. Are your margins correct? Have you used an acceptable font? Is your spacing correct?

Ask for help. Don’t forget to have a friend, family member, or expert Kibin editor help polish your reflective essay.

Good luck!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

Categories: 1

0 Replies to “Hooks For A Reflective Essay”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *