A reflective essay, a type of personal essay assignment, asks a student to look back on and "reflect" on what he learned. The reflective essay is used in a wide range of academic courses, from English to botany to anthropology. If you want to write a reflective essay for a social sciences course, including science, history, law and psychology, the APA (American Psychological Association) format is ideal.
Your reflective essay needs to be typed and double-spaced with 1-inch margins on all sides to meet APA style standards. Using standard-sized printer paper -- 8.5 inch by 11 inches -- use 12-point lettering in a Times New Roman font. When you begin writing your reflective essay, ensure you know what your word count is for the paper. Note that you can always extend the length or your essay later, as a personal project.
Before you begin writing, include a page header, which should be no more than 50 letters long. Position the header so that it appears at the top left of every page. The page header should be the title of your essay, in all capital letters. For instance, if you are writing a paper on reflections on a psychological study on inpatients with depression, you may title your paper THOUGHTS: BRINGING DEPRESSION PATIENTS BACK TO LIFE. Be sure to insert page numbers in the right corner of every page so that your reader can refer to different places in your essay she may want to re-read, or quote for a study.
A title page acts like the cover of a book, letting the reader know the title of the essay, the author's name and the institutional affiliation, such as the name of your school, class or department. Using the example above, you may write your title, THOUGHTS: BRINGING DEPRESSION PATIENTS BACK TO LIFE, on the top flush left, preceded by the words "running head"; and then center your name and institution underneath with single-spacing. The page number 1 should be flush right top, as well.
You will need to create an abstract, a concise summary of the main points of your essay. Since your essay is reflective and not founded much on research, if any, make the abstract of summary of your main ideas. For example, you may write that in the depression patients you met and talked with, it seems they lack a luster for life because of an emotional block or an emotional trauma or loss that keeps them from seeing beyond it. Usually the APA calls for a second- or third-person voice in abstracts, but first-person is acceptable, according to Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL).
Do not indent the abstract. Instead, make it into block text form so it looks like a vertical rectangle of words. Include your conclusion points in the essay, too, which for a reflective essay may be your final remarks or opinions on a topic. Keep the abstract to 150 to 250 words.