Whether writing about a group project or a significant personal event, a reflective essay lets you present an overview of a personal experience and its impact on you. Beginning a paper that requires evaluation of your own work and behavior, though, can be challenging. You can get started on a reflective assignment by understanding the specific assignment requirements and using brainstorming activities to compile evidence of your growth and change.
Understand the Requirements
Before you start writing, read through the assignment sheet several times, taking special note of the essay prompt and what kind of experience you're asked to discuss. For example, you may be asked to reflect on the development of an essay in English class, or to describe a personal challenge for a scholarship or college application. Careful focus on the prompt will be critical to your essay's success. Pay attention to the length requirement as well; a reflective essay will typically be two to three pages and therefore require a summary of events rather than a descriptive, lengthy narrative.
Write an Event Log
The University of Reading's online study advice department suggests writing an objective log of the experience you're focusing on. This means recording a description of events without inserting any personal judgments or emotional language. You can then use the log to note how the experience changed your thought process or behavior. For example, you may be writing about a personality clash with a coworker and how you chose to find a way to communicate rather than be in conflict. This reveals that you've learned to be flexible and understanding in dealing with different people.
Write a Thesis Statement
Like any academic essay, a reflective paper needs a thesis statement, a sentence placed near the beginning that gives an overview of what you'll be discussing. One way to structure your thesis is by previewing your analysis of your experience and how you changed as a result. For example, if you're writing a reflective essay about a science project, your thesis might read, "Although my experiment helped me to better understanding the scientific method, my ability to design an effective hypothesis still needs improvement." Be prepared to revise your thesis as you craft the actual essay and get new ideas.
Make an Outline
A reflective essay typically includes an introduction, at least three body paragraphs that both detail your experience and evaluate your response to it, followed by a conclusion. To structure a well-organized paper, make an outline with notes about the details of the experience, what progress you've made and what evidence illustrates your development. Be careful not to let the story itself dominate the essay; Queensland University of Technology suggests focusing on only the most crucial details so you have room left to reflect on what happened.