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Reflective writing: Reflective essays

“Try making the conscious effort to reflect on the link between your experience and the theory, policies or studies you are reading”

Williams et al., Reflective Writing

Writing a reflective essay

When you are asked to write a reflective essay, you should closely examine both the question and the marking criteria. This will help you to understand what you are being asked to do. Once you have examined the question you should start to plan and develop your essay by considering the following:

  1. What experience(s) and/or event(s) are you going to reflect on?
  2. How can you present these experience(s) to ensure anonymity (particularly important for anyone in medical professions)?
  3. How can you present the experience(s) with enough context for readers to understand?
  4. What learning can you identify from the experience(s)?
  5. What theories, models, strategies and academic literature can be used in your reflection?
  6. How this experience will inform your future practice

When structuring your reflection, you can present it in chronological order (start to finish) or in reverse order (finish to start). In some cases, it may be more appropriate for you to structure it around a series of flashbacks or themes, relating to relevant parts of the experience.


Example Essay Structure

This is an example structure for a reflective essay focusing on a single experience or event:


  • What the essay is about
  • What you are focusing on
  • Why this is important
  • What the context/background is (general statement on reflective practice)
  • Definition of any problematic terms

Part 1

  • Description of the experience

Part 2

  • Feelings/responses to the experience

Part 3

  • Reflection during the experience (immediate action)

Part 4

  • What was good or bad about the experience?

Part 5

  • Reflection after the experience
  • What sense can you make of the situation? (Include sources from your study to help explain and analyse the situation)

Part 6

  • What general conclusions do you draw? What else could be done?

Part 7

  • What would you do differently?


  • Summarise the main points



When you are writing a reflective assessment, it is important you keep your description to a minimum. This is because the description is not actually reflection and it often counts for only a small number of marks. This is not to suggest the description is not important. You must provide enough description and background for your readers to understand the context.

You need to ensure you discuss your feelings, reflections, responses, reactions, conclusions, and future learning. You should also look at positives and negatives across each aspect of your reflection and ensure you summarise any learning points for the future.