How to write a reflective essay for university or college

Graham Jones
3 min readJul 9, 2021
Student writing reflective essay

Writing a reflective essay for university or college is a common requirement. Indeed, university lecturers are increasingly using reflective essays as a means of assessment. That’s because done properly, a reflective essay is an excellent way of demonstrating the extent of your learning and understanding.

Keep a journal

The first step in writing a reflective essay happens before you even start planning what to write. To ensure that you are able to write a good reflection after several weeks of study you need to make sure you keep a reflective journal.

It’s best to write your journal every day. That way your thoughts will be current and you are unlikely to forget things. If you wait until near the deadline it is inevitable you will forget things that struck your mind several weeks beforehand.

Write down what happened

The first step in writing your reflective essay is to summarise what happened. This is going to be the shortest part of your essay. One of the reasons why so many students get poor marks for reflective essays is because they focus on logging what they studied, rather than dealing with the implications. So, take each of your weekly journal notes and write a short summary of what you have studied in the period running up to the deadline for the essay. This summary does not have to be long, or in great detail. All you are doing is providing context for what you will be writing next.

Explain how it made you feel

The next part of your essay should be your reaction to what you have been studying. This ought to be a substantial part of your essay. You need to explain what emotions were triggered. These can include all kinds of feelings from pleasure, to surprise or even anger. It doesn’t matter what you say about how you felt; after all, this is a personal reflection it is about you. Hence, there is no right or wrong thing to say.

Another key component of this part of your reflective essay would be to explain how your understanding or knowledge of the topic had changed. What happened to improve your ability to think about the topic? These are key factors that any lecturer or tutor will expect you to…

Graham Jones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who helps business understand online customer behaviour