Writing a Solid Reflective Essay Outline

, Staff Writer
Updated May 12, 2020
Person writing Reflective Essay Outline
    Person writing Reflective Essay Outline
    katleho Seisa / E+ / Getty

Reflective essays look at a piece of literature or event in your life and record your personal thoughts and feelings. Not only does this method tell you and the reader a lot about your attitudes and character traits, but it makes for fun reading. Learn how to create a reflective paper outline through examples. Get a printable reflective essay outline to help craft your own paper.

What Is a Reflective Essay?

Reflection can be hard. Whether you’re reflecting on your own personal experiences or even a piece of literature, it’s hard to put your own thoughts into words. This is why it is so important to flex this muscle in writing. The more you reflect and look at something, the easier it will get. And, this isn’t the only purpose.


Purpose of Reflective Writing

Reflective writing can also demonstrate your growth and feelings. Because you’re exploring your thoughts and actions, you’re deeply diving into your personality and character traits. Watching how those change and morph as you grow can be fun. The beginning is always hard. That’s why it’s great to start with a reflective essay outline.

Reflective Essay Ideas & Topics

You can’t craft your essay without a topic, or at least an idea of a topic. One of the great things about reflective writing is the topics are so open. Reflect on an experience you had. Look at your last year at summer camp or the birth of a new sibling. There are so many examples. A few worth looking into include:

  • Personal growth experience like losing a loved one
  • Vivid memory
  • Feelings about a song or book
  • Impactful speech
  • An event you can’t forget, such as the COVID19 pandemic

The list can go on and on. Choose a topic you’re interested in and dissect your feelings. This is what will truly make or break your essay.


How to Write a Reflective Essay Outline

With a topic in hand, it’s outlining time. Outlining a reflective essay is more like getting your thoughts in order. It’s about creating the essay bone structure.

Using a keyword or sentence-style outline, start with a strong thesis statement to clarify your ideas. From there, fill in the pieces for the introduction, body, and conclusion. Each part of the outline has specific importance, so let’s look at each in turn.

Thesis Statement

Crafting your thesis statement can be daunting. However, remember the thesis statement isn’t set in stone. It can change and morph just like a paper would. The more you reflect on something, the more insights you notice. This means your thoughts might change, or you notice something you didn’t see before. This could change your thesis, and that is okay. Think of your thesis as more of a living thing rather than an inanimate object.

When starting out on the thesis, craft it to highlight your main points. For a reflective paper outline, summarize what the event/writing is, the effect it had on you, and what you learned. For example:

The birth of my brother forever changed me. Not only did it show me what the true meaning of love was, but I learned that you never truly know what you need until you have it.

This thesis statement highlights the event ‘birth of a brother’, the effect it had ‘showed the true meaning of love’, and what they learned ‘you never truly know what you need until you have it’. That’s it!



In addition to a thesis statement, an introduction needs a great hook. This might be the most exciting part of the story or a reflection on the experience to drive a reader’s interest. It’s also good to add a short introduction to the piece, event, or experience in the introduction to lay the groundwork for the body.


If the essay were a sandwich, the body is the meat. It’s the juicy tidbit everyone is looking forward to. Use as many paragraphs as needed to get your point across, but your body will not be complete until you’ve covered the summary, effect, and what was learned. For each part, you’ll want to include:

  • Topic sentence to introduce your key elements
  • Evidence you’ll be providing
  • Details like memories or quotes

Once you’ve covered all your key points, then it’s time to move on to the conclusion.



Just because your essay is ending doesn’t mean it should be boring. Rather, it should leave your reader with a lasting effect. In the conclusion, restate the experience and what you learned. Make it creative. Maybe leave the reader with an ending hook or question. And, there you have it. Your outline is ready. Get writing!

Tips For Writing a Reflective Essay

The outline is the bones of the essay. However, as you write, you might find things change or your reflection moves. Go with it. Writing is not a static process. Some other writing tips include:

  • Watch the tone of your writing; it should be in your voice.
  • Use transition words to transition between thoughts and paragraphs.
  • Let writing sit and read it with fresh eyes. It is amazing how errors or unclear areas come to light.
  • Run a spelling and grammar check.
  • Have a friend or acquaintance read it.
  • Read it aloud to yourself or use a voice reader. Hearing it can show weird errors or missing transitions.

Writing a Reflective Paper Outline

Reflective writing might be tough, but with the right outline, you have this in the bag! Don’t just stop at reflective essays though. Try out other essay forms by exploring essay examples. You never know, descriptive or narrative essays might be more your jam!