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What Is a Reflection Essay?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 23, 2024
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A reflection essay, also known as a reflective essay, is a work in which the writer will take the opportunity to review and analyze a certain experience in a personal way. A reflection essay does not involve research, as many other types of essays do. Instead, authors may reflect on their personal interpretations of an experience; this can be something as simple as reading a book or watching a film, or it may occur after greater life event. These are just a few of the many examples in which a writer may take some time to reflect on what they learned.

The point of a reflection essay is not to summarize the experience, but rather to analyze it in a personal way; both positive and negative aspects should be touched upon. For instance, an individual writing a reflection essay on a book he or she has read is not going to simply provide the plot of the book. Instead, he might write what he learned while reading the book, if any of this information altered his existing viewpoints, and if he can relate it to his life in some way. Instructors often assign these types of essays to ensure that students are actually reading and thinking about this information; of course, professional authors have also been known to write and publish such essays as well.

Another common place to find a request for a reflection essay is in a college admissions application. Applicants might be asked to reflect on a significant experience throughout their lives, such as an event that made them realize they wanted to attend a specific college or follow a particular career path. Reflective essays and journals are also common throughout the college experience. Many instructors ask students to keep reflective journals throughout the course, which are really a series of reflection essays.

The personal nature of a reflection essay should not be confused with informality. It is important that proper language is still used in this type of essay, and that the essay is organized cohesively, and is well planned. Even if the thoughts in the essay are good ones, an instructor will nearly always deduct grade points for a paper that is poorly organized or not well expressed. Instructors will generally also provide extensive directions as to how long they want the essay to be, and if they want any specific information included.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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