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What Is A Personal Reflection

How to write a personal reflection

What is a personal reflection? A personal reflection is a response to something – an experience you had, how you reacted to it, how you were changed by it, and how you grew as a result. If you've been assigned one, they usually are one of a few types:

  • A reflection on your academic growth that came from specific projects or assignments

  • A reflection on a particular event in your life and the personal growth that followed

  • In an English or literature class, a reflection on what you've read or studied

Before you begin writing, you need to organize, and you need an outline.

Before you write

Requirements – Make sure you know the word limit (if any) and possible subjects. Also check about the format. Many essays follow the format of 1:3:1 (one paragraph for the introduction, three for the body, and one for the conclusion), but a different format may be assigned.

Brainstorm – Start taking notes. In a couple of sentences, summarize the event, assignment, or text that you've been asked to reflect on. This will help you identify the theme of your essay. Capture what stands out in your mind. For readings or assignments, try to recall specific quotes or sections. For events, ask yourself about the different parts of the experience. Try to remember using your senses, and how you felt then.

Outline – Your outline should contain the main parts of your paper, and should look something like this:

  • Introduction

    • Introduce and explain the subject or event

    • Your reaction to the subject or event

      • What happened?

      • Did the subject or event make you change your mind about something?

      • What did you learn?

    • Thesis Statement

  • Body (repeat this for each body paragraph)

    • Topic Sentence

    • Supporting evidence

    • Transition sentence

  • Conclusion

    • Repeat and summarize thesis statement

    • Summarize body

    • Conclusion statement

Now let's break a personal reflection down into its parts.


The introduction is where you provide the readers a preview of what follows. The introduction needs to grab the reader's attention. This is called the "hook". As with most essays, the introduction needs to have a thesis statement. The thesis statement introduces the topic. In a personal reflection essay, the thesis statement should also briefly cover the event that influenced you. Make sure you don't go into this too deeply; the body is where you will go into detail. Don't give away too much of the story before that.


The body is the most important part of the essay. You need to write a body that's not confusing or murky. Keep in mind that your essay has a timeline (an event or assignment, your reaction to it, and the growth that occurred as a result). The timeline doesn't have to be absolutely linear, but don't jump around too much. Before you start writing, figure out what order you want to put things in.

Possibly the most important part of the body is what happened to you or what you read, and the impact it had on you, or what you learned. This part needs to be at least as long as the description of the event or assignment. It shows who you are as a person. If the reflection is about something you read, don't just summarize the text – but do use specific details to back up and explain your personal growth or the understanding that you reached.


The conclusion of your personal reflection essay should describe the lesson you learned or the understanding that came as a part of the event or reading experience. It should tie together the entire essay. Include a summary of the main points covered in the body.

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