Caleb S.
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How to Create a Reflective Essay Outline | Easy Guide with Examples

8 min read

Published on: May 1, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 22, 2023

Reflective Essay Outline

Are you struggling with writing a reflective essay, unsure of how to critically examine a life experience and present it effectively?

It can be challenging because a reflective essay requires you to analyze past experiences from your current perspective, diving deep into your thoughts and emotions.

But fear not because in this blog, we're going to provide you with an effective guide on creating a perfect reflective essay outline. With careful planning and organization, you'll discover how to express your personal experiences clearly, making the writing process easy and efficient. 

So, let’s start with the blog!

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What is a Reflective Essay Outline?

A reflective essay outline is a layout of one’s thoughts and ideas in regard to a specific item.  This type of academic writing revolves around a specific response to a topic in the form of a personal reflection. Creating an outline is the first step to a well-written reflective paper. 

A reflective essay is similar to a diary entry except for the fact that others will be reading it, so it needs a coherent structure. 

What makes reflective essays different from other essay types is the reflective aspect that comes with them. Some of the reflective essay topics include a life experience, a special place, or something you have watched. 

Creating an outline prior to the reflective paper is important to organize your thoughts and ideas. Without a well-structured essay outline, it would be very difficult for you to write a perfect and well-organized reflective essay. 

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How to Write a Reflective Essay Outline?

Because the purpose of writing a reflective essay is different from other types of essays, the organization of ideas will also be different. No matter what topic you have chosen, certain rules will always apply. 

To organize your thoughts and ideas, create an outline that should include sections for the introduction, body, and conclusion. 

Here are the steps that you need to follow to create a perfect reflective essay outline. 

1. Reflective Essay Introduction 

As with any other type of writing, reflective essays also start with an introduction. The following are the two important parts that an introduction for a reflective essay should include:

  • The Hook

It is usually the first statement written to catch the reader’s attention from the beginning. For example, if you are writing a reflective essay about real-life experience, a quick preview of the most exciting part is a good approach to start with. 

You can also go through hook examples for an interesting beginning of your reflective essay. 

  • The Thesis Statement 

A thesis statement is a 1-2 sentence statement that describes what your essay is all about. Don’t give too much information in the reflective essay thesis statement, as you will expand on it later. 

2. Reflective Essay Body Paragraphs 

The next part of the outline is the body section. This can be the hardest part of the entire reflection paper outline. The body section will be very difficult and time-consuming to write if you have not prepared the reflective essay outline first. 

Start your body paragraph with a topic sentence to explain its main idea. If you are describing an event, here is what each paragraph of your reflective essay should include. 

  • First Body Paragraph 

The first paragraph will be a description of the event. Don’t forget to answer the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’, and ‘when’ questions. Include the essential information to describe your experience. 

For describing an event, a good approach is to follow the chronological order and avoid jumping from one time to another. 

  • Second Body Paragraph 

In the second part, you need to point out the main issues related to the described event. You can also insert quotations and cite sources if the described points can be related to the literature. 

  • Third Body Paragraph 

The third part of your reflection essay will focus on the reflection of your thoughts about the event. This part describes what lessons you have learned as well as insights and ideas that evolved after experiencing the event. 

3. Reflective Essay Conclusion 

It is the last paragraph of your reflective essay where you need to provide a final touch to the whole writing together. Reiterate the thesis statement and provide a brief summary of the points as well as the overall takeaway from your reflection. 

Here are the key elements that you need to add for writing a great essay conclusion paragraph. 

  • Restate your thesis statement
  • Review the main ideas
  • Closing sentence

Reflective Essay Outline Template 

Here is an outline template you could follow for writing your essay:


  • Introduction
    - (Hook)
    - Thesis Statement
  • Body Paragraph 1 (Support Thesis Statement)
    - (Topic Sentence)
  • Body Paragraph 2 (Support Main Argument)
    - (Topic Sentence)
  • Body Paragraph 3 ( Share your thoughts, or observations)
    (Topic Sentence)
  • Conclusion (Sum Up Your KeyPoints)


Reflective Essay Format and Style

The format of a good reflective essay greatly differs from other types of essays. A reflective essay is more like a well-structured story with insight and personal reflection. 

No idea what a self-reflective essay outline format APA or MLA is? 

The following are the three most common essay formats that you can use to arrange your reflective essay. 

The typical length for a reflection essay is between 400-700 words. Make sure to ask your instructor and employ the correct length and format if it is assigned.  

If your instructor asks you to format your reflection paper in MLA style or APA style, here are a few guidelines that you need to follow. 

Guidelines for APA Style

  • Use Time New Roman.
  • Font size 12 should be used.
  • One inch margin on all sides of the paper.
  • On top of every page, include a page header.
  • Add the page number on the right side of the paper.
  • The essay in APA should be divided into four parts: the title page, the abstract, the main body section, and references.

Guidelines for MLA Style

  • All text should be double-spaced.
  • Use Times New Roman.
  • Font size 12 should be used.
  • The one-inch margin on all sides of the paper.
  • Titles should be centered.
  • Include your name, your instructor’s name, course name, and date in the header.
  • The last page of your essay must include a work cited. 

Reflective Essay Outline Sample

You can get help from the following sample template and example to get started with your reflection paper. 

Reflective Essay Outline Writing Tips

Below, you can find some expert tips for creating a perfect outline for your reflective piece of writing.

  • Capture Key Ideas Quickly: Write down your main ideas and key points in a quick and concise manner. Use phrases or short sentences to represent each idea in your outline.
  • Start with the Core: Begin your outline with the essential sections: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. This provides a structural foundation for your reflection.
  • Mind the Flow: Ensure that your outline has a logical flow from one section to the next. Each point or idea in the outline should naturally lead to the next one.
  • Chunk Similar Ideas: Group together similar ideas or related experiences in the same section. This simplifies the writing process and maintains coherence.
  • Focus on Key Details: Don't worry about including every detail in the outline. Instead, prioritize key details and examples that support your main points.
  • Use Symbols or Abbreviations: To save time and space, use symbols or abbreviations in your outline, like arrows (?) to indicate transitions or "ex." for examples.
  • Think in Questions: Use questions as prompts in your outline. For instance, "What did I learn from this experience?" can guide your reflection in a specific direction.
  • Reflective Prompts: Use reflective prompts as subheadings in your outline to guide your thought process. For example, "Why was this experience significant?"

Now, you know how to create an outline for writing a reflective essay. Refer to the above guide to craft a perfect reflective essay structure to achieve the results you need.

Reflective essay writing can be challenging for some, even with all the advice and tips. 

Our reflective essay writing service can take care of your reflective essay outline or even the whole writing if you struggle to implement your idea. Our professional writers are available 24/7 to assist you with your ‘write my essay’ request. 

Caleb S.


Caleb S. (Literature, Marketing)

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That’s our Job!

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