What Is Reflective Writing?

Writers use reflective writing to analyze and examine an event, memory, or observation. In reflective writing, the writer reflects on the meaning and impact of the occasion.

student working on reflective writing student working on reflective writing
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Defining Reflective Writing

Most writing is creative writing, where you describe something that happened or you make up a story. However, reflective writing gives the writer insights and can lead to further learning. It is like rewinding your life to a past event and then thinking about how it affected your life, what you could have done differently to change the outcome, or what came out of the event.

Reflective writing isn’t just personal, however. Reflective writing is used in an academic setting to examine your response to a new experience or piece of writing. Reflective writing can also be analytical when applied to critical thinking or processing used in research. To begin reflective writing, start with reflection.

Reflection in Reflective Writing

Reflection is a mental process. It is contemplation or a long consideration. Thoughts or opinions that come to you while you are reflecting are called reflections. Unlike a reflection in a mirror, it is an interpretation of what is going on between learning and thinking.

Factors to Consider in Reflection

When you are writing about a reflection, there are factors that can affect how you express it. These are:

  • Why you are writing
  • Whether others will read it
  • How you feel about your writing
  • Your emotions at the time of writing
  • How capable you are at writing reflectively

The Process of Reflection

When it comes to reflective writing, there are three important areas that you’ll want to be sure to focus on.

Description

Description provides a short description of what you’ll be reflecting on, whether it’s a personal experience, academic subject, or research. Questions you might ask include:

  • What are you going to reflect on?
  • Why are you reflecting?

Interpretation

In interpretation, you’ll focus on the area of the event, idea, or analysis that you feel is the most important. For example, if you’re doing a reflective writing of the birth of your brother, you’ll want to think about:

  • What did you think and feel and what were your reactions?
  • What was good and bad?
  • What was really going on?
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Outcome

For the good or the bad, you learn something from every piece of literature you read or every experiment you do. Therefore, the outcome of reflective writing is going to focus on what you learned. Questions to help with reflection in this area might include:

  • What are the general and specific conclusions you have made?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • What will be affected by what you have learned?

Examples of Reflection in Reflective Writing

Reflective writing isn’t as easy as you might think it would be. Since you are reflecting on yourself or your thoughts or feelings about something, this might look like:

As I lay in bed, I often find myself wondering about this new world we live in. In one small second, my normal has drastically changed. Even leaving the house can fill me with fear. And I begin to explore all the different ways the world and I have changed.

You can also explore additional examples of reflection used in reflective essays.

Topics and Prompts for Reflective Writing

Here are a list of analytical topics for reflective writing:

  • How well did you write an assignment?
  • What is the quality of your relationship with someone?
  • What are some experiences you gained in your job?
  • How do you want to behave differently?
  • What is your process for problem solving?
  • How well did you do in school last year?

Here are writing prompts to get you started on personal and creative reflective writing:

  • If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?
  • Describe your room and what you feel about it and your possessions.
  • I am comfortable when…
  • I feel angry when…
  • I feel frustrated when…
  • The most interesting story my family ever told was...
  • What do you want to do before you turn 30? (or any age or date)
  • What are some things you are grateful for and why?
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What Is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing is an observation of something. The topic you explore might be academic, a past experience, or personal. Now that you’ve delved into reflective writing, explore what expository writing is.