The Professional Guide to Structuring a Reflective Essay

reflective essay structure

Getting the reflective essay structure right isn't easy as there are so many different ways of doing it. Using this guide it's a process that can be done without too much hassle. It's important to understand exactly why there is no universal structure in the first place and exactly why certain reflective essay formats are incorrect and don't work, however. Take note, the structure of this essay could just be the difference between getting a great grade and receiving an average grade.

Why the Difference?

The difference in reflective paper structure comes with the difference in teaching. Since there are no exact guidelines on which structure should be employed for the best marks its tutors who will determine what's taught. Since they themselves have gone through exactly the same system of teaching they are going to opt for the style that works for them. Their favoured style may not be the best structure now, though. That's the problem and it's why students could be unknowingly shooting themselves in the feet without knowing it.

Reflective Structure Error

The main reason why certain structures and formats don't work with a reflective essay is because they are geared towards different essay types. Some tutors will teach students to use the same structure for each essay type. The problem is that reflective essays are completely different from any other type of essay. It's driven forward by experience and evaluation, not evidence garnered from long hours spent in the local library.


Evidence can still be used, of course, but it shouldn't be the centre point. It's critical that the right balance of success and failure is generated within an essay. The reflective paper structure is going to be made on this balance. Adding dashes of success into the structure may seem to be contrary to exactly what the essay is all about; self-improvement. It's not, though. Examiners are looking to see if students are able to recognise both success and failure. Better results can be gained if students are able to do this.

The Structure Itself

Start with an introduction that sets the whole scene down for the reader. Since there are no formal debates it's going to be hard for the individual reading it to understand exactly what's going on. They can't use their own inclinations or instincts. Use the introduction to set the scene and the first paragraph or two to spew chunks of narrative onto the page. Don't be afraid of doing this, in these essays narrative of an event is perfectly valid.

Dedicate the next couple of paragraphs to actually explaining some of the successes of the event or experience. A reflective essay structure should always have some of these things built-in to it. Of course, don't be afraid to mention how the success could be improved upon or how it's already been improved upon. Avoid spending too much time on this area, though, as it's not the main point of the assignment.

The main body of the essay should be on exactly what went wrong and what can be improved upon. This part of the reflective degree paper structure is the key to getting a high grade. Get this wrong and any hope of success is thrown straight out the window. Begin by acknowledging the failures of the experience. Once this has been agreed upon continue by outlining a brief plan for what could be done better for each point.

Continue on in that same vein until the conclusion. Sum everything up just like in any other essay. Don't introduce anything new and just tie up any loose ends. End strongly and it should leave a lasting impression on the reader.