Reflective Essay Outline: Building a Skeleton of your Paper

reflective essay outline

A reflective essay is a writer’s heart on paper — it explores a topic using the author’s own personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But as free-flowing as it may sound, a reflective essay outline is still vital to creating a truly impactful piece of writing.

A reflective essay, in contrast with an expository essay, is not just an objective report about a certain situation or event. Rather, it is a subjective kind of writing that involves the authors’ own impression, ideas, and attitude on a particular topic. The reflective essay also differs from a descriptive essay in that it doesn’t just describe a subject or a scene; it examines the meaning of the topic and how it relates to the bigger world or to life itself.

For these reasons, the reflective essay is quite flexible when it comes to form and construction. Nonetheless, for it to achieve its goal of inspiring a new way of thinking in the reader, you’d still need a reflective essay outline to bring best organization of ideas possible. Your challenge will be structuring your main message such that it will evoke the response you want it to achieve.

For you to accomplish this, use the following template as a guide:

  1. Opening Paragraph
  2. You know what they say—for any piece of writing, start out strong. Hook your readers with an engaging first line. Of all the essay types, the reflective essay will grant you one of the best opportunities to dish out an especially gripping opening sentence, banking on the essay’s more emotional nature. Tie up your opening with a thesis sentence, a cohesive line that can summarize and launch the reflections you’ll share.

  3. Body
  4. This part will require careful outlining. To best organize the body of your essay, first draft out a “mind map” in another piece of paper. Write your topic in the center, then branch out circles of categories regarding your topic. For instance, let’s say you’re writing about death. Among your categories could be “grief process” and “coping mechanisms.” Brainstorm ideas and write them down under whichever category they belong. These categories will form organized groups of your thoughts and reactions, and will help you determine what to write in which paragraph. Construct 3-5 paragraphs each focusing on a main point, arranged in the way you’d like your readers to experience what you have to share.

  5. Closing Paragraph
  6. The last part of the reflective essay outline is the closing or concluding paragraph. This is where you summarize the main points you have presented, then subtly tie them up to reveal your general perception of the topic. Finally, connect your message to a universal truth. This is what will push your essay towards creating a lasting effect on your reader.