How to Write a Reflective Piece of Writing

October 2020 by


Most university students will be asked to write a reflective piece of writing at some point during their course. In some ways it sounds super easy, right? You just need to reflect on your experience and explain what went on. In reality, there are actually a lot of important things to note when writing a reflection to ensure you get the best marks. Reflective models such as the Gibbs Reflective Cycle is the main resource that will make your reflective writing successful. If you’re looking on how to perfect your reflective writing then keep reading!

Make a plan for references

When you’re about to write your reflective report it’s important to know exactly what you’re going to say to avoid going off-topic. The same way you’d plan for an essay, you need to plan for your reflective writing too. Create a list of the main points you want to include, alongside a piece of theoretical evidence or an example to back it up. If you’re struggling to reflect, try using a mind map to jot down different areas of your process and pick out the most prominent ones to talk about.

In all reflective writing, it’s important to use popular reflective methods, which takes us onto our next point!

Use a reflective theory

If you haven’t heard of the Gibbs Reflective Cycle then honestly, where have you been?! It’s easily the most popular and well-known tool to use when writing a reflection piece and it’s a recommended model by a majority of universities. Here are the 6 steps it covers:

  1. Description

    This should be in the first section of your reflective essay. It essentially sets the scene on what exactly has happened and what you’re reflecting on. Here you should outline what happened, step by step so that the reader understands the overall process you went through. Who was there? What was your defined role? Why did you participate? What were your initial goals?

  2. Feelings

    Here you’re going to talk about all of the significant thoughts and feelings that you felt throughout your project. When decisions were made, how did they impact you? How did your decisions impact other people? Were there any points of friction? Here you should outline not only the positive moments but negative moments too. Negative aspects can be seen as learning curves, how did you overcome these points? Did you learn something new from it? Your tutors want to see how you progressed as a person through the experience.

  3. Evaluation

    Now the project has finished, how do you think it went overall? Was it a positive or negative experience? How did you contribute to this? Honesty is crucial here, you won’t lose marks for admitting fault of your own that impacted the overall group experience – they want to see your acknowledgement of this!

  4. Analysis

    Now it’s important to make sense of what happened and identify a deeper meaning. Ask yourself why things happened and recognise factors that can help you to understand the situation. One of the ways to be successful in your reflection is to use wider reading and theoretical studies to extract meaning, so here is your chance to include other academic evidence. How would you have changed things? If you can demonstrate that on reflection you understand what you would have altered in order to improve your experience you will highlight your personal development to your tutor – get those extra marks here!

  5. Conclusion

    Here is your chance to summarise your overall learning and talk about the future. This will show that you’ve gained something from the whole experience and clearly reflected on it enough to understand the best way to move forward. Are there any skills you’ve identified that you need to improve? What else could you have done during this process to improve it for yourself and others? Write it all down here!

  6. Action plan

    How can you use what you’ve learnt from this experience in future aspects of your life? This section is all about what you’re going to do now. You’ve outlined the skills you need to improve in your conclusion, so how are you going to move forward and do this? These should be actionable things that you are ready to work on.

Work through Gibbs reflective cycle point by point and consider the finer details of your experience to make sure your reflective writing is of its best quality. With it being so commonly used, it shows that it’s successful for many students work and hopefully it will be for yours too!

So hopefully reading this has been helpful and you now feel you have a better understanding of how to tackle your reflective writing! There are many different reflective models out there including reflective journals, reflective diaries and reflective reports but they all follow a similar structure so you can adapt it for all of them. Comment below any other tips you have and good luck with your writing!



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