Reflective Narrative Essay Topics

Updated, March 2, 2017 | We published an updated version of this list, “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing,” as well as a companion piece, “401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing.”


Every school day since 2009 we’ve asked students a question based on an article in The New York Times. Now, five years later, we’ve collected 500 of them that invite narrative and personal writing and pulled them all together in one place (available here as a PDF).

The categorized list below touches on everything from sports to travel, education, gender roles, video games, fashion, family, pop culture, social media and more, and, like all our Student Opinion questions, each links to a related Times article and includes a series of follow-up questions. What’s more, all these questions are still open for comment by any student 13 or older.

So dive into this admittedly overwhelming list and pick the questions that most inspire you to tell an interesting story, describe a memorable event, observe the details in your world, imagine a possibility, or reflect on who you are and what you believe.


Childhood Memories

  1. What Was Your Most Precious Childhood Possession?
  2. What Were Your Favorite Childhood Shows and Characters?
  3. What Were Your Favorite Picture Books When You Were Little?
  4. What Things Did You Create When You Were a Child?
  5. What Places Do You Remember Fondly From Childhood?
  6. Have You Ever Felt Embarrassed by Things You Used to Like?
  7. Do You Wish You Could Return to Moments From Your Past?
  8. Was There a Toy You Wanted as a Child but Never Got?
  9. What Objects Tell the Story of Your Life?
  10. What Are Your Best Sleepover Memories?
  11. What’s the Best Gift You’ve Ever Given or Received?
  12. What’s the Most Memorable Thing You Ever Got in the Mail?
  13. What Nicknames Have You Ever Gotten or Given?

  14. Coming of Age

  15. What Have You Learned in Your Teens?
  16. What Personal Achievements Make You Proud?
  17. What Are Some Recent Moments of Happiness in Your Life?
  18. What Are You Grateful For?
  19. What Rites of Passage Have You Participated In?
  20. What Advice Would You Give Younger Kids About Middle or High School?
  21. What Can Older People Learn From Your Generation?
  22. What Do Older Generations Misunderstand About Yours?

  23. Family

  24. Who Is Your Family?
  25. What Have You and Your Family Accomplished Together?
  26. What Events Have Brought You Closer to Your Family?
  27. What’s Your Role in Your Family?
  28. Have You Ever Changed a Family Member’s Mind?
  29. How Do You Define ‘Family’?
  30. What Are Your Family Stories of Sacrifice?
  31. What Possessions Does Your Family Treasure?
  32. What Hobbies Have Been Passed Down in Your Family?
  33. How Much Do You Know About Your Family’s History?
  34. Did Your Parents Have a Life Before They Had Kids?
  35. How Close Are You to Your Parents?
  36. How Are You and Your Parents Alike and Different?
  37. Do Your Parents Support Your Learning?
  38. What Have Your Parents Taught You About Money?
  39. Do You Expect Your Parents to Give You Money?
  40. How Permissive Are Your Parents?
  41. Do You Have Helicopter Parents?
  42. How Do Your Parents Teach You to Behave?
  43. How Do You Make Parenting Difficult for Your Parents?
  44. If You Drink or Use Drugs, Do Your Parents Know?
  45. Do You Talk About Report Cards With Your Parents?
  46. Would You Mind if Your Parents Blogged About You?
  47. How Well Do You Get Along With Your Siblings?
  48. How Well Do You Know Your Pet?
  49. What Role Do Pets Play in Your Family?
  50. What Is Your Racial and Ethnic Identity?
  51. Have You Ever Tried to Hide Your Racial or Ethnic Identity?
  52. How Do You Feel About Your Last Name?
  53. What’s the Story Behind Your Name?
  54. What Are Your Favorite Names?
  55. How Have You Paid Tribute to Loved Ones?

  56. Community and Home

  57. Would You Most Want to Live in a City, a Suburb or the Country?
  58. How Much Does Your Neighborhood Define Who You Are?
  59. What’s Special About Your Hometown?
  60. What Would You Name Your Neighborhood?
  61. Who Is the ‘Mayor’ of Your School or Neighborhood?
  62. Who Are the ‘Characters’ That Make Your Town Interesting?
  63. What Would a TV Show About Your Town Spoof?
  64. What ‘Urban Legends’ Are There About Places in Your Area?
  65. What Local Problems Do You Think Your Mayor Should Try to Solve?
  66. Do You Know Your Way Around Your City or Town?
  67. Have You Ever Interacted With the Police?
  68. How Often Do You Interact With People of Another Race or Ethnicity?
  69. Who Would Be the Ideal Celebrity Neighbor?
  70. What Is Your Favorite Place?
  71. How Much Time Do You Spend in Nature?
  72. What Small Things Have You Seen and Taken Note Of Today?
  73. What Would Your Dream Home Be Like?
  74. What is Your Favorite Place in Your House?
  75. How Important Is Keeping a Clean House?
  76. Is Your Bedroom a Nightmare?
  77. Do You Plan on Saving Any of Your Belongings for the Future?
  78. With Your Home in Danger, What Would You Try to Save?
  79. What Would You Put in Your Emergency ‘Go-Bag’?
  80. Have You Ever Lost (or Found) Something Valuable?

  81. Personality

  82. What Is Your Personal Credo?
  83. What Motivates You?
  84. What Makes You Happy?
  85. What Are You Good At?
  86. How Much Self-Control Do You Have?
  87. How Good Are You at Waiting for What You Really Want?
  88. What Role Does Procrastination Play in Your Life?
  89. When in Your Life Have You Been a Leader?
  90. How Well Do You Perform Under Pressure?
  91. How Well Do You Take Criticism?
  92. Are You Hard or Easy on Yourself?
  93. How Full Is Your Glass?
  94. Do You Have a Hard Time Making Decisions?
  95. How Good Are You at Time Management?
  96. How Productive and Organized Are You?
  97. How Would Your Life Be Different if You Had Better Listening Skills?
  98. How Competitive Are You?
  99. Do You Perform Better When You’re Competing or When You’re Collaborating?
  100. Do You Take More Risks When You Are Around Your Friends?
  101. Do You Unknowingly Submit to Peer Pressure?
  102. How Much of a Daredevil Are You?
  103. What Pranks, Jokes, Hoaxes or Tricks Have You Ever Fallen For or Perpetrated?
  104. How Do You React When Provoked?
  105. How Often Do You Cry?
  106. Do You Think You’re Brave?
  107. What Are You Afraid Of?
  108. What Are Your Fears and Phobias?
  109. What Are Your Personal Superstitions?
  110. Do You Like Being Alone?
  111. How Impulsive Are You?
  112. Are You a Novelty-Seeker?
  113. What Annoys You?
  114. Do You Apologize Too Much?
  115. Do You Have Good Manners?
  116. Are You a Saver or a Tosser?
  117. Are You More Introvert or Extrovert?
  118. Are You Popular, Quirky or Conformist?
  119. Are You a Nerd or a Geek?
  120. What Would Your Personal Mascot Be?
  121. What Assumptions Do People Make About You?

  122. Overcoming Adversity

  123. What Challenges Have You Overcome?
  124. What Do You Do When You Encounter Obstacles to Success?
  125. What Are Your Secret Survival Strategies?
  126. How Do You Find Peace in Your Life?
  127. How Have You Handled Being the ‘New Kid’?
  128. Do You Ever Feel Overlooked and Underappreciated?
  129. How Stressed Are You?
  130. How Do You Relieve Stress?
  131. Does Stress Affect Your Ability to Make Good Decisions?
  132. What Challenges Have You Set for Yourself?
  133. How Often Do You Leave Your ‘Comfort Zone’?
  134. What Did You Once Hate but Now Like?
  135. Does Your Life Leave You Enough Time to Relax?
  136. Do You Set Rules for Yourself About How You Use Your Time?
  137. Is ‘Doing Nothing’ a Good Use of Your Time?
  138. What’s Cluttering Up Your Life?
  139. What Work Went Into Reaching Your Most Difficult Goals?
  140. When Have You Ever Failed at Something? What Happened as a Result?
  141. When Have You Ever Succeeded When You Thought You Might Fail?
  142. What Life Lessons Has Adversity Taught You?
  143. What’s the Most Challenging Assignment You’ve Ever Had?
  144. What Kind of Feedback Helps You Improve?
  145. Is Trying Too Hard to Be Happy Making You Sad?
  146. Do Adults Who Are ‘Only Trying to Help’ Sometimes Make Things Worse?
  147. What Are Five Everyday Problems That Bother You, and What Can You Do About Them?

  148. Gender and Sexuality

  149. How Do Male and Female Roles Differ in Your Family?
  150. Do Parents Have Different Hopes and Standards for Their Sons Than for Their Daughters?
  151. Is There Too Much Pressure on Girls to Have ‘Perfect’ Bodies?
  152. How Much Pressure Do Boys Face to Have the Perfect Body?
  153. How Did You Learn About Sex?
  154. How Should Parents Address Internet Pornography?
  155. What Experiences Have You Had With Gender Bias in School?
  156. What Have Been Your Experiences With Catcalling or Other Kinds of Street Harassment?
  157. Do You Know Boys Who Regard Girls as ‘Prey’?
  158. Do You Consider Yourself a Feminist?

  159. Morality and Religion

  160. How Do You Help?
  161. What Ethical Dilemmas Have You Faced?
  162. Would You Help an Injured Stranger?
  163. When Is the Last Time You Did Something Nice for a Stranger?
  164. Have You Ever ‘Paid It Forward’?
  165. How Much Do You Gossip?
  166. How Comfortable Are You With Lying?
  167. Have You Ever Taken Something You Weren’t Supposed To?
  168. What Could You Live Without?
  169. Do You Ever Feel Guilty About What, or How Much, You Throw Away?
  170. Do You Ever Eavesdrop?
  171. How Important Is Your Spiritual Life?
  172. Do You Believe That Everything Happens for a Reason?
  173. Can You Be Good Without God?
  174. Are You Less Religious Than Your Parents?
  175. Can You Pass a Basic Religion Test?
  176. What Can You Learn From Other Religions?

  177. Role Models

  178. Who Is Your Role Model?
  179. Who Are Your Heroes?
  180. Who Inspires You?
  181. What’s the Best Advice You’ve Gotten?
  182. Who Outside Your Family Has Made a Difference in Your Life?
  183. If You Had Your Own Talk Show, Whom Would You Want to Interview?
  184. To Whom, or What, Would You Like to Write a Thank-You Note?
  185. What Leader Would You Invite to Speak at Your School?
  186. What Six People, Living or Dead, Would You Invite to Dinner?

  187. Technology and Video Games

  188. Are You Distracted by Technology?
  189. Do You Always Have Your Phone or Tablet at Your Side?
  190. What Tech Tools Play the Biggest Role in Your Life?
  191. What New Technologies or Tech Toys Are You Most Excited About?
  192. To What Piece of Technology Would You Write a ‘Love Letter’?
  193. Does Your Digital Life Have Side Effects?
  194. Do Apps Help You or Just Waste Your Time?
  195. Do You Spend Too Much Time on Smart Phones Playing ‘Stupid Games’?
  196. When Do You Choose Making a Phone Call Over Sending a Text?
  197. Do You Know How to Code? Would You Like to Learn?
  198. Whom Would You Share Your Passwords With?
  199. What Are Your Favorite Video Games?
  200. What Have You Learned Playing Video Games?
  201. Do You Play Violent Video Games?
  202. When Should You Feel Guilty for Killing Zombies?
  203. Who Are Your Opponents in Online Gaming?
  204. Do You Like Watching Other People Play Video Games?

  205. The Internet

  206. How Careful Are You Online?
  207. Do You Ever Seek Advice on the Internet?
  208. How Do You Know if What You Read Online Is True?
  209. How Much Do You Trust Online Reviews?
  210. How Do You Use Wikipedia?
  211. What Are Your Favorite Internet Spoofs?
  212. What Are Your Favorite Viral Videos?
  213. What Would You Teach the World in an Online Video?
  214. What Are Your Experiences With Internet-Based Urban Legends?
  215. What Story Does Your Personal Data Tell?
  216. Do You Worry About the Lack of Anonymity in the Digital Age?
  217. Do You Wish You Had More Privacy Online?
  218. Have You Ever Been Scammed?

  219. Social Media

  220. How Do You Use Facebook?
  221. What Is Your Facebook Persona?
  222. What Memorable Experiences Have You Had on Facebook?
  223. Does Facebook Ever Make You Feel Bad?
  224. Would You Consider Deleting Your Facebook Account?
  225. Do You Have ‘Instagram Envy’?
  226. Do You Use Twitter?
  227. Why Do You Share Photos?
  228. How Do You Archive Your Life?
  229. Have You Ever Posted, Emailed or Texted Something You Wish You Could Take Back?
  230. Have You Ever Sent an Odd Message Because of Auto-Correct?
  231. Would You Want Your Photo or Video to Go Viral?
  232. Do You Worry Colleges or Employers Might Read Your Social Media Posts Someday?

  233. Music

  234. What Are You Listening To?
  235. Who in Your Life Introduces You to New Music?
  236. How Much Is Your Taste in Music Based on What Your Friends Like?
  237. What Music Inspires You?
  238. How Closely Do You Listen to Lyrics?
  239. Which Pop Music Stars Fascinate You?
  240. Who Is Your Favorite Pop Diva?
  241. What’s Your Karaoke Song?
  242. What Song/Artist Pairings Would You Like to Hear?

  243. Movies, Theater and Television

  244. What Were the Best Movies You Saw in the Past Year?
  245. What Movies Do You Watch, or Reference, Over and Over?
  246. What Movies, Shows or Books Do You Wish Had Sequels, Spinoffs or New Episodes?
  247. Do You Like Horror Movies?
  248. Who Are Your Favorite Movie Stars?
  249. Would You Pay Extra for a 3-D Movie?
  250. What Is Your Favorite Comedy?
  251. What Are the Best Live Theatrical Performances You’ve Ever Seen?
  252. Have You Ever Stumbled Upon a Cool Public Performance?
  253. What Role Does Television Play in Your Life and the Life of Your Family?
  254. What Television Shows Have Mattered to You?
  255. Do Your Television Viewing Habits Include ‘Binge-Watching’?
  256. How Often Do You Watch a Television Show When It Originally Airs?
  257. What Old Television Shows Would You Bring Back?
  258. Why Do We Like Reality Shows So Much?
  259. What Ideas Do You Have for a Reality Show?
  260. What Are Your Favorite Commercials?
  261. How Much Are You Influenced by Advertising?

  262. Reading, Writing and Fine Arts

  263. Read Any Good Books Lately?
  264. Do You Read for Pleasure?
  265. What Are Your Favorite Books and Authors?
  266. What Are the Best Things You’ve Read, Watched, Heard or Played This Year?
  267. What Are Your Favorite Young Adult Novels?
  268. What’s on Your Summer Reading List?
  269. What Memorable Poetry Have You Ever Read or Heard?
  270. What Are Your Favorite Cartoons?
  271. What Magazines Do You Read, and How Do You Read Them?
  272. Do You Enjoy Reading Tabloid Gossip?
  273. When Have You Seen Yourself and Your Life Reflected in a Book or Other Media?
  274. Do You Prefer Your Children’s Book Characters Obedient or Contrary?
  275. Do You Read E-Books?
  276. Would You Trade Your Paper Books for Digital Versions?
  277. To What Writer Would You Award a Prize?
  278. Why Do You Write?
  279. Do You Keep a Diary or Journal?
  280. Do You Have a Blog?
  281. Do You Want to Write a Book?
  282. When Do You Write by Hand?
  283. Do You Write in Cursive?
  284. Do You Write in Your Books?
  285. What ‘Mundane Moments’ From Your Life Might Make Great Essay Material?
  286. What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in a Museum?
  287. What Are the Most Memorable Works of Visual Art You Have Seen?
  288. What Are Your Favorite Works of Art?

  289. Language and Speech

  290. What Are Your Favorite and Least Favorite Words?
  291. What Words or Phrases Do You Think Are Overused?
  292. How Much Slang Do You Use? What Are Your Favorite (Printable) Words?
  293. How Much Do You Curse? Why?
  294. Why Do So Many People Say ‘Like’ and ‘Totally’ All the Time?
  295. Do You Sometimes ‘Hide’ Behind Irony?
  296. How Good Is Your Grammar?
  297. What New Emoticons Does the World Need?
  298. Are You Fluent in Vocal Fry, Creaky Voice or Uptalk?
  299. How Much Information Is ‘Too Much Information’?
  300. When Did You Last Have a Great Conversation?
  301. Do You Speak a Second, or Third, Language?
  302. When Do You Remember Learning a New Word?

  303. School and Teachers

  304. Do You Like School?
  305. What Are You Really Learning at School?
  306. What Are You Looking Forward To, or Dreading, This School Year?
  307. Would You Want to Be Home-Schooled?
  308. Would You Like to Take a Class Online?
  309. Would You Rather Attend a Public or a Private High School?
  310. How Would You Grade Your School?
  311. What Can Other Schools Learn — and Copy — From Your School?
  312. Is Your School Day Too Short?
  313. What Do You Hope to Get Out of High School?
  314. Do You Have Too Much Homework?
  315. Does Your Homework Help You Learn?
  316. What Is Your Best Subject?
  317. What Memorable Experiences Have You Had in Learning Science or Math?
  318. Are You Afraid of Math?
  319. Do We Need a New Way to Teach Math?
  320. What Are the Best Ways to Learn About History?
  321. How Would You Do on a Civics Test?
  322. How Important Is Arts Education?
  323. What Is Your Most Memorable Writing Assignment?
  324. What Would You Like to Have Memorized?
  325. Does Your School Value Students’ Digital Skills?
  326. What Was Your Favorite Field Trip?
  327. Do You Participate in Class?
  328. What Are Your Best Tips for Studying?
  329. Do You Use Study Guides?
  330. Is Everything You’ve Been Taught About Study Habits Wrong?
  331. How Well Do You Think Standardized Tests Measure Your Abilities?
  332. Do You Have a Tutor?
  333. Are Your Grades Inflated?
  334. When Has a Teacher Inspired You?
  335. What Teacher Do You Appreciate?
  336. What Teacher Would You Like to Thank?
  337. What Do You Wish Your Teachers Knew About You?
  338. Do Your Test Scores Reflect How Good Your Teachers Are?
  339. Do Your Teachers Use Technology Well?

  340. School Social Environment

  341. What Role Do School Clubs and Teams Play in Your Life?
  342. Who Has the Power in School Social Life?
  343. How Big a Problem Is Bullying or Cyberbullying in Your School or Community?
  344. Does Your School Seem Integrated?
  345. What’s the Racial Makeup of Your School?
  346. Do You Ever ‘Mix It Up’ and Socialize With Different People at School?
  347. Can Students at Your School Talk Openly About Their Mental Health Issues?
  348. Is Your School a ‘Party School’?
  349. How Common Is Drug Use in Your School?
  350. Do You Know People Who Cheat on High-Stakes Tests?
  351. How Does Your School Deal With Students Who Misbehave?
  352. How Much Does Your Life in School Intersect With Your Life Outside School?
  353. Would You Ever Go Through Hazing to Be Part of a Group?

  354. Senior Year, College and Applications

  355. Where Do You Want to Go to College?
  356. What Are Your Sources for Information About Colleges and Universities?
  357. Is College Overrated?
  358. How Much Does the SAT or ACT Matter in Your Life?
  359. What Personal Essay Topic Would You Assign to College Applicants?
  360. What Qualities Would You Look For in a College Roommate?
  361. What Would You Do With a Gap Year?
  362. What Makes a Graduation Ceremony Memorable?
  363. How Do You Feel About Proms?

  364. Work and Careers

  365. What Are Your Longtime Interests or Passions?
  366. Do You Have a Life Calling?
  367. What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?
  368. Do You Think You Will Have a Career That You Love?
  369. What Investment Are You Willing to Make to Get Your Dream Job?
  370. Would You Consider a Nontraditional Occupation?
  371. Would You Want to Be a Teacher?
  372. What Hidden Talents Might You Have?
  373. What Do You Hope to Be Doing the Year After You Graduate From College?
  374. Would You Rather Work From Home or in an Office?
  375. What Career or Technical Classes Do You Wish Your School Offered?
  376. What ‘Back-to-the-Land’ Skills Do You Have, or Wish You Had?
  377. What Have You Made Yourself?
  378. What Would You Create if You Had Funding?
  379. How Did You Start Doing Something You Love?
  380. Did You Ever Take a Break From Doing Something You Love?
  381. What Have You Done to Earn Money?
  382. Do You Have a Job?
  383. Would You Quit if Your Values Did Not Match Your Employer’s?
  384. What Are Your Attitudes Toward Money?
  385. Can Money Buy You Happiness?
  386. Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?
  387. What Do You Want to Be Doing When You’re 80?
  388. Do You Want to Live to 100?
  389. What Do You Want Your Obituary to Say?

  390. Dating and Friendship

  391. Have You Ever Been in Love?
  392. What Are the Most Meaningful Relationships in Your Life?
  393. What Advice Would You Give to Somebody Who Just Started Dating?
  394. What Are the Basic ‘Rules’ for Handling Breakups?
  395. What Are Your Beliefs About Marriage?
  396. Are You Allowed to Date?
  397. Is Dating a Thing of the Past?
  398. Do You Have a Best Friend?
  399. How Do You Feel About Introducing Friends from Different Parts of Your Life?
  400. How Should You Handle the End of a Friendship?
  401. How Often Do You Have ‘Deep Discussions’?

  402. Sports, Exercise and Games

  403. Do You Like to Exercise?
  404. How Has Exercise Changed Your Health, Your Body or Your Life?
  405. Why Do You Play Sports?
  406. What Is the Most Memorable Sporting Event You’ve Ever Watched or Played In?
  407. What’s the Most Impressive Sports Moment You’ve Seen?
  408. When Has a Sports Team Most Disappointed You?
  409. What Sports Teams Do You Root For?
  410. Does Being a Fan Help Define Who You Are?
  411. How Far Would You Go to Express Loyalty to Your Favorite Teams?
  412. What Fan Memorabilia Would You Pay Big Bucks For?
  413. What Rules Would You Like to See Changed in Your Favorite Sports?
  414. What Game Would You Like to Redesign?
  415. What Are Your Favorite Games?

  416. Travel

  417. Where in the World Would You Travel if You Could?
  418. What Is Your Fantasy Vacation?
  419. What Would Your Fantasy Road Trip Be Like?
  420. What Crazy Adventure Would You Want to Take?
  421. How Has Travel Affected You?
  422. What Famous Landmarks Have You Visited?
  423. What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in Nature?
  424. What Are the Best Souvenirs You’ve Ever Collected While Traveling?
  425. Would You Like to Live in Another Country?
  426. Would You Want to Be a Space Tourist?

  427. Looks, Fashion and Health

When we are young, when faced with a writing a reflective essay, we may feel that we really don’t have much to reflect on. This is when you have to sit back and think about your short life and pull memories out like teeth.

You may have more memories than you think, but you are so busy living life that you never really reflected on them as having any importance once those times had passed.

Remember when you would come back to school after summer vacation and the first thing your English teacher always wanted was not only my math homework help that you had from a friend, but a story about what you did this past summer, well it is much like that when writing a reflective essay for your college English Professor.

The hardest part is selecting a reflective essay topic, but once you have found a good one your words will fly from your fingers onto the page with no problem. They are your personal memories and no one else can write them like you can.

Research and Gathering Info

  • Finding the Perfect Reflective Topic Ideas

The use of your research skills are what you will need to begin your search for reflective essay ideas.

After gathering your own thoughts, the next step you can take is interviewing your parents, friends, and relatives for more information. They are the people that can help you with this trip down memory lane.

This is a perfect time to call your parents, you know that you should have before this but that is okay, they will be glad to hear from you.

Were you active at your church, community center, or sit on activity councils at your school? Did you do an internship while in High School, or maybe volunteer at your local hospital. Get in touch with all of the people that you have worked with over the years and before you know it you will be compiling a list of topics and gathering ideas to choose from.

Many students have kept a journal throughout their time in elementary school right through to high school. If this is your case, there is so much info in them for you to glean from now to help you with your reflective essay topic.

Get your journals out and spend an afternoon slowly reading them. As you read them think of where you were then and where you are now.

If any of your entries make you laugh, write them down into an outline, also if there are any that bring tears to your eyes, put them in the outline also.

Another great resource for memories are any greeting cards that you have received over the years from your parents, aunts/ uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers. It’s amazing the feelings that come over you when taking this type of walk down memory lane.

Your Outline

Now that you have gathered the information you need for your reflective essay, now you need to get it all in order. This type of essay is not one that you just put down on paper, it has to have reasons for actions, and explanations of outcomes in your story.

In order to do this, you must organize your thoughts in an outline. This will put your paper in sections that are easily read. Writing an essay should always begin with research and then an outline so that you are not jumping all over the place with your ideas.

The one thing that many students fail to do when writing an essay is to reflect back on the previous paragraph while writing the next one. Cultivating this habit will give your writing the effect of seamless thought, and keep your reader engaged.

Use the following layout for organizing your research:

  • An Introduction- Begin with telling your audience about your topic and cultivate your thesis. Your thesis is one-two sentences introducing what your paper is about. It should include some back-story to get the reader interested.

  1. Use a compelling incident

  2. Use an amusing story

  3. Express with full description a surprising or intriguing fact followed by a dramatic question.

Keep in mind that what you lead with has to be in synch with the material that follows. If you lead with a sobering statement, you cannot follow with outrageous emotion. Do not become instantly lighthearted and comical if you start off with a serious theme.

Tone in your introduction sets the stage for the rest of your paper, your audience is being set up in your introduction.

  • The body consist of a few paragraphs-

Paragraph I: The experience you are writing about and how it affected you

Paragraph II: Tell about how this experience made a difference to others around you

Paragraph III: What did you learn from the experience or get out of it

  • Your Conclusion: A conclusion is the claim that is already said in the body of your paragraphs, repeating some of the sentences here in the conclusion wraps everything up nicely. It usually goes something like this:

  1. Summarize your points

  2. Connect them

  3. Tie major points of the story together

  4. Reveal your points the way they appeared in your paper

  5. Finish dramatically

Conclusions are read last, so this is the paragraph that your readers will remember the most. If it does not tie together you will leave them confused, in this case your professor, and you will see statements on your paper like “unclear” , or, “how does this tie in to your story”

Preparing this outline first before writing your paper will help you write a cohesive set of thoughts that flows smoothly when read by your professor. Help for creating an outline can also be found by visiting online writing services.

Everyone gets behind sometimes and these services can help when the time you have to finish your paper has reached a critical point. No matter how much time you have with your urgent term paper, you should always place high attention to the conclusions page, as it might make the main impact of your paper.

Topics That Work

If you cannot find your own topics or are in a crunch for time, these may jog your memory and get you started on getting that reflective essay done.

  • A stormy night: The lights went out and everyone was gathered in the same room hoping that a tree would not fall through the roof, then the lights went out.

  • Moving away: You could not believe that your family was moving away from the only home you ever knew.

  • Your first love: Everyone said it was puppy love but you knew you would be with your first love the rest of your life, then you broke up. He dumped you or you dumped him?

  • First time speaking in public: You are up on that stage and all you see is spinning lights, what happened?

  • You lied to your best friend: They asked you a question about something that would hurt their feelings if you told the truth, so you lied.

  • A death: No matter who it was, someone close to you passed away. What happened in the ensuing days after you found out? What changed in your life due to this persons passing?

  • First job: You got the job, and on the first day you were nervous and made lots of mistakes. How did your coworkers act towards you/your new boss/how did you feel?

  • Your first road trip without your parents: Where did you go and with who? What did you see that you had not intended to see on the trip? How much convincing did it take to get your parents to let you go?

  • You had to write an essay to get a scholarship: Did you get help with the essay? Did you get the scholarship? How did you react/ your family react when finding out you won the scholarship?

  • You got drunk for the first time in your life: What led to the drinking? Were you of age? How did you feel the day after? Were you with friends and did you all drink? Did you play it safe by not driving or did you get in trouble with the law?

  • You got locked up: Why? Did you have to stay in jail or did your family bail you out? What happened while you were there? How did it feel to have to call your family and tell them you were in jail?

  • Weight loss or gain: Since growing up have you gained weight, lost weight? What about your weight is unhealthy and were you teased?

  • Bullying story: Were you bullied at school? Were you or a friend bullied and how did you deal with it.

  • Town conspiracy: Has something happened in your town that made headline news across the nation? Did a local politician cause the township shame?

  • Local kid makes good: Did someone from your high school make it big? Were you friends with this person? Were you jealous or happy for them?

  • You meet your favorite star: Did you get their autograph? Were you in a photo with them? Were you invited backstage to a concert of your favorite singer? Did you get a chance to visit a set where they were filming?

  • You had to admit you were wrong: How did it feel? What led up to admitting a wrong, and to whom? Do you have trouble being wrong about anything?

  • Your team won the championship: What sport was being played? What part did you play in getting your team to the championship? Was your team always winners/losers?

  • What child are you: Are you the oldest, middle or youngest child and what kind of relationship do you have with your siblings due to the place you hold in that hierarchy.

  • Adoption: Are you adopted and if so have you met your birth parents? How did you find out you were adopted? Do you feel you are adopted? (could be a funny story with this last one)

  • Only child: Were you the only child for many years and then your parents surprised you with the fact that you were going to have a brother of sister? How did it make you feel, were you excited, or you wanted to scream no, no, no!

  • Fistfight: Were you ever in a fistfight? Get a black-eye? What was it about and how old were you when it happened? Do you think you won the fight? Was the altercation over when the fight was over, or did it lead to hard feelings with that person up to this day?

  • Cooking: Do you remember the first thing you were allowed to cook? What was it and how did it turn out? Do people tend to love your cooking or run from it when you are in the kitchen.

Titles

This section was saved till last because if you try to create a title in the beginning of your paper, it will change before you are done.

Titles may not seem as important a part of organizing your reflective essay as the rest, but it can be.  A proper title tells your audience what your paper is about. They can be provocative but their main goal is to let the reader know what they are about to read.

The title for your personal reflective essay will set the tone for your introduction, it can sometimes make or break your paper, so think carefully about your title and save it for last. (Remember when writing, it is okay to kill your little darlings, meaning to revise, revise, revise.

Go Deep

To cap it all off, this essay is about an experience that you have had in your life, only you and those that shared the story with you can enhance or downplay the experience. Go in deep, and don’t hold anything back.

It is the one type of paper that you can cut loose on the writing, but keep in mind the grammar making sure it is solid and correct. If dialog is used to describe banter between you and someone in your story, make sure you study how to write dialog within a paper.

Good luck with your reflective essay, you may even be able to sell it if done properly.

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