If you\u2019re at university, you may need to write a reflective essay at some point. This is particularly common on courses with a work-based learning focus. But what exactly is a reflective essay?\nWhat Are Reflective Essays?\nIn a reflective essay, you write about your own experiences. The idea is to help you think about something that happened in your life. In particular, the aim is to connect real-life experience to your theoretical studies.\n\nFor example, a student nurse might be asked to write a reflective essay on a work placement. They would then discuss what happened and what they learned from the experience.\nThe Reflective Cycle\nTo see what a reflective essay should include, we can look to Professor Graham Gibbs\u2019 reflective cycle. This uses a series of steps to help people learn from experience, typically set out as follows:\n\n \tDescription \u2013 A detailed description of what happened (i.e. the thing that prompted the reflection), including where and when it happened, who you were with and what you did.\n \tFeelings \u2013 How you felt before, during and after the experience.\n \tEvaluation and Analysis \u2013 A look at the positives and negatives of the experience (e.g. what went right or wrong), as well as how you understand your experience in relation to ideas or practices learned in class.\n \tConclusions \u2013 Any final thoughts, including what you have learned.\n \tAction \u2013 A plan for what you will do next, what you need to study or what you would do differently in the same situation if it were to arise again.\n\nThe key is to include all these \u2018steps\u2019 somewhere in your essay.\nStructuring a Reflective Essay\nWhile there are no hard rules about how to structure a reflective essay, it helps to keep things simple. The basic structure should be:\n\n \tIntroduction \u2013 A short passage setting out what you are writing about.\n \tMain Body \u2013 This is where you write about your experiences, including describing what happened and how it made you feel. You will also need to evaluate and analyse what you have experienced, either as you describe it or separately after the description.\n \tConclusion \u2013 What you learned from the experience, including what you will do next and\/or what you would do differently next time.\n\nIf you cite any sources in your essay, you will also need a reference list at the end. Cover all this in your work and you should have a good reflective essay! And if you need feedback on the clarity and structure of your reflective essay, you can always have it proofread.