Academic reflective writing examples

student reflecting

Students often ask lecturers for examples of reflective writing. However, many lecturers are reluctant to provide them. That’s because reflection is intensely personal. How one person would write a reflection is not the same as another. Hence, there is a danger that if you use examples, you will try to follow them as a guide, rather than making the reflection “your own”. 

Reflective writing examples might not help you

There is no right or wrong way to write reflections. The only real “wrong” with a reflection is that it doesn’t reflect. If your reflection does not show you have thought about the impact of what happened and that you haven’t explained how your learning developed, then it is not a reflection. The way you do that and express it is not important.

All too often, though, students hand in reflections that are not reflective. Instead, all they do is summarise what took place. As I often say to students, “I don’t need to know what you were taught; I know that because I taught you.” So, if your reflections merely summarise the course content, you have not reflected.

Rather than look for examples, check out this guide on how to write a reflection.

But if you are still determined to see an example of a reflection – here goes…!

Academic reflective essay example

Here is an example of a short reflective essay for a student who has been studying a module on digital business.

This week was one of the most interesting in my studies for digital business. I went to a lecture on the “long tail theory”, which explained how online businesses make most of their profits from the least popular items. That amazed me, and straight after the lecture, I went to the library to borrow the book on the theory written by Chris Anderson. The book gripped me right from the start as it used several examples to help me understand the concept of the theory. After reading the first few chapters of the book, I decided to call some friends to meet for coffee. We chatted about the lecture, and I mentioned what I had read in the book. What was clear was that we all thought that businesses made most of their money from popular items they sold. The fact that most of the money was made from the least popular products was a real surprise to all of us. As I walked back to my room, a thought suddenly struck me. All four of us at the coffee bar had different drinks. None of us had bought a standard coffee – what could be considered the most popular item. Each of us had bought a different drink. Our coffee chat was an example of the long tail in action.

When I thought about what I had learned, I realised that I was surprised that I had not been aware of the obviousness of the theory. It made me feel a little dumb, to be honest. Before, I had always thought that profits came from popular things. But the lecture, the book and the subsequent chat with my friends helped me realise that my previous view was wrong. The lecture itself piqued my interest in the topic and steered me towards the book so that I could fully understand the concept. Also, after reading the book, I realised that my attitude to the lecture at the start was not good. I assumed that we would be told some boring theory, yet the lecture completely changed my mind about how businesses gain profits online.

I learned from this that I should not approach lectures with a pre-set idea of what I will be taught. I ought to go to lectures with a more open mind. I also realised that if the lecture interests me, I gain a lot by going to the library straight away and getting an appropriate book. In the past, I might have thought about getting a book but then never did. Eventually, that thought passes. This week’s lecture helped me realise that I learn more by acting immediately on the impulse to read a book. 

Overall, this has been a significant week for me. I learned a new theory which amazed me. I saw that theory in action. I realised that I should approach lectures with an open mind. Plus, I discovered that if I act impulsively to read a book on the lecture topic, I gain more learning.