How to Write a Reflection Paper: Full Guide

Lack of knowledge about what is a reflection paper? Learn how to write this paper with our straightforward guide with a reflection paper example inside.

Andrew Newman
Updated on

Most college students are very familiar with reflection papers. This results from the requirement of expressing their perspective on various issues in any subject they enroll in. This article will discuss how to write a reflection paper and provide you with examples and helpful tips that will ease the writing process.

Although reflection essays are personal and subjective, they should have an academic tone. This type of paper requires you to assess/analyze, and reflect upon how an experience, academic task, speech, article, or lecture molded your viewpoint and thoughts on a particular matter.

Below is what you need to learn about writing an effective reflection paper.

What is a Reflection Paper 

A reflection paper is a kind of essay that expects you to write your thoughts on a topic, backing it with your observations and personal experiences. In this paper, you get a chance to write your perspective instead of presenting to your audience the opinions of other scholars and writers. The best part of writing a reflection paper is that there is no wrong answer.  Even though it is your opinion, it is also your responsibility to express your thoughts in a way that will be understandable and precise for the readers that will go through your work. The topic range is endless. Here are several examples: whether or not you think aliens exist, what your favorite TV show is, or what your opinion is on the outcome of WWⅡ. You can write about basically anything.

Reflection papers exist in three different categories, and depending on which you are required to write, the tone of your essay can vary slightly from others. The first type is an educational reflective paper.  In this kind of paper, you are expected to write feedback about a book, movie, or seminar you attended in a way that educates your audience about it.  The second is the professional paper. This type is regularly written by people who study or work in education and psychology. For instance, it can be a reflection paper about someone’s behavior. And finally, the personal essay, which explores your opinions and feelings about a personal matter.

Reflection Paper Format

Usually, reflection papers do not follow any particular format. Most times, professors let you handle them any way you are comfortable with since it is your opinion. It is best to write your views and thoughts without restrictions. In case your reflection paper was assigned to you, your paper’s format might rely on the standards set by your instructor. College reflection papers/ reflection essays usually range between 400-800 words in length.

Below is how we recommend you format your paper : 

reflection-paper-format

How to Start a Reflection Paper 

When starting to work on your reflection essay, the first and foremost thing to do is read your article thoroughly while taking notes. Whether you are reflecting on, for instance, an activity, book/newspaper, or academic paper, you should highlight key points and perceptions.

You can begin your reflection paper by summing up the primary concept of your notes to perceive whether your paper comprises all the information required for your audience. In order to deliver your ideas to your reader in a better fashion, you can add charts, diagrams, and charts.

Once you have finished the article, it’s time to brainstorm. We’ve got a simple brainstorming technique for writing reflection papers. Just answer some of the fundamental questions below: 

  • In what way did the article influence you?
  • Did the article leave you with any questions?
  • In what way does the article grab the reader’s attention (or does it at all)? 
  • Did the article change your perspective on something? If so, explain how
  • Does the article concur with any of your past reading experiences?
  • Does the article relate to anything from your past reading experience?
  • Are there any crucial unaddressed issues that didn’t appear in the article?

Below are several reflection paper topic examples for you to bear in mind before preparing to write your own: 

  • How My Observations for Clinical Psychological Students Have Developed in the Last Year
  • How My Views on Rap Music Have Changed Over Time
  • Why My Theory about the Size of the Universe Has Changed Over Time
  • My Reflection and Interpretation of Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The aftermath of your brainstorming should be a written outline of the contents of your future paper. Do not skip this step, as it will ensure that your essay will have a proper flow and structure.

Another way to arrange your ideas is to write them down in a 3-column chart or table.

how-to-organize-ideas

Writing a Reflection Paper Outline

Your introductory paragraph should specify what you’re reflecting upon. Ensure your thesis enlightens your reader about your overall stance or opinion towards a subject.

  • Explain what you are assessing: a speech, passage, lecture, or academic article
  • Briefly sum up the work
  • Write a thesis statement stating how your subject has impacted you.

One way you can begin your thesis is to write: 

Example:

“ After reading/experiencing (your chosen topic), I gained knowledge of….”

Body Paragraphs

The body should assess the ideas and experiences you’ve had in connection to your topic. Ensure that every new paragraph begins with a topic sentence.

Suppose you are writing about a book or an academic article; you can include quotes and passages in your reflection essay from the book or article. They give your audience a point of reference to completely comprehend your feedback. Feel free to describe what you saw, what you heard, and how you felt.

Example :

“ I saw many people participating in our weight experiment. The atmosphere felt nervous yet inspiring. I was amazed by the excitement of the event.”

Conclusion

Like any conclusion, you should summarize what you have learned from the experience. Explain to your reader how your newfound knowledge has impacted your comprehension of the subject in general. Describe the feeling and typical lesson you had as a result of the reading or experience.

Below are few ways to conclude a reflection paper:

  • Tie all the ideas from body paragraphs together, and generalize the primary insights you’ve experienced
  • Restate your thesis and summarize the content of your essay.

How to Write a Reflection Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Create a Main Theme

Once you pick your topic, briefly summarize what you have learned about your experience with that topic. Let your audience know your attitude towards the subject and be honest. The odds are that your readers will likely be able to relate to your perspective, or at least the way you form your opinion, and that will assist them to have a better comprehension of your reflection.

For instance: 

After watching a TEDx episode on Wim Hof, I reevaluated my pre-convocated perceptions about the negative impacts of cold exposure.

Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas and Experiences You’ve Had Related to Your Topic

Write down particular quotes, tendencies you have, things that impacted you, or anything memorable. In simple words, explain how you felt subjectively.

For instance: 

  • The effects of my actions that give rise to my research
  • New ideas I’ve created as a result of my shift in point of view
  • Many people think that even a tiny amount of carbohydrates will make people gain weight
  • My new experience with having a healthy diet with a well-balanced intake of nutrients
  • A particular moment when I struggled with an excess weight where I avoided carbohydrates entirely
  • The effect of people’s notions on the harm of carbohydrates and how they have influenced me
  • The evidence and studies of nutritional science that claim carbohydrates alone are to blame for making people obese

Step 3: Analyze How and Why These Ideas and Experiences Have Affected Your Interpretation of Your Theme 

Choose an idea or experience from the last step, and assess it further. Give your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with it.

For example

Idea: Since childhood, people have made me think that carbohydrates make individuals gain weight.

Analysis: Most people think that if they eat carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, and sugar, they will gain weight. I believed in this misconception to such a great extent that I avoided carbohydrates entirely. I needed to do a lot of my research to finally overcome my beliefs. After, I adopted the philosophy of “ everything in moderation” as a key to having a healthy lifestyle.

Step 4: Make Connections Between Your Observations, Experiences, and Opinions

In order to form a cohesive picture for your theme, try to link your ideas and insights. You can also try to identify and dissect your assumptions, which you may challenge in the future.

There are several subjects for reflection essays that are most commonly written about. They include:

  • Book– Commence with writing some information about the writer’s biography and sum up the plot without divulging the ending to keep your audience captivated. Ensure to include the character’s name, the primary themes, and any issues mentioned in the book. Lastly, express your thoughts and reflect on the book itself.
  • Course– Begin by including the course name and description. Afterward,  you can write about the course flow, explain why you choose that course and tell your audience what you have learned from it. Because it is a reflection paper, express your opinion,  backing it with illustrations from the course.
  • Project– The structure for a reflection paper about a project has similar guidelines to that of a course. You can add the merits and demerits of the course in this paper. Also mention, several changes you might want to see and assess how relevant the skills you gained are in real life.
  • Interview– Introduce the individual first, and shortly mention what the interview is about. Talk about the primary points, controversies, and your view about that person.

Writing Tips

 Every student has his/her style of writing a reflection paper, and that’s the beauty of it. Although there is plenty of leeway in this kind of paper, there are still a few tips that everyone should integrate.

Prior to starting your paper, read some examples of other essays; they will likely assist you in getting a better comprehension of what they are and how to tackle yours. When choosing the topic, strive to write about something unique and striking; it is more likely to grab your audience’s attention. Do not write the entire paper at once.  To allow your brain to generate new thoughts and reflections, space out the time slots when writing your reflection essay to at least a day apart.

  • Short and Sweet– Most reflection essays are between 250 and 750 words. Don’t go off on tangents. Only incorporate relevant information.
  • Clear and Concise–  Ensure that your paper is clear and concise. Build a strong thesis that your essay can follow with the same strength.
  • Maintain the Right Tone–  Although the writing is personal, use a professional and academic tone.
  • Cite your sources–  To support your personal opinions, try to cite authoritative sources.
  • Proofreading–  You should first proofread for grammatical errors and spelling. Then focus on the organization of your work. Answer the question presented in the introduction.
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