If you’re a student, you’ve probably heard the term “reflection paper” before. But do you actually know what it means? And do you know how to write one?
Because writing a reflection paper is such a common assignment for high school and college students, it’s essential to understand the ins and outs of what goes into such a paper.
Here’s exactly how to write a reflection paper that will earn a passing grade.
What is a Reflection Paper?
First things first, what exactly is a reflection paper?
Well, it’s really just a personal reflection on a specific topic, usually a lecture, film, book, or idea.
Though a reflection paper is a type of academic essay, it’s much less formal than others essays you write in school. It’s a chance to take on a more casual tone, adopt the first-person writing style (unless otherwise directed by your teacher), and give your opinion on the chosen topic.
Simply put, a reflection paper is your opinion on what you think about the chose topic.
That doesn’t mean you can wing it though. Despite the fact that you base a reflection paper on your personal opinion, you must take care to back up this opinion with evidence, such as related studies and knowledge from experts.
The most effective reflection papers focus on your opinion but still cite authoritative resources to back up what you believe.
Know that your reflection paper doesn’t need to explore the topic from all angles. It’s not an unbiased piece, so counterpoints aren’t necessary.
Your opinion is the most important aspect of this assignment. So spend plenty of time reflecting on your thoughts on the topic before picking up the pen (or pecking away at the keyboard!)
Examples of a Reflection Paper
Reviewing examples of effective reflection papers is a great way to get a better idea of what’s expected.
Here are a few strong examples:
How to Write a Reflection Paper
Now that you’ve seen an example of a reflection paper, it’s time to learn how to write one yourself.
So, let’s break down the process step-by-step, and write a reflection paper together.
1. Types of Reflection Papers
The type of reflection paper you are tasked to write largely dictates the actual writing process.
The three main types of reflection papers are:
- Educational – A response to a book, film, or lecture viewed in an academic setting to gauge what students learned.
- Professional – A method of analyzing your professional behavior, particularly common among teachers and social workers.
- Personal – A technique to explore your thoughts and feelings on a personal subject.
Because educational reflection papers are by far the most common, that’s the type we’ll focus on here.
However, all three types of reflection papers share the same basic ideas, so you can mostly apply our tips across the board.
2. Choosing a Topic and Subject
A topic or subject is usually assigned for an academic or educational reflection paper.
The topic is often a book, film, or lecture you’ve studied in class. Students are tasked to write about their personal experience with the subject manner.
Sometimes the topic or subject is a little looser. You can choose what you want to write about.
Even if you’re given a topic or subject, you still need to spend time analyzing it to decide exactly what you want to write about.
Spend plenty of time choosing your topic and then studying this subject to identify your main theme.
The theme you choose is the building block for the rest of your reflective essay.
3. Brainstorming and Outline
Note taking is an essential part of writing an effective reflection paper. It helps you get your thoughts in order and makes writing far more efficient.
Start by writing a few sentences that are relevant to your main theme. Use these as a sort of summary of the rest of your notes.
From there, jot down ideas and thoughts that relate to this theme. Remember, that the idea of a reflection paper is to present your own opinions, so keep this in mind while brainstorming.
Everyone has a different favored method of brainstorming for an essay. A few of the most common are charts, diagrams, and lists.
The result of your brainstorming is a rough outline that you can use to guide your writing.
4. Organization is Key
Spend a few minutes to prepare a basic outline by using your notes from the brainstorming process.
The basic organization of a reflective essay is as follows:
- Use a Reflective Question – A simple question – such as “how does this subject relate to me and my feelings?” – helps set the tone and theme of your essay.
- Create a Strong Introduction – Get straight to the point with a two or three sentence introduction that states how the subject relates to you.
- Focus on a Thesis – Quickly introduce a thesis in the introduction that explains how and why your expectations were met or not met.
- Explain Idea in Body – Use the body of the essay to explain your thesis. Provide details on how the subject met or didn’t meet your expectations and why.
- Wrap-Up with Conclusion – Add a short conclusion that summarizes your thoughts and feelings on the subject in two or three sentences.
5. Important Tips
Everyone has their own style of writing a reflective essay – and, that’s the beauty of it, you have a lot of leeway with this type of paper – but there are a few tips everyone should incorporate.
- Short and Sweet – Most reflection papers are between 250 and 750 words long. Don’t go off on tangents. Only include relevant information.
- Clear and Concise – Make your paper as clear and concise as possible. Use a strong thesis so that your essay follows.
- Maintain the Right Tone – Use a professional and academic tone, even though the writing is personal.
- Cite Your Sources – Try to cite authoritative resources and experts to back up your personal opinions.
- Proofreading – Not only should you proofread for spelling and grammatical errors, but you should focus on organization as well. Answer the question presented in the introduction.
Reflection Paper Cheat Sheet
Make sure that your next reflection paper includes all the essential information with our reflection paper cheat sheet:
- Ask Reflective Question
- Identify the Main Theme
- Introduce Thesis Statement
- Explain Your Thesis
- Discuss Personal Experience with Subject
- Cite Resources and Experts
- Answer the Reflective Question
- Describe Your Overall Response to Subject
- Conclude with Support for Your Thesis
- Keep it Short and Sweet
- Ensure Clarity of Each Sentence
- Use One New Idea for Each Paragraph
- Maintain a Professional Tone
- Focus on Your Thoughts and Feelings
Keep these important organizational and writing tips in mind, and your next reflection paper will be one for the record books!
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