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How Do You Write A Reflection Paper

How do you write a reflection paper?

A reflection paper allows you to present to your teacher your understanding and comprehension of a particular topic, lesson, article, or your own experience. A reflective paper could include your opinion about a movie or a book or a TV show.

It could include how your childhood experiences affected your perception about something. It is quite subjective and personal in nature as it is aimed to present your opinions and views. Yet, reflective papers should have a clear academic tone despite its highly "personal and subjective" nature. They should be correctly organized, formatted, and formally presented.

What is not a reflection paper

It is not a paper containing other people's thoughts, ideas, or quotes. While you can use them to explain your own thoughts, you cannot simply put together a collection of quotes and submit it as a reflective paper. Irrespective of how great the quotes are and how famous the people who said it were, you will get a fail grade.

What should a reflection paper contain?

A reflective paper can have the following:

  • Your insights

  • Your perceptions

  • Your interpretations

  • Your expectations

  • How your expectations changed

  • Why did your expectations undergo change?

  • Were you happy with the change?

This article is aimed at giving you some tips on how to write a reflection paper. I hope the tips enlisted here will give you some courage to start writing. So here goes.

How do you write a reflection paper?

There are primarily three steps to follow when you are writing a reflection paper and they are:

  • Deliberation or Brainstorming

  • Organization

  • Tips to follow while you write your reflective essay

Deliberation or Brainstorming

The first step in writing a reflection paper is to brainstorm everything that is going on in your head. The following steps will guide you on this aspect.

Identify the main idea – Read your lesson and identify the main idea in it. Make notes of the points that spring to your mind. The sentences that explain the main idea should be descriptive yet succinct and crisp.

Examples of main themes

My perceptions about country music underwent a sea change when I read the lesson on Johnny Cash.

After spending a major portion of my life in urban cosmopolitan cities, I never believed that I could have a rural streak in me till I headed out to Indiana to spend a month of summer there.

Write down the major points about the topic – For example, if it is a lesson, then make notes of quotations, the points in the lesson which make you like it, your own earlier misunderstandings etc. If the paper is based on your experience, jot down portions of the experience that vividly comes to your mind; you could create a little story around this event.

Make an easily discernible list of all your thoughts: Tabulate your idea under various columns such as:

  • Key learning/experience

  • Your response to them

  • How you want to share your thoughts

Question yourself about the topic at hand – Ask yourself the following questions and make notes of your responses:

  • Did the experience, article, or lesson challenge my stand?

  • Did it change my perceptions?

  • Are there unanswered questions?

  • Are there any connections to your past experiences and/or knowledge?

As reflective papers are purely your own views, the questions I have listed above may or may not suffice. Rack your brains and ask more questions and note down your personal responses to them.

With this brainstorming session, you would have collected plenty of data, information, and materials to start your essay. The next step is organization.


Short, crisp, and succinct – An ideal length of a reflective paper is in the range of 400 to 800 words. However, if your teacher has specified the length and/or the word count, then ensure you follow his or her directions

Start with your expectations – In the introductory paragraph, write down what you expected to learn at the beginning of the lesson or experience.

  • If it is a lesson, you could mention your expectations based either on the title or the abstract

  • If it was an experience, you could mention your expectations based either on a particular person's viewpoint or a general perception about something similar.

Let me illustrate with an example: I was looking with dread at my job at an RJ which played only country music. The job was a compulsion for me driven two important factors including the paucity of funds and non-availability of other jobs.

Thesis statement – Ideally, the last part of your introduction should be the thesis statement of your reflective paper. Keep it to one sentence and it makes sense to say whether your expectations were met or not in the thesis statement.

For example (in continuation of the country music theme): I realized how wrong I was about country music; my stint as an RJ enriched my musical experience wonderfully.

The body of the paper should explain how you reached your conclusions – The body of the paper should have a few paragraphs explaining how you arrived at your understanding and conclusions. It could also have how your earlier misunderstandings and misconceptions were cleared in the lesson or during your experience.

A separate paragraph for each conclusion would give your paper a cohesive profile. Start each paragraph with one topic sentence and following it up with major points that impacted your understanding

An example of a topic sentence (again I use a point for country music): Till my stint as an RJ, I never listened to country music with my heart. You could then go on to say what all wonders you discovered when you listened with your heart.

The conclusion of the reflection paper – The concluding paragraph should include a short summary of the major points and a reiteration of how your expectations were met/not met depending on the outcome.

Tips to follow while you write your reflective paper

The following tips will help you understand how the flow of information should be in your reflective paper. You must remember that your personality should be reflected in the paper, yet there are limits to keep.

Talk about the personal things prudently – Yes, it does reflect your personality and yet remember to stay within limits. While you are writing your opinions, feelings, and emotions, ask yourself if what you are saying is relevant to the paper.

If you are uncomfortable including some personal details and ideas, then it is best for you not to include them. However, sometimes, despite the discomfort, things have to be revealed. Then reveal them using general terms and language and avoid talking about such things in the first person.

Keep a professional tone – Never drag down someone else in your paper. Even the person in question did something uncomfortable and you simply cannot avoid putting down the experience, maintain a detached and an objective outlook. Use professional language. Instead of using a sentence like, "Philip behaved nastily," you can say, "One of the respondents behaved in a manner which made me feel like an outsider."

Feel free to use "I" as this is completely valid and a reflective paper is, perhaps, the only format of academic writing where talking in the first person is allowed. Completely avoid the use of slang, shortened words, and abbreviations like can't "OMG", etc. Make sure you check your grammar and spelling.

Review every sentence in your reflective paper – Make sure every sentence is crisp, clear and contains no fluff. One sentence should ideally reflect only one idea. Avoid cramming more than one idea; it simply complicates things unnecessarily. Also, keeping your sentences in varying lengths brings in variety to your paper and you avoid the risk of sounding plain and wooden.

Use information and opinions shared in the classroom in your reflective paper – Using classroom discussions and information/opinion of classmates and teachers render wholesomeness to your reflective paper. Such references allow you to bring in viewpoints of other people which could justify your stand or it could allow you to pinpoint the exact time when you changed your opinion about something.

For example, "We were discussing Shylock's character in class. I had always believed that Shylock's character was completely evil and Antonio's character was completely good. However, when my teacher pointed out discrepancies in the way the people of Venice treated him and hurled insults at him, I began to think that maybe Shylock is not all black just like how Antonio was not all white."

Leverage the advantage of transitions – Commonly used transitional phrases are "for example," "as a result," "a different perspective," etc. These phrases help you shift the argument to something else and/or help you introduce a new idea or a thought.

Final Notes

I hope the above tips come in handy for you. However, if you are still struggling with your reflective essay or you want to save some time to do something else, you can give your work to our experts at Prescott Papers. We will write you a great reflection paper.

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