Speaking Your Mind: How to Write a Reflection Paper

01 Feb 2015

Whether you decide to go to a local college or Stanford University, at some point, you will need to deal with reflection paper. For every student, it is a chance to express some own thoughts regarding an issue – something you cannot often do due to strict laws of academic writing.

Among all the assignments you are to deal with during your college and university years, this one provides better opportunities for speaking your mind. It encourages us to look at things from your own perspective and share views with others. Without exaggeration, it is significant for both studying progress and your personal way of self-understanding. So let’s try to figure out how to write a reflection paper that will leave everyone amazed.

What is a Reflection Paper: The Major Definition

A reflection paper allows you to take a personal approach and express thoughts on topic instead of just providing bare facts. It can be a discussion on any subject – from your favorite movie to visiting Grand Canyon and reflecting on a certain theory of evolution. A reflective paper can be educational, professional, and personal. Each has a slightly different tone:

  • educational is a response to some book, film or lecture studied in class;
  • professional is a common task for teachers and social workers, focused on analyzing their person’s behavior;
  • personal expresses your feelings regarding a more intimate subject.

How to Write a Reflection Paper

Tips on Writing a Reflection Paper

Everyone has their own writing routine. If you experience performance boost after a short walk, a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, dancing to your favorite tune, start with these little things that make you happy. Here are some tips that everyone should use:

  1. Read some paper examples. Before you start working on your own just read examples.
  2. Don’t focus on deadlines. Though they are important, focus on the topic you are to write about and feelings it evokes.
  3. Think about the most outstanding readings and materials. Regarding your subject, decide why they are memorable.
  4. Don’t write an entire essay at once. You may start with an outline on the day it was assigned and add some ideas every day.
  5. Write an intro after everything else is ready. Your thoughts are clear by that time, and you know where they lead.
  6. Don’t get too personal. Even if the issue you write about bothers you greatly, always focus on facts first, then sum up your attitudes.
  7. Write from the first person singular. Do not use slang or colloquial.

Step by Step Writing Flow

Your writing should be reflective, not descriptive. A paper is about learning, researching, and explaining. Remember that your attitude is very important. Don’t forget about grammar check and proper citation.

So how to start a reflection paper? The usual writing plan looks like this.

Step 1. Decide on a topic. Usually, it is assigned by professors or at least provided as one of the given options.

Step 2. Start brainstorming. Take notes about everything that can be related to the topic. Decide what your attitude to this issue is. Choose a point of view or an approach.

Step 3. Make an outline – at least a single sentence for each paragraph.

Step 4. Fill an outline. Write the main point in the introductory and concluding parts. Add supportive ideas for every part. Don’t be afraid to change your mind on the concept in the process.

Step 5. Question everything. If you feel that you are not making any progress, use reflective questions. Start from simple "How does it make me feel?" and "How is it related to my everyday life?"

Step 6. Write an introduction. You can do it at the end, as often you cannot predict how this idea is going to develop.

Step 7. Don't make it long: the reflective essay is not more than 750 words. Remember about proofreading.

Your thoughts on the legacy of John F. Kennedy and the famous winter storm in New York City may need a different approach, but you can follow these steps regardless of the topic you are working on. Here are some nuances that may be useful for reflection writing.

Read also: Reflective Essay: How to Write This Type of Paper?

Critical reflection paper

This is one of the most challenging tasks when you are thinking about how to write a reflection topic. Critical reflection is a culmination of your studying process (but don't confuse with critical thinking essays). It results in intensive thinking that presents your abilities to observe, question, evaluate, and apply personal experiences to the interpreting of the subject.

  • Describe an experience – provide some details on an object or an event.
  • Examine the experience – integrate personal and academic contexts.
  • Provide in-depth analysis of those experiences.
  • Tell readers what you learned after analysis.
  • Clarify how analyzed subject will be useful in your future.
  • You may also suppose how everyone else reading should feel about it.

Reflection paper on a book

  • Start with brief information about the author.
  • Give a summary with a minimum of spoilers.
  • Focus on the main characters.
  • Explain what issues a writer touches upon.
  • Explain the allusions and influences.
  • React to reading, share your impressions.

Course reflection paper

  • Write the course name and its short description.
  • Write a summary of discussed materials.
  • Tell about the course flow and the instructions.
  • Give a reason why you decided to take this course.
  • Define the main concepts and theories learned.
  • Interpret those theories on your own.
  • Express your opinion by using real-life examples.
  • Evaluate your course relevance.

Reflection on a project

  • You can use the same structure you use for a previous paper.
  • Try to talk about the task’s pros and cons and offer changes.
  • Estimate the difficulty and relevance in real-life conditions.

Reflection paper on an interview

  • Hint on a conclusion in the intro.
  • Introduce a person at the beginning.
  • Discuss notable viewpoints.
  • Focus on the controversies.
  • Express what you like or don’t like about the person.

Reflection paper outline

There are two approaches to writing a reflection paper – a traditional and an original (though a risky one):

1) Express the main idea in a thesis statement, develop it in body paragraphs by providing supportive arguments, and conclude facts by supporting the thesis statement once more.

2) Start a conversation on topic and hint on a conclusion. Suppose where the subject is going to lead but leave the room for some doubts. Provide an analysis in the body. Come up with a conclusion that is slightly or entirely different from what you expected at the beginning.

Introduction

Express your feelings on a subject is the most critical thing in how to write a reflection paper. Just don’t be too emotional. You should express your ideas in a reasonable, not sentimental way. It should fit the academic style. Provide insight: tell a reader what they are to expect in the following paragraphs. Build a strong idea: summarize the central claim in one sentence to drive attention.

  • It should be informative, brief, and catchy.
  • You can ask a reflective question in the text.
  • Don’t start from the thesis, come back to it later.

Body

This is a part where you explore the thesis. You should explain the case in several paragraphs. Use a three-paragraph structure. In the first one, introduce the experience and how it influenced you. In the next one, compare the experiences of others (be inspired by writing compare and contrast paper). Then, tell what you learned from it.

  • You can start with the reasons for choosing the topic.
  • Dig into nuances to explain everything well.
  • Be logical.
  • Include solid examples and quote sources.
  • Show how the subject has affected you.

Conclusion

The conclusion should be solid, even striking. It is the bottom line of the paper which demonstrates that your ideas have been fully formed. Wrap up the discussion by placing the strong accents. Leave the conceivable image of your experience, so readers get some food for reflection. If you want to read more information, we can show you how to write a conclusion.

  • Highlight the main points.
  • Make it effective and sound persuasive
  • Answer what you asked in the intro.

A Little Bit of Formatting

Reflection paper format is familiar for everyone who has written at least one academic paper.

  • Standard A4 paper.
  • 1-inch margins on each side.
  • 12-point text size.
  • Readable font (Arial, Times New Roma, Calibri, Helvetica, etc.)
  • Double spaces between the lines.
  • Citation according to APA, Chicago style, etc. (defined by a teacher).
  • Word count – between 250 and 750.

This is everything you should remember when you prepare to write a reflective paper.

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15Topics for a Good Paper

If you want to write a paper well, you should choose a good topic – something that is familiar for you, bothers you, stimulates to share your viewpoint with others. Very often you don’t have an opportunity to choose. That’s when you need to rely on your skills. To learn how to write a proper paper, you need some practice. Here are some topics for you as an exercise or at least for understanding what people speak about in such papers.

  1. The things that inspire you.
  2. How to deal with stress.
  3. Are we alone in the space?
  4. Your favorite place in the world.
  5. How to admit you were wrong.
  6. What do you feel when telling lies.
  7. The biggest challenge in your life.
  8. Top ten qualities that are important in people.
  9. The most unusual place you have been to / wished to visit.
  10. The role of school/college/university in your life.
  11. A person/event/situation that has changed your life.
  12. An outstanding person (you choose) and their role in history.
  13. How social media and television affect how we make decisions.
  14. How technologies will alter the future in 100 years.
  15. What is your childish dream that has come true and which one never will?

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