Whether you are in high school, college, or pursuing professional or graduate studies, you will encounter a reflection paper. It is a common type of paper written by college students. Being a dynamic paper, almost every subject or course that you choose will, at some point, require that you give your personal opinion about certain aspects. In this comprehensive guide, we explain how to write a reflection paper, different reflection strategies to adopt, and offer you examples as well as valuable tips and tricks to help you write your paper like a pro.
Reflection is a common practice in professions like nursing, healthcare, counseling, psychology, mental health (psychiatry), theology, and almost every other discipline around us. When writing a reflection paper, you should maintain an academic tone while being subjective and personal. Sounds paradoxical, right?
Well, it is a piece of assignment or task where you are required to analyze and reflect on your experience, academic task/course, journal article, lecture, placement, and any other event that has shaped your perspective, thoughts, ideology, and perception on a given topic/issue.
A reflection paper is a piece of task/assignment where students/professionals add their thoughts and analysis to what they have experienced or read. It is a paper that is meant to illustrate the understanding of the author of the material and how the understanding affects the perceptions, perspectives, beliefs, and thoughts as well as possible practice/actions in the future.
Writing a reflective paper entails giving an opinion on a topic and supporting it with observations, personal examples, and sometimes literature (references).
A reflection paper is not a mere summary or a stream of a conscious dump on your paper. Instead, it is an opportunity to write your point of view. Luckily, unlike other assignments, there are never right or wrong answers when writing a reflective paper.
After all, it is your personal opinion over a matter or an experience, and you have to express your ideas, thoughts, and perceptions comprehensibly and subjectively so that your readers/audience gets the flow off the bat.
There are many topic ideas for reflective papers. However, you should read the assignment prompt. Some of the prompts could sound like: reflect on The Human Behavior Experiments or The Corporation in relation to the course content from your perspective.
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There are different types of reflection papers. Let's explore the five most common types of reflection papers.
Depending on the context in which you are writing or the type of reflection paper you are writing, there are different models of reflections that you can use.
Unlike other academic and professional papers, reflection papers do not follow a given format. Instead, instructors leave the best format choice at your discretion because it is more of an opinion paper.
Nevertheless, as you write your perceptions, ideas, and thoughts, you must adhere to some basic academic writing formats. This means that the reflection paper prompt will highlight the specific format to use.
You can limit your word count to 400-1200 words when writing college reflection papers or reflective essays. Besides, you can format the paper in APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian styles.
As you do so, ensure that your paper is:
You can always contact the professor if you have any doubts about the specific format to write your reflection paper.
In our experience and as per different examples and guides, we have discovered that reflection papers follow the five-paragraph essay format. A reflection paper has an introduction, three well-balanced body paragraphs, and a conclusion in simple terms.
Having an outline allows you to establish the basic sections of your paper. It also determines the specific details that you will explore in the sections. Furthermore, an outline helps discard the superfluous information to make a paper coherent, succinct, and high-quality.
As with other academic and professional papers, a reflective paper begins with a sound introduction. Your introduction bears your attention-grabber, background, and thesis statement.
The introduction paragraph informs your reader what you are reflecting upon. It also bears the general stance/position, opinion, and perception on a given subject.
Here is how to make it count:
You can then build on the transition paragraphs.
Crafting a sound set of body paragraphs can be challenging. However, here are some tips to make it count:
Your conclusion wraps up the essay. It should summarize what you have learned from the entire experience. When writing the conclusion:
Now that we have a format/outline for a reflective paper, we need to dive deep into the step-by-step guide to writing a reflection paper.
Here are the four major steps required to write an outstanding reflective paper.
With the topic, you must decide what to base the entire paper on. It is usually a summary of the entire experience within the context of a topic. You have to let your readers know your thoughts, perceptions, and feelings about a topic. When writing the theme, be honest and concise. When you introduce your perspective and opinion early enough, the readers resonate with the entire reflection. Here is a sample of the theme statement:
After reading the three articles on the impacts of covid 19 on incivility among first-line healthcare workers, I now understand how to address incivility in healthcare settings, especially during emergencies and disasters.
The second step after determining your theme is to brainstorm the ideas and experiences you have had. You can also relate them to your topic or concepts from class.
You can write down your quotes, statements, predispositions, influencing factors, and unique ideas. Again, explain them from a personal perspective.
Here are some examples:
After listing your main ideas, it is time to analyze them further. Here is where you now agree or disagree. Refer to and cite relevant literature/scholarly sources as you do so.
Ensure you delve into how the ideas and experiences affect your thoughts/perceptions. Here is an example:
Sample Idea: growing up, I thought that fat people overeat.
Sample Analysis: As I read through different obesity, diabetes, and related literature, it emerged that obesity is a consequence of many factors, among them being genetics. Most people think that overeating carbohydrates cause weight gain. I usually avoid overeating. However, I now eat everything in moderation and exercise.
When writing, make sure to connect your ideas and insights to paint a clear picture of the theme you earlier declared. Break down the teachings, learning, and how they have influenced your actions, perceptions, and assumptions and their effect on your future.
If you are writing about specific contexts; you can do as we advise here:
Even though each of us has our preferred style and approach to writing a reflective essay or paper, there are a few areas that one needs to look into to ensure that it is the best.
Reading examples of similar papers online would be best as you begin writing your paper. Reading such papers helps you understand the writing process. They can also shape your approach.
Pick a subject that you are so sure you can write about. Preferably, you can select the most memorable and unusual topics.
Fleshing out any paper or written assignment makes the entire writing process easier. With a good reflection paper outline, you are a quarter way done with your paper. Determine what goes into the introduction, body, and concluding paragraphs.
Ensure that your paper meets the 3Cs (coherent, concise, and clear). To do this, use a strong thesis statement and a powerful hook in your introduction. Ensure each body paragraph has a single idea well transitioned to the next one. Balance the word count of your paragraphs depending on the word count in the prompt.
Do not write to fill pages. Even though you give personal accounts or opinions, ensure they are relevant to the theme. Ask yourself what? So what? What now?
When writing, use an academic and professional tone. Even though you are taking a subjective stance, ensure you sound professional. A scholarly reflection often entails some critique based on well-founded subjects.
As it is a scholarly or academic paper, you need to find the connection between your experiences, facts, and concepts from the scholarly literature. Use authoritative sources and expert recommendations to back up your personal opinions. While doing so, ensure you have proper in-text citations and a bibliography at the end of the paper.
Write an attractive, clear, and concise title for your essay. Let the essay be so informative yet short that it automatically invites your readers. Tie the title to the main stance or ideas in the essay.
After writing your essay, review it twice or thrice to ensure everything falls to its place. As you proofread, focus on grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, contextual errors, syntax errors, and misplaced words. Also, check the organization and flow of the paper. Ensure that the essay meets the rubric's criteria for high marks.
If you notice that you made a mistake in the essay, do not fear to start over again. Starting over again will help you master writing an excellent reflection paper. When you are starting over, maintain relevance right from the start. If you are unsure, you can order a model reflective paper to help you see how you can write yours professionally.
Ensure that all the parts of the reflective paper are perfectly done. Have a grammar, spelling, word choice, content, context, paragraphing, transition, and conclusion checklist. In simple terms, ensure that every detail of the essay meets the rubric or prompt criteria.
Finally, avoid doing it all at once to write an excellent reflection paper. Space out some time slots to work on your essay to allow you to generate ideas and reflections.
You can use first-person singular I in a reflection essay as you relate the concepts in your reflection to experiences or readings. Do not shy away from the freedom of ultimately writing your thoughts and opinions.
Related Reading: Using first-person perspective in essays.
Using restorative questions can help you generate feelings and thoughts about your experience and what you learned when developing ideas.
To start writing a reflection paper, you should begin by reading the assignment prompt. The prompt will specify the specific scenarios, readings, or experiences as well as reflective paper topics.
After reading the prompt, it is also significant to read the articles, watch them play, film, or movie, and read the poems or novels while taking notes. The essence is to highlight the main themes, issues, and ideas that will later form the foundation for your reflection.
Start your reflection paper with a memorable hook, then summarize the central concept from your notes. If there are facts such as statistics, quotes, or important details, they can feature as a hook and in the background. You can write the introduction last or first but ensure you have an outline that acts as a roadmap for your reflection paper.
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If there are charts, diagrams, or lists, include them in the paper to spice it up for your readers. Contextualize the reflection by asking yourself what? (to answer the facts and events of an experience objectively), so what (to analyze the experience), and now what? (to consider the future impact of the experience on practice, behavior, or actions). The introduction should have a strong thesis statement and make the readers instantly identify the gist of the reflection.
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